Poetry Challenge 4: Posting Day

The challenge for today was to write a poem using some or all of the rhymes of Emily Bronte’s “A Why, Because the Dazzling Sun.” I found the rhymes very suggestive, not least because many of them were not exact rhymes. To me every pair suggested something mystical or enchanted, which influenced my choice of subject. Although Bronte was simply writing about her disappointment that the day with its burdens has come round again, in the end she did not really write depression into the poem, but rather pure sensation, thought, and feeling, which is always mythical.

I’ll post my poem in the comments below. Join me if you are so inclined. Challenges never expire.

29 thoughts on “Poetry Challenge 4: Posting Day

  1. Arthur

    Out of hidden generative inklings shone his reign:
    from grains of intention, out of the dreams of men.
    Dreams that step from brain to brain within the visionary night,
    men who dance in circles under the mist of voyaging frosty light
    on black foreshortened landscapes that become our long green hills.

    Thus a dark foreshortened throne grew tall and wider still;
    gleeful holly and pennoned ivy fed on its lifeless wood
    till the shape lived; somewhere in a thorny forest it glowed,
    a hermit king’s shell, at hand. Now the rumors rise:
    some stately, sinewed form strides through the woods-grown-gentle. Hope flies:
    brave gaiety in blood-sport; knight’s-leige, serf’s-heed, Christ-spouse, heart’s judge; across the leafy floor
    his augural step marches. “He comes!” rises like a wind their joy;
    someone throws open the door.

    His gaudy company lies under the resounding sky.
    He stands at their head – a bruise on his resolute cheek,
    doom in his westward shadow that lies low,
    enchantment in his eastward shadow that rises in the inconceivable break
    between love and duty. But in the center, a man with particular brow,
    a man that can bleed and drink and be angry and wet in the dew,
    a dragon in his surname; a cross on his bright banner; sword in hand. They whisper, “Is it you?”

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    • I agree, this is a great subject for the words given by the challenge. I wasn’t able to pull them all together into something myself, so was very curious about if and how you were going to make use of them all.
      In view of some of your recent writings here about imagination and the archetypes, when I first read this I took it, most delightedly, as a poetic celebration of the return of an archetype (call it the “Arthur” archetype) to cultural consciousness, at least partly due to the work of the Inklings. I see you’ve tweaked it a little since this morning to include some more explicit Christ references, but I think this is to underline the Christian value of the event, since Arthur is hmm, inherently allegorical?

      Btw, I don’t imagine I say anything about your poems that you don’t know already, but I post these things partly to help get conversation rolling, since we all seem to enjoy that (and it might be awkward to start a conversation on your own poem!) and also because I think it’s good practice for me to articulate poetic virtues and meanings as I perceive them. Can’t remember if I said this before.

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      • The celebration of the return to cultural consciousness – yes, that’s it almost exactly, except I had more in mind his first coming – how he came into cultural consciousness in the first place. Arthur may have been a real king, but what he is to us is so far removed from any scrap of historical knowledge we have about him that he can be said to be almost wholly composed of that myth-making stuff of men’s minds, right from the start. I truly hope there was something about the real Arthur that suggested the quality of the myth, that was a seed for it, and I suspect that must be the case. Nevertheless, the coming of Arthur was not a birth like other men’s births. It was more like a rumor that grew into news that became a nation’s soul, because his real coming was the mythical one, the literary one.

        As far as the references to Christ, I wasn’t really trying to say that Arthur is a type of Christ… the Arthur legends are so steeped in Christianity that you can’t represent him honestly without some reference to it. Nearly any good man is a figure of Christ, that’s the whole point of being a man. More importantly, Arthur is a figure of Arthur. That can be said about hardly anyone. Arthur the man is a figure of Arthur the legend. And the legend is, amazingly, “the matter of Britain.” I suppose any anglophile must write about him eventually.

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    • Wait a minute. What happened to , what was it, “heavy love”? (I hope you save your drafts. Initial inspirations are important, even if the word selection turns out to go in unintended directions.)

