Wednesday, August 15, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 93: The Pony Poetry Series

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

The Tim Burton Batman was on the other day, and I ended up watching it while doing some reading.  You know, I'd forgotten how much I liked that movie.  The Nolan movies may have been deeper, grittier, and less hampered by silly-looking special effects, but Jack Nicholson is just plain fun to watch.  Also, the old Batmobile may be less "realistic" than the Bat-tank, but it's much cooler-looking.

Below, my review of Aquarian Poet's The Pony Poetry Series.

Impressions before reading:  A bit of poking around on the author's page reveals that there were at one point plans to extend this series to stories covering all of the main six, and apparently she's still plugging away at chapter three.  Luckily, each story is designed to stand independently, so I'll review the two which have been written to date.

Also, poetry!  There's a lot of bad poems out there, but if this got six-starred, I'm hoping it rises above the morass of sub-par fanmade pony rhymes.

NOTE: This top section is only a review of Fluttershy's Poem. My review of Pinkie Pie's Lullaby is featured after it.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Coming across an old parchment, Fluttershy reflects back on the days after she earned her cutie mark, and how her life was changed forever when she met Cheerilee.

Thoughts after reading:  Although purple prose is a well-worn pejorative in literary criticism, it's also an extremely subjective criticism.  Personally, I tend to enjoy some of the denser prose which authors like The Descendant or Short Skirts and Explosions have produced within this fandom.  I also have heard people claim that the stories of both those fanfic authors are completely unreadable because they're so overfull of effusive claptrap.

It occurred to me after I wrote that paragraph that using words like "pejorative" and "effusive" while discussing purple prose smacked of irony, but I think it actually argues my point for me: although I could easily reword both sentences to use less grandiose language without losing any clarity, is there anything inherently wrong with my current phrasing?  Part of that answer depends on context; certain stories better fit such language than others.  But a lot of it comes down to the individual reader, and what level of literary ornamentation they find excessive.

All that said, the language in Fluttershy's Poem at times veered into what I would not hesitate to call purple prose.  While I don't have any problem with wordy passages, or with words used in unusual or atypical ways (so long as they are used correctly and with purpose), I don't have much sympathy for passages about Fluttershy "mentally noting to rectify her decline in housekeeping habits in the near future."  Odd over-phrasing such as that is thankfully the exception rather than the rule for most of the story, but it does crop up from time to time.  And when it does, it distracts from the story which the author's trying to tell.

As for the story itself?  The meat of it ends up being about Cheerilee, and while her transformation from directionless teen to teacher is interesting, it does make the framing device a little shaky.  Because so much of the extended flashback which is the bulk of Fluttershy's Poem ends up being about somepony other than Fluttershy, the thematic ties which Aquarian Poet tries to weave at the end of the story don't really resonate; they simply weren't the most salient portions of the story itself, so to emphasize them at the end gives the entire narrative an unfocused feeling.

I will say about the titular poem that, although it was simply constructed, it was also for the most part well executed (though I cringed at the extra syllables shoved into the fifth line, fearing (groundlessly, thankfully) that they would prove the rule and not the exception for the rest of the poem).  So that was nice.

On a technical front, my only complaint was the use of parenthetical asides (hypocrisy, thy name is Chris), which were uniformly of the sort which could have been integrated into the text without damage to either the narrative or to the aside.  Otherwise, the writing was near-flawless in terms of both construction and grammar.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

Although it's difficult to ferret out this story's direction, that doesn't mean that reading it is an unpleasant journey.  Despite language which occasionally slides towards over-dramatic, this is a piece which on the whole is well-written and offers a look at the youths of two ponies which, although unlikely to blow anyone's mind, makes for enjoyable reading.

Recommendation:  Folks interested in reading some backstory on Fluttershy and/or Cheerilee may want to consider this story.  Despite prose which tinges violet at times, I suspect most readers will find most of the story to be well written and of unobjectionable quality.  Those looking for a tightly-knit piece of work might want to try elsewhere, though.

