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Aaron Poochigian 07-15-2019 11:12 AM


Todd Wolniak is twelve years old and way,
way bored. He thinks, like, dude, it’s just, like, wrong,
like, agony, that every Saturday
his dad goes fishing at the Esplanade
in Battery Park and makes him come along.
It’s just not fair. He means, it’s just, like, God,
why waste a whole day leaning on the railing,
watching the richies in their sweet boats sailing
round and round?
round and round? His dad does catch an eel
or two, a couple bluefish, maybe flounder
and bring them home to be the evening meal,
but what’s the use? Why spend six hours or more
trying to catch what’s at the grocery store?

Suddenly there is revving in a reel.
His father shouts, “feels like a hundred pounder!”
The drag kicks in and whizzes, but the tight
line breaks. What could have been an epic fight
ends with his father landing on his ass.
His fancy rod, the KastKing Perigee,
goes flying backward up into the park.

Still looking there, just off the Battery,
for the elusive fish, Todd sees a dark
blotch in the slate-gray brine. A pulpous mass
floats up—a face, it seems, because two eyes,
like dinner plates in coloring and size,
are gaping out of it. Around this head
a whorl of tangled feelers surfaces,
a mess of endless, fleshy grapples, spread
in all directions. Todd knows what it is—
a giant squid, and way, way hugely dead.

Oh, he can’t wait to tell his friends! How glad
he is that he went fishing with his dad!

. . . . .

Title was "Sea-Monster"
S3L1 "revving" for "sizzling"
S3L4 "breaks" for "snaps"
S4L10 "way, way" for "very"

John Isbell 07-15-2019 01:35 PM

Hi Aaron,

This is not my favorite of your poems. Not because of the rhyming, which I think is excellent, as usual, but because I just find the giant squid anticlimactic. It's dead, for instance. I'd thought it might be a human corpse; or something fantastic; or something that took out one of the richies' boats. The poem fizzles for me, sorry. I don't think it has to, though, if you'd want to change the ending, unless you are wedded to it.
A small note: here - "and bring them home" - I'd write brings, also good English and less demanding of the reader's attention IMO.


Aaron Poochigian 07-15-2019 01:58 PM

Thank you, John. I am indeed wedded to the dead squid. It's one of the signs of the apocalypse in the next (and final) installment of the verse novel.

I am excited about this piece because I feel it successfully conveys Todd's informal voice in a formal environment.

I don't see how a giant squid could be anticlimactic. What's cooler than that?

John Isbell 07-15-2019 05:18 PM

Hi Aaron,

I agree, when I was ten or twelve I found giant squid extremely cool. This one's dead, though, it's not waving its tentacles about or attacking anything. Perhaps you could add a line or two of hypotheticals, things it might have attacked, things that might have snagged his dad's line? That might open it out more.
Yes, I think you've got his voice. There are, frankly, too many "likes" for me, but I can see their relevance.


Jayne Osborn 07-15-2019 07:22 PM

Hi Aaron,

I think this is great - a real-life experience (whether it actually is or not, it's totally plausible), told well. I like the "likes". A petulant 12-year-old doing a complete turn-around because it suited him in the end... whoever woulda thought it? :rolleyes:

Although its meaning is quite clear, I hadn't come across "pulpous" before; what a good word.

I have only one small suggestion: It might just be a US v UK thing, but "way, way bored" doesn't sound quite right to my ear. I'd prefer:

Todd Wolniak is twelve years old and way
too bored.

I've never seen a giant squid, but I'm sure I'd be as overwhelmed as this 12-year-old kid was (sorry John!).

The rhyme scheme and the title are good, and the conversational way in which the story is told appeals to me. I'd simply change that 2nd ''way'' and nothing else.


John Isbell 07-15-2019 08:30 PM

Hi Aaron,

It's true - as Jayne says - that this does sound as if it actually happened. That is very nice. I'd still vote to consider a hypothetical or two, I don't think it would detract.


RCL 07-15-2019 11:39 PM

Yes, it’s all plausible, though I was keyed to see a dead body. An American kid’s “way way” is likely, but in my many fishing days I’ve never heard a reel sizzle, but then I never thought about it! Maybe “whirring” or “hissing” or “wheezing”--or just a humming or revving (it’s an ascending sound as the fish runs). I'll wake up screaming the proper word. . . . Wait, if it's a huge fish on the run, a reel might "scream"?

Is "spooling" a sound? An electrical current is, and it sound like (you did it) SIZZLES!

Aaron Poochigian 07-16-2019 08:12 AM

Thank you, John, Jayne and Ralph.

John, I will look today at ways of charging up the "revelation" of the squid.

Jayne, you are right. "way too bored" is better English. I am imitating a juvenile kind of broken English that, I hope, will be endearing to the American ear. Thank you very much for enjoying this poem.

Ralph, "revving" is it. I have taken it and run with it. Thank you.

Andrew Szilvasy 07-16-2019 09:19 AM


When I first read it I wasn't sure if it was part of the new verse novel you were working on. I'm glad it is. It has its charm alone, but I can see it working well as a segment in something larger, especially one in which we're supposed to see irony in the child's glee.

I'm with John in thinking there's maybe a "like" too many. The second time it appears ("He means, itís just, like, God, / why waste a whole day leaning on the railing,") it feels natural and part of it in an effective way. "He thinks, like, dude, itís just, like, wrong, / like, agony" feels like a place where you might fruitfully cut one.

Is "richies" a slang word in common use? I'm open to it, but I wonder if there's something better.
"Why spend six hours or more
trying to catch whatís at the grocery store?"
This was to me the best and most authentic part of the piece. It reads exactly like how a teen would talk and really digs into their logic--while also being very you in metrical skill.

Similarly, this is excellent:
Around this head
a whorl of tangled feelers surfaces,
a mess of endless, fleshy grapples, spread
in all directions.
I thought the reveal of the squid worked. Still, I think you could stay in the boy's head a bit and imagine what he would tell his friends. I imagine you could have some fun with straight up lies (him catching the squid live or something). Given that it is a sign of the apocalypse--and since I suspect it's near the beginning--I think there's a real benefit to sticking with the boy and his joy to heighten the contrast.

Matt Q 07-16-2019 10:21 AM

Hi Aaron,

I enjoyed this. Like Andrew, knowing that this is part of a novel placing less demands on what it does read on its own, although it is a self-contained piece as is. I find little to nit-pick here. Plus, I do like me a good apocalypse. I'm looking forward to more.

My main nit here is "eyes like dinner-plates" since I think that's the simile everyone goes for with giant squid (see for example here and there are many more) so maybe you could reach for something less expected here. (Also then "in colouring and size" kind of goes on to spell out the simile -- though I guess with colour much depends on what colour your dinner plates are). I guess there's an echo of folk tales too, maybe that's what you're after. I seem to remember one I read as a child, Hans-Christian Anderson I think, with three dogs guarding a tinder-box, having their eyes described this way too.

"a couple bluefish" sounds odd to me -- the missing 'of'. Maybe that's idiomatic for this voice, but I don't see this kind of elision repeated elsewhere.

Suddenly there is revving in a reel.

Would seem more natural (to me) as "Suddenly there's the revving of a reel.", since 'revving' is short for revolving, and the reel is what revolves (as I understand it, I don't fish) rather than the revolving taking place in the reel.



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