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  #1  
Unread 04-16-2019, 03:13 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Default Child's Play

Child’s Play

When did you learn that being female meant
you’re never equal, always lesser than?
That the human race was fixed since it began?
That “Chatty Cathy” wasn’t a compliment?
That Betsy Wetsy couldn’t be a boy?
Neither could Tiny Tears, “the doll that cries
real tears.” Not meaning to infantilize,
they sapped your confidence with every toy.

Your brothers played with trucks and Matchbox cars.
They roughhoused and dug tunnels in the dirt.
Your father nicknamed you Miss Priss. It hurt.
You had a tiny tea set; they had wars.

It’s easy to make a girl a living doll.
Why cut you down when you’re already small?


Revisions:
S1L7-8 was "They wanted to infantilize / you, so they started early, with each toy."

Last edited by Susan McLean; 04-17-2019 at 10:00 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 04-16-2019, 03:23 PM
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Daniel Recktenwald Daniel Recktenwald is offline
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Hey, Susan McLean!

Thanks for posting. I've printed it out to give due attention and will be back.


Thanks,
Daniel

Last edited by Daniel Recktenwald; 04-17-2019 at 07:47 AM.
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  #3  
Unread 04-16-2019, 06:30 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-195...AOSw~cFcrUt K

Most toys in the past were gender-coded. Fewer are these days, but I still suspect girls want female dolls. It once seemed like a safe enough assumption.
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  #4  
Unread 04-16-2019, 06:52 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I was a doll-hater. As a kid with sensory processing issues, I thought real babies were noisy and smelly and annoyingly accident-prone, and I honestly couldn't understand why anyone lucky enough not to have the tedious burden of having to babysit would pretend the opposite, for fun.

I was delighted a few years ago when I learned of these ancient action figures, though:
http://songsforgorgons.tumblr.com/po...ticulated-arms

Overall, I like the theme and a lot of the lines--"You had a tiny tea set; they had wars" is particularly fine. But I'm not sure that the idea, as presented, is really sonnet-shaped. I have trouble seeing a clear volta.

Also, in fairness, I suspect that the nefarious "they" pressuring the narrator to conform to gender stereotypes was much more likely to be female than male. At least my own childhood "they" were. (Likewise, in fairness to my female "they," I suspect that their main motive in trying to clip my wings was because they had been so hurt when their own flights of ambition were shot down in a male-dominated world that they wanted to spare me the pain of even daring to dream in the first place. So I think their intentions were good. Just misguided.)

I'm curious to see how you might revise this. I do think it's a subject with more levels than one might initially expect, which means it has great possibilities, and could be taken in directions that I wouldn't think of myself.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 04-16-2019 at 06:59 PM.
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Unread 04-16-2019, 07:10 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I agree with Julie that there's nothing very sonnet-like going on here in terms of the poem's shape. The whole poem is pretty much summarized in the first two lines. Without reading further than those two lines, I think most readers immediately get the "point" that's being made, and it keeps getting made until the end. It is made clearly and effectively, but no more so than if you had foregone rhyme and meter. To me, there is too much making a point and too little use of the tools and logic and movement of poetry. Perhaps it would be more effective if grounded in a bit of personal context, such as why the speaker is moved to say it at this particular moment and who is the complaint meant for or addressed to?
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Unread 04-16-2019, 07:36 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Daniel, language is loaded. You may not have noticed that calling an angry poem by a woman a "tantrum" is doing the same kind of thing that the poem objects to. "Rant" would also be a negative label, but would not have the same overtones of childishness. I prefer "saeva indignatio" (Jonathan Swift's Latin phrase for "fierce indignation"). Notice how adult that sounds.

Sam, it's hard to know what children want, given that adults often make those choices for them, and all of society is convinced that it already knows what they want, and pushes the kids hard toward making acceptable choices. I just know that as a kid I picked up on the negative overtones of the names given to dolls and the fact that girls' dolls were given diminutive "baby talk" names and tended to do embarrassing things like crying and urinating and talking too much, whereas boys' toys such as G.I. Joe did not.

Julie, the poem did not set out to be a sonnet. I could have gone on longer, but often less is more. As for who the "they" are, I wonder who came up with the names for toys and designed them. Was it men or women who did that back then? One doesn't have to assume malign intentions behind things that were taken for granted at the time. One just has to assume a kind of blindness to the effects of their actions.

Susan
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Unread 04-16-2019, 07:54 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Roger, we cross-posted. The first two lines are making a general point, but they need the details of the rest of the poem to back it up. Those details evoke a particular time and place. I assume that the names of the dolls will be very familiar to female readers who grew up at that time, but I don't think I have ever read an analysis of the effect of the names of the dolls, and the types of toys girls were given, on the girls' own sense of themselves, their options, their futures. Though my poetic style is relatively stripped of adornment, you might notice some wordplay, and there is often both a literal and a metaphoric level to the discourse.

Susan
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Unread 04-16-2019, 11:22 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Susan,
I am afraid that I agree with Roger/Bob; though I completely support the point of the poem, and it is clear and logical, it doesn't engage me as a poem. Perhaps it isn't fierce enough.

One particular point--in the last line, I wonder about "already"--given the rest of the poem, I would expect the sense to be "still"--perhaps replace
"when you're already small" with something like
"before you can grow tall"
Otherwise, it might seem that you are referring to the actual stature of "you".

Thanks for the read,

Martin
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Unread 04-17-2019, 12:45 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
One doesn't have to assume malign intentions behind things that were taken for granted at the time. One just has to assume a kind of blindness to the effects of their actions.
We are in agreement on that point, I think. But I responded as I did because "They wanted to infantilize / you, so they started early, with each toy" definitely implied that the narrator/protagonist thinks malign intentions must have been at work, either on the part of the marketers or the adult consumers of toys to be given to children.

I thought that the use of the pronoun "they" in that sentence, followed by another "they" referring to the narrator's brothers, implied that all males were somehow in on the conspiracy. I know that this is probably not what you intended, but I wanted to draw your attention to it as a possible problem.
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Unread 04-17-2019, 02:58 AM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Susan,

Well then, this makes the argument poem I had set about scribbling moments before I came to this look like child's play. Truth be told, I fancy the iron-clad voice and the well-wrought armour of these lines. Rhetorically effective use of contrast and of the caesura, here!
You had a tiny tea set; they had wars.
Small typographical thing: “Chatty Cathy” has quotation marks, so should not Betsy Wetsy ?
I appreciate the doll names; they vivify and instantiate the point.
They wanted to infantilize
you, so they started early, with each toy.
For all I know, it may be the case with these progenitors that they actually “wanted to infantilize,” as fiendish a scheme as it sounds, for which they committed themselves and “started early with each toy.” Some gaol to resolve upon. Yet it is interesting to note that to produce what is attributed to conspiratorial malevolence, nothing further would be necessary than stark ignorance. Thus even well-meaning parents, or toymakers for that matter, may harm unwittingly. Take as you will. I think it would help if the they were less vague; so I cannot help but half wish that it were.

I concur with Julie and Roger that the poem might benefit from a turn in the road, a complication of some sort, or more development before the end at any rate. Some addition of nuance along the way would not hurt matters either I bet. Otherwise, my appreciation lies in the robustness of the verse, the coherence of the sense, and the huff of indignation harnessed. So much from me.

Cheers,

Erik

Last edited by Erik Olson; 04-17-2019 at 10:47 AM.
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