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Unread 11-22-2020, 07:29 AM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Alexandra,

I love this... the way you keep up the momentum is amazing. There's a 'but' coming, though...

But, like Coleman, "I’m left wanting a little more" isn't finished, IMO. It's lacking some sort of dénouement... after all the details about the ill-fitting window it would be nice to have a conclusion or resolution. (I know it's factual, so there probably hasn't been one, as yet, but might you be willing to include a potential scenario?)

My first thought, imagining what I'd do if it was me, was: I'm standing there with a hammer in my hand, ready to smash the window frame and force a permanent repair to be done - but (ahem) resorting to criminal damage isn't the best way to solve the problem, however tempting!

How about a new maintenance man appearing, whom you're attracted to..., especially if he successfully repairs the window and becomes your hero?
Or another person smashes the window, and you wonder whether you'll get the blame?

These might seem like daft suggestions but they're just off the top of my head... I'm sure you get the drift. An ending of some kind could be slightly humorous, or not, but it would round off the poem more satisfactorily. What do you think?

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Unread 11-22-2020, 08:47 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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You've gotten many good comments already, Alexandra, so I'll just toss on one more point for you to consider: the "Come winter..." quatrain is by far the weakest part of the poem. The weak rhyme on "but", the reach for "redoubt"—I can feel the effort it took to fit the form here, whereas the rest of the poem falls much more naturally into its formality.
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Unread 11-22-2020, 09:01 AM
R. Nemo Hill's Avatar
R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is online now
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I don't think this one is working well at all, Alexandra. It reminds me of some of my own compositional failures, times when I wanted to accurately describe something, and I got so lost in that accuracy that I lost any thread a reader might follow. I would recognize that fact, and trying harder to get the description just right, placing all my faith is accuracy, until ultimately that unrelenting effort was all that remained. The upshot is that this is both exhausting and boring to me, and the poem has gotten lost in the effort of write it. I think only a radical change in approach could salvage it, one that is more impressionistic than factual, and that is a hard turnaround to put into practice after all one's studious efforts.

I agree with Bill that dividing the poem into quatrains, or some such stanzaic structure, might be a first step. You need to get some air into the thing. Hopefully, such ventilation might also suggest a much needed change in tone.

Then there is the matter of the occasionally archaic tone, which worked well in your last posting, but seems more of a drawback here. It seems at odds with the more modern factual details about the window and its potential repair, and it keeps the realistically treated scene and situation from becoming real. All in all, the poem seems crippled by that tone and by its exactingly formal elements. For all your scrupulous painting, the window remains only lines of words (for this reader at least).

You have a patient delicacy of mind, that is certain, but it is not used to greatest effect here.

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Unread 11-22-2020, 12:31 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hey Alexandra, the interaction's always a pleasure~

Thought I'd try to get at some of my impressions a little better. Please don't feel this as a obstinacy or insistence at only one way of doing things.

A little point and shoot answering here at first:
[dug deep] - to me, the symbolism is too deeply buried for the reader to experience.

[nix's company] - I meant the words other than the "poety" words I listed with it. When encountering even one 'poety' word, the ear tends to go on high-alert for them, right? No high-alert, then probably no need to nix 'nix'. :-)

[enlivening] - Several issues.
1. It is not natural speech to me. I don't envision any speaker using it.
2. For me also, it doesn't really pronounce easily, especially in context.
3. The word itself is hard on IP. <enLIVening> You can force the "ing" up, if you have a strong train of iambs before and after, but here you don't. It's highly substituted and in sum, the line isn't iambic at all. More syllables are committed into anapestic feet than iambic feet.

is AL|so BLOCKED | off FROM | the enLIV | ening BREEZE,

4. Idiosyncratically, it's hard for me not to stress "OFF", but it's likely part of a general malady I have with scanning long vowels as unstressed. Though "off" is, of course, not stressed. Just fits in my head as problematic scansion. Again, this specific point is idiosyncratic. One other thing dawns on me: I have a peculiar southern accent and it is always hard for me to keep a long syllable as one syllable. e.g. Rile = rY-uhl. Enlivening tries to become en-lY-Uh-ven-ing, which is totally on me.

[press back out] - Fair enough, your rejoinder. I see your point. I think I'd drop "back" or "out" though.

["brave" ... enjambment] Agreed about sub-thought, but two things. It doesn't finish the thought, and it's a slightly out of place sub-thought. It breaks the flow of thinking and forces a cognitive reset when you need to be closing in without distraction.

OK, end of point-and-shoot :-)

Alexandra, when you mention the pane as mind, that's an extremely fruitful garden, considering how that would open up the object to being like a mirror and tying into the entire zen genre of "mind like a mirror". Perhaps I should have caught that earlier. I really like the potential to use glancing at its reflections as a possible way of inting at the reader.

