Saturday, July 11, 2009

Curveball: The Poems!

Here are the poems from the Project Verse Curveball.


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MICAH LING


Dolly

Hey cowgirl. Hey tough-as-barbed-wire-fencing-woman, a-whole-August-of-100-degree
days-woman. I hear you still hold the record for barrel racing in Harlowton. I hear you’ve
ridden horses your whole life, and have a knotted spine. I hear you still wrangle and
mend downed fencing. I hear you feed the calf in rain and snow and sand the floor where
the door won’t close. I hear you taught your children and grandchildren how to raise a
pig, how to judge 4-H, how to brace for a storm. Hey kind, kind woman. Be the hero
ridin' up to save the day. Hey holler-for-the-three-legged-dog-to-ride-along-to-town-
woman. Hey love-for-family-woman. Put somethin’ in a bowl or somethin’ in a pan.
Make do. Is there anything, any single pine-needle on this mountain that doesn’t know
your voice? Hey cowgirl-woman, let me pour you a whiskey and listen to your life—let
me soak you in like the rain that finally comes, just when the dust has settled thick.


*Lyrics from “A Cowboy’s Ways” and “Berry Pie

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
Okay, so this one seems like a tough assignment—a lot of struggling in this batch of poems—and Micah’s poem is no exception. The anaphora “I hear you” becomes a bit cloying in the poem and feels more like a crutch than like it takes the poem anywhere fresh or interesting. I was glad for the line: “hey kind, kind woman”, but it’s kind of a flat turn for the poem, and generally, this one felt like it didn’t quite get off the ground.

Dustin: For me, the only thing Dolly about this poem is the title, which is weak. Dolly doesn't even have children. I think this poem fails to complete the assignment. You have nice moments in this poem, but I really wish you would have written a tribute poem.

Dana: Another strong piece from you this competition. I love the accumulation of adjectives, and it’s a delight to read them. One of my favorites is “a-whole-August-of-100-degree-days woman.” Another nice moment in the poem is “Is there anything, any single pine-needle on this mountain that doesn’t know your voice?” I do think it focuses more on Dolly as a rural character almost to the point of casting her as a rural, domestic archetype. But, if it were not a poem about Dolly specifically, it totally works. I would love to see what would happen if the poem ended at “let me soak you in the rain that finally comes.”

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: I loved the inventive language in this poem, particularly the pushed-together-with-hyphens words, reminiscent of the great David Foster Wallace. However, I felt that the language in this poem could be pushed to the next level. It felt as though Micah hadn’t yet taken full advantage of the form, especially in terms of the leaps and bounds in language which separate the prose poem from prose.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: Too western, other than a couple of songs and one scene in "9 To 5" she's never had a western image, much better suited to Reba McEntire than Dolly.



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MARTIN OTT


DREAMING ABOUT DOLLY ON INDEPENDENCE DAY

All fireworks start with a spark and sputter,
a new voice from the shadow of the last great war,

gospel light spilling over smokey mountains.
Freedom is amazing grace infused with talent,

banjo, harp and guitar expanding a one-room cabin.
Redemption comes in many shapes and many kinds

of pain. Freedom is stuffing your boss in a car trunk,
speeding from Harper Valley to Louisiana magnolias.

There’s a better life and you think about it, don’t you?
Heartache is as close as a Texas house of ill-repute,

and romance is a laundromat on eternal rinse,
travelin’ thru to an America that surprises.

Perseverance is singing through the boo-birds
on your first grand stage, yellow rose blooms

tended by the devotion of an iron butterfly.
America must dream anew if it will be one sheep

or many, a new generation to read the signs.
The backwoods push the frontiers forward,

the bravery to go where your heart takes you,
a honky tonk angel joining in on the long road.


*Lyrics from "Travelin’ Thru" and "9 to 5"

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
There’s a great use of metaphor in this one, and the poem feels fresh—hard to do when you have to include song lyrics in your verse. The overuse of the Noun/to be verb at the start of a sentence drags down the poem, but I think there are some great lines in this one, and that it works pretty well overall.

Dustin: Good title to pique interest. Martin, I like this poem more than I probably should because I am a Dolly FANatic. "Redemption comes in many shapes and many kinds / of pain" are lyrics from "Travelin' Thru," and you weave those words beautifully into your poem. You reference Harper Valley, which alludes to Dolly covering the song "Harper Valley PTA." I like that you allude to Dolly movies without directly naming them. Sometimes too much of a good thing can be too much, and I think that's what we have on our hands with your poem. I think this poem would have been better if it were split into parts. Granted, it would have to be a little bit better if it were split into parts, but I think you could easily pull that off. Good job, Martin.

