Poetry

Two Satellites Collide over Russia

Big ones. Old ones. One
malfunctioning. They don’t know how
many pieces. 270
miles above the
International Space
Station. They clatter into
the atmosphere. The fragments burn. Sky-
clutter. Rocket parts and
engines and junk. Failed
communication.

 

Comments: I like this one a lot—I feel the line breaks are particularly clever in the ways they play with and against the different meanings of words and phrases. (That’s probably a sign I should look closely at everything—when we get cocky, we take the quality of our work for granted, and then it’s very easy not to check everything thoroughly enough and to slip up.)

I had been concerned in previous drafts (even up until a few minutes ago), that the poem was too short—a fragment rather than a poem, not quite getting to the point. The issue for me was that the line breaks built tension by working against the natural grammatical units, and that tension never fully got released, or only sort of got released, depending on the version, so that the final phrase, which in meaning felt “right” and appropriate as a way of turning the satellite into a metaphor, just didn’t pack the right punch—it hit glancingly when it should ideally have hit full on, releasing all that tension into one final phrase. But I hadn’t yet managed that. E.g.:

Two Satellites Collide over Russia

Big ones. Old ones. One
malfunctioning. They don’t know how
many pieces. 270
miles above the International
Space Station. They clatter into
the atmosphere. The fragments burn. Sky-
clutter. Rocket parts and
engines and junk. Failed
communication.

(Here, the final break separates an adjective from its associated noun, continuing the build in visual-grammatical tension, which remains unresolved because the poem ends just after that small grammatical unit.)

Or:

Two Satellites Collide over Russia

Big ones. Old ones. One
malfunctioning. They don’t know how
many pieces. 270
miles above
the International Space
Station. They clatter into
the atmosphere. The fragments burn. Sky-
clutter. Rocket parts and
engines and junk.
Failed communication.

(Here, the grammatical mini-unit remains intact, but there isn’t enough space, enough visual pause to set it apart and allow the eye to come finally to rest on it. It still reads too much like a fragment in the middle of a thought, rather than the finishing note to the poem.

Of course, if I put it entirely in a separate stanza, then there’s a clash between the frequent agrammatical line breaks up above and the unbroken noun phrase in the final line.)

Anyway, in getting the poem ready to publish, I played around because I was unsatisfied and it really rubs me the wrong way to post something I am unsatisfied with. And I found something that works, at least for now.

 

Nonfiction

A Dime a Dozen

Even the most practiced writers make mistakes. Here’s one I found today, in Slashfilm’s piece “The 28 Best Movies of 2017 So Far“, in a section written by Ethan Anderton:

Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen, and most of them aren’t even worth that 10-cent piece when all is said and done.

Well, no, of course not. If they’re a dime a dozen, then one would be worth about eight tenths of a cent.