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  #1  
Unread 10-11-2020, 11:43 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is online now
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Default The Tango Argentine

The Tango Argentine

Do they still dance on old walk ways
with lowered shoulders, mastered breath
and almost martial, measured gaze
though one that's bent on life, not death?
Will men with class step up and raise
an arm and pause: a shibboleth
that leading, and not lording, pays
respect-- and takes his partner's breath?

Do they still dance outside cafes
where women take that hand, serenely
send the other past and, tracing
fingers round his shoulder, mean
that he should follow her embrace?
Will they, with slightest calf-lines lean
in lightly, energize the space,
and dance the Tango Argentine?

Just look at him: He is the man
who wears suspenders with his jeans.
His faintly graying temples can
assure, compel, invite. He means
to spin a spell that's greater than
what younger tigers' wisdom gleans.
Just look at him. He is the man
who understands what tango means.

She is the savvy woman who--
with tightened, open vest, surrenders
nothing yet; with knees that through
her silk, a-swish, delay the ends
desire seeks, with eyes a hue
of smoke-and-light no man contends
against-- draws in a partner to
the energy the tango lends.

He is the working man who, while
the early coffee brews, tries out
his steps or searches for his style
between the dumpster and his doubt
at midnight after work reviling
graveyard shifts, and yet devoutly
finds in form, despite his trial,
his dance, and what it's all about.

She is the one who always seems
too young for him, the woman who
can read and write a man's own dreams
through layered bangs, cut sharply to
the corners of her eyes. She screams
inside at work while out of view
she does her ochos-- under gleaming
counters: what else can she do ?

Just look at him. Just look at her.
Or rather look at all that they
aspire to: their feet confer
from worldliness and wear, the way
of gravitas, while hips infer
that heaven's held in how they play.
The dancers meld. Just look at her.
Just look at him. And let us pray.

Across the street a drunk sits down,
too staggered to misunderstand.
Another, having lost his frown,
a Bidi smoking in his hand,
has raised that arm and paused: a crowning
gesture which has left him standing,
poised to offer dance. Then down
his spine run chills he never planned.

The crowd in their own time and way--
the shoppers, mocking teens, a few
bravado boys, their dates-- they play
at life and pass. But one or two
are changed, becoming as they sway,
someone who steps-up to, or who
draws out, the dreamy scene. Do they
still dance the tango here? They do.
The Tango Argentine.

Last edited by Daniel Kemper; 10-17-2020 at 08:08 PM. Reason: fix S6L4 for length: "from underneath her bangs, cut sharply to"
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  #2  
Unread 10-11-2020, 11:55 PM
Yves S L Yves S L is offline
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Hello Daniel,

So I was reading this, and in my head I was going "this is fine, this is fine, this is fine" until I got to the lines "He means/to spin a spell that's greater than/what younger tigers' wisdom gleans." and then the poem starts to buckle under the form with way it attempts to achieve the "means/gleans" rhyme, especially the phrase "the younger tigers' wisdom gleans" to me strains way too much to meet the rhyme, and I am willing to cut the poem slack as it means its end rhymes.

This lines stood out for me as an ingenious way to meet the end rhyme: "searches for his style/between the dumpster and his doubt".

I struggle a bit with the following stanza:

"Just look at him. Just look at her.
Or rather look at all that they
aspire to: their feet confer
from worldliness and wear, the way
of gravitas, while hips infer
that heaven's held in how they play.
The dancers meld. Just look at her.
Just look at him. And let us pray."

It tries too hard, and struggles too much as the lines do their best to meet the end rhymes, but I think it is not so much local tactics where this stanza goes awry but in the global rhetorical strategy of trying to create a summarizing stanza continually telling the reader how to interpret the scene and the people within it. The global strategy is the cause, and forced lines like "hip infer/that heaven's held in how they play" are the symptoms.

Yeah!
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Unread 10-12-2020, 06:39 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is online now
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Yves, what you have to say intriques me, but I do not completely understand what you are getting at with "global" strategy and "local strategy". Could you expand a bit? I have a glimmer, but cannot quite bring it all home.
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Unread 10-12-2020, 07:27 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
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This is a fantastic poem. I can see it, I can smell it, and most importantly I can /feel/ the tango. I love it.