      Powerful rolling-sentence opening! Incantatory. Reminds me of Whitman (Hope you see that as a compliment). Suggestion: try putting “shone his reign” farther down, say as a single line after the first two, or maybe even as a final short line. See if the build-up is worth it. I like allusions, and this change would, I believe, suggest a connection both with classical rhetoric, as in periodic sentence a la Cicero, and certain Biblical rhythms. (Oh boy, here I go again with the “stretchers”)

      Great description of the throne, but I got confused at “a hermit king”s shell.” I actually wanted to read, “hermit crab’s shell.” Stupid, I know, but it’s that word “shell” that distracts me. I can’t quite see either the picture or the figure. And the comma before “at hand” makes me think that’s an afterthought. But is it that? Or is it meant to say the throne is readily visible although mysterious.

      “someone throws open the door” brings the whole scene right down to earth–good dramatic change, strong and surprisingly effective contrast with the very poetic image immediately preceeding.

      Couldn’t figure out the cheek bruise (part of the common story?) But loved, loved! the shadow images. And the sudden back and forth (from shadows to “particular brow” and its following concrete, ordinary manly/humanly descriptors, and then on again to the mythic elements –dragon,cross, sword,banner) -quite a ride!

      You bring old Arthur back, young again. An achievement . Now, how to get this into the hands of many readers, where it should be.

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      • Thanks for the suggestion about “shone his reign,” I will certainly try that when I do the revision. (When I’m putting my book together, hopefully!)

        The bruise on his cheek was just an image I had… a sort of half idea that this man was flawed and could be hurt but lived on anyway. Maybe it’s in the wrong spot for that to be clear.

        Yes, I liked heavy love, too… I ended up making that whole series into descriptions of his person rather than his activities, but perhaps I can put it back in somewhere else.

        “At hand,” is definitely not an afterthought. I originally had waiting, but I wanted to link the idea to prophecy a little more.

        Hermit king’s shell – no that’s not stupid at all. I was depending on that, and the fact that there is such a thing as a king crab as well as a hermit crab to sort of cross the wires in the brain and make the allusion unavoidable. Maybe it’s too weird though. I was just thinking that an empty throne is like an empty shell… that a king sort of wears a throne and doesn’t just sit on it. At least mythologically speaking. Sigh, it needs work.

        I’m glad you liked the shadows, that was just about my favorite part! Thanks.

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  2. I couldn’t get going until I remembered that this was meant both as a challenge and an exercise. After a few tries, I sort of gave up on the challenge part (didn’t use all rhyming pairs, ignored regular forms, couldn’t generate anything like Emily’s tone) and settled for the exercise. Eventually that led to an old problem that became important again. Like many almost random connections, the word “sun” brought back a rather sentimental song/hymn. I think it starts, “I believe in the sun–even when it isn’t shining.”

    Days of The Enclouded Sun

    1.

    Who can tell if God, like a faithful sun,
    Rises today, or tomorrow, for each one
    Of us who live closed up in rooms

    Where it feels vague and empty as night
    With few dreams, no comforts, only the light
    From windows, and sometimes a door

    That opens on the rugless floor
    We walk and walk as if in a spell

    Repeating “It is not likely you’ll divine
    Or dislodge a truth from deep inside the mine
    Of the soul, or even of the mind.”

    2.

    Yesterday my hopes
    Were lifted in a light
    breath fresh as dawn,

    3.

    Too soon.
    The enemy night
    fell
    Upon me.

    Again that shadow, still
    There upon the entrance way,
    Mine, and beyond, a path to last-hope hill
    I have tried to defend against invading thoughts.
    I have tried. I have to defend . . .

    blind eyes
    open and vacant
    days without light

    heart that sighs
    without prayer
    deep in hopeless night

    These thoughts–they try and try still
    to make it disappear, the enclouded sun.

    Yet still, deeper than night,
    more active than dawn, a light
    Persists for me, for us–light
    as our breathing, still
    As peace: the light of the impossible One.

