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Passions in Poetry

Here is a Free Verse exercise to try out:

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Bob K
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0 posted 04-05-2009 01:03 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K


I have been looking over some of the remarkable poetry by the late Jon Anderson.  I've long been a fan of his work.  One of the poems of his that's been a favorite of mine is "The Secret of Poetry."  It's a startling, come-out-of-left-field piece with a very interesting ending.

     Here's a link to it.

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-secret-of-poetry/
      My suggestion is that those of you who are interested write a free verse poem of similar length and try to duplicate the way that Anderson managed to pull off his ending.  Reveal a secret if you can, or offer up some surprise at the end.  Keep the poem short and manageable, and try to keep the language conversational, not elevated.  Anyone who's interested in feedback, we'll try to offer some, that means me and whoever else wants to learn more about developing an eye to looking at what works in free verse.  The idea is that we try to help each other.  If you can't be helpful, we'll ask you to take a vacation for a while, to watch and get a better idea of how it's done.

     Anybody interested?
moonbeam
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1 posted 04-05-2009 04:30 AM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam

Bob

I'm always interested in this sort of thing   , and as you know I think this is a great idea, and a thought provoking poem from Anderson.

But before we go much further (as this is the second such thread) I'd like to know what Ron and/or other senior mods are feeling about threads like this in the Alley (or anywhere)?  Are they ok with it?

Ron?  Anyone?

M
JenniferMaxwell
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2 posted 04-05-2009 05:58 AM       View Profile for JenniferMaxwell   Email JenniferMaxwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for JenniferMaxwell

I can appreciate your concern, moonbeam, but having just read through the other thread you mention, it strikes me as being one of the most polite, focused, respectful discussions I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the Alley. I say more please!

Also, if not here, then where? Maybe as a free verse discussion/exercise in Workshop?


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3 posted 04-05-2009 07:39 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Poems like that convince me I must be way too shallow to "get" free verse. I thought the first two lines were an excellent way to begin. The image of the trees, with the frost and the mist, were very visual. The child alone in the body was very good. Through all of this ,though, I didn't get the message.and the last line makes no sense to me.

I have no doubt an experienced free-verser will be able to explain every word, every line and I will have a greater appreciation of it but, without that help, just sitting here at my computer, I would have no clue and would turn the page and move on, looking for a nice ballad or two....
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4 posted 04-05-2009 07:53 AM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

Yep, it's definitely me. I just read it to my girlfriend (who only writes free verse) and she got it and enjoyed it very much and explained it to me - in a way. Go figure...
moonbeam
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5 posted 04-05-2009 04:44 PM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam

Jenn I was just being polite   (did you just fall off your chair?  Heh).  Anyway if Mike's ok with it, it must be ok.

And Mike, it's when I "get" free verse that I worry   .  I think a lot of FV which I like, maybe even most, I just have this visceral appreciation or positive response to.  Trying to put that feeling into words to convey it back to the writer is often a very pleasing and rewarding challenge.
Bob K
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6 posted 04-05-2009 05:17 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

     If we step out of line, or do anything that's bothersome, I assume we're subject to the same rules as anybody else.  Since we haven't gotten posted — at least in my computer — in the main listings, and are instead still in the minor leagues, we'll have to see.  Maybe we'll make the majors, maybe not, but there's nothing wrong with a good old Capitalist start-up, is there?  If we require regulation, we'll attract it, have no fear.

     In the meantime, what do folks think of the suggestion for an exercise?

     And Mike, there are lots of great Ballads.  It doesn't have to be either or.

     Galway Kinnell started off writing formal verse, then switched to writing free verse.  I don't suggest this to you unless you suddenly get a strong hankering.  But Kinnell did a verse translation of the great French poet, Francois Villon.  Villon, being a 15th Century guy, was a formalist of course, and very difficult to translate because he wrote his stuff in 15th Century Parisian Criminal slang.  He wrote a number of Ballades (formal Ballades: 28 lines, 3 eight line stanzas, a refrain line at the end of each, and a final four line stanza ending with the refrain line and beginning, "Prince,". . .  The whole turning on, I believe three or four rhymes.

     The interesting thing about Kinnell, here, is that he wrote his book of translations twice.  The first time as a formalist, the next time as a free verse guy.  You may or may not find it interesting to see what he did differently in the two translations.  It might clarify for you some of the distinctions between formal and free verse.  I believe you might find the differences and lack of difference between some of these translations useful.  Or not.

