This is a story of bad boundaries, bad manners and bad poetry. You may have noticed that I like poetry. Plenty of people have noticed. One of the consequences of people noticing that you like poetry is that they give you their poetry to read. (Do I do that to you? No. I have a deep understanding that amateur poetry causes hives in many people. I have mercy.) I find these requests to be far more painful than the "will you edit [write] my paper for me" requests. Bad prose is one thing, bad poetry is another. I don't like rhymes under the best of circumstances, but bad rhymes inflict migraines.
Once upon a time (while I was pregnant and whatever normally passes for Jami's commonsense had gone bye-bye) a human acquaintance (hereafter referred to as H.A.) begged me to go over this ream of poetry, to "correct the grammar and punctuation." I reluctantly accepted. Really the H.A. is super nice, and it would have been rude of me to decline.
Once I got home, I began to read. They were (God forgive me) crap. Trust me. So...did I hand them back? Did I try to convince the H.A. to take up knitting or golf? No, the H.A. is a nice person who had obviously invested a great deal of self in the poems. I did the only thing a cowardly former English major could do. I avoided confrontation.
Unfortunately, one can only duck into empty classrooms, claim non-existent stomach ills and headaches so many times. Eventually, the H.A. cornered me. Had I read them yet? What did I think? Were they ready? Which one did I like best? When would they be ready? I prevaricated. I'd been busy. I pretended to have had a bout of false labor. (I'm so ashamed.) This went on for months before the nagging finally got to me. I felt bad. I was holding the poems hostage. I needed to keep my commitment, give my opinion, and let them go home.
So I bit the bullet and began making comments. At first, I attempted to fix the poor mutilated words. Wasn't going to happen. I could rewrite them entirely, but that was a horror to which I was unwilling to subject myself. I gave up and plunged the knife in deeply: I told the truth.
After about ten poems, I was forced to write a short piece of marginalia on the fact that the ends of rhyming words are supposed to sound the same. (Action and magazine, while both ending in the "N" sound, do not rhyme. In fact, the more ending sounds that two words have in common the better they rhyme.) It was an insulting thing to tell someone, but I didn't see any evidence that the H.A. understood the principle.
I also informed the H.A. that the sentences in poetry should resemble English. It is unseemly to torque the words to get the rhyme. (The avoidance of orange to rhyme is not a reason to turn your words to slime-or-Orange to rhyme I must avoid, thus my syntax becomes hemorrhoid.)
I tossed in as much "that's a nice image" as I honestly could, just to soften the blow a little. Then under the cover of dark, I bravely doorbell-ditched the packet of doomed poems.
The friendly H.A. did not speak to me for a year. The spouse of the H. A. gave me dark looks. At the end of my year long silent treatment, H. A. cheerfully came up to inform me that one of the poems had won a contest and was being published in an anthology (available for purchase for just $39.99). Shortly thereafter, I was informed that a collection of H.A.'s poetry was being published by Publish America.
So what would you do? Tell your happy human acquaintance the truth? No way, dude. I tried that. It worked out poorly. So I smiled and offered congratulations.
Guess what I have sitting on my shelf right now? Yep. At least the rhyming has improved—be, me. rock, stock, cast, morass—some. Luckily, I visit an older lady who LOVES rhyming poems and have I got a book for her!