Interesting example about the change in effect of setting into stanzas, but ooooh the example is a lot closer than you think. The pause after "not understanding" has so much potential. The poem pauses to think; the reader pauses to think. But it will require a little bit of revision in the following line "to catch" the former lines pause-in-flight properly. Enjambing across stanzas, for me at least, is way easier than bunching them up. Just one view. Probably also puts pressure at changing out of INITIAL CAPS.

So that the indoors, half-sealed from the fall <-- loved this enjambment.
-->If you can step back and forget your own poem for a moment and just read the first three lines, it's easier to see that the reader doesn't know what is falling until the reader's eyes fall to the next line. It might have been a past fall of the pane itself (a partial dislocation or something that was repaired afterwards). It also might be 'autumn'. It's also more common to keep the fall of rocks (eg) all on one line in the same place and breath. So I like the tension of having to wait to see what fell.

Damn thing won't stay closed.
This really made me laugh!!! --> That's just how it is right? Up on tiptoes push, flop, push flop. Too many repetitions are ham-handed, no repetitions fail to capture the frustration. You know, thinking about it again, it's just like that with the nuisancesome mind as well isn't it, the nagging introspection keeps rattling in sometimes, right?
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Unread 11-23-2020, 10:49 AM
A. Baez's Avatar
A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Thank you, all, for your feedback. I was going out on quite an experimental limb with this piece and I really enjoyed the process even though the product has clearly proven problematic. It's been very instructive for me to see in which ways this poem has, by consensus, fallen short and in which ways it may have succeeded. I'm not sure where all this feedback may take me in terms of revision--I think a reimagined version is going to require slow gestation--but I do appreciate having so much input to draw from.

Bill, so sorry that I somehow did not see your comment before. Nice to meet you! I'm especially glad that you liked the meter in this piece; I see that it's not to the taste of all. I understand your problem with "wall," though I'm not sure what you mean by "You are giving toward two syllables?"

I did mean some of the expressions such as "made three climbs" to be humorous in their ponderousness, but the fact that you're not sure if that was actually my intent again points to this poem's unclear tone/premise, which everyone has been pointing out.

It's also good to hear you echo the call of some others for quatrains. I guess this may be another case of a convention--long unbroken passages--that was entirely acceptable in an earlier age but that has become intolerable in this one. While I like to think that certain manners and standards are timeless, it appears that I might be best served by capitulating to modern taste in this regard. I appreciate the commiserating tale of your own experience around this.

Julie, thanks so much for checking back in and finding and sharing David's poem with me. I tried writing a mock epic once, so it was enjoyable for me to read another.

Coleman, ah, I'm barely familiar with the concept of a multi-storey townhouse apartment, so this didn't even enter my radar when writing this. It's good to know that this may be an association that's made by some readers. Thanks for clarifying your earlier comment on this.

Jayne, I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the way I kept the momentum up (though I take it that not all agree). It was a very new experiment for me to try this kind of narrative, and I thought I'd made a major breakthrough both in trying it and carrying it off insofar as I did.

I'm also glad that your "but" at least aligns with those of others. By your suggestions for alternate endings, though, it sounds as if you didn't read my explanation of my symbolic intent for the poem. This intent would entirely preclude the option of concocting some random narrative to end the piece with a dramatic bang. Non-resolution of the problem is integral to the theme of this poem. However, I take your broader point, which is that the piece needs to end in a more compelling way. Your solutions would be great for a poem written in the vein of comical have a good imagination!

Aaron, thank you for stopping by. I agree with you about the weaknesses you pointed out. These will be targeted for improvement in any revision I undertake.

Nemo, thanks for your honest thoughts. I can't expect every experiment I make to succeed, and this one was a real foray into the unknown for me. Thank you for telling me I'm not alone in my failure--that's a nice way to impart criticism! On some level, I did mean to generate a sense of exhaustion and boredom in the poem, because that's how the n feels, but I know there's a fine line between doing such a thing artistically, compellingly, and doing it in a way that just annoys.

I'm not sure what an "impressionistic" take on this would look like at all, but this bespeaks the limitations of my imagination and experience. I'll ponder this concept.

Your reiteration of Bill's and others' suggestions to "quatrain" this will be taken seriously, as per my comments to Bill.

It's interesting how the distinction of subject matter between this piece and my last one makes the difference, it seems, in the effectiveness of the "occasionally archaic tone" used in both. For some reason, for me to write in completely modern, factual, realistic diction feels as affected and jarring as my speaking in an "occasionally archaic tone" seems to many others. Lyricism has always been one of my main draws to poetry--it's ingrained in my very being--and this lyricism seems inherently almost absent from purely contemporary, everyday diction. It's very hard for me to get excited about writing a poem that's stripped of the elements of lyricism, but perhaps I can yet find a full resolution that satisfies both me and others?