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    • Albert, you must write as you are. This doesn’t seem like the work of someone who gave up on anything worth holding on to. 🙂

      What impresses me most is the swift, surprising, life-like transition from 2 to 3. That’s a moment of genius there. It’s honest – it’s something like C. S. Lewis talks about in one of his book reviews. He’s talking about something that shows up in Christian poetry that he wasn’t seeing anywhere else. After giving some top-notch examples he says,

      “…the poets…are recording, with the most clearsighted fidelity, the failure of their feelings to respond to the object with which their poetry is concerned. Now we do not find other poets doing this nearly so often. The nature poets do it now and then, doubtless because the romantic love of nature is, in some degree, a religion. But the great mass of poets almost ignore that phenomenon which stands to their subject-matter as ‘dryness’ stands to the Christian life. This is not in the least because it does not occur. There are plenty of days when the lover cannot love (and even, if truth were told, the lecher cannot lust!) the warrior cannot feel martial, the patritot cannot feel patriotic, the satirist cannot feel indignant. But hardly a word of this comes out in the poetry. … from our sacred poetry, and from it almost alone, would [the proverbial visitor from another planet] get any notion of human experience as it really is, with all its lee-shores and doldrums and rudderless hithering and thithering. …whatever else the religious life may be, it is apparently the fountain of self-knowledge and disillusion, the safest form of psychoanalysis.”

      So you’re well within the tradition here.

      Another perfect moment is the ending, and that’s good. Nothing is more important as the end of a poem – only the beginning comes close. The double-use of ‘light’ in its two meanings, one after the other, is very effective. “Impossible One” is perfect.

      If you hadn’t been restricted in your use of rhymes, would you have had us repeating exactly what you wrote there in lines 9 – 11? It’s a good effort given the challenge, but seems a little awkward. If you ever revise without the strictures of the challenge, you may want to re-work that.

      Really good, some of the best religious poetry I’ve seen in a while. I flatter myself that just by virtue of holding this challenge I’m “publishing” some of the best poetry being written today. 🙂

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      • Exactly right about lines 9-11, especially because of the implications of “repeating” I mean, the grammar has “we” doing the repeating,, but I first heard (“heard”? Yes, in a way) the 3-line chant as being part of the spell, i.e.’someone or something alien that haunts & effectively paralyzes persons who try to reach God by thinking. I couldn’t figure out how to put it that way. Besides, it adds an element to the poem that doesn’t show up later (according to part 3, it’s their own thoughts,not outside forces like devils, that attack believers ; better to leave the whole stanza out, I think. Thanks for the alert reading.

        And thank you so much, Alana, for the encouragement. Did I tell you that I stopped writing poems about four years ago ? (when Fr. M___ pointed out that such a preoccupation might not be good for me) I had mentioned my interest but was worried about the “worldly” subject matter that I was drawn to. Also I began to feel that a kind of pride was part of my motivation–you know, feeling so smug when the just-right words come together. And then there is the desire to be recognized and praised by others. So as I gave myself more and more to the poetry of the liturgy and the hymns and psalms, trying at the same time to shut out the allure of physical beauty and the desire to cry out against ugliness and suffering (mostly the topics of previous poems).

        But now that I have met some persons with wider perspectives and understand better the dangers of trying too hard to convert, I can see how to connect my past interests with present commitments. Thank you for the helpful reading/writing/listening place!

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      • Oh, it makes so much more sense as a habitual thought that repeats in the brain and causes anxiety. The ‘you’ who is adressed is then the same one who is walking and walking. I think that’s an important part of what the poem has to say, and the problem I had was actually a bit of ambiguity about who was doing what. Perhaps instead of ‘spell’ something simple like ‘thought.’ Or maybe not, but it is worthwhile solving the problem of how best to represent and clarify this experience.

        Yes, you did mention in your recent email that thing with Fr. M. I have been thinking how to answer that but since you bring it up here… Perhaps there was some benefit to you from taking a break and resetting poetically – only you can say. It’s hard to say why people give the advice they do, especially from a distance of time and personal acquaintance and situation.

