Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Sat Dec 01, 2018 6:46 am

One of the small pleasures of my life:
a little sandwich that comes pre-made
from a local convenience store;
egg, sausage, cheese and just enough
peppery spice to be delightful —
a success among failures in the trade
of packaged foods. I eat one every day.
How fortunate I am to eat well
in a world made red by hate and fear,
by genocide and war, where even
the legacy of Buddha is disgraced.
When fleeing through mud to foreign lands,
you don’t get to eat breakfast every day
or see contentment on your child’s face.
This sandwich: just a little proof
that mankind can do something good.

-end-

I tend to write poems in pairs. I already posted the companion poem to this one ("The Lost Legacy of the Buddha"), below.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

ton321
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 427
Joined: Sat Feb 08, 2014 12:54 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by ton321 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 12:11 am

Hi perry,

I liked the sentiment of the poem, that it's the small things in life that can get us through the bad stuff in our lives. A bacon sarnie, no butter, brown sauce usually does the trick for me!
I like the first 8 lines and the last two, so it reads

One of the small pleasures of my life:
a little sandwich that comes pre-made
from a local convenience store;
egg, sausage, cheese and just enough
peppery spice to be delightful —
a success among failures in the trade
of packaged foods. I eat one every day.
How fortunate I am to eat well

This sandwich: just a little proof
that mankind can do something good.

to me this reads a lot better.
The reader can eat what filler he/she likes then!

Tony
Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Robert Graves

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Sun Dec 02, 2018 5:28 am

Thank you, Tony. Following your advice would make this a poem about a sandwich instead of the ethnic cleansing happening in Myanmar (which hasn't been resolved yet). The lines that you would remove are the central point of the poem. What is it about those lines that you don't like?
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Ros
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 7965
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:53 pm
antispam: no
Location: this hill-shadowed city/of razors and knives.
Contact:

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Ros » Sun Dec 02, 2018 3:26 pm

I rather like Tony's rewrite. The title says what the poem is about. The point becomes that, for the narrator, he has the luxury of contemplating his sandwich, leaving unsaid the horrors that others are at that moment experiencing.

I found

When fleeing through mud to foreign lands,
you don’t get to eat breakfast every day
or see contentment on your child’s face.

spells out the obvious in too obvious a way.

The contrast is a good one to write about, but I feel you need to do it a little more obliquely.

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

NotQuiteSure
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1948
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2016 4:05 pm

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by NotQuiteSure » Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:36 pm

.
Hi Perry.

I agree with Tony and Ros,
the title is doing the work, those six lines (9-14)
are redundant, and I'd cut L8 as well.

Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee


One of the small pleasures of my life:
- nice start, especially when contrasted with
the title. I hope the irony was intentional.
a little sandwich that comes pre-made
- You've got 'small' in L2, so 'little' seems unnecessary
(especially as you repeat 'little' in L15).
from a local convenience store;
egg, sausage, cheese and just enough

- nice enjambment
peppery spice to be delightful —
- Isn't 'peppery spice' something of a tautology?
(Why not relish, or piquancy?)
a success among failures in the trade
of packaged foods. I eat one every day.

- I think you could cut this line.
'of packaged foods' is essentially just
repetition after 'pre-made', and 'I eat
one every day' doesn't add much at all
to the opening line (though you could
end with it).
How fortunate I am to eat well
in a world made red by hate and fear,
by genocide and war, where even
the legacy of Buddha is disgraced.
When fleeing through mud to foreign lands,
you don’t get to eat breakfast every day
or see contentment on your child’s face.

This sandwich: just a little proof
that mankind can do something good.


I think, without those seven lines, this works
in a quiet, understated way.

Regards, Not.

.

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:40 pm

Ros, the three lines that you identify as being obvious are, in my mind, the only lines that have any poignancy. They are the best part of the poem.
Last edited by Perry on Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:57 pm

NQS, this is the poem your crits have left me with:

One of the small pleasures of my life:
a sandwich that comes pre-made
from a local convenience store;
egg, sausage, cheese and just enough
piquant spice to be delightful.
This sandwich: just a little proof
that mankind can do something good.

It has no substance, and it is no longer a protest poem. I would never write anything like that.

I am not a minimalist. I don't believe that less is more. Telling me to cut more than half of a poem is never useful advice for me. Minimalism is a trend in poetry, and it is not a good trend.

Ros, the fact that a reader might anticipate lines that he or she hasn't read yet doesn't mean that the poet shouldn't have written those lines. The purpose of poetry is not to "surprise" the reader with every line, but to write lines beautifully so that they are satisfying to read.