Dana: There are some nice moments in this poem, but overall I don’t find it extremely engaging. The opening line is a great way to kick off a Dolly poem and bring to mind all of Dolly’s literal and figurative glitter and shine. One turn that doesn’t work for me is the shift in stanza four to characters Dolly has played as opposed to talking about Dolly herself. That throws me out of the tribute, but I am back in it again as soon as you address Dolly directly in the next stanza.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: There are some beautiful moments in this poem where the language twists and turns upon itself and offers a fresh and surprising take both on Parton’s music and on the complicated subject of patriotism: “Freedom is stuffing your boss in a car trunk” and “romance is a laundromat on eternal rinse.” However, I felt that most of the poem didn’t live up to the promise of these lines stayed in the realm of the expected, even, at times, of the cliché.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon:Liked starting it off with the image of fireworks, given her flashy and sparkly appearance ("I never leave a rhinestone unturned," she says); he also worked in her nickname in the industry ("iron butterfly") and her favorite flower (yellow roses), which shows he either knows a lot about her or is a good researcher. :-)




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KRISTEN MCHENRY


The Ballad of Mama, Porter, Sinner, and Number One Fan

When did you love Dolly most?
When she was a hummingbird,
thrumming to stun.
My lithest daughter, my rawboned one,
sang vibrato; lullaby bait
to keep the grieving from our gate.
We joined with her, round by round.
Little sparrow, little sparrow,
your voice has that high, lonesome sound.

When did you love Dolly most?
When she was a raven,
bedraggled with sorrow,
and I sought soulfulness to borrow.
My first in-love-with; Lady Lament.
We sang together of sweet descent;
baptized anguish, but never drowned.
Little sparrow, little sparrow,
your voice has that high, lonesome sound.

When did you love Dolly most?
When she was a swan
unwinding her throat,
holy host to the mercy note.
Her gospel pierced like a keening wren,
and Jesus made me whole again.
Sinner lost and poor man found.
Little sparrow, little sparrow,
your voice has that high, lonesome sound.

When did you love Dolly most?
When she was a Scarlet Ibis;
a quick flame branding sea.
My voice has long been dead in me;
a corpse bud on a sickly vine.
But it waxes bright as clementine
when I sing with her, my bold unbound.
Little sparrow, little sparrow,
your voice has that high, lonesome sound.


*Lyrics from "Little Sparrow" and "Blue Valley Songbird"


THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
This one is probably my favorite of the bunch. I love the sounds, love the form (works so well with the Dolly theme), love the language. A fine job with a tough assignment.

Dustin: Kristen, I give you big points for branching out with form, but I don't know if I am sold on this poem. Don't get me wrong, I love what you do here. "Little Sparrow" is one of top ten favorite Dolly penned songs, and I think you pull off each bird comparison linguistically and in a beautiful way; however, as a Dolly fan, at times, I have a hard time seeing it in relation to Dolly. I think a dove instead of a raven would have been a better choice. Yes, you've written a good poem, but I don't like it as much as some of your other work.

Dana: This form shows even more range in your work and complements the other work you have produced so far in the competition. The song of the ballad works with and re-contextualizes the types of songs Dolly sings. I did wonder about the introduction of the wren in the third stanza. That’s where the poem moves away from the shift to a personal relationship with the narrator in the fifth line of the stanza (i.e., “my lithest daughter” in stanza one and “my first in-love-with” in stanza two). The introduction of a second type of bird in stanza three stood out. The swan might be enough bird there.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: I thought that this poem was absolutely gorgeous, and offered a beautiful take on my favorite Dolly song. Kristen’s language danced across the page, leaping gracefully from image to image, idea to idea. The pervasive image of the bird, I thought, was especially beautiful and effective. I do think that the repetition of “When did you love Dolly most?” was a bit unnecessary – it seemed as though Kristen needed this device to get into the poem, but that the poem evolved beyond it.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: This one was my second favorite because I felt it did a fairly good job at capturing Dolly's essence, and that is that she's a little bit of everything: innocence mixed with wisdom, righteousness spiced with raunchiness, bubbly happiness tinged with sad songs, a study in contrasts and contradictions. While it didn't cover all aspects of her persona, it did give the flavor of her diversity.