        So all I can say is that as I know you now, to the extent that I do truly know you, I believe that your gift, like most people’s gift, ought to be exercised. I also feel a sense of satisfaction when something works out right in a poem. It is true that sometimes one’s feelings and thoughts must be shepherded away from arrogation or smugness and toward “Without me you can do nothing,” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The opportunity to practice such shepherding is worth the struggle, and therefore to eschew the occasion of the struggle is also to eschew the occasion for growth. Sometimes we do eschew the occasion of a struggle. An alcoholic not walking into a bar comes to mind. The difference is that writing poetry has its own, essentially good, purpose, whereas walking into a bar is pretty much just to get drunk. It’s more like a recovering alcoholic going to a family wedding.

        Shepherding one’s own thoughts is a skill that can only be acquired through practice. Force is not helpful. Nor is it helpful to imagine that God is displeased with us for every little thought we have. Generally the only thing that helps is practice, contemplation, and feeding lots of good ideas into the mind.

        Eventually you become aware of two levels of thought – one is the thing you want and choose to believe because it’s sane and right – there’s a feeling of ownership in thinking those thoughts – and the other is the silly thing that “pops into your mind” suggesting the outrageous – one feels out of control and therefore not in charge, and therefore there’s no sense of ownership with these thoughts, no sense of “this is me thinking these thoughts.”

        When you lose your fear of what pops into your mind, because you’ve told your soul “that’s not the real me, I don’t actually believe that,” it gets easier and easier to gently dismiss the nonsense.

        Personally I did eventually put myself through a sort of mental training course to deal with that sort of thing. I recall that as recently as last fall I was tormented by unwanted thoughts. The main torment was the suggestive power, not necessarily the suggestion that the silly thing in the thought might be true, but the suggestion that it was really me thinking this, that I was somehow guilty.

        At first, whenever the unwanted thought or feeling arose, I would say in my mind to God, “I don’t want this; I want you instead.” Eventually that shortened to the prayer, “Not this, but you, O Lord.”

        This was a fruitless struggle first, then a fruitful struggle. Part of the struggle, initially, was refraining from taking any action regarding the unwanted thoughts, other than the prayer. After a while this particular prayer became largely obsolete for me as I moved on to a different stage in the struggle. Since the prayer was about what I wanted, I succeeded in differentiating between myself and the thoughts. Having come that far, I needed something different.

        Confessing to my priest that the thoughts happened was helpful. But I didn’t say anything about the content of the thoughts. I’m glad I didn’t. Confession is not helpful when it becomes an occasion for confirming self-accusing thoughts. It is helpful when it becomes an occasion to show yourself to Christ.

        This realization led to another prayer. The thoughts were less tormenting now and were more just getting in the way. Also, because of my struggle with the thoughts, I had become aware of what I can only describe as dispositions. Something in the soul that presages or warns of the approach of the unwanted thought. It resembles a turning of the soul, so that it faces a different direction, like turning your face so that a different light shines on it, or something.

        So at this point I needed a more powerful prayer, something that would go deeper, so I prayed, “O Christ, I show this disposition (or feeling or other experience) to you. Please see me as I really am.” This is an immensely powerful prayer, not because of incantatory power, but because it assumes that Christ will see you when you cannot see Him, and it assumes that Christ will make the final decision over whether the thing you are showing him needs to go or not, whether it needs to be adjusted or whether it’s really fine and the guilt-anxiety is lying to you. You don’t even need to force yourself to believe what you are saying in the prayer. You simply adress him and wait. He does what he wants with whatever you offer him to work with.

        This kind of praying is better than advice in my opinion, if you are able to say it without force or grasping or imagining, without doing anything about the thing you are showing the Lord. Generally, prayer has to be dry before it can be fruitful, for the simple reason that you are asking for something to come from somewhere other than yourself. In order to make that request honest, you have to refrain from any attempt to get what you are asking for in the usual ways, under your own steam. You have to leave yourself open and empty for a bit, waiting on God to do whatever he will do whenever he will do it and to whatever end.

        Another really good, all-purpose prayer is, “Lord, help – in the way you know and to the end you know and in the time you know.” This is a good prayer for others and for self.