"A patient delicacy of mind" is a nice phrase, and I appreciate the compliment, even if I misapply the virtue at times. (Does that phrase have an archaic tone?)

, thanks as ever for your undying indulgence, and for your clarifications of the points I questioned you about.

I do object to your premise that only natural speech should be used in poetry. For me, poetry is a forum in which the natural is invited into the higher dimension of art, and this sanctions the use of words that one otherwise might not hear much. (Of course, one must have heard them somewhere if one knows them). Even if a poet only uses commonly-used words in poetry, he typically uses them in a more elevated way, as you have in your own work. So in using a word like "enlivening," I'm just taking that elevation a step further.

is AL|so BLOCKED | off FROM | the enLIV | ening BREEZE,
From what I've read, by your scansion, this line would classify as IP because it has two subs, which is the max number permitted per line in that meter.

Idiosyncratically, it's hard for me not to stress "OFF", but it's likely part of a general malady I have with scanning long vowels as unstressed. Though "off" is, of course, not stressed.
Actually, I conceived of it as stressed and would scan it that way, which I understand throws it out of IP, even by the standards I cited above. I didn't consciously note this before, but IP or not, I thought the line captured well the contrast between the sense of being "blocked off" (read as a spondee) and the "enlivening breeze" (enlivening due to its extra syllables). I'm currently at a point of questioning the virtue of religiously adhering to a given meter in every single line of a poem in which that meter is predominant. In the case of this particular line, my departure may be somewhat a matter of taste, since another reader did like "enlivening."

[press back out] - Fair enough, your rejoinder. I see your point. I think I'd drop "back" or "out" though.
Of course, this would throw it out of meter and another solution would have to be devised.

Alexandra, when you mention the pane as mind, that's an extremely fruitful garden, considering how that would open up the object to being like a mirror and tying into the entire zen genre of "mind like a mirror". Perhaps I should have caught that earlier. I really like the potential to use glancing at its reflections as a possible way of [h]inting at the reader.
Maybe I could flesh out this concept as part of my initiative to bring this poem's symbolic depths closer to the forefront.

I do see your point about the rhetorical potential of a stanza break after "understanding," but I don't know what you mean by

But it will require a little bit of revision in the following line "to catch" the former lines pause-in-flight properly.
Also, I forgot, before, to address your point about initial caps. Well, almost all the poetry I grew up with has initial caps; it's a tradition that has endured for centuries. Why should I be ashamed of using them, of resting my poems on this hallowed tradition and the particular sense of formality and order that it bestows upon a work--a sense toward which my work leans anyway? I don't revile those poets who have decided to jettison initial caps, but neither do I feel I should have to justify my choice to maintain them. If anything, it seems to me that the burden of self-justification should fall on the other foot.

It was fascinating to read your explanation of your positive response to "fall." I get it now! Thanks to opening my eyes to the alternate interpretations you mention.

Last edited by A. Baez; 11-23-2020 at 04:28 PM.
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Unread 11-24-2020, 07:54 AM
R. Nemo Hill's Avatar
R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is online now
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I don't think lyricism can be confined to certain style of language, Alexandra. And while I do not think the modern idiom is always necessarily factual or realistic, I am convinced that even in that fact and that reality one can discover an underlying lyric tone. It seems a superficial view, to me, to situate the lyrical only in the past, and only in language, only in an archaic mode of expression. The argument is often made that the archaic voice was not archaic when it was being composed, which is true; and yet it is also true that those older voices were often looking back as well, imitating and paying homage to perceived classical styles from more ancient times. The separation that the passage of time time affords can accentuate the sense of the lyrical, and the mythic model can inject that bit of distance that gives birth to deeper reflections on the the very nature of existence. But for me the bigger task of lyricism is to find it everywhere—to find, even in the contemporarily handled moment, the inherent mythic movement that banishes the temporal, or at lest relativizes it. To locate it purely in the vocabulary or the diction of the past is to pin it like a butterfly and deny it poetic flight. One can acknowledge the past without fetishizing it. It's not that I think one should purge any way of speaking from one's toolbox, only that one should keep it in perspective and not rely on it to merely indicate the mood one is trying to evoke.

Your poem seems to me an uneasy mixture of the contemporarily factual and the lofty indication. The factual becomes byzantine and unclear, and the lift of the loft feels only skin deep. I don't criticize your intentions, only your expression of them, which obscures rather than clarifies.