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EMILY VAN DUYNE


Where Beauty Lives
for Alicia, 1979-2000

She paints her lips a brilliant red,
we corkscrew curlers to our heads—
we ooh at her like she’s some
studded queen. She strikes a pose
and shrieks a laugh, she’s like

a busty, hip giraffe, the coolest girl
in school, so long and lean. In
the background of the den, that movie’s
playing yet again— Truvy teases
Shelby’s locks on the small, bright screen.

We’ve viewed this flick two dozen times—
Julia Roberts in her prime— it’s summertime,
we’re just about thirteen. Outside, the heat
creeps like a thief, a rising
wave, like disbelief, the way the autumn tans

a verdant leaf. The way a mother wakes
one day to find her daughter gone away, to risky
quick sands, memory’s pooling bay. Inside, we squeal
like bright stuck pigs, pass whiskey ‘round
for fast, burnt swigs, Alicia hangs on

longer than the rest. Truvy lets loose
AquaNet on Shelby’s pixie, lets it set; Alicia
makes a crack about big breasts. And hers
are huge, like teenage art— and oh, mine is a jealous
heart! My little buds are slight, belated guests.

Alicia takes another drink, it dribbles down
her night shirt’s pink, and Truvy dons her pearls,
her funeral black. Alicia chokes back whiskey
tears, looks older than her thirteen years— Truvy’s
three-inch heels go click, go clack.

Shelby sleeps beneath the green; and while
we sob, Alicia keens, a siren song, a deadly
flooded tide. A paper kerchief stops her mouth,
her tears decant straight toward the south, she chokes
It’s as if my own daughter died…

When Alicia’s mother found her on the basement
bathroom floor, she was facedown, barely twenty-one
years old. And though they tried to save her
with their magical machines, her mother said,
When I held her, she was cold. Her drink

became a clear white brook that held her in
its pleasant nook, and finally she drowned beneath its
tears. She wanders through my sleep some nights,
a giggling girl with broken eyes, she’ll stay
awhile and then she’s gone for years.


*Lyrics from "Where Beauty Lives in Memory" and "Jealous Heart" and "Kentucky Gambler"


THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
I like the idea behind this poem, but I have some problems with the execution. The poem is in regular iambic rhythm, and it rhymes, but the lining is really odd and seems out of control. I’m not sure why the poet decided to do that. The poem almost reads like a ballad, and I’m not sure why Emily didn’t just push it into the form. On the other hand, I like many moments in the poem i.e. “and oh, mine is a jealous heart! My little buds are slight, belated guests.” (such a great description of the mind and heart of a young girl), and I think the end is well-controlled and effective.

Dustin: Emily, I think your poem is a poem honoring Alicia rather than a tribute poem to Dolly Parton, and it is a beautiful poem honoring her. The rhyme holds back this poem. The poem has a nice flow until it hits the spots with rhyme. Also, the next to last stanza feels prosaic, but I think you could easily rework that stanza to make it flow like the majority of your poem. I think "it dribbles down / her night shirt’s pink" doesn't help your flow. After reading that part, I couldn't help by ask why couldn't she just say pink shirt. Also, I think you should work in the title of the movie-- I don't see that taking away from your poem. I love too many images/details in this poem to list. I almost forgot: Great job working in the Dolly lyrics. This is a beautiful poem for your friend, but even in its beauty, I can't see how it is a Dolly tribute poem.

Dana: This poem shows off your technical abilities, and it is clear that a lot of work went into it, but ultimately feel your work is stronger when the rhyme chimes less and feels more natural. The piece feels too formal and sing-songy for the content of the piece, and it feels as if there is some filler language dropped in to sustain the rhythm. Having said that, there’s a lot of great language here, too. My favorite lines are, “Inside, we squeal / like bright stuck pigs.” For readers who aren’t familiar with Steel Magnolias, I wonder if there could be an epigraph to orient them to the poem.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: I loved the way that Emily used Steel Magnolias as a metaphor in this poem, and how the movie becomes a way to tell a coming-of-age story and drives the narrative of her journey through adolescence. However, I think this is a case of form getting in the way of content. I felt that the use of rhyme held the poem back a bit – it often seemed as if the language was forced to make way for the rhyme.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: My third favorite. The Dolly reference is very specific here (Steel Magnolias) and is maintained throughout the story, linking the death of a character in the poem to the death of a character in the film. Dolly has said many times, "I write a lot of sad songs, and some of 'em are just plum pitiful." That legacy comes from her Appalachian upbringing, indoctrinated at a young age in the old world ballads of death such as "Mary of the Wild Moor" and "Barbara Allen." This piece reflected her talent at touching the heart with a tragic story song like few other songwriters can.