        Anyway, as you can see I believe that there are ways to deal with issues other than chopping off your gifts or allowing your faculties to wither. It is true that everything in us will eventually wither; but paradoxically we also believe that everything will be raised in Christ, never to die. The reconciliation between these two beliefs is action: the only way to save anything of ours eternally is to show it and offer it to Christ so that he can renew it. Even before writing a poem, one can offer the effort to Christ. Only what is Christ’s will survive the dismantling of natural death. Making ourselves Christ’s is impossible for us, but it would appear that the simple willingness to be his, and the intentional expression of that willingness in an offering, and restraining ourselves as much as possible from running in the opposite direction, is enough for Him to work with.

        ***

        There’s another consideration, and that is societal patterns of how gifted and talented people are treated in the U.S.A. There are, of course, places in this vast country where gifted people are cherished and developed, but often in the general population what you see is the presumption that talent equals arrogance. Oddly, when authority figures percieve that someone is talented or intelligent, the usual knee-jerk reaction is to feel that that someone needs to be “taken down a notch.” (The fact that you were nurturing a group of extra-eager youngsters as a teacher means that at least on that occasion, you were not part of that tendency.) Arrogance is projected on to the person, and the person can even start to believe it of himself. I’ve gotten this treatment any number of times. Sometimes this expresses itself simply as a willingness, on the part of the authority figure, to confirm the talented person’s own fears of being too arrogant.

        Ironically, the fear of being arrogant usually comes from not having your talent recognized. Along with the talent or intelligence often comes a kind of sensitivity that lets you know that what you are doing has value above the norm. However, if no one around you sees this, you start to wonder whether what you are seeing is delusional. Maybe you really have nothing special. You confess this fear to someone you trust. Most people can’t imagine someone confessing to something that they didn’t do. The assumption is that if you think you are arrogant, you are probably even more arrogant than you realize. Combine this with the knee-jerk mentioned above, and it’s easy to get the response that you should just walk away from your gift.

        I would hate to assume that this dynamic played a part in Fr. M’s choice of advice, but this kind of “kindly put-down” is so destructive when it happens to you that I would also hate to leave it unmentioned as a possibility.

        Anyway, I’m glad that you are finding these discussions helpful. I am, too.

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    • OK I’m getting my comment in first (so I won’t be influenced into 2nd thoughts right now–probaby later). I started to say the poem is about meditating, pebbles being like mantras.

      But as I read & reread, I wondered if it isn’t more about living with multiple interests and necessary distractions–trying to balance these things (pebbles) and all the while the force of gravity causes them, a few at a time, to slide off the hill and make their fall known as they move a little bit away from the original pile {glade that you used “hill”–much richer and more suggestive in a positive way, as if what you do with your life is quite natural) and thus make noise along the floor.

      Caused by the inevitable unbalancing that happens when more pebbles than nature allows start separating from the nice little hill, this noise calls attention to itself when you are given a time to reflect (“too still” air). Consequently, when you do that, i.e.,go inside yourself and close the door, you find both the peace of balancing the pebbles and the mild irritation of realizing that they will soon enough become puzzling distractions (maybe pleasant, maybe frustrating). One can only pile up so many activities and interests before some need to assert their separateness in a mild but noticeable manner.

      * * *

      I hope I am not reaching again, Leah. Also, I wonder about the use of “and” in the 2nd to last line–not sure if the speaker is doing the testing, or the ”slides.”. Respectfully,

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      • Forgot to say: I like the poem! The image is delicate, gentle, peaceful–a fitting tone either for meditating or for managing multiple interests responsibly.

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      • I think the basic structure, or action, of the sentence is

        “I balance and I test”

        with all the other words being subordinate to those two clauses or objects of their verbs. Thats why the ‘and.’ It makes it clear that we’re back from the nearly parenthetical “despite” phrase. So basically, “I balance pebbles in a hill and test the strength of quiet’s door,” is the main sentence, with “despite the slides across the hill that come when air has grown to still” being inserted to qualify the “I balanced pebbles in a hill” part.

        I also liked ‘hill’ as a flavorful and intriguing substitute for ‘pile.’