A few notes:

The first time you introduce a feminine / masculine rhyme pair (“serenely” with “mean” in stanza 2) I wasn’t sure what you were doing, but as you repeated the technique it became clearer - it’s mimicking the swish and swirl followed by a hard end beat that makes tango tango. Once I got it I really liked it.

The “young tigers” imagery in stanza 3 threw me a little - is that an expression I’m unfamiliar with? If not, it seems a little out of place in Argentina.

Does the 4th line of the 6th stanza (“from underneath her bangs, cut sharply to”) have an extra foot? The meter wobbles for me there.

I love the turn and expansion in stanza 7 - that stanza and the two that follow it lift the poem up to another level. Excellent.

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 10-12-2020 at 07:33 AM.
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Unread 10-12-2020, 09:58 AM
Yves S L Yves S L is offline
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Hello Daniel,

I am happy to expand upon my comments. Let us take a look at that stanza:

"Just look at him. Just look at her.
Or rather look at all that they
aspire to: their feet confer
from worldliness and wear, the way
of gravitas, while hips infer
that heaven's held in how they play.
The dancers meld. Just look at her.
Just look at him. And let us pray."


By local tactics, I mean the poetry writing at the level of the line. For me this stanza has a lot of lines which seem forced relative to the previous lines. By forced I mean phrases like "hips infer that heaven's held in how they play", "their feet coner from worldiness and wear", the kind of corny call to prayer in "just look at her./Just look at him. And let us pray".

By global strategy, I mean the overall rhetorical plan. The plan of the stanza is to continually tell the reader how to interpret the scene andd the characters within it, even ending with the N telling the reader to come and pray. I think that the flawed rhetorical plan is the reason for the flawed lines. In part because at this stage of the poem coming up with enough natural and interesting interpretations for the reader is a bit of a stretch, and in part because the whole poem has a kind of a "interpret this as I tell you" vibe with a kind of "This is the tango argentine as I describe it to you through this romantic lens".

Yeah!
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Unread 10-12-2020, 11:50 AM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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I think this is pretty effective, Daniel. Nice use of the form. It's drawn out much like the languorous tango. And the look at him, look at her stanza approach has the effect of watching two dancers dance the tango. I like how the question is answered.

One thing--I was driven by rhyme to use the word "shibboleth"once. I regret letting that happen. It's a strange word that is rarely heard in natural conversation of high-enough diction.

Rick
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Unread 10-12-2020, 04:38 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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The rhetoric of nostaligia for the unexperienced past drowns this one for me. Few souls are more innately lyrical than Neruda but look what his "ideas"about Stalin did to his work. This was like that for me. And I dig the tango. Let the duende come and eat the conservative pipe dream here. Collect its sweat afterwards. Distill. Drink. Write.
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Unread 10-12-2020, 07:52 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
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After reading the poem several times, I am not a man who understands what tango means. It really may just be me, but it comes across as pretty vague double-talk to me, though I get the sense that you are trying to muster up and approve of a time when men were men and women were women, dammit, before whatever happened in today's world came along to screw it up. And from stanza to stanza I don't really feel the argument building or changing, just finding new ways to vaguely suggest the premise. When I'm told, for example, that he's a man "who wears suspenders with his jeans," I have no idea what I'm supposed to make of that detail. I mean, so? Is that a type? Again, it may just be me. I do indeed see many strong lines along the way and find admirable turns of craft, but I simply don't know what I'm really being told or why.