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EMARI DIGIORGIO

Dolly Parton, Oracle of Opry


Honey, this ain’t no
honky tonk love poem,
this ain’t the heartbreak hotel.
These old bones I shake and rattle,
these old bones I toss and roll,
it’s all in where they scatter,
tells you what the future holds.
I see you’re on the local
and you need the express.
But this ticket won’t take you
where you want regardless.

Your mama didn’t raise no
sissy-ape, no wet-faced softie.
You think: easier to live the lie
than leave the life you live.
That’s what your granny said.
Heart’s don’t burst for nothing.
This life splits clear dear, you know:
pack the car, leave the key.
Roll on roll on roll on down
the line gonna get him off your mind.
Go west, sweetheart, expect gold.

Expect your luck to run long.
The doctor’ll be wrong. Forgive him.
Give your heart too freely, blame yourself.
Twenty seconds, that’s all you’ll need
should you lose the horizon. Girls
like you don’t crash.


*Lyrics from “These Old Bones” & “Heartbreak Express"

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
For me, this one doesn’t have a compelling enough voice, and reads more like a song than a poem. I think the major problem is with the set-up. The audience is too general and then the poem becomes a little generic. I wouldn’t want to do this assignment though, so I’m sympathetic.

Dustin: I don't like this poem. One of the strongest and most interesting lines of the poem are "These old bones I shake and rattle, / these old bones I toss and roll, / it’s all in where they scatter, / tells you what the future holds," but those are lyrics from Dolly's "These Old Bones." I'm disappointed because I know you are capable of writing a better poem.

Dana: I know this piece is about Dolly being an oracle, but it feels like a pastiche of Dolly lyrics and pseudo Dolly lyrics as opposed to a poem that comments on and expands Dolly’s lyrics. It’s not your strongest work, and it’s not among the strongest pieces this week.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: A lovely poem which takes an inventive slant on its subject, viewing Parton’s lyrics as not simply words, but as portents. Emari’s inventive adoption of the Southern vernacular was especially impressive, and made this a stand-out poem. I wonder, though, if the last four lines are necessary, as they seem to snap the poem shut too easily – ending on “The doctor’ll be wrong. Forgive him” would make for an evocative and resonant end.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: I didn't really get much of a "Dolly feeling" from this one at all.




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W.F. ROBY


Mea Culpa, Dolly Parton

Forgive me, it has been twenty-eight years
since my last confession.
Though I've been called many things --
waiter, playwright, carpenter,
stocker of produce -- I was not always your number one fan.
As a child I used your name
in vain, in place of anatomy. You were a figment,
a blush in secret. I was an apostate,
I thought for sure
you had something to do with Hello, Dolly!
though my only experience with that Great American Musical
was an uncle's cruel bon mot --
he'd sing the theme song as loud as he could
replacing the titular words with "Hello, Nigger"
for a shock. You could say, Dolly,
that I'm just the victim of a man
that let me down, or a series of men more likely,
you know the type -- men with sharp chins and crystal clear features,
men with smart beards and ab muscles,
A-list men with their arms around my sister.
It was only later, out back of my parent’s house,
arms across a sawhorse,
that I came to know you. Sixteen years old,
ripping boards for a new deck,
The Very Best Of You up loud
from an old set of speakers. We danced
under the hummingbird feeder, my feet light as temptation.
I could smell the powder from your face,
even taste it in between gulps of sawdust.
My God, it’s hard not to be impatient,
watching your face for a signal, Dolly,
a sign that I would start to grow
tall like my brothers, broad in the chest,
hairy like the men in dirty magazines.
Though I was swept up and wet behind the ears,
though I was practicing in patience
lines to get you under the blanket --
you were quick to disappear, you
were liquor in a tea cup, skipping off
and leaving nothing. Said you’d be
sleepin' in a station, all night
humming to the bums.


Lyrics from “Just Because I'm a Woman” and “The River Unbroken

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
I like many lines/moments in the poem, and I much admire the music here, though I think the setup of the confession feels a bit contrived, and the beginning of the poem gets a bit prosey. I like that the poem takes us in a lot of different and surprising directions (the dance scene is wonderfully depicted), and I love the way this one ends.

