Semi-Splendid, by Tracy K. Smith, appears in the Feb. 2017 issue of Poetry Magazine. Sometimes I kick myself for allowing the school's subscription to Poetry lapse. I just simply did not have enough time to read each issue as they were coming out. And the students certainly aren't picking up Poetry Magazine off the shelf in the library. But every once in a while it is nice to come back and check out a poem from this marvelous publication. Like this one...
After I read the poem, I counted the lines. I did! Got to start there don't we. It does indeed have 14 lines, which suggests sonnet, but then the rest of the poem doesn't conform to the sonnet format. Semi-Spendid has some marvelous internal rhyme and not the end rhyme that is typical for a sonnet.
This poem just falls off the tongue when you read it out loud. Every single word has been painstakingly considered and placed just right so it has the maximum effect on the reader. The alliterative quality of the opening lines draws one into this poems spell, "telling my tongue / To turn it down. Too late. The [...]." Simply wonderful. Because of the rhyme, alliteration, and euphony of this poem it reads very quickly until one gets to the very last line and then the dashes around the appositive phrase slows the reader down. It reads almost like a rant--a quick, full of emotion rant--and then the speaker slows down to make her final point.
Love is complicated, and as the poet states: "Love is never fair." This poem speaks of a love triangle. Perhaps two girls and one guy. One of the girls has the man locked down, in a serious relationship. But the other wishes she was dating the guy. This man seems to be torn as well. He looks at the other girl, watches her; perhaps he is even drawn to her. But his girlfriend won. She has the prize. The speaker doesn't seem to be angry with the man, or the other girl, but she certainly needs to draw this to the man's attention. To make sure he understands that he is going out with her and not the other girl. The last line is telling, "But do we--should we--care?" Well, it certainly seems like you "care." I mean you wrote a poem about the matter and spent enough time to bring attention to it. Love is the most powerful emotion in the world and I think we all care about it.