Pinkie Pie's Lullaby:

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Pinkie goes to visit her Granny Pie, world-famous baker and giggler at ghosties.

Thoughts after reading:  As usual, most of the things which I could say about one story could be said about the other.  Both show excellent technical construction, both lack clear direction (although Lullaby does focus on Pinkie, rather than splitting time between multiple ponies, it lacks any thematic vision to elevate it from "series of events" to "thematically satisfying narrative"), and both demonstrate the author's ability to assemble rhymes which, you know, rhyme.  That, coupled with a talent for measuring out stressed syllables, seems to be all too rare among fanfiction authors; it's nice to see competently executed couplets for a change.

The purple prose problem which plagued the previous story (alliteration unintentional but nifty) is almost entirely absent here--although the writing is anything but minimalist, its word choice/use never becomes so unorthodox that it becomes a distraction.

I really feel like I should have at least three paragraphs, but there isn't much else to say; the differences between the two stories relevant to a review like this are really pretty minimal.  So... okay.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

Pinkie Pie's Lullaby has slightly better prose than Fluttershy's Poem, but otherwise echoes both the strengths and weaknesses of the latter to a tee.

Recommendation:  Although it lacks direction, the backstory which the author gives Pinkie and her family is interesting in its own right.  Anyone interested in a sweet bit of character background ought to consider this story.

Next time:  The Birds and the Bees, by theworstwriter


  1. ...and my heart just about burst from my chest. Thank you so much for the review, Chris. ^_^

    1. You are, of course, quite welcome. I'd never even heard of these stories until I did the review, but I can say without reservation that I enjoyed reading them.

  2. Oh boy oh boy oh boy it's my turn!

    I can think of three things right off the bat that are wrong, which I'm guessing you'll call out. I'mma put my predictions in this envelope over here...

    Naw but seriously, this'll be fun. I have zero respect for anything I've ever written, but haven't really sought out proper feedback. I mean yeah, I've got the comments sections, but those aren't really reputable. I'll be interested in finding out just how well founded my profound self-loathing is.

  3. :I really feel like I should have at least three paragraphs, but there isn't much else to say; the differences between the two stories relevant to a review like this are really pretty minimal. So... okay."

    I see what you did there.

    1. Is it sad that I didn't notice?

      *Le Sigh*

    2. Well, it is a bit of a long stretch. Actually it could have just been my imagination. But most of the fun in life is in the little insanities we have from time to time, no?

    3. *Twitch*

      No idea what you mean.

    4. You should always assume that everything I do is intentional. EVERYTHING. Misspelled word? That's actually a post-modern variant spelling. Double break instead of single between paragraphs? Obviously an aesthetic choice, designed to maximize the impact of the next sentence through use of negative space. Triple-layers parentheses? Not sure, but it's probably some sort of statement about the decay of the nuclear family in modern America. That, or it's a plea to save the rain forests.

      Really, it's all pretty obvious if you know what to look for.

  4. I like the new, gritty Batman films and the old, original (and very silly) ones but Jack Nicholson will always be the best Joker to me. He maintained the fine balance between hilarious and harrowing (in great Burton style) perfectly. Plus Nicholson is just an all round awesome actor to play a madman; 'The Shining' and 'One flew over the Cuckoo's nest' are more than enough additional proof.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed these two stories of the series. It's months since I read them but I think I understand what you mean about an overall lack of direction in terms of plot. I don't remember much purple prose, but like I said it was quite a while ago when I read them. I wish Aquarian Poet would write the next installation though, since I really enjoy poetry about ponies as much as the actual stories. There really isn't enough of it.

    Damn, that was a rambling paragraph just now. *shrug*

  5. I don't see anything wrong with your paragraph. Re-wording it would have produced an ungainly result. Purple prose is characterized more by inefficient word choice: using either more words than is necessary or synonyms which convey something slightly different than what the author intended. Such wording is more acceptable in poetry because, unlike prose, the sound or appearance of a word takes precedence over its meaning