        Strangely I almost never read any second meaning into a poem. I do miss things that way, but it also keeps me from over-reaching, I guess. It never ocurred to me that this might be a representation of life’s efforts. I thought it was just a zen moment. As such it is eye-opening. As an allegory it is obscure because it is already full of normal, functional metaphors. If the meaning behind the metaphors is, in turn, a metaphor for something else than that’s getting pretty subtle for me.

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    • I was startled by the brevity and power of this little gem, Leah. The quality of a quiet moment, and the particularity of which moment it is, what happens in that moment – this is a poem that knows what it is doing and does it with grace and no undue fuss. I think it’s flawless, unless it was supposed to have a second meaning.

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    • Thanks Albert and Alana. I am really glad you liked it. 🙂

      Regarding meaning– is it too coy to say “it means whatever it means to you”? Yet that comes pretty close to my genuine feeling about this one. It didn’t start as an idea but as an image that was stuck in my head, and that came apparently spontaneously. (Later I realized it was largely from a picture in an advertisement. *eye roll*)

      Mmm, anyway, I tried writing it up into a poem for this challenge in a number of different ways, before hitting on this version which felt compelling to me and which, when I tried to look at it objectively, seemed like it could serve as a container for a variety of possible meanings. I loved your thoughts on it, Albert, especially the ones about meditating although I confess I hadn’t thought of it that way.

      I don’t think you were overreaching to look more deeply, because in my mind was the thought that my “mental constructs”- (specifically ways I think about myself, or life, or God, or relationships with other people) have a way of breaking down, seemingly under their own weight, just when everything seems to be just so (i.e., air too still to disturb quiet’s door). Being an idealistic and serious minded sort, this used to devastate me, but after a few go rounds I’ve come (I think!) to see it as something that just happens, and that needn’t wreak havoc on my inner quiet. . . the quiet of the heart. . . although it may test it. And, of course, I still form constructs- “balance pebbles in a hill”- because it’s a natural human activity, but I don’t see myself so much as living inside them and feeling existentially threatened by their eventual possible collapse.

      I didn’t write all of this directly into the poem, so if those meanings are obscure or subtle or even undiscoverable, I think it’s okay. . . I wanted to present the image as it “came” to me, but it’s also true that these are the thoughts the image suggested to my mind and that they must have influenced me as I shaped it into the poem.

      Alana I would love to hear your thoughts on this– if this “maybe you’ll see, maybe you won’t” approach is a cop out, or appropriate for certain kinds of poetry.

      Thanks again, you two. The thoughtful attention you give these things means more than I can say.

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      • OK, so I’ve thought about the question a bit, and I think that “it means whatever it means to you,” is fine when understood in a certain way. How can I say this? Your poem is like an embodied fact. Not all poems are like this. Some poem offer self-interpretation, lengthy thoughts, or implications about how one should respond to the incident or description or thought in the poem. This particular poem doesn’t do that. It just says, “here’s what happened.” In that case, the “meaning” – i.e. the interpretation of what is significant, what matters, what is implied – is definitely left to the reader.

        In this case, the poem imitates life very closely. If I was on the floor stacking pebbles in a quiet moment, the experience of doing so would present itself to me without interpretation. Your poem does the same. I guess it’s just another kind of poem.

        On the other hand, it wouldn’t be right, exactly, for the reader to insist that the significance he sees is really part of the poem. Perhaps what is in the poem is an implicit invitation to feel and think about the fact as one will. And yet, I’m not completely sure about that either. Since the way the poet feels about the “fact” must have given rise to the way in which the fact is expressed, I think there will always be at least some small psychological “lead-string” – subtle clues – maybe a mood or atmosphere.

        When I encounter such a poem, I try to focus on experiencing what is literally present in the poem. If it’s a poem which explicates a quiet activity, then instead of interpreting the significance of quiet activity, I just try to experience the feeling of that quiet activity. It’s a sort of surrender to the poem to let it remain folded in itself, in my opinion.

