Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mediocre poems... 3 of them!

The picture to the right is the view from my living room window as of last Saturday (before the bloody cold temperatures of this week). The two cherry trees in the upper courtyard of my apartment complex actually deserve their own blog post, but unfortunately, I'm not writing about them today.

Here's the deal: I am attending a writing conference in DC on Saturday, and they have this loverly opportunity for folk to meet with actual editors who will read their actual writing and actually tell them how much it sucks. Or doesn't.

The problem is, I haven't written any poetry in a while and I don't really like what I have written. So, I'm posting below (takes a deep breath) threepoemsthatihaven'teditedatall.

(shifts uncomfortably on the couch)

(guiltily scratches nose)

That's right, ladies and gentlemen --all 7 of you who regularly read my blog (God bless ALL your hearts)-- I am posting shitty first drafts of poems. and I'm asking you to read them and tell me how to change them so I don't completely embarrass myself when I stick them under an editor's nose on Saturday. Or if I just shouldn't show them to an editor at all. Or if I should IMMEDIATELY remove them from the web and burn the paper I originally wrote them on. Really.

Ok, enough already. Here they is...

Tuesday, 8:43pm

Time slips behind bookcases
and under the bed
and in between the towels
in the closet
that I folded so neatly last Saturday.

Time drains down the sink
in the bathroom, where you
carefully shaved, and where I finally
dusted off your last whisker this morning.

Time crinkles among the old newspapers
and sticks out of the pile of library books,
3 weeks overdue. Time clings to
the tumbleweeds of cat fur under the night stand
where I haven't moved the magazine
you left open on page 12.

Everything is growing old.
I love you.
Come back.

Jerome, Arizona

I have not yet forgotten
standing on the hillside in Jerome, Arizona

looking into the black-and-white valley and
just slightly drunk, I stood
awkwardly balanced on the second rung
of the railing by the sidewalk

and spread my arms, free
and ready to fly.

At that time I knew, without thinking,
what I have since learned
the hard way.

It is best to be alone, and alone, and
alone. It is best to stand by yourself,
throat thrilling-tight at the ecstasy
of nature's beauty

accountable to no one but God,
and feeling fully free.

I'm sorry.

Morning Commute

After I'd spent 3 days indoors,
the men on the metro looked
like angels cut from marble,
shipped from southern Italy
guarded by 20 armed men
at the Louvre.

Maybe it was the light, which was
splashing itself sensuously on them,
draping over their every feature,
noses chiselled and eyes
glittering like stones
at the bottom of a clear,
fast moving stream.

I stared as the light
draped itself over them, giving up
all sense of self-worth,
desperately worshipping their lips,
outlining each curve and
variation on pink with
near-obsessive passion,

lingering on each strand of hair
curling out from under their hats,
touching them so lightly that
you'd forget the light itself was there
if you weren't staring hard.

And I'm not even mentioning bodies,
because honestly --honestly--
that's not what I saw. I couldn't stop
staring at how light
laid herself down over each man's face,
paying homage to the beauty she saw,
but avoiding lust, the desire to possess.

And I wished fiercely
to love someone
with that much abandon.


Alf said...

Great peoms.They express your feelings and passion very well. Let them stand as written

Tom said...

So this is a pretty tough assignment. One: I think you are a good writer and that you should risk everything, even shitty poems (if shitty they be) or you've likely missed the point. Just remember that risk doesn't have to encompass's risky enough without all that.

Two: here are some attempted-critical thoughts...

On "Tuesday..."

I like this poem and its simplicity. At first I didn't like the "and" in the second paragraph, just after the comma - but as I worked through that I began to realize that I enjoy it as a reflection of the speaker's trickling thoughts...and so now I don't like the missing "and" later in the poem (what I perhaps see as missing, anyway). In the third stanza you "force" time by pulling the two stanza's into a single phrase...I'd like to see you leverage your briefly-established cadence even if it plays against the "forced" time (or perhaps because it does) by delaying another "and" completely through the 3rd and 4th stanza's before bringing it back for your close...which might then better describe the rush of longing that seems to flow inadvertantly out of the speaker, like a hiccup, at the end.

If you toyed with this you might discover that you...

"and under the bed
and in between the towels"
and then you
"and where I finally dusted"
but NOT the old newspapers which now...
"...crinkles among the old newspapers sticking out from under the pile of library books, now
3 weeks overdue."

and finally

"Everything is growing old
and I love you.
Come back."

In the vein of "purely negative" commentary, meaning somewhat less constructive, I think the tumbleweed of cat fur is lazy and somewhat obvious in its near cliche usage - so you might think through a still-brief description that isn't quite so "handy."


This is my favorite of the three except for what I see as a "tense" problem where you use "I stood" instead of "standing." Passive voice is all-to-easy in poetry (my experience at least) and might prompt you to review the entire poem and see if some value could come from working all the "ing's" out of it entirely, but I'm not really sure that is necessary. My guess is that your choice to write "I stood" came out of consideration of the previous and all-so-recent use of "standing" in the previous stanza, but you might also have chosen it as an attempt to transport the reader into the remembered moment...which I'm not sure works.

