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celebrity poems, critiqued
To discover, once and for all, the artistic merit of poems by celebrities, we submitted verse written by Charlie Sheen and Ally Sheedy (under pseudonyms) to Amelia, a respected poetry magazine, and solicited the opinions of editor Frederick Raborg, Jr. Below are Raborg's criticisms:

On the road
by Pam Kennedy (aka Ally Sheedy)
brighter and brighter every day
calmer
my insides slosh about like a nauseous ocean
it takes great gulps of air
words from religious books
and Diet Cherry Coke to quiet the sound
"I'm not going to say it's a bad poem, though it is true poems occasionally simply do not work. Most readers would not get beyond 'my insides slosh about like a nauseous ocean' for obvious reasons, but to follow that with 'words from religious books' would turn off most of those remaining, and, finally, you'd lose the rest with your juxtapositioning of religion to Diet Cherry Coke as a mute."

I breathe a sigh of regret
by Pam Kennedy
I breathe a sigh of regret
for him
it is so painful
this letting go
dark wound in my heart
surrounded by the soft pink flesh of
healing transformation

"I think you should consider using punctuation.... It becomes confusing for the reader. We cannot be sure what is meant by the 'soft pink flesh of healing,' because the flesh of the heart is not soft and pink. It is, rather red and tough.... A poem can easily take off in many different directions. When that can occur the poet has lost control."

Teacher
by Mel McLean (aka Charlie Sheen)
...Teacher, teacher, I don't understand,
You tell me it's like the back of my hand.
Should I play guitar and join the band?
Or head to the beach and walk in the sand?
Oh, teacher, teacher, I don't understand...
... Teacher, teacher, the years have passed,
I never thought it would go so fast,
The things I learned they didn't last.
I'm headin' to sea as I raise the mast.
Oh, teacher, teacher, I'm a peace of your past.

"There is such a tremendous jump between the two stanzas, so much left out that makes the poem difficult to grasp.... Line three of the second stanza is something everyone over 50 discovers. The fourth line is confusing because you gave no forewarning of the sea as part of the solution. In line three, second stanza, 'they' is a lazy effort to maintain meter. Work a little harder and find an other word or intent for that line.... Rework accordingly."


This article first appeared in Spy, November/December 1994.

See also: Celebrity Postal Test

Links: Very Bad Poetry (book), Celebrities Recite Ancient Poetry (sounds)

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