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Your Birthday

by silverquill12


I forgot

It’s your birthday today, isn’t it?

I promise

Next year I’ll remember

I know

You like gifts wrapped in pink paper, and

I know

You want a pony, and

I know

You hate cake and asked for Jell-O instead

I know this. Why did I forget?

-------

I forgot

It was your birthday yesterday, wasn’t it?

I promise

We’ll celebrate this weekend

I know

You don’t like pink anymore, and

I know

You asked for concert tickets and makeup, and

I know

You’re off sugar at the moment

I know this. Why did I forget?

-------

I remember

It’s your birthday tomorrow, isn’t it?

I promise

I’ll always remember from now on

I know

The lining of your casket is black, and

I know

You shouldn’t have gone drinking with those friends, and

I know

I’ll always blame myself

I know this. Why can’t I forget?


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Thu Mar 26, 2020 6:57 pm
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Willard wrote a review...



Hey Silverquill. I've read a few of your past works on here, so I'm excited to finally review one. I'll be starting off with specifics, then moving on to the poem as a whole.

The first thing I noticed was the bio for this work, which reads:

The relationship of a single, forgetful mother and her daughter.


This is very pertinent information, I think, but it begs two questions. The first being, and I'm sorry for how stupid this is, in what sense is she single? Are you referring to the fact that you are only talking about one mother, or that she is the sole care provider for her daughter? In a lot of cases, something like this would hold no weight. However, for me as a reader, I wouldn't have comprehended the relationship between the two as quickly as I did if it wasn't for the bio.

That leads me to my second question. Why the bio? For some reason, it feels like the relationship (a vital part of this poem) is more strongly established in the description than it is in the poem itself. I think most writers use poetry as the 'art source' of interpretation, so it was intriguing how blunt the bio is. But let's say, hypothetically, I found the poem a different way. Would I still gather the relationship the same way?

Well.

I forgot

It’s your birthday today, isn’t it?

I promise

Next year I’ll remember

I know


Repetition, the same with any strict poetic format, limits what you're able to do in the poem. So far, I like this. It has a good sort of flow to it. What's important to keep in mind, especially later in this work, is keeping it consistent. Setting this up for yourself turns the poem from a 'no-rulez-at-all' poem to 'how-does-this-hold-up-its-own-goal' poem. More on this later.

You like gifts wrapped in pink paper, and

I know

You want a pony, and

I know

You hate cake and asked for Jell-O instead


This is very straightforward.

I mean, very.

Spoiler! :
VERY.


With all due respect, something I had difficulty with was feeling a genuine, heartfelt connection between the two. The use of 'pink' and 'ponies' are THE cliches when talking about feminine youth. More so, they are blatantly stated. There is truly no human subtlety about this whatsoever. Are you talking about a real person or a caricature? With the final line, that specific detail can carry weight. It's still direct, which isn't necessarily the best thing, but you're describing a human quirk, not a general stereotype. If you were to rework this poem, I would recommend not making it so universally applicable, but instead rely on the small things. (Please feel free to ignore this, though).

I know this. Why did I forget?


Keep in mind!

I forgot

It was your birthday yesterday, wasn’t it?

I promise

We’ll celebrate this weekend

I know


Of course there's a shift in time here. The most well known poem on this website, My Best Friend is Gay, uses this device in similar fashion. A lot of poems do, even mine. It's a common thing, and in no way is this downplaying yours, the effectiveness of it depends on the content of the poem. I only bring this up because the other reviews talk about the change in atmosphere from stanza to stanza, but with the format you set out for yourself, there is never really a clear change. It depends on what the daughter likes. How the mother talks about her daughter never changes, only the traits of the daughter does. It's a pickle, having to uphold a poetic structure while trying to portray development.

Also the narrator kind of seems like a bad person, not going to lie.

You don’t like pink anymore, and

I know

You asked for concert tickets and makeup, and

I know

You’re off sugar at the moment

I know this. Why did I forget?


Quick thing. The age she is in is very unclear, primarily due to the line about sugar. Unless she's going to like, a JoJo Siwa concert, there is no definitive age she is at. 'Off sugar at the moment' is more of a 9-10 year old thing, makeup and concerts (the exact combination) is more 12-13. There is a significant difference between that. This is totally an unimportant comment.

I remember

It’s your birthday tomorrow, isn’t it?

