with critique by Jendi Reiter
if you had the power to pour shade
what color would you use
the color of honey because you like sweet things
or the oil of menthol because it invigorates the nose
my shade would change with the time
rose red rendering incandescent mornings
pink daffodils rising into a noon shower
an afternoon with an orange mist hanging in the air
at night I would announce the moon's etchings
semi-circles surrounded by colored sunbeads
cast on the flowers of heaven
if I had the power to pour shade
I would add laughter
to see how water looks when it smiles
Copyright 2009 by Hzal (Anthony Fudge)
Critique by Jendi Reiter
This month's critique poem comes to us from "Hzal" (the pen name of the poet Anthony Fudge). In "Pouring Shade", he mingles different modes of sensory perception to create a unique experience of an exuberant life force.
Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which real information from one of the five senses is accompanied by a perception in another sense. For instance, a person may see a certain color when hearing a particular sound, or perceive letters and numbers to be associated with different colors. Researchers have noted the similarity between this condition and an artist's creative process, in that both involve unexpected associative leaps and fresh ways of perceiving our common reality.
Perhaps the most famous synesthetic poem is 19th-century symbolist Arthur Rimbaud's "Voyelles" (Vowels): "A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,/I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:/A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies/which buzz around cruel smells..." More links concerning art and synesthesia can be found on Belgian researcher Dr. Hugo Heyman's website.
In contrast to Rimbaud's extremes of decayed sensuality and spiritual purity, Hzal's synesthetic poem creates a sunnier mood, using the technique of sensory cross-pollination to express a joy and perhaps an affection that exceeds normal descriptive measures. Having a mind that works differently from the rest of humankind can be both thrilling and terrifying. Whereas Rimbaud's "Voyelles" seems to linger in that solitary place where genius and madness meet, Hzal begins with connection to others, and does not seem afraid that this new mode of perception will be a barrier to communicating his essential feelings.
"Pouring Shade" could be read as a love poem, whether or not that love is romantic. "if you had the power to pour shade/what color would you use", the poet asks, like a genie offering three wishes, or a young man promising his lover the moon. His desire to please her is so extravagant that it is unbound by physical laws. We all know that shade is not a liquid, nor does it have a color, let alone a smell or a taste, as the next two lines suggest. But perhaps we can also remember being this enraptured with a person or a project, almost to the point of believing we could do magic with a mere wave of the hand.
After making this fanciful offer, the speaker invites us to view his own ideal landscape, a pleasantly hallucinatory wash of colors that reminded me of the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" ("Picture yourself in a boat on a river,/With tangerine trees and marmalade skies/Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly,/A girl with kaleidoscope eyes..."). The recurring water imagery in this poem enhances its misty, blurred, dream-like quality.
I wouldn't change much about "Pouring Shade", being hesitant to break the flow of its stream-of-consciousness narrative voice. I might opt for a more original and descriptive phrase than "because you like sweet things" in the third line. If "sunbeads" is a typo for "sunbeams", it's a felicitous one; I loved the notion of bead-like water drops, turned to prisms by the sun's rays, such as one sees on flowers after rain.
For publication suggestions, below, I've emphasized smaller contests run by and for talented amateurs and emerging writers, as opposed to the university-run journals. While I relished the creative and sensual imagery of "Pouring Shade", I suspect that academically-minded judges would prefer poems with a greater variety of light and dark emotions. The diversity of aesthetics within the poetry world is a good thing, in my opinion. Support your favorite literary journals to keep that diversity alive.
Where could a poem like "Pouring Shade" be submitted? The following contests may be of interest:
Grandmother Earth National Writing Awards
Postmark Deadline: July 15
Long-running contest offers prizes up to $100 and anthology publication for poetry and prose on various themes; previously published work accepted
League of Minnesota Poets Annual Contest
Postmark Deadline: July 31
Local poetry society offers top prize of $125 plus 17 other contest categories with top prizes ranging from $20 to $70; publication not included
Poetry Society of Texas Annual Contests
Postmark Deadline: August 15
Prizes up to $450 for unpublished poems in 100 different categories (some are members-only); no simultaneous submissions
Penumbra Poetry & Haiku Contest
Postmark Deadline: October 1
The Tallahassee Writers' Association offers prizes up to $200 and publication in winners' chapbook; no simultaneous submissions
This poem and critique appeared in the June 2009 issue of Winning Writers Newsletter (subscribe free). If you'd like a chance to be critiqued, please email your poem to email@example.com. Please send your poem in the body of your email, rather than as an attachment. One poem per month only, please.
Several of our critique poets have asked me whether their poem would be considered "published", and therefore ineligible for most contests, after appearing in our newsletter. My guess would be yes, but check with the contest coordinator just in case, because some publishers may treat print and online publications differently.