     In the meantime, should anybody be interested, here's a link to a short article by Anderson giving helpful hits on writing poetry.  They are, in fact, quite helpful; more for some of us than others. Some of them will be more helpful than others.  They're worth looking through, even for those of us who don't write free verse, since they address some of the rhetorical issues in poetry that are often so difficult to get to.

http://poetrycenter.arizona.edu/enewsletter/janderson_helphints.shtml


     Hope you find these at least fun if not useful as well.
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7 posted 04-05-2009 06:22 PM       View Profile for Balladeer   Email Balladeer   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Balladeer's Home Page   View IP for Balladeer

I have no problem with the thread here at all. it would be Ron's or the Alley moderator's call to declare it a no-no. Since no one has, that should be a good sign...

I'd like to relate a funny little anecdoete - well, I consider it funny - which relates to me and this topic in a way

I was working in Venezuela as the plant manager of Gerber Baby foods there. I had over 500 employees, only three which actually spoke English. There were others who claimed to speak English but they only knew a few words and their pronounciation left a lot to be desired. Anyway, one day I was speaking to one of the "English speakers", telling him that, if he went to English classes he would be able to learn. We were speaking in Spanish, of course. He got huffy and told me his English was wonderful. There was another wannabe English speaker on the other side of the office. I told him, Ok, then. Call Jose over here and tell him IN ENGLISH that you need the third file in the second drawer of the file cabinet in the corner. He called Jose over and relayed that info in an English so horrible I would have had NO idea what he was saying if I didn't know beforehand. I was trying to not burst out laughing. Jose then walked over to the file cabinet, opened the second drawer and pulled out the third file. I couldn't even speak, I was so frozen in shock. He smiled, handed me the file, said "See? Me good English" and walked away.

At times I feel that way with free verse. I'll read it, say "what was that? I didn't understand it at all." and then listen to two free versers talking about it and how wonderful it was and I just stand there with a blank face...anda bit of an inferiority complex!

Which reminds me of another story...

I was a freshman in high school in a small backwater town. There was a candy bar back then that contained a funny card inside as a bonus, as many candy manufacturers did back then. One day, sitting in class, I opened one of the candy bars and the card inside was a picture of a man who had fallen out of a top window of a skyscraper and he was about half-way down, with a smile on his face, and a dialogue bubble over his head saying, "So far, not bad at all!". The caption on the bottom said BE AN OPTIMIST! I was completely baffled because I didn't know what the word optimist meant. A girl sitting next to me, Mary Ann Hanneman, the class brain, looked over at the card and said, "Oh, that's funny!" How I hated Mary Ann in that moment!! Soemtimes I feel the same way when free versers discuss a poem I just don't get. No, I don't hate them (not a schoolboy anymore) but I feel just as far out of the loop.

Hey, don't get me started on stories. I have many!!
Bob K
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8 posted 04-05-2009 09:21 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Do you think he was wearing his light fall suit?

     If you can find the Kinnell, it might be worth your while.  I have problems that aren't particularly related to whether the verse is in Free verse or in metrical verse.  Hart Crane, for example, is about as metrical as you can get, writes in regular quatrains, and is somebody that I mostly have a fair amount of difficulty with.  James Wright is somebody who wrote in both and whom I feel is wonderful in both.  I was mentioning "Saint Judas" to somebody the other day, a sonnet, which is one of my favorite poems, period.  He also has a poem to Wayne Dodd done in that rhyming tetrameter that Swift is so good at; aa,bb;cc,dd;ee,ff, etc.  And he's written a few of the best free verse poems in the language.

     As with your fondness for Sylvia Plath, it depends on the poem, not on the form.  Some folks are good with almost anything they do; others couldn't reach the floor if they fell.

Bob K
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9 posted 04-05-2009 09:21 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Do you think he was wearing his light fall suit?

     If you can find the Kinnell, it might be worth your while.  I have problems that aren't particularly related to whether the verse is in Free verse or in metrical verse.  Hart Crane, for example, is about as metrical as you can get, writes in regular quatrains, and is somebody that I mostly have a fair amount of difficulty with.  James Wright is somebody who wrote in both and whom I feel is wonderful in both.  I was mentioning "Saint Judas" to somebody the other day, a sonnet, which is one of my favorite poems, period.  He also has a poem to Wayne Dodd done in that rhyming tetrameter that Swift is so good at; aa,bb;cc,dd;ee,ff, etc.  And he's written a few of the best free verse poems in the language.

     As with your fondness for Sylvia Plath, it depends on the poem, not on the form.  Some folks are good with almost anything they do; others couldn't reach the floor if they fell.

