This poem, “When We Just Stand By,” was submitted by a 15-year-old writer. I will be focusing on the clarity of the subject matter, the execution of the poetic form, and how well those two things compliment each other. My comments are in coloured text. I do not generally comment on spelling or grammar. The 2013 Junior Authors Poetry Contest is now open. – Laura
When We Just Stand By
- I think a better title might be “Sam Ratell.” I never get the feeling that we are watching or the speaker is watching. That would have the be developed more for the title to work.
I knew a guy named Sam Ratell, - I like that you name the character who is the subject of the poem.
Short and chubby he was,
With freckles and acne as well,
they used to call him fuzz. - “They” is vague. Every word in your poem should be as specific as possible.
The bad bullies called him disgrace, - Need proper punctuation here to present the list of names. Try a colon.
failure, feeble and freak;
curly red rose hair hid his face.
They pushed him in the creek. - The transition between this line and the one before it could be smoothed out to a single image.
He’d wait for the end of each day,
all bruised, confused, used, wet.
The bullies thought him weird and gay.
Why so? He didn’t get. – Awkward phrasing.
Those creeps would punch him till he plead;
Sam hid this from his mom. - This line feels out of place here.
They hurt him even if he bled.
“Ouch!” He’d cry; crowd still calm. - Not sure what this phrase means.
Then Sam Ratell could take no more,
He tried hard to survive;
shushed, brushed, and crushed, his heart just tore;
and Sam R. did not thrive. - This far into the poem we already know this. I like how you call him Sam R. here.
All those mean words stuck in his head.
All Sam’s sore scars still stayed.
Soon Sam wished he was deep, down, dead.
His fragile faith had frayed. - Faith in what?
Then one night, something was not norm:
Sam Ratell had a knife.
That boy filled out his farewell form. - A farewell form? Interesting way to refer to a suicide note, creative.
Then next he took his life.
Now I look back so helplessly,
had I answered his cry?
This is what truly happened when we
did nothing but stood by. - Develop the watching and doing nothing angle throughout the poem.
More Feedback: This is a poem about a heavy subject: a boy who is bullied to death. I really like that the boy is named and the name is repeated. To take this poem to the next level, I suggest cutting some of the fleeting generic scenes and focusing on just one specific bullying scenes. This would allow the poet to go deeper with description (and point of view) so that we can feel (see, taste, touch, smell, hear) what this was like for Sam Ratell and the speaker who does nothing to help him. Another option would be to strengthen the feeling that we are all watching Sam get bullied and doing nothing by adding words that invoke different kids of looking, watching, blindness, etc.
Thank you for your feedback. I really do appreciate it. And I agree with you. Some scenes went smoothly in my head but didn’t come out on paper so well. I’m going to try to polish it with your advice. – Author of “When We Just Stand By”