My marriage failed (they always do.)
Emotionally unequipped
To work things out without a script,
We didn’t try to talk it through.

What do I pay that therapist for?
You can’t see what emotions mean
Until you get them on the screen.
We left them on the studio floor.

The press put all the blame on me:
I’ve always suffered for my art.
I threw myself into my part
(She threw herself into the sea.)

And now this nomination! But
I have to thank the cast and crew
And the director—that guy knew
Exactly how much grief to cut.



David Whippman is a British poet, now retired after a career in healthcare. Over the years he’s had quite a few poems, articles and short stories published in various magazines.

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20 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    David – A very neat set of four quatrains in tetrameter and with a good narrative snappily delivered.

  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    This is very nicely done, because it expresses its feelings not in an open, blaring manner, but obliquely and artistically. It could be read as being in the voice of the poet himself discussing his marital problems, or it could be in the fictional voice of an imagined narrator, or else (as the fourth quatrain reveals at last) it is in the voice of a nominee for a major dramatic award.

    In short, the poem is a FICTIVE ARTIFACT. It isn’t some damned emotional revelation or confession based on the poet’s actual life. The title is perfect, because it clinches the intelligent reader’s perception that this is a made-up poem, not the report of some therapy session with a marriage counselor.

    Fine work, Mr. Whippman.

    • Sultana Raza

      Dr Salemi, agreed with all your points above. I’ve nothing much to add except that I also appreciate the black humour, and the facade that these stars put up in public and get away with all the time… Also, underlining the poem is the question, if the actor is incapable of feeling at all, or if he’s so detached from the world, and is a mere observer that he can’t have a meaningful relationship with anyone. Or perhaps this marriage was set up by their agents to form a power couple, and in the end it didn’t work out… Intriguing!

  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    Yes, it may well be that the poet has created the fictive persona of a cold and detached actor, whose marriage was not based on love.

    But the poet is also suggesting that any kind of art (whether acting or painting or poetry) must be done in an impersonal, cool, and detached manner, without emotional static or interference. That’s why the character speaks of the need for a “script,” and why he alludes to the rejected strips of film on the cutting-room floor of the film editor. A great film is made by careful directing, cutting, editing, multiple takes, and a solid screenplay. It’s not made by emotional effervescence and drama-queen posturing.

    The same is true for a good poem. It is carefully crafted by a cool and detached writer. And please — if somebody brings up that stupid Wordsworthian “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” as a counter-example, I’ll scream. The orgasmic daffodil-romp has been the source of too much idiocy in the poetry world.

    • Sultana Raza

      Dr Salemi,
      Indeed great art requires a certain distance, and detachment on the artist’s part, which is sadly lacking these days. I’m not a fan of confessional poetry either. All your comments above make sense to me, and I agree with them. Your comments above lead one to think that this ‘marriage’ was not a real one, but an artist’s or actor’s version of one. At least that’s my own impression of this marriage.
      Regarding Wordsworth, Keats famously said his works smacked of ‘the egotistical sublime,’ and I tend to agree with that view.

      • Dave Whippman

        Sultana, thanks for your comments. You used the word facade, and indeed I find it interesting (if sad) that many actors seem to have only a facade where there should be something more real.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Dr. Salemi, I have been thoroughly intrigued by yours and Sultana’s comments. After your closing observation on Wordsworth, I simply had to post my antidote to clouds and daffodils.


      I wandered lonely as a pig
      who’s shunned from sty and starved of swill.
      Those runts who didn’t give a fig
      can shove a jocund daffodil
      towards a wink of twinkling sky
      where they will see this porker fly
      and float I will o’er vale and hill;
      I’ll gloat above the grunting fray.
      While Venus lights my porcine thrill,
      I’ll glide the moon-kissed Milky Way
      and snort at each notorious boar;
      such glorious hogs are born to soar.

      All scornful swine with no remorse
      can douse themselves in apple sauce!

      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, as someone who has scaled the lofty heights of Helvellyn and danced with the daffodils on the shores of Ullswater, I must thank you on your excellent parody. However, this poem means a lot to us over here, (our 5th favourite of all time) and I hope that you can re-visit, and perhaps our next favourite “To Autumn” by Keats and maybe take a stroll “While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day”

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Jeff, I have a great affection for Wordsworth’s poem and look forward to returning to the beauty of daffodil country soon. I also have much respect for Keats. I’ve even written my own version of Ode to Autumn from my new Texas perspective. If you’d like to see it, the link is below. It’s the last poem in a series of three. I have a very broad taste when it comes to poetry, and love to experiment with all forms. My favourite (obviously) is humour. There’s too little of it in today’s PC world.

      • Dave Whippman

        Thanks Susan. Now anyone who reads this will be getting two poems for the price of one!

      • Jeff Eardley

        Susan, loved your “Ode to Autumn in Texas.”
        Your way with words is quite astonishing. Just wondering if you know of the country song “All my Ex’s live in Texas” by George Strait? I wonder if any of them visited Texas in the Autumn before they moved there.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Susan, Two years ago here at SCP I posted my own read on Daffodils:

        Wordsworth’s Lament

        I wandered lonely as a cloud—Oh dear!
        I watched the dance of daffodils—Oh my!
        When on my couch in vacant mood I lie
        I feel their wealthy fluttering draw near.
        I see them toss their heads like twinkling stars;
        A sparkling, sprightly, jocund company.
        I gaze, I gaze, they outdo waves with glee;
        A host, a crowd, ten thousand avatars.
        They flash within my pensive inward eye;
        My heart is oft with pleasure filled each day.
        Alone a poet could not be but gay;
        Especially great Romantics such as I.
        I cringe to think that out of all the rest,
        This poem might one day be deemed my best.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        James, I love your condensed version of Wordsworth’s wonder. I think it’s up there in the Tweedie top ten.

      • Jan Darling

        Stop it Susan! my sides are in stitches. Your roast of pork is delicious.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote an entire book (“Biographica Literaria”) pointing out the flaw in Wordsworth’s aesthetic. But calling it “the egotistical sublime” really hits the nail on the head.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    David, an admirably and cleverly crafted poem that begs to be read more than once in order to drink in the subtle intricacies of meaning woven through the extended metaphor. A thoroughly entertaining conceit deserving of the SCP spotlight. Bravo!

  6. Dave Whippman

    Thanks Joseph. I actually had the idea for this piece while watching an Oscar acceptance speech. I wanted, I suppose, to convey the flimsy nature of the “reality” of so many in Hollywood and such places.

  7. Jeff Eardley

    Dave, a lovely poem and so up to date here in England where we have had 16 days of courtroom shenanigans with the Johnny Depp/ Amber Heard trial with full media coverage. We await the outcome with interest. You have certainly hit the nerve with this one.


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