Dustin: I'm not completely won over by this poem, and that isn't even because you only used one song written by Dolly Parton when the assignment called for two. BUT, I do like this poem. I think your first two lines give this poem the feel of an assignment. I do like how you worked in lyrics here: "You could say, Dolly, / that I'm just the victim of a man / that let me down." A couple of details I have trouble with in your poem are "ab muscles" and "hairy like the men in dirty magazines." (I'm gay, so I'm usually a fan of these sort of things.) I also think you have a brave moment with being honest about family-- I like it. With a little tweaking here and there, well, I think I'd come to love this poem.

Dana: Nice. Oh, the shifts in this poem are enchanting. This is one of my favorites this week, and it’s as solid as your other work this competition. You move from the disturbing personal image of the uncle to the revelatory and intimate personal moment about what the narrator wants in a man, to the scene in the backyard, to praying to Dolly. I am engaged with this poem from the title until the end. I love the line “you / were liquor in a tea cup.” I wondered about that line coming before “you were quick to disappear” so that the latter would be before “skipping off / and leaving nothing.” My reasoning is that there’s a disconnect between the liquor and the skipping.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: Another Dolly-and-coming-of-age poem, and one which uses the physical, well, dimensions of Parton quite successfully. I think that this poem is strongest when it uses the music as a tool for revelation, allowing us a view into the speaker’s life – and I think that this poem would be much stronger with more of this, and less of the confessional “on-ramp” that started the poem.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: One thing that shines through very clearly about Dolly is her honesty. She says what she thinks. What you see is what you get, to use a cliche. And this poem also shimmers with honesty and uncensored truths, just like her.



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NIINA POLLARI


Internet Dolly Party

I should have done the dishes but the web tonight
is complicated as a neon rosette: your bling, huge
set of teeth. Dolly, you should know I’m watching
you on YouTube, a poor
wayfaring stranger in the dark of my
dark Brooklyn railroad, the solo
glow the great and flaming brawn
of your bizarre padded outfit. Your tricky soprano unfurls
from my one always busting speaker, moves out
over the sifting dust of the apartment like the red carpet
out to meet Agamemnon. I have to confess I love your voice
but it’s your Image, your Look, your Go-On-And Stare –
the flag for a country

I never knew had such
fury – you get up
& have the place convinced! You’ve twirled
the internet all up in a bow! Even the English love you,
I can see by their sheepish smiles in this one video,
the self-conscious way they grit their teeth and glance as the camera pans
to catch them enjoying your drawling American banter. My God,
science named that sheepclone after you! I think
about this in the dark, what it means.
You have no daughters,
but you do have an entirely made up famous genetic lamb,
fabled up by scientists and set to bear your name, which is
actually kind of better. Anyway, Dolly, I’m thinking

you would be better if I clicked HQ. I’ll sneak up front-row close,
examine your pinwheel bouffant like the mouse
looks at me when I open up the tip trap: a mixture
of fear and thrilling freedom, the first light
in ages, the light of a clear blue morning, the breeze
on my hair matted and sweaty
from being in dark close quarters all this time. I’ve watched
your video diaries, I’ve seen 17 different Jolenes.
I waited so long for someone like you to burst
through my screen. Dim the lights,
and I’ll get the Jack and Cokes: this isn’t
over. I’m going til the day obscures
the glow of your jumpsuit, and we’ve got hours yet.


*Lyrics from "Travelin’ Thru" and "Light of a Clear Blue Morning"

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
This one’s a little prosey for my taste, and I’m generally not all that compelled by the setup: speaker watching Dolly on Youtube. Ultimately, I’m not convinced that the speaker cares much about Dolly, so the poem feels a bit more like an exercise.

Dustin: I'm on the fence about this poem. I like it, but I don't like, but I like it. I think Beth is right-- I think this poem could benefit from cutting some words here and there. For example, "the self-conscious way they grit their teeth and glance as the camera pans" to "they grit their teeth, glance as the camera pans"-- I don't think your poem loses anything by the loss of the words I removed. I would have liked for this speaker to go all Glenn Close Fatal Attraction style--- it would have been entertaining and very different. Bottom line: I think there is too much to work with in this poem.

Dana: I love this narrator who is messy and in the dark all the time, and the juxtaposition between the narrator and Dolly, who is in the public eye, in the limelight, and all dolled up whenever we see her. The ending gets all stalker-y, with its “this isn’t / over” and its “we’ve got hours yet.” I love that turn to the way we can call anything up that we want — commoditizing just about anyone with any public presence — whenever we desire them, thanks to our computers. This is a far cry from watching Dolly on TV in the family room back in the day. The poem also shows how Dolly transcends — time, audience, medium. Dolly is. She just is. She’s not dependent on anything because we will gravitate toward her. We just will. I should mention that I do think the poem is a little rough, despite what I like about it. I know some of that is because the narrator is rough, but there’s some polishing you could do. I felt the bit about Dolly the cloned sheep went on for too long, for one thing, and detracted from the focus on Dolly on the internet.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: This poem took a sideways view of Parton which I thought was very successful, using the speaker’s search for Dolly on the Internet as a device for revealing much about her life and therefore opening for the reader a window into the larger world. I do think that this could be furthered quite a bit, as the poem often falls back into the expected.

