Dear Over Sea Green Hills –
This is one of the first Lockhart poems I’ve read, and I think you portrayed the effect of his memory loss very well. The poem has a kind of hectic feel, not in a chaotic way, but more of a “kid in the candy shop” way – which I think is an excellent portrayal of Lockhart’s regression to a more childlike state of mind.
One thing I would look at is how you’ve chosen to punctuate the poem. There are times, such as in the first two lines, where I feel a change in punctuation could more accurately portray the feelings you’re expressing. Looking at the first lines, I would change:
I lost my name; can you tell,
Come on, can you, well…
To something more like:
I’ve lost my name – can you tell?
Come on – can you? Can you? Well?
Because Lockhart is questioning his guest, as opposed to just speaking. I altered “I” to “I’ve” because it makes the name loss sound more personal to me, like it’s not something that happened a long time in the past that is no longer affecting him. I would change the semicolon in the first line to a dash because the “can you tell?” question seems to be an interruption of the first statement. I changed the comma to a dash in the second line for a similar reason. The second “Can you?” in the second line was being inserted automatically in mind while reading through, so it’s not all together necessary. However, it seems to add a sense of urgency to Lockhart’s questioning – like the answer is vital to him.
The urgency of the first two lines seems to be contradicted by lines three and four. Lockhart expresses surprise that his visitor knows his name, which I can understand, but the fourth line (“What a loss.”) is confusing to me. Why is it a loss for the guest to have found Lockhart’s name?
Something else that I’ve noticed is that these lines don’t fall into the general two line rhyming pattern (tell, well; someone, are done, etc.). There are other places in the poem where you drop the rhyme scheme as well – such as in lines 7, 8, and 9. If you combined lines 7 and 8 to read: Now I’m simply…well…I don’t really know…, that section would fit with the rhyming scheme.
Really though, the rhyming and rhythm seems to fall apart at this point in the poem. I can’t decide if I like the inconsistency or not. In some places, I do, but in others it makes the poem seem incomplete. One line that seems very out of place is line 11, How strange and queer. It’s not really connected to anything, and it just sits there, alone and out of place. I’d consider either scrapping this line all together, in favor of keeping lines 12 and 13, or adding a rhyming line after line 11, and scrapping lines 12 and 13. The only reason I suggest this is that what is stated in lines 12 and 13 was already stated very clearly in lines 5 and 6.
An example of a line you could add after line 11 is:
How strange and queer
Though you tell me I once held it dear –
Line 13, if you keep it, is a bit out of place due to its length. If you could edit it down some, so that it would fit with the general length of the other lines, I think it would read better.
I really like lines 14-19. They really display Lockhart’s confusion and utter lack of self recognition. Lines 17 and 18 seem a bit unnecessary though. What is it that Lockhart can’t win at? Remembering? But if he doesn’t remember, each realization would be new. The same goes for line 18 – forgetting would imply that he remembers by himself sometimes, which you seem to be implying he doesn’t. I think these lines could best be edited to read:
Is it yours?
No? You say it’s mine?
Well…perhaps it is, then…
Who are you again?
Lines 21 and 22 are lovely. They show how quickly Lockhart forgets his own self. The punctuation doesn’t seem to reflect this though. Maybe try substituting a question mark after “Oh”, and then again after “goodbye”. And then perhaps add an ellipsis after “so you can tell him”.
In line 23, I think Lockhart’s disbelief could be expressed very clearly by italicizing “me” and finishing the line with a question mark. Then the line after could have an exclamation, to show his utter shock and rejection.
The final two lines seem to reflect the beginning rather well. I think it might be best to omit the second “my”, but that’s purely personal opinion. I’d think about ending this line with an ellipsis as well, and adding an ellipsis after “Hmm” on the final line. Maybe add a question mark after “now what was I saying?”, because, well, it reads as a question. And then end the line with an ellipsis after “hazy”, because Lockhart seems to just be fading off.
Another thing I think might be beneficial is to split the poem into stanzas instead of just a chunk of text. This is a great device to add pauses and show Lockhart’s change in mood.
I hope this was helpful,
This poem is so good. It fits with Lockheart's characterization as a mental person very well. He is still his funny self, but you can tell that he has changed. I like how everything is loose in this poem. The way some things rhyme and don't rhyme is great.
I like it! Very well done - the loose structure and here-and-there rhymes really underscores Lockhart's mental state perfectly. Nice job! ~Gina :)