I promise

I’ll always remember from now on


IT TOOK THE DEATH OF YOUR DAUGHTER TO REMEMBER THIS?

AHHHHHHHHHH
AHHHHHHHHHH

The lining of your casket is black, and


This is a striking line. Probably my favorite part of the work, but also probably my biggest problem. This is so so so so anti-climactic. I don't think there's any real build-up to this point, and when it happens, it just happens. Especially with the next line:

You shouldn’t have gone drinking with those friends, and


There is nothing subtle about this, and I think because of that, it's completely rid of emotions. This has a lot of potential, the build-up of this relationship, but it's dwindled down to straight forward statements. I think a lot of the emotion it seems like you want to portray can be delivered through indirect statements. Similar to what I said about the Jell-O line. You're not handling it in a way where it's like the narrator is separated from how they're feeling in this moment. Just be wary.

I know

I’ll always blame myself

I know this. Why can’t I forget?


Remember when I said to keep the last in mind? Because this was what I wanted to talk about.

Read these lines over and over again out loud. They make no sense in the scheme of the poem. At all. You changed 'I forgot' to 'I remember' in this last stanza, I think you can change this last line to something more biting in the context that she just lost her daughter.

Bringing this back to the bio, and the relationship between the mother and the daughter, it is oh-so-clear and completely-cloudy at the same time. There are lines where we know you are referring to a feminine figure. Yet, do we know who the narrator is to the subject? No, not really. It would take a lot of heavy inference to do so. Sometimes it feels like a mother-daughter connection makes sense, other times it could be any sort of blood kin.

And I only bring this up because, in the bio, you state the narrator as a 'single, forgetful mother'. Nothing, in the bio or in the poem itself, is said more. The bio for 'Your Birthday' decides for the reader how they should interpret it, but nothing is developed off of that. With how full-frontal this poem is, it doesn't feel naked. There's a lot of depths you can go to to make this poem more impactful, more cathartic, and more human. Seeds exist that demand to be grown. Right now, it's like reading soil.

(Not a bad thing! Planting seeds is a lot of work!)

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Sorry if it didn't make sense or if any of this was unhelpful.

Thanks,
Willard.






Wow. Okay. That was a lot to unpack. To be honest, I wasn't sure anyone really read the bios, so it was my bad when I kind of ruined the poem in a way when I closed off doors to interpretation. When I read poetry, I always need context but I see for this one, as a fairly straightforward work, doesn't really need one. In the moment, I didn't know what to put for the bio, so I put what this poem was in my head, but that was my mistake. Seeing how much you read into the poetry is very... refreshing. I see how differently people interpret things than I do. The single mother was referring to the fact that there was no other parental figure in the daughter's life. Where I'm from, that's usually the connotation involved with those words, so I'm sorry for assuming that everyone would glean the same meaning. Again, same with the "off sugar" part. I think you interpreted as the girl was being denied sugar by her mother, whereas I originally meant for it to tie into the idea that she was on a diet. It was supposed to allude to the influence of the media on teens, and teen girls, especially, telling them to lose weight and to have this perfect body type. Again, kind of stereotypical, but I guess not as straightforward as I thought. And for your comments about it seeming "detached" and "not human enough": I've never experienced parental neglect before, but I find the relationships between parent and child (especially mother and daughter) very compelling. So, the fact that I've never experienced anything quite like this may be the reason. Anyways, thanks for the review. I'll certainly consider what you said. This response is kind of long, so sorry. And also, I have a question for you. Is having those little quote boxes in the review something you unlock later on or am I just not grasping the layout of this site? Thanks!



Willard says...


Thank you so much for your response! To get the question out of the way, it's a coding thing. Just use ['quote]*insert text here*[/quote] with no apostrophe. It makes it both clearer and also so that what you are quoting doesn't add to your word count.

But I cannot articulate how much I appreciate your response. It definitely made a lot of things clearer, esp. your intentions with the relationship. I wasn't trying to imply that you need to have that experience in order to have a powerful work, it's just how it is chosen to be portrayed. Definitely, please continue exploring this topic if it's what compels you.

With the sugar thing, my original interpretation was that the daughter chose to go off sugar because it makes her 'hyper'. A common practice, at least in my experience. In the context of everything that's how I interpreted it, but like you said, it was purely interpretation.

