Patrick – “In Stalin’s Russia”

27 Jan

(I’m very sorry if this appears in the wrong place, I’ve never used wordpress before)


They dragged him home from Leningrad

We’re all a nest of wolfish grins

Clamber up your stack of bones

And write your story with his limbs

His words are scalpels, slicing out

The treachery he finds within

And when you look like what he sees

He turns you to a gust of wind

But he clenches at his dreams of us

Our glinting words, our grasping ears

Starved, yes, and beaten, but we’re what’s left

When the merciful all disappear

He’s never had to fight for breath

Not while Stalin’s kept us still

But we always knew that none survive

Who rely on Stalin’s own good will

He’s got a skill with hunting Ghosts

He takes them out of Stalin’s brain

And gives each one a human face

So Stalin never feels insane

He’s a cog that turns but can’t escape

The iron spider web it makes

And all machines that Stalin builds

He swiftly eats, before they break

It broke his slavish love like ice

He’s doomed, he still feels disbelief

That Stalin sees his fellow sharks

As not comrades, but rival sets of teeth

Laugh, my friends, he knows that feel

That blank chill, that Siberian wind

He thought Stalin would spare his life

We thought revolution would spare us him

So we will speak his death tonight

And claw at Stalin’s fickle grace

Freedom’s orders are a foreign tongue

We kill him just to take his place


I’m not really sure offhand what I’m looking for criticism on, since I tackled most of the problems I personally had with this piece myself. I want the imagery to be the biggest focus here, so I’d be really interested to know about any bits of imagery that ring out of place.


One Response to “Patrick – “In Stalin’s Russia””

  1. mouthypoets February 7, 2013 at 11:02 pm #

    Hi Patrick,

    Firstly, I am so sorry it has taken me so long to get to this. Illness has left me putting all my energy into my day to day teaching/performance work. But I am here and hopefully this feedback is of some use before the show next week! If not, then hopefully the feedback will transfer to other pieces in the future 🙂

    Overall I think it only needs a light edit – changing words, phrases. Please keep the rhythm, the overall journey of the poem, the emotional content and concept. I think this is a really strong piece!

    -I think the way you tie together images is really innovative and enjoyable, here are some I particularly liked; “a nest of wolfish grins,” “clenches at his dreams,” “Our glinting words, our grasping ears,” “As not comrades, but rival sets of teeth.”
    -You clearly have a very strong sense of poetic rhythm and rhyme and I think you have use it perfectly here. It can be easy to use these kind of techniques Just Because, but actually in this piece they have great purpose. You have created a sense of drive and soldier like repetition that really works and that also carries a lightness that gives the content new dimensions. Well done!
    -Props for picking such a different subject for the rest of the group! I am also really enjoying watching how you are pushing that dynamic even further with a really enjoyable performance of the piece.
    -I really like the use of fantasy, it is skillfull, restrained and classic in a way that is exciting, particularly when working alongside your use of form. I particularly like this idea of taking ghosts out of Starlin’s brain and giving them faces?! Awesome.
    -Another mental but awesome concept…
    “And all machines that Stalin builds

    He swiftly eats, before they break”
    -This is so good you may have invented a cliche… “It broke his slavish love like ice”?
    -I like the cyclical use of water creatures – goldfish/sharks, it gives the poem a subliminal sense of resolution.
    -Love the ending

    -I find the use of They’re / We’re and Your in the first three lines confusing narratively. Who are they and who are we? I think this is particularly jarring to the narrative because not everyone will know who Starlin is + not everyone will understand the places and themes + your imagery is pretty out there, which I love but all of this needs to be tied down with clear narrative infrastructure & Characters. So my questions is, who are you and who are you talking to? I think if this connection was clearer in the text and your head the whole poem would be clearer. I don’t think it would be a complicated edit either, even if it was…
    “They dragged you home from Leningrad

    We’re all a nest of wolfish grins

    Clamber up your stack of bones

    And write your story with the limbs”

    …I am aware this might deviate from what you are trying to achieve. But the main point I am trying to make is to have lest people from the offset, having We & You or an equivalent is far less confusing.

    -I am not sure who, He is -> “He’s got a skill with hunting Ghosts”

    -You are clearly capable of very original imagery, as I have elaborated in the LOVE section. But there are places where your originality slips and I think this may be because of the rhythm and rhyme you are trying to sustain. Maybe use a rhyming dictionary and thesaurus to try and address these whilst still sustaining the rhythm? Here are some sections I would like you to address; “His words are scalpels, slicing out // The treachery he finds within,” “gust of wind,” “fight for breath,” “blank chill,” “spare his life.”

    -These sentences felt clumsy, I think it is because you have used extra words and a odd syntax to keep with the rhythm… is there a way you could make the action within the sentence clearer? “And when you look like what he sees,” “But we always knew that none survive”

    I hope this is helpful! Please do let me know if anything wasn’t! I want to try my best to support your writing in a way that is effective for you.


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