This is a poem of reminiscing and reinterpreting. The speaker is wiser and understands better now what couldn't then be grasped...the power is in the remembering, so moving the reader fully back to that older time erodes the poems purpose, IMO.

So...the speaker could be "leaning" instead of "I stood" (or any other descriptive choice relating to the awkward stance), right?

I also think "free and ready to fly" could use some work...I think it is the word choice "free" that seems cliche (I've said that again, haven't I) and I bet you could find something better here...though it isn't a sticking point for me. The next phrase is the turning point in the poem and contains most of the power...or at least sets up the power that will be wrought in the final apology at the end.

I think your use of "along, and alone, and alone" reflects your personal stake in this poem well...meaning it feels personal. BUT, it is a youthful (ok, immature) repetition that isn't necessary. You could say it once, for instance, and then use it again immediately to still achieve your effect of penetrating the reader with the idea, the isolation...but the obvious, mantra-like repetition is a bit amature I think.

"It is best to be alone.
Alone to stand
by yourself,
throat thrilling-tight at the ecstasy
of nature's beauty..."

Something like that, maybe?

Still - I am talking a lot about this poem when I think it needs very little. I like the frankness of it and the sudden awareness at the end...the speaker seems to recognize the inherant conflict of "aloneness" and "Godliness" and somehow aludes to this idea of freedom vs accountability...and can't escape without an apology for inadvertantly crossing the line.

That's pretty cool.

On "Morning Commute" I would encourage you to read this as blindly as you can, try to recapture what you were after...or try to remember the moment(s) that culminated in this poem...and maybe revisit the whole thing. I know that sounds harsh, but there are a lot of things going on in this poem that don't seem to work for me...

Let me say, the descriptive use of light is very cool and I think you should still play with that idea...the juxstaposition of greek statues and the men on the bus...the idea that somehow their manliness, apart from their bodies (which is a little heavy-handed in the speaker's plea) is enough to overwhelm and even incite lust... well, this is a very interesting idea, but it is a bit too selfconscious (far more than your other poems) and really seems to be written more for your own edification than to translate any truth or experience to the world...yes?

OR if it is meant to translate to us, the readers, it is only telling us that you (not you the speaker, but you the, well, "you") need to risk transparency on this issue of awakening...of contained desires (3 days contained) suddenly erupting...that YOU want "the public" to know that you risk such candid thoughts and feelings. That's ok and even good for your personal development, but I don't think that kind of risk (funny how it comes back to that) makes for inherently good poetry.

Is that making any sense? My experience is that there are poems that are really centered on relaying truth...and there are poems that are really about revealing me. "Me" poems are better spent on blogs and own value apart from individual catharsis a poem can't be inherently self-serving. I'm afraid that "commute" is...

BUT...technical thoughts...

I don't like the two uses of "drape" even though I bet it was intentional. I don't like the reiteration of the speaker's "honesty" even though I think I understand the emphatic nature of its use. Again I feel a little muddled as to the tense...seems to shift between "ed" and "ing" in a way that confuses me rather than inviting me in. Could you start and finish in the moment? Could you capture the moment actively...even though it means working out the commentary at the end that is obviously reflective? Even that could betray the remembrance and still be active "And I WISH fiercely to..." is more relevant to me, the reader, than what you "wished" right? Commit to the experience and invite me to it...demand I (the reader) join you, rather than simply tell me ABOUT something that happened "once upon a time," if that makes sense?

I don't know - I fear I'm rambling but I am trying to be honest and helpful. Hope, if nothing else, that my effort betrays my interest. I wouldn't spend time if I didn't think the work you have done is valuable...and that the work you can do will be even moreso.

Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

as sweet and endearing as your funny self-deprecation is, this set of poetry is as good as anything i've seen up here on these crazy interweb machines. granted i'm as biased as a dad at a grade-school basketball game, it doesn't change the fact that the language, the clear-cut and painstaking imagery and metaphor are all doing exactly what they should. congrats on persisting upon creativity when life can offer so many other things to one's schedule..

Moff said...

Thanks all three of you. Tom, I'm not sure who you are, but you have done me a great service in taking the time to offer such a thorough critique. Really. I'm honestly grateful, and I owe you a beer. :^)

Tom said...

I'll gladly take you up on the beer the next time you're in Roanoke! Your Dad and I get together for breakfast a lot and he knows I do some writing...brags about your blog al the time to me and the other guys. He mentioned your post and your request for feedback...glad to hear some of it made sense!

Roshi Doshi said...

Wonderful poems but love to edit stuff so here's how I'd do it. Which means nothing really.

Tuesday, 8:43pm

Time hides behind bookcases,
collects dust under the bed,
lingers between the towels
in the closet,
folded so neatly last Saturday.

Time drains down the bathroom sink, where you
so carefully shaved,
where I
found your memory
this morning.

Time crinkles among the old newspapers,
is a bookmark in the pile of library books,
3 weeks overdue.

Time clings to
the tumbleweeds under the night stand,
where the magazine
you left open on page 12

lies waiting for you.

Everything is growing old.
I love you.

Come back.

Moff said...

Richard, you are so. freaking. awesome.
annnd a lot of what you did lines up with what one of the editors suggested on Saturday, as it turns out. You've got a knack for this. Thanks!!!