“Awesome. First let me say it mostly reads very smooth, and kept me interested. It was fairly formal and had some old fashioned notes like the first line of the third stanza and the first line of the couplet but it was still lively. I have three suggestions for you. The first line and 2/5 are not so iambic are they? My scansion’s not so good, and I know there is flexibility with iambs, but I thought you might want to start with the third line, revise a bit, but keep the rhyme scheme. (Though I love calling [Charleston] the Holy City and the presence of a park bench.) When you go into the second stanza I had a lot of trouble telling the connection to the first stanza, especially since they share a sentence. I think the speaker may be taking Valentine as an instructor–as to avoid sexual immorality. The lack of context, especially grammatical, leaves this buried. (The transition into the return of Christ also has a buried theme, which is not always bad, but you might consider making the connections between the reading of the Song, Valentine, and the return of Christ, more open.) Thirdly, do you want to say “spliced”? It has kind of a negative connotation? Well, I hope that’s not too much.”
I really appreciate constructive criticism. This shows me the reader cared enough about me and/or the work to comment, to help better the work. I get some of that within the writing group I belong to (shout out to the Christian Writers Network at Cathedral of Praise, North Charleston). I don’t think I can stress how important these people have been to me, not only as a writer, but as a follower of Christ. As a writer you will eventually have someone critique your work, even if you are totally isolated in your writing: a literary agent, an editor/publisher, the reading public. A good writing group gives you a safe and encouraging environment to grow as a writer. Our group has writers of various levels who work in different genres–poetry, inspirational, devotions, sci-fi and novels, we even have a cartoonist/satirist in the group. All these work together to help each other become better writers.
This relates to followers of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 tells us that we shouldn’t refrain from getting together with other believers. I don’t think this just relates to “church”. We need to get together frequently to encourage and uplift one another; to help each other in our walk with the Lord. Sometimes this may entail “constructive criticism”. If there is something in our life that needs to be corrected, wouldn’t you rather have someone who loves you and is concerned with your well-being point it out to you, than to have the world judge you (and you know they will). To have a group of people in various levels of their walk, with different points of view, can help you become a better Christian.
I had not intended to go in this direction with this post (and I seem to be using Hebrews quite frequently), but there it is. I did look at Asher Blake’s critiques. I tweeked a few things he pointed out, left some alone because I liked the way I had it (for now). But I appreciated the input and I hope I have a better poem for it. Here’s the updated version:
Solomon, St. Valentine, and the Coming of Christ
In the Holy City with faith’s fresh start,
on a park bench—alone; with blushing shame
I read Wisdom’s Song sung from sickened heart,
plagued with fever of most vehement flame.
Love’s perfect bliss banned by dark rule’s claim
that young soldiers be more stout if not wed;
yet embraced by stouter priest whose sole aim,
the union of man and wife, cost his head.
This flowered crown’s among many behead
by those lacking, who deem to quench Christ’s fire;
unending flame whose strength shall raise the dead
complete and whole, clothed in holy attire.
And I, one crumb this bread, one drop this wine,
shall ever consummate the feast divine.
Copyright © 2015 Scott Daniel Massey