Subverting Clichés – an axe to grind


Axe – © B Gliwa, WikiCommons
Axe – © B Gliwa, WikiCommons

One of the exercises I gave my CPIT students recently was the classic “reanimating clichés” (i.e. take a cliché and treat it as though literally true. Explore it. Give it life again). I’ve always enjoyed it, and have managed to get a couple of perfectly acceptable poems from it in the past. One (light) poem that I wrote there and then:



The Daughter of Strangers

Beware of the woman with an axe to grind.
What made it so dull in the first place?
I guarantee that, not far behind
is a trail of blood, right back to her place.
I don’t care if she’s civil, or friendly, or kind
or beautiful – that’s all just surface.
Beware of a woman with an axe to grind
in a town with an axe-grinder surplus. 


It was fun to write, and despite all the silliness of the rhyme scheme (ok, seriously fun to write) has a nice little undercurrent of unease, verging on menace. I admit that the title helps too – it’s a big, ambiguous, open sort of title. And I’m quite proud of myself for resisting the temptation to have something referring to Lizzie Borden in the title. (Too obvious, and too easy. This way – I hope – there are some deeper reverberations.)
(Or maybe not.)

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