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      • Leah, your explanation makes a lot of sense, especially to a person (me) who was interested a long time ago to read about Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and others who believed in the almost absolute power of images. It was as if a whole new world of poetry had opened up for them. I think some of James Wright’s poems did that for me; e. g., http://m.poemhunter.com/poem/a-blessing/

        Regarding the form of your poem, would you feel comfortable commenting on the line breaks? For all the theories I’ve heard (breath lines, dramatic pauses, surprising changes, grammatical or thought groupings) I’m never sure if the explanations come after a poem is finished, or if a certain logic influences the choices a writer makes as he goes. As you go, I mean. I go by hunches or feelings (not emotions always, but those too at times).

        I am not asking you to say the poem in prose (not possible anyway); I wouldn’t do that to you. But if you like commenting on your own work (I got a kick out of an earlier remark about that), I would be interested to hear.

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        • Thanks for linking to the James Wright poem. I hadn’t read it before, but I loved it. I have a few favorites by Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, too– just things I’ve picked up from reading anthologies. Perhaps I should read more of their work.

          The line breaks, well. . . this poem got it’s start in life as the last stanza of a longer poem composed of three iambic tetrameter quatrains. So in that original context it read like this:

          I balance pebbles in a hill
          despite the slides across the floor
          that come when air has grown to still
          and test the strength of quiet’s door.

          I didn’t like the rest of the poem very much, so I scrapped the first two stanzas and kept this third, which felt like a complete thought on it’s own. However, I thought it looked a bit squished and sounded a bit rushed, so I decided to experiment with splitting up the lines in a way that would lengthen it out and slow it down. This was pretty much a first attempt for me in the creative use of line breaks. I didn’t have a particular theory in mind as to how they should work, I just rearranged it about twenty times until I found a form that I liked, but these are some considerations that influenced my choices:

          Having “Despite the slides across the floor” as one line and the longest one effected, in my mind, an imitation of the pebbles sliding. The first three lines about balancing the pebbles progressively contract into a kind of inverted hill themselves, before the “slide”. “Too still” is *supposed* to be a spondee (I hope it actually sounds like one outside of my head) and I liked it as a line of it’s own the better to imitate stillness. The last two lines of the poem are roughly equivalent to eachother in length and contain the same amount of stresses as the first line, and I hoped that would give the poem some anchoring and cohesion.

          Anyway, this is more or less how it happened. I notice your poems are usually more original when it comes to form than mine, so if you have any advice or critiques I’m all ears. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to ramble. 😉

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          • No critiques. The poem worked before I read Your description of the writing of it, and now even better. I was curious about lines 2 and 3 mostly.

            For me, poems usually keep growing unless I try to follow set forms. Prases and lines generate more phrases and lines. I run on–like an incomplete sentence that isn’t sure where it’s going until it gets there–and often it doesn’t get there.🏃 I am going to slow down in the next life. Good short poems bring quiet, bring peace. Yours does that.

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            • Forgot to ask: (I’m still thinking about the “and”) did you ever, in the various arrangements, touch the return button twice towards the end and cause the last two lines to be a separate stanza?

              I remember a comment that Norman Mailer made once about good writing–it’s when a reader forgets that he his reading. When I first read your poem, I sort of stumbled at that “and” and paused to look back over the previous lines.

              Alana’s comment about the grammatical structure of the poem is a good one. I just wanted to report my initial reading experience. Small point. Don’t mean to be picky.

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  3. (Thought I would try this one. I tried posting earlier but it hasn’t shown. I am enjoying this line of presentation and discussion.)

    Poetry Challenge 4

    I saw her basking in the sun
    Oh, what delight and joy
    To behold the essence of the one
    Who plagiarized the sky.

    My steadfast gaze and grip locked eyes
    Let loose this heart of mine
    My breath was lost repeating sighs
    Beholding such divine.

    The reflection from her face; the beams,
    All focused there towards me
    Mixed awe with misty long lost dreams
    From deepest inward sea.

    I thought but once upon the star
    My wishes placed there on
    And took my ticket from oh so far
    To claim this very one.

    Then fear did grab this trance to break
    “Not love?”; perchance a spell
    I wanted so to kiss her cheek
    And moved but then I fell.

    From up to down it came so straight
    And hit me in my brow
    I had well begun to elate
    And then I felt so low.

    This view of doubt had made a veil
    So there stood I quite still
    I looked far out over dale
    To watch her on the hill.

    