     Also, stories are good.

JenniferMaxwell
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10 posted 04-05-2009 10:48 PM       View Profile for JenniferMaxwell   Email JenniferMaxwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for JenniferMaxwell

Great stories, Balladeer and well told. I can actually see in my mind the expression on your face when Jose held up the file.

Bob, have a few loose ends to tie up in my personal life, but would like to take a shot at the exercise. Should have something ready by the end of the week, if that’s not too late. Hope others will give it a try so I can embarrass myself twice, first with my poem and second with an attempt to offer comment/critique should others request it on their submissions. Also, got Wright’s Collected through ILL.  Haven’t finished it yet, but what I have read is wonderful! Thanks so much for the recommendation.

moonbeam
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11 posted 04-08-2009 06:23 AM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam

A bit off the cuff, but thanks to Mike for the idea.

Mary Ann

I believe that light just under the horizon
is your demise.  Your joy: the money,
the Ferrari, the money, wrung
out of you by the brand of his signet ring
on your cheek.  All our 20 years
redeemed.  All, except that first
schoolroom moment when you laughed
at me, an O of anticipation in your eyes,
and the word optimist like a sun,
somewhere under my mind.  
Bob K
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12 posted 04-09-2009 11:44 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     Somebody else want to take the first attempt at this one?  I'd like to go further down the list so I don't keep other people off from saying things that are on their minds.  Think about the poem that you see as coming out of this draft is you were writing it.  Think about the poem that Rob was reaching for.  Think about what the poem seems to be reaching for all by itself, simply from your sense of what the poem is and where it seems to be heading.

     To whatever extent you want to, think about how the poem goes with the suggestion from the exercise.  The exercise here is probably more useful in getting the poem going, but there may be things that could be learned from it.  Nobody gets points for doing that or not doing it, only for trying to work with the words they have, and trying to find what they want to do, and where they want to go, if anywhere.
Susan Caldwell
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13 posted 04-09-2009 03:05 PM       View Profile for Susan Caldwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Susan Caldwell

Is it okay if I get it but don't like it?

and this:   "If you can't be helpful, we'll ask you to take a vacation for a while"

I don't know enough to be helpful...so, my disability kind of sends me home with my ball.  

"too bad ignorance isn't painful"
~Unknown~

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14 posted 04-09-2009 03:15 PM       View Profile for Essorant   Email Essorant   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Essorant's Home Page   View IP for Essorant

All you need to do is share your thoughts to be helpful.  
Susan Caldwell
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15 posted 04-09-2009 04:20 PM       View Profile for Susan Caldwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Susan Caldwell

LMAO my two ex's might dispute that....


"too bad ignorance isn't painful"
~Unknown~

moonbeam
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16 posted 04-09-2009 04:36 PM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam



quote:
Is it okay if I get it but don't like it?

Susan

If you are referring to my poem in particular it's more than ok to comment if you "get" it but don't like it, and the more you can tell me about why you don't like it the better.

Thanks in advance

M

PS The ex's, lol.  Maybe you were critiquing more than just their poetry.
Bob K
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17 posted 04-09-2009 06:48 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K

Dear Susan,


          You don't have to like it.  Sometimes not liking it can be extremely helpful IF you can be specific about where you don't like it, and the way the words work to give you that particular reaction.  Saying "I don't like it," by itself, simply adds darkness without casting the light of understanding we're hoping for here.  

     The understanding, to be more specific, is to benefit not only the writer, who gets a better understanding of how the words he or she puts down on paper affect the readers; but also to benefit the readers, who are forced to look beyond the gut first impression.  The gut first impression, by the way, is to be respected, but it doesn't do the reader much good in her work or his work later on.  They may inadvertently fall into the same error or a similar error without knowing how or why.  If they take the extra time to understand what their gut says about this reaction with this poem now, it may save them grief for themselves later.  It will also raise their awareness of how writing operates to a more conscious level, and will give their gut more tools to operate with down the road, so their reactions will be trained to be more more detailed, and to carry more pleasure and appreciation, and to hear and feel more false notes as well.

     The more closely you can say why you don't like it, the better.  The more exactly you can say where you don't like it, the better.  Everybody learns then.  

     Simple distaste helps nobody, the person offering it included.

     I don't know if that's helpful for you.  I was making an effort to be helpful, though.  If there's anything I can do to be more useful in my comment, please don't hesitate to ask and I'll do my best to give a clear and good-faith response.