Thank you again for taking the time to read and respond to this. All the well wishes!





Thanks so much for that info. And, uh, sorry if I seemed annoyed. I was still trying to process all the stuff you threw at me. Anyways. I appreciate it a lot, even if I didn't show it.



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Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:24 pm
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BhaviniJeloka wrote a review...



Okay this is my first review, I just joined a few minutes back. So hello! I think your poem is extremely powerful and conveys a lot with just a few words. The repetition of the word "I know" after each line brings back the feeling of guilt in the last stanza where the mother is blaming herself. The change in the atmosphere after each stanza, showing the growing up of the daughter has also been expressed in a minimalistic yet completely comprehensive way. I'd love to read more! Cheers!






Hi and welcome! Thanks so much for your review.



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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:42 pm
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StudentAH wrote a review...



Oh my god. What an heartbreaking poem. An irresponsible mother never remembers her daughter's birthday, but I feel that the metaphor of Birthday goes deeper than that. it represents the years passing, it represents the daughters growth, but it also shows that the mother would forget something so important about her daughter.

At the end when the truth is revealed, it becomes obvious that the mother has been neglecting or not keeping track of her daughter, and then her daughter goes drinking with those friends. She probably died in the car crash.

I like how in the first stanza, the daughter is a child. But, in the next stanza, suddenly she's a teenager. It shows how much the Mother wasn't thinking about how her child would grow up and change. Her mother was not prepared, nor did she prepare her daughter, for the harsh life that happens as you grow. Parents are supposed to prepare their children for the life ahead, don't leave them on their own to do it themselves, but don't over coddle them either.

In this case the mother was irresponsible, maybe she was too busy to pay attention to her daughter, and her daughter went astray.

This poem reminds me of my father. He was very similar to the way this mother is, as a child I wanted certain things, years later he would think I'm still that child but I'm completely different. As a child, I wanted Barbies, but he never gave me any. He also always forgot my birthday. Then when I grow up, he thinks to buy me a Barbie, but at that time I wanted computers and tech. he never realized how quickly I would grow up, because he was irresponsible. By the time I finally rekindled with him as an adult & we made ends meet, he hadn't realized that I had been raped several times & had been in a terrible environment all my childhood. It's not like in this poem, where I would have died (obviously I am alive, haha), but something severe happened to me. And he could have prevented it if he was there.

This poem hits very close to home. Thank you.






Wow. I'm glad you could draw such meaningful connections from this. Thank you for such a lovely contribution.



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Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:33 am
Lethargic says...



That last section caught me off guard completely. The first two sections made it out to be something completely different, which makes the ending even more of a gut punch. Aside from the ending, though, the rest of the poem flows really well. I love your use of repetition. It makes the whole piece even more effective than it already was. Overall, amazing work! I can’t wait to see what you do next!




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Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:32 am
Lethargic says...



That last section caught me off guard completely. The first two sections made it out to be something completely different, which makes the ending even more of a gut punch. Aside from the ending, though, the rest of the poem flows really well. I love your use of repetition. It makes the whole piece even more effective than it already was. Overall, amazing work! I can’t wait to see what you do next!




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Thu Mar 26, 2020 3:32 am
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Lethargic wrote a review...



That last section caught me off guard completely. The first two sections made it out to be something completely different, which makes the ending even more of a gut punch. Aside from the ending, though, the rest of the poem flows really well. I love your use of repetition. It makes the whole piece even more effective than it already was. Overall, amazing work! I can’t wait to see what you do next!




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Thu Mar 26, 2020 1:59 am
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BhavyaMehta123 says...



Hi. This is actually a heartbreaking poem. The poet never remembers the person's birthday. But after losing that person, he not only remembers but also regrets that he forgot it every year. The poem's format and rhyming are on the point. I really like the message of the poem is and what you are trying to convey and it is true.




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Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:32 am
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PhoenixEmberly wrote a review...



This was a truly breathtaking kind of poem. We never realize how important something truly is until it is gone. I really like the format used here, the lines match up well throughout the poem to create something that is aesthetically pleasing. The constant reminders that the person will remember, but only does after he has to remember due to their loss is an awfully depressing ending to this poem, and since that was the goal, I say well done in achieving the goal. The repetition of I know an the alteration from Why can't I remember to Why can't I forget is a wonderful addition to this. I like this poem quite a lot really.





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