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: This one captures the way a whole new generation is finding Dolly. It also was quite witty, which is another one of her well-known characteristics.




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KATHI MORRISON-TAYLOR


10 Reasons I Love Dolly Parton

She knows irony, a country girl singing stories,
all dolled up: too much make-up, too much hair.

                              She says, “I’m just a backwoods Barbie
                              in a push-up bra and heels.”


When she was little, she thought the town tramp
was beautiful, and her mama couldn’t change her mind.

                              She could say on air, “I would have been tall
                              but I got bunched up at the top.”

As a kid, I craved the soprano ache of her voice
singing: lifetime and always, cryin’ and puppy.

                              Dobro, violin,
                              limelight and Dolly.

And the rivers flow backward
And my tears are dry,
without her tribute to bluegrass.

                              My father, who despised Country-Western, watched Dolly’s show
                              in the 70’s, an unexplained break from his Mingus and Monk.

She loves
to write songs.

                              The sky is green and the grass is blue
                              She’s imagined herself, no apologies.



*Lyrics from “Backwoods Barbie” and “The Grass Is Blue"

THE JUDGES SPEAK:
Beth:
Using a list is an easy way to manage this tough assignment, and I admire some of the details here. I also think that it’s a well-handled list in that it has a progression, and each item seems intrinsic to the overall movement of the poem.

Dustin: I love how you end this poem; however, I don't love the rest of your poem as much. You did well as far as the assignment is concerned; you wrote a tribute poem. But, did you write a good tribute poem? I think it might be a hung jury for me. Even though I enjoy what you have, this poem leaves me hungry for more. I think you played it safe.

Dana: I like the form and a lot of what the poem is doing, but it doesn’t quote engage me the way some other work this week did. Stanzas such as “She loves / to write songs” I appreciate for their directness and simplicity. The last line is also great because of its simplicity, and that’s an instance where the line resonates and works on many levels — I like the idea of Dolly imagining herself into existence, and how that line reframes stanzas one through four.

Guest Judge Emma Bolden: While I appreciate Kathi’s form and her use not only of Dolly Parton lyrics but also of quotes and of memories of Parton, I think that this poem needed to be pushed to the next level. Several of the stanzas seemed expected and even a bit too easy, namely “She loves / to write songs.” I think that the final stanza offered a window into a more intriguing and inventive take on the subject: what does it mean to imagine one’s self, and not apologize?

Guest Judge Duane Gordon: My favorite. I believe this is the only one that mentioned the one thing of which she is proudest: her songwriting. Also, the line about the poem's narrator's country-music-hating father watching her show expressed Dolly's ability to cross boundaries and appeal to most segments of society. It was also a very simple piece that still managed to communicate a lot -- as many of Dolly's best works do. For example, each verse of "I Will Always Love You" is only about 25 words long and the chorus is nothing more than the title repeated twice, but it stands out as one of the most heartwrenching lyrics ever written. The song's complexity is in part due to its simplicity -- emotion put to paper without any more words than necessary. Similarly, this piece gets its point across economically. But most importantly, the last line showed an understanding that she was created by and for herself and lives unapologetically as herself, which is probably the best summary of her personality that you could find.


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5 comments:

Emily said...

Not tryin' to be sassy, but my Word attachment definitely did not have those long lines in it, I just double checked. Each stanza has five lines. Just sayin'... ;-)

Dustin Brookshire said...

Emily-- The two lines have been corrected. Be assured the judges received the MW document you sent to me. thanks, Dustin

Emily said...

Thanks Dustin, you rock :)

W.F. said...

Okay, so Emily and I made a mistake. We both used songs not penned by Dolly.

I've gone back through Project Verse and found many examples of poets who didn't quite follow the rules and were not booted for it.

Any opinion on how an error like this is gonna be handled?

I concentrated on writing what I thought was a good poem.

W.F. said...

Crossing my fingers.

I think the judges reacted to everyone's poem in a very fair way, especially considering how damn difficult this assignment was.