|Hello, TheBusmanPoet !
Thank you so much for sharing a link to your poem, "Happy Birthday" ! I really appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts as a reader. Ready for your review??
The title is very basic. It really doesn't say much about the theme of the poem itself. Even if you were to add an idea of who you were wishing a happy birthday to into the title, it would help personalize the title and make it more enticing for readers.
The theme of finding new playmates for your lonely kitty is a noble one and I think you've described the actions taken in a very succint way. However, I think that the same noble-ness can be worked into the theme much more strongly should you pull in your reader's emotions.
The only really strong imagery that I found, that also carried with it a strong emotion, was the line, "as her heart continuously cried." However, I found other areas of the poem that would be great places to expound on the physical imagery and actions as well as the emotional investment in those actions.
For example, take the line, "We went looking throughout" - the word "looking" is just a verb. You could have been looking for a lost shoe or spare change. However, when you consider the word "searching" or perhaps "seeking" then you add an element of importance to your actions.
Another way you can bring your readers into the poem emotionally is to give a sense of physical recognition to these cats. Even if you only mention the color of their fur, the color of their eyes, or perhaps a unique feature of their physical appearance or personality, you invite your readers to get to know Mitzy, Monty, and Jacqui much better than just by name.
Through the first four stanzas, I had found a flow that felt like a "spoken word" poem rather than a lyrical one. This is quite common in narrative poems like this and I found the rhythm of the speaking had pulled me in. However, starting with the fifth stanza, the rhythm I had found in reading your words had changed quite suddenly.
Drastic changes in line length can be a useful device when writing poetry if used correctly. However, once you've established consistency in line length (or in any poetic device including rhyme), it can be jarring for a reader when the line length suddenly changes. Stanzas five and seven both use much longer lines to express their ideas. These ideas could easily be separated into shorter quatrains that could each incorporate even more detail that would pull in your reader emotionally.
You keep to an a-b-c-b rhyme pattern for each stanza except for the fifth and seventh. This is another consistency that you establish early on and keep throughout the poem that then changes and is quite apparent to the reader. Many of your rhyme pairs, like mean/obscene and died/cried are used very well and don't feel forced. However, some other rhyme pairs read as if the rhyming line was written in a way only to create the rhyme and not necessarily to add important details or to maintain the rhythm of the words. It can be much easier to hear rhymes that might be forced into position instead of used more naturally by reading your poem out loud, even if in an empty room. I advocate this practice for any writer, for both poetry and prose. You'd be amazed at how different you perceive your words when you speak them out loud.
There really isn't a consistent use of quatrains from beginning to end, although the first several stanzas seem to suggest there will be consistency throughout.
I think this poem could be written in many ways, all using the same information and some of the same lines or phrases you already have. Perhaps you can try to structure it with strict short lines and a-b-c-b rhyming, or perhaps you could alternate short-lined stanzas with long-lined stanzas going back and forth and also alternate the rhyming pattern between the two. Another alternative would be to write this poem as a true free verse poem without specific use of rhyming, or even of line and stanza length. With free verse, you could express a single idea in each stanza and create line breaks where there would be natural pauses in speech.
Trying the same poem out with several different structures is something I've done on several occasions. Not only can this be a fun writing exercise as you learn more about the formatting and structure of your words, as you work with each structure, but you can also sometimes come up with additional insights that can be worked into the final poem.
Diction (Word Choice)
I mentioned using the word "searching" instead of "looking" when discussing Imagery above. This is only one example of how the right word can help create a more emotional response in your reader. I love the use of the word "rescue" in the fourth stanza. It's words like this that describe your actions physically but have an emotional impact as well.
One area where I think the wording could be used to describe the action of the narrative poem, bring in strong emotion, and perhaps say things more succinctly, is when you describe euthanasia in the fifth stanza. You say that it's "heartbreakingly mean" which is very accurate, but it's also a pretty long phrase to use in such a short poem. Instead, perhaps a phrase that uses words like tragic, put down, appalling, fateful, a life destroyed, etc. If you wanted to bring in even stronger words, there's always murdered, slayn, assassinated, etc. Your word choice would depend on how strongly you want to express your feelings on the topic and how strongly you want your readers to feel about these two kitties being rescued from such a fate.
Monty and Jacqui we’re ~ "we're" should be "were"
In 2016's leap year day ~ "In" should be "On"
3 months had passed ~ "3" should be "Three" (only because it's the beginning of a line)
We went looking throughout ~ "throughout" can be simplified to "through"
Punctuation used in poetry should still be used just as it is in prose writing. A comma separates phrases (or can be used to create a longer pause) and a period is used at the end of a complete thought or idea. For example, the second and fourth lines of the first two stanzas end in periods. However, the second lines are not the end of that thought. If these poetic lines were written as one sentence, there wouldn't be a period in these places. This makes the thought that continues onto lines three and four seem disjointed.
I found no misspellings, but punctuation can make or break the flow of a poem as well as how the images and ideas are related to the reader. Just as with the rhythm and flow, it can be much easier to notice where punctuation should or shouldn't be by reading the poem out loud.
We went looking throughout
all the shelters we knew.
Until we came to PARL
to rescue these two.
This stanza is the turning point in the narrative poem. Instead of focusing on the death of Big Jack and then the suffering of his companion as she is left behind, your reader is now given the hope that you have indeed found new feline friends for Mitzy. As a poetic device, the turning point of a poem is also called the volta. You've done a great job making sure your readers feel that there is indeed a happy ending to the story.
There is a lot of emotion in this poem that's hiding just below the surface of the words and I would love to see that emotion communicated to your readers in a powerful way. To me, I see the action that's being described in this narrative poem as the strong bones on which you can build that emotional connection with readers. I loved getting to know more about your relationship with your cats and how you've cared for them (in addition to those you check up on that aren't your own). Please feel free to let me know if you've decided to make any changes and I would love to read the piece again. Also, please let me know if you have any questions about my review or the comments I've made. I hope you've found this review helpful!
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