If the three lines you indicated are too obvious, then tell me how to write them so that they are less obvious -- that would be useful.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
JJWilliamson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3290
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:20 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by JJWilliamson » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:20 am

I also like the sentiments, Perry, but it's very prosaic to my ear.

It's a bit predictable and even mundane, which is an amazing outcome for such a moving subject.
I think the very obvious observations leave the reader with a sense of disappointment, in an anticlimactic sort of way.

I won't suggest any cuts but you might consider developing the scene and imagery. You spend a lot of time saying you like a shop-bought sandwich, when the filling of the poem is more likely to be found in the plight of the Rohingya, where rape, execution and infanticide are commonplace.

I understand the comparison and actually quite like the simplicity of the juxtaposition, but where I expected to find more I found a fairly bland journalistic "report". The subject isn't bland but the poem is. Would your subject come to life if you focussed on an individual, a lost soul amongst the mayhem of oppression and genocide?

There's definitely something worth pursuing, here, Perry, so keep at it.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:19 pm

Thank you for your thoughts, JJ. I understand everything that you said, but also feel that perhaps you're not really getting the poem. It is meant to be somewhat detached and absurd. On one side of the world, people are murdered, get raped, are forced from their homes, while on the other side, people read about it on the internet while they eat breakfast. The man eating breakfast is disgusted by what's going on in the world, and he makes a statement about it (this poem), but it doesn't really affect him because he's not there. How can he focus on an individual when he doesn't know any of them? He feels what he is able to feel -- a moment of horror mixed with resignation -- and then finishes his sandwich, thankful that he's not part of the horror.

Well, the poem works really well for me; I'm sorry it doesn't work for the group.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
JJWilliamson
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3290
Joined: Sun Feb 22, 2015 6:20 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by JJWilliamson » Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:35 pm

Perry wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:19 pm
Thank you for your thoughts, JJ. I understand everything that you said, but also feel that perhaps you're not really getting the poem. It is meant to be somewhat detached and absurd. On one side of the world, people are murdered, get raped, are forced from their homes, while on the other side, people read about it on the internet while they eat breakfast. The man eating breakfast is disgusted by what's going on in the world, and he makes a statement about it (this poem), but it doesn't really affect him because he's not there. How can he focus on an individual when he doesn't know any of them? He feels what he is able to feel -- a moment of horror mixed with resignation -- and then finishes his sandwich, thankful that he's not part of the horror.

Well, the poem works really well for me; I'm sorry it doesn't work for the group.
Ah, Perry, but some of this poem DOES work for me. I liked the dichotomy, the detached pov, the juxtaposition of the two sets of circumstances and the sadness it represents. The sentiments are top drawer and the injustice of circumstance is palpable but it could be further developed. Of course, if you don't want to revise the poem then no prob's. It's your decision and always will be your decision. I have simply lobbed my two-penneth/penn'orth into the pot for better or for worse. :)

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:13 am

I guess that a bland, journalistic report is all that I can write, given that I have no direct experience of what the Rohingya are experiencing. If I were to write more, that would put me in the position of writing about things I haven't actually experienced. I tried that once. When Muslim Indonesians were slaughtering the Christians of East Timor, I tried to write a poem from the perspective of the victims, but I got nowhere. So in this poem I wrote about what I understood, the concern of a detached and fortunate observer half-way around the world. I was hoping that the irony of the poem would carry it, but I guess it doesn't. You do understand that I can only write my vision into my poems, as dull as it might be, just as you can't turn your haiku into something humorous at my behest.

You did say there were things about the poem that you liked, and I should have acknowledged that. But mostly it felt that you were giving me a failing mark, so that was what I responded to.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

User avatar
Firebird
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2279
Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 9:46 pm

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Firebird » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:24 pm

Hi Perry,

I think your poem could be cut to the following.

Egg, sausage, cheese and just enough
peppery spice to be delightful —
a success among failures in the trade
of packaged foods. I get one every day.
How fortunate I am to eat well,
when fleeing through foreign lands,
you don’t get breakfast every day.
This sandwich: just a little proof
that mankind can do something good.

That’s the poem for me, though I do agree with JJ that the poem could be extended to other areas.

Cheers,

Tristan

capricorn
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 187
Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2018 10:49 pm
Location: Birmingham UK

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by capricorn » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:14 pm

This is a very thought provoking poem, Perry. A strong message.

Reading Tristan's reply I like his idea, as some of the beginning just fills the poem out. Tristan's write is more concise, which makes your message stronger.

Hope this helps

Eira

User avatar
Perry
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:26 am

Re: Eating Breakfast While the Rohingya Flee

Post by Perry » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:26 pm

Thank you for your thoughts. However, I don't see how making the poem more concise strengthens it in any way. Rather, the narrator's progression of thoughts disappears. The poem is already short.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

Post Reply