Yours,

Bob Kaven
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18 posted 04-10-2009 10:55 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear Rob,

          I'm afraid that nobody's taking up the offer here.  I had wanted to wait to give other people a first chance to have a shot at this.  I think I'd like to wait a few days more before I try to comment myself, though I will, if only because I feel a responsibility to do so, to give feedback; but I feel that when I do so first I'm robbing others of the chance because when I start talking I always sound so stuffed-shirtlike folks overvalue what I say.

Rob was nice enough to give me a good piece of feedback and it'd be good if somebody else can give him one before I do, simply to see if we can expand this discussion.  Nobody has to.  


Mary Ann

I believe that light just under the horizon
is your demise.  Your joy: the money,
the Ferrari, the money, wrung
out of you by the brand of his signet ring
on your cheek.  All our 20 years
redeemed.  All, except that first
schoolroom moment when you laughed
at me, an O of anticipation in your eyes,
and the word optimist like a sun,
somewhere under my mind.  
JenniferMaxwell
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19 posted 04-10-2009 11:19 PM       View Profile for JenniferMaxwell   Email JenniferMaxwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for JenniferMaxwell

Hi Bob, I'm working on a comment for moonbeam's and also yours, posted in the other thread. Harder for me to write a comment than a poem but I will have both done and up on Sunday.

My offering for your exercise, rough first draft:

lollipop moon

When daddy came home
you turned into a boy
wearing summer camp shorts
and a bumble bee shirt.

He called you Ralph,
brought you a tin model aeroplane
that made you fly away
while he watched and ignored
the bugs on the floor
I shook out of mother's sheets.

He foretold that the turtle
would jump out of the tank
and head for the open sea,
the puppy she'd keep
and drown like a kitten
in a pail full of oxygen bleach.

He filled up my rowboat
with electric blue eels and pushed it away
from the shore. The water was deep
out past the town coral reef
and I had no paddle or oars.

I drifted in circles
around her marble stone
until the water drained out of the sea.
Crusted with salt, I sit by the bonfire
watching the smoke
turn into a murder of crows
crossing the lollipop moon.

Bob K
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20 posted 04-11-2009 04:24 AM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



     OK, we have two poems in front of us, which is about all that I think we can handle without diluting our efforts right now.  We need some comment, some helpful comment on either of the two poems.  Telling these folks that the poems are good is useful, telling them the poems are bad is useful, but what we're really looking for is more specific.  What is it that makes them good or bad.  What do you think needs to go in, what needs to come out and why is that?

     We're looking for everybody to sharpen their ability to do this, to offer concrete feedback, and to be able to develop their own set of ideas about how to go about revising a poem.  And what values you want to use in revising yours.  

     For those looking for hunts and tips, I suggested an article by Jon Anderson, referenced earlier in this discussion.  You will also find interesting discussions in books by Richard Hugo, which have excerpts available on line.  But brings your own thoughts as well.  The more people we have bringing observations, as long as they are concrete and directed at helping the writer revise, the better off.

     I find there's lots to work with in both poems here.  Anybody?
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21 posted 04-11-2009 09:16 AM       View Profile for JenniferMaxwell   Email JenniferMaxwell   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for JenniferMaxwell

I don’t know enough to be helpful either, but what the heck, I promised to give commenting a shot so here goes.

This wasn’t an easy poem for me to get into. First I had to separate the poem from the poet and then suspend judgment on the content which seemed sort of vengeful to me.

Really like the line break on “the brand of his signet ring/on your cheek”, moonbean, adds a lot of power to the punch. I’m a bit confused about the 20 years line, the “our” part and the relationship of the three over those 20 years. Probably just me not getting something. The opening line really didn’t grab me right off, but the way you sort of balanced it with the close is brilliant. I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few of your poems, and have come to expect layers of rich textures that so enhance a poem. This poem was quite different, perhaps because it was an exercise with limitations as to length and style.

Phew, comment done and it hardly hurt at all.
Bob K
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22 posted 04-11-2009 04:21 PM       View Profile for Bob K   Email Bob K   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Bob K



Dear J.M.,

quote:
          

This wasn’t an easy poem for me to get into. First I had to separate the poem from the poet and then suspend judgment on the content which seemed sort of vengeful to me.




     You're being useful right off the bat here.  You're letting the poet know that you had an important emotional response here, but you have some trouble being comfortable with that response.  If we were doing psychotherapy, we'd want to know lots more about the feeling and follow up along that line; but we're not, we're trying to do the very different thing of learning more about our writing.  For your own purposes, the feeling thing may be useful to you, and it may be something that keys you about interesting areas for subject matter in the future, maybe, maybe.  But for our purposes we're interested in doing some stuff with technique.  