Anyway, I admire the ambition of the poem even if it's not speaking to me. Otherwise, all I want to say is "from underneath her bangs, cut sharply to" reads as pentameter, not tet.
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Unread 10-14-2020, 09:15 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is online now
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OVERALL NOTES
The Argentine Tango is one of several forms of tango. It is not The Ballroom Tango (a.k.a. Show or Stage Tango) that most are accustomed to seeing with over-the-top flash, raised shoulders and always expansive gestures. Though I love that too. Argentine Tango is danced in cafes as well as formal circumstances. Really though it's like 'the peoples' fine art' if you will. I've heard it began at brothels, but certainly as working class. There are strict forms --on which it is based, but not constrained. Improvisation is at the heart. Ocho's refers to that basic eight-step pattern and is also a name for a swishing movement with the feet/hips. There is a deep, hypnotic, mysterious stillness that joins the two dancers at the center of all their motion, unique, IMO, to this form.

argentine tango flashmob
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZZmW59Ci5g

tango poema
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGUc2UraObA

*********************

Hi Yves,
["He means...gleans] means/gleans came easily. 'wisdom' I was unsure of. Young tigers, being young tigers, think they know, but in the presence of one who does know, realize they don't. But don't quite see what it is they're missing. Typically, roughly they see the dynamism without the stillness; the mystery of maturity's attraction to women.

What I'm doing with parallelism and sentence length (to impact the reader's breathing) might be more clear if I laid it out this way. It takes a few reads I think to get beyond end-stopping the rhymes. It's a complex stanza expressing a complex thought.

"Just look at him. Just look at her.
Or rather look at all that they aspire to:
their feet confer from worldliness and wear, the way of gravitas,
while hips infer that heaven's held in how they play.
The dancers meld. Just look at her. Just look at him. And let us pray."

him|her
aspiration
feet,wear:gravitas::hips,heavenlay
meld
her|him
pray (commune, more an ecstatic expression than an order)

Hopefuly conveying their perfecting of form, aspiration, enhances feeling/content. They're not just airy lofty artsy fartsy; groundedness is there, but supporting, not limiting. Validation of high and low.

"writing at the level of the line" seems to have inadvertently inserted end-stops rather than enjambments. The line is not the unit. The sentence is.

[tell the reader] --Hmm. The speaker does indeed tells you what the s/he sees and why. Quite unexpected that it would come across as it did for you.

[romantic lens] No rosy lense: dirt and grime and struggle are set in equal measure with "higher" themes.

Hope this helps. I much enjoyed your perspective and support for it. Thank you for the work you put in to giving me actionable feedback.

*******************
Greetings Coleman, Thank you!

The thing about the action that pleased me was the tension I could work. The protagonists only offer dance in the first several stanzas. Background is enfolded too, but no dance yet. He presents his hand; she takes it. She presents her embrace; he takes it. Two individuals start; one individual results. "And let us pray" is the moment that they actually start to dance. Note: This is a classic offer/request for dance, but it's done simultaneously too. There's almost always a moment pausing to sync-up.

[“serenely” with “mean” etc] [mimicking swish and swirl] Yes: Also note that if read cleanly though the enjambment, the syllables that overrun the one line fit cleanly into the next line's meter. I just didn't type a slash or break the word.

[“young tigers”] Just an expression of strong young men, aggressive though not really hostile, having gained some measure of expertise. Not in Argentina, btw, it's a world-wide thing. I was inspired by "Tango By The River" live free performances on the boardwalk in Old Town Sacramento.


[extra foot] DAMMM-it! :-) Fixed now. Might yet adjust.

I really felt good about the way the final stanza came together. The exact mirror of the last two lines and the third foot in L7 rhyming with the last line (only 3 feet). scene/...tine

****
more soon, I hope. haven't forgotten you Roger out of time today
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Unread 10-14-2020, 10:38 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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I like poems that gone a bit of a ramble but, metrical or non-metrical, they need to spin a new dish periodically to keep the ramble, or tango, moving. (Mixing my metaphors like a mad man.) My point is for a poem such as this to work for me it can't turn into a slow-moving video designed to make some niggling points. One stanza we check out the everyman in suspenders. Next stanza we learn about the woman who projects nothing "no man contends/against." Now "across the street a drunk sits down" and then another. (FWIW, only we alcoholics can call each other drunks. It's a deragatory term only used by those who refuse to understand alcoholicism for what it is.)

My point is that it's supposed to be about a tango but it feels more like a dirge. You have decided to make some social and political points and perhaps that load is breaking the dancers' arches?

My two cents.

Best
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