First, thanks for the Julia Lewis poem. She's very good, and is very good in this culture as well as in the UK. Very solid, very fine, very controlled. She's a gem, and thank you for the introduction. It's not a cultural difference, her is a good poem and mine is a failed poem that I'm trying to get some sort of grip on. It may be a good poem someday, but it sure isn't now, and the reason why is why I presented it. Your suggestions are as good as anybody's. It has some decent qualities. No need to go into an English politeness frenzy at having said some useful things or at being taken seriously for saying them; that's what the poem wants and needs, and that's what I want and need if I'm to actually have a hope of getting the narcissism out of my eyes, and actually seeing the poem plainly, for what it is, and then being able to make the changes that the poem needs to have made to it so that the poem can thrive on its own.
Right now it survives only because I look in on it occasionally and puzzle over it. I don't have a clear view of it.
When I was in school, the Poet Galway Kinnell was teaching one of the classes. He was working on The Book of Nightmares at the time, which after almost 40 years is still in print as a book. To have any book still in print after 40 years is phenomenal; but a book of poetry is beyond that, by lightyears. He brought in the section of the book where he wrote, I believe, about the bodies that wouldn't stop burning in a field in Vietnam. It's an amazing piece that could well stand by itself as an amazing poem, but he'd brought it in to a class of poets in Iowa for a look. I read it over and made a comment or two, and this one guy told him to take this the big chunk of the poem. When I looked at the poem after it came out, all the changes the class suggested were in there, even the big chunk of what I thought was very fine poem — gone. Now I thought he might have taken the advice too much to heart, but here it is almost 40 years later, and the book's still in print. And it's a darn fine book, too. It still makes my hair stand on end, especially when I try reading parts of it out loud.
I don't imagine anybody here will try that, it's too difficult and too trusting and wouldn't be warranted, but it might be possible to get our skills to the point where we could offer and get feedback that clear. You weren't wrong, Rob, you simply got shy about what you were saying. As I look at the poem, I tend to think you may be right, but aren't sure where or how, and are afraid of being more specific.
There are lots of places it isn't polite to be more specific when being asked for criticism, and lots of places where it may not work out well. I can understand why you're nervous about the matter. Keep in mind that for the time being, it's your poem. You can do whatever you want with it. It won't say a thing, and it's not going to tell me while you aren't looking. Imagine what the poem wants, not what I want. I don't matter here. It's the poem that matters. I'm always thrilled to be happy, mind you, but what makes me feel best is a happy poem, one that feels alive and whole in itself.
You have some wonderful material by JM to work with on your poem, and I'll be happy to see how you react to what see has to say, and happy to see what you have to say about her effort. This is looking like a pretty interesting effort here. I hope that this is as useful for you and JM as it is for me.
Anyone else is welcome to join in, but remember, we have enough poems to work on right now, and we need some folks to comment to start off with before you start bringing some of your stuff in. We're being experimental here and trying to work things out as we go. There's an exercise at the beginning of the thread that you might want to start with. There's also an interesting exercise by Jim Simmerman that Grinch looked up for us. If you follow out his work on that poem in his draft, you can see he came a fair distance and could pick up where he left off without much trouble, or might try something else if he wanted. Not that I give Grinch a hint. Grinch. Grinch?
All by best,