     One of the things that will be helpful here is if you don't think of the person talking here as Rob, but as the speaker.  The speaker is the person that the writer is using — inventing, really — for the purposes of this poem and this poem only — to do the talking.  The speaker is not Rob.  The speaker is a character invented by Rob with a distinctive Voice — a distinct way of sounding that identifies the character as being this character and not, say, Elmer Fudd.  You may like or dislike the Speaker, but it is distinct from Rob.  This distinction allows Rob to explore different  Speakers in different poems.

     Each speaker will have a distinctive Voice, a way of talking; and each will have a distinctive Stance, or point of view that characterizes their perceptions about the world.  Thus MacBeth is not Shakespeare, his is a Speaker or Character that is distinct from Shakespeare.  He has a distinctive Voice, that is you can say he pretty much sounds like MacBeth in this play, though a lot of Shakespeare's Kingly figures do tends to sound somewhat similar; and his Stance, is distinct, being ambitious, bold, ruthless yet uncertain and fearful by turns.

     You thought the Speaker here was vengeful.  Think for a minute about that.  Were you bothered by the Vengeful, you yourself bothered, or were you bothered by how the Vengefulness was done?  Where in particular was the speaker being or showing Vengefulness, and what kept you from being caught up in the poem at that point.  What ejected you from your experience of the poem there?  Was it the presence of Vengefulness, or was it something that happened in the text that might have highlighted the writer's difficulty with that emotion, or with writing about it in a way that makes the reader feel included in the experience?

     Do you understand my drift here?

     You have your experience of the poem, yes.  But the way the poem was written helped create those responses.  See if you can match these things up.


quote:

Really like the line break on “the brand of his signet ring/on your cheek”, moonbean, adds a lot of power to the punch.



Exactly!

quote:


I’m a bit confused about the 20 years line, the “our” part and the relationship of the three over those 20 years. Probably just me not getting something.




     Exactly, but what?


The opening line really didn’t grab me right off, but the way you sort of balanced it with the close is brilliant. I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few of your poems, and have come to expect layers of rich textures that so enhance a poem. This poem was quite different, perhaps because it was an exercise with limitations as to length and style.

     This was a very good comment, and I think it was probably helpful, very.  Moonbeam will let us know.  In the meantime, I hope I've offered a few more tools for the kit in how to go about it here.  These are additions, not criticisms, since you did a fine job, and didn't have the concepts going in, right? and now you do, and so do others who are interested in picking them up.  Quite useful, all in all.  

     How about some other folks to build on J.M. wonderful example?
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23 posted 04-11-2009 05:24 PM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam

Good heavens.  I missed all this.

Thanks ever so much to both of you . I'll be right back in the morning to give you some feedback where appropriate.

Thanks again.

R
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24 posted 04-12-2009 06:13 AM       View Profile for moonbeam   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for moonbeam

Extremely useful Jenn.  And also extremely useful follow-up Bob.  

And Bob was quite right about your last comment being very acute:

" and have come to expect layers of rich textures that so enhance a poem. This poem was quite different, perhaps because it was an exercise with limitations as to length and style."

I think that was precisely what happened here.  I grabbed Balladeer's story (so of course a make-believe Balladeer was the speaker) and, using Bob's parameters,  ventured off into a little fantasy - neither particularly complex, nor, as you say, as convoluted as my usual attempts.  I'm still not certain whether it's worth anything very much, but I'm rather gratified that you picked up on most of the things I was trying to do.  

Especially gratified that you heard "vengeful"   .  That was exactly it - the theme of what I was trying to do really, the uncomfortable juxtaposition of  "a vengeful optimist".  The way you write it though in your comments it sounds as though you might be a tad uncomfortable with that (as I think Bob also noticed), and I wonder if that's because you are letting me as in me (Rob) creep into the speaker's persona or simply perhaps because the idea of this particular speaker as being both vengeful and an optimist doesn't work for you?

I'm very interested that the interjection referring to the 20 years confused you.  It's strange isn't it that when you have a story so clearly laid out in your head you tend to invest your words with more significance than they have.  I could easily clarify the relationship and the circumstances and the emotion behind the word "redeemed", and given that you, I know, are a very perceptive reader I think I probably messed up there and need to reconsider.

And I'm glad you seem to think that the weak opening was somewhat saved by the reference back from the close.  I was hoping that might be the case.  

Very grateful to you both, I hope to take a good look at yours later Jenn.

And Happy Easter

Rob
 
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