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Help critique my slam poem on being aro?


omitef
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Hey, so I'm performing at a national slam poetry competition this April, and I want to perform a poem on aromanticism. Because there aren't many existing slam poems on aromanticism, I want to make sure this poem clearly conveys the struggles of being aromantic, and sends a strong message to allos to reevaluate their ideas of intimacy.

 

The poem is titled "There is No Romeo," and can be viewed here in Google Doc form. If there are parts of the poem that don't make sense, please point them out, and explain what you are struggling to understand. Also, if you feel like there is an essential message about being aro I should include in the poem, please let me know. 

 

Thanks!

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Awesome!

 

The stranger is basically how you're worried other people will interpret your friendship, right?
 

I'm not sure that'll be clear enough to most people though. I also don't really understand the ending... what does 'looking away' mean?

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4 hours ago, NullVector said:

Okay, I'll bite :P. Who or what is 'the stranger' ?

 

3 hours ago, SoulWolf said:

Awesome!

 

The stranger is basically how you're worried other people will interpret your friendship, right?
 

I'm not sure that'll be clear enough to most people though.

 

Yikes! I wasn't expecting the role of the stranger to be unclear at all. The stranger is an allo person who misinterprets platonic intimacy as a romantic relationship. I've revised the opening lines to make this more explicit:

 

The stranger is now a witness to our exchange:

she puts two and two together--drafts a story

that starts with our kiss

and ends with our marriage--frantic,

I fantasize a sequel where we

celebrate the anniversary

for signing our divorce papers.

 

@NullVector and @SoulWolf, is this revision clearer?

 

Also, @SoulWolf, you're right, the ending is vague. "Looking away" referred to refusing to take responsibility for assuming the friendship was romantic--the stranger looks away from her blackened page, because she's uncomfortable realizing the damage she's done, and the friend and the narrator look away, because it's not their responsibility to help the stranger understand the nuances of assuming romance when there is none. I've revised the ending so that it's less ambiguous, although it no longer has the same meaning I intended with the "looking away" line:

 

I lock eyes with the stranger,

 

break through her fabricated fourth wall,

and in her shock, she forgets she’s still holding our pen--

I keep her arrested in attention,

watching the pen’s ink bleed through the pages

until it swallows all the blank space, and then--

 

I let go.

 

She looks down--

 

realizes

she has run out of room

for her story.

 

And all I can spare her

is a smile.

 

 

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So, when I read your original version @omitef, I imagined an interaction between just the narrator and their 'friend' (explicit labels could be problematic in this context, but I'll run with 'friend'...). I never imagined 'the stranger' as an explicit third party, watching the narrator and their friend interact (not sure if that's what you were going for?) Instead, I saw 'the stranger' as subtext for expectations about how the relationship 'ought to' develop that the (allo?) friend was bringing to the relationship, maybe for the first time, to the surprise of the (aro) narrator. Smuggling in alienated expectations, if you like. Under my interpretation, it wasn't clear if those expectations were coming out of innate desires of the friend, or as a result of societal pressures about what intimate relationships 'ought to' be like - or maybe some combination of the two. So, I kinda took it as a poem about being 'romance zoned', if you like.

 

But don't sweat it ;). I agree with what @Hey you in the corner said above - that not everything in a poem can/should be explicit. It kinda kills the art. Ambiguity that people can bring various interpretations to (like you maybe had more of in the original version) keeps things interesting and forces people to mull it over more :).

 

Also, perhaps a poem like this can only aim to capture our own, necessarily very personal and individual, "struggles of being aromantic" and "essential message about being aro"? Everybody will experience those things differently and so combinations of various people's experiences (poetry by committee?!) might not make as much sense or have as much of an impact?

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@Hey you in the corner Interesting. There is a difference between the amount of ambiguity allowed in slam poetry versus other forms of poetry though: because slam poetry is performed in front of a live audience, who only gets one chance to understand it in real-time, it's advisable to err on the side of being too explicit rather than too ambiguous.

 

After reading both yours and @NullVector's feedback about the role of the stranger, I spent some time comparing the old and new revisions. I found that the old revision was too vague for me, not in terms of the meaning, but in terms of the wording--it was hard to tell whether "our" was referring to the stranger and the narrator, or the narrator and their friend. Meanwhile, the new revision was so explicit that it might prevent the audience from connecting the stranger to society's pressure for intimacy to be romantic--which is what I wanted the audience to gradually understand as the poem developed, although both of you seemed to understand the connection immediately.

 

I combined the best parts of both revisions--hopefully this one strikes the right balance between clarity and ambiguity:

 

Gut clenching, I try to break my eyes away from you

but it's too late. The stranger gapes,

starts to make up a story

that starts with your kiss

and ends with our marriage--frantic,

I fantasize a sequel where we are celebrating

the anniversary for signing our divorce papers.

 

While I was editing, I also decided to change the ending a bit, to preserve my original meaning of "looking away:"

 

I lock eyes with the stranger,

 

break through her fabricated fourth wall,

and in her shock, she forgets she’s still holding our pen--

I keep her arrested in attention,

watching the pen’s ink bleed through the pages

until it swallows all the blank space, and then--

 

I let go.

 

She looks down--

 

realizes

she has run out of room

for her story.

 

And all we can do

is look away.

 

1 hour ago, NullVector said:

Also, perhaps a poem like this can only aim to capture our own, necessarily very personal and individual, "struggles of being aromantic" and "essential message about being aro"? Everybody will experience those things differently and so combinations of various people's experiences (poetry by committee?!) might not make as much sense or have as much of an impact?

  
Agreed! This poem is primarily based on a personal experience I had, while being intimate with my queerplatonic friend in public. At the same time, I'm trying to use my personal experience as an example to comment on the problem of society assuming that romance is the default form of intimacy, which is an issue all aros struggle with to a degree. This poem is meant to be both personal and political (in the sense of addressing a social justice issue), and I don't want to talk about the issue of assuming romantic intimacy without getting input from other aros about how I've portrayed the impacts of that assumption. If other aros don't understand what I've written, then allos definitely won't understand what I've written, and most of my audience will be allo. I also want to avoid giving too simple of a critique on assuming romantic intimacy, which is why I'm being open to other aros suggesting additional issues with assumed romantic intimacy that I should address.

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I like this a whole lot! I kinda like the idea that each of us aros interpret it slightly differently, likely based on our own experiences, though I'm not sure how that translates to people who are not aro or are unfamiliar with aromanticism.

 

If I had to suggest one thing to include in terms of the struggles of being aro/assumed romantic intimacy, perhaps something about how platonic intimacy is often devalued/not taken seriously/frowned upon, etc.?

 

Good luck with your competition!

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  • 5 weeks later...

Are  "just ‘cause we play different heartstrings" and "It starts with your stare." part of the same poem?

Does "you" have a crush on "me"? You mentioned this poem is based off of experiences with your zucchini.

Best of luck at the poetry slam! I'm excited for you!

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Hi holy shit everyone sorry I'm currently in the middle of completely reworking the poem, because none of allos on my team, or my allo coach, understood what I was talking about. Please ignore this thread ;_;

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