My use of the word impressionistic was rather vague, but I guess I am suggesting less explicitness in the act of description. Sometimes one can simply select isolated details of a scene, colors or lines, and by presenting them in a certain way one can almost magically elicit the emotions that create the full picture without actually filling in every corner with explanatory words. For me once the flood of words begins to get in the way of the image, it is time to take a radically different approach. I do believe, as poets, that we must fundamentally re-learn to think in images. The question is: how to draw that window in its essence?


Last edited by R. Nemo Hill; 11-25-2020 at 05:23 PM.
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Unread 11-24-2020, 08:14 AM
Yves S L Yves S L is offline
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Hello Baez (I am going to be contrary with the whole my name is out in the open thing),

Now, the normal school taught ways of reading poems would look for some significance in the interaction between the N and the window, look for metaphor, symbol, or whatnot and yet, for me, the whole poem would work just fine as a play on that type of reading if it did not so clearly clarify what the significance should be.

Now, the main technical issue of the poem for me is that a climax as the poem attempts it would normally suggest climax in a clarification of what exactly is the issue/emotional-conundrum/metaphorical-association at stake:

I’ve pushed and pulled this way through heat and cold;
I never could control the aperture
Of this transparent thing amid the stir
Of wind and hand; it doesn’t easily hold
The warmth I want, or take the breath I crave,
Or stand against the weather—battened, brave—
Or let fly off stale air no space should save.

But against expectations the close reads like it is doing the expected, clarifying the significance of the central imagery while it reaches for a close, but clashing against that expectation the close reads like it is saying nothing at all, that it is shirking significance much like the rest of the poem. So then I wonder if such a climax, though a standard poetic closing device, is needed.

Deepening that clash against expectation is the deliberate and distinctive shift into an older more disinctly heightened tone with lines such as "The warmth I want, or take the breath I crave" that are one the edge of a clarication but only the edge. This tone results in questions, questions about how the poem has approached its central imagery up to that point, as well as questions about the tone itself and how it is used for the closure relative to the more mundane conversation tones the poem also uses.

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Unread 11-24-2020, 08:24 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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In response to your question. In this line,

Pushing it partway back toward the wall

I thought you were giving "toward" two syllables to scan it thus:

Pushing * it part * way back * to ward * the wall

which to me is more euphonious than the headless

Push * ing it * partway * back toward * the wall

What is your view? I do like "partway"!

On capitalizing, Frederick Turner's phenomenal epic poem on global warming, Apocalypse (2016), capitalizes the first word of every line.

On archaic language (this is purely a general comment in the discussion and is not based on your poem at all), it is good discipline to purge it and only let it back in as appropriate, e.g., for a specific meaningful effect with the occasional word or phrase, or as a meaningful consistent pattern (such as in Spenser's pseudo-Middle English). Apparently random archaisms provoke the suspicion that the writer is writing from his/her store of texts and is not quite capable of speaking his or her own language.
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Unread 11-24-2020, 08:34 AM
Mary Meriam's Avatar
Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Originally Posted by R. Nemo Hill View Post
The question is: how to draw that window in its essence?
I gave it a try, and I hope you don't mind, A. Baez.

The Loose Casement

I push the pane to the wall,
half-sealed from the fall
of dusty storms,
blocked from the breeze
caught circling in the gap.
With a dim rap,
the shuddering glass
feels the tease.
Often, I pause on the landing,
to push the pane out again,
its crank-handle broken,
fling it, fling it,
nix this nuisance
by art or force.
In winter, I’ll wish the pane stayed shut.
I claw it back closed but
still it gapes.
I push and pull through heat and cold.
It doesn’t hold
the warmth I want, or take the breath I crave,
or stand against the weather.
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Unread 11-24-2020, 08:45 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
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Location: Bryn Athyn, PA
Posts: 95

Hi Alexandra,

I realized that you asked me some specific questions ages ago that I never answered. My apologies!

Hmm, yes, I've fussed over "redoubt," but technically, it does mean just about what I want to say here. I'm open to anything better...
I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions, but I’m also not clear on what it’s supposed to mean here - reinforcement to keep the window shut? (Redoubt would seem odd since it implies repelling rather than holding something shut.) Or something other than the window to fill the gap?

Hmm--well, wouldn't the throwing-off jibe nicely with the meaning of "doesn't easily"?
I suppose it could. Metrical variants tied to meaning like this are largely a matter of personal preference, and for me this went a little far.

Well, I was trying here [L25 “take the breath I crave”] to bring in the symbolic significance of, as you put it, "let the wanted weather in." Can you think of a better alternative?
I think “take” threw me off here, since I imagined something taken from the narrator. What about, “The warmth I want, or draw the breath I crave”? “Draw” can apply to both windows and breath, and doesn’t carry the same sense of taking something away for me.

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 11-24-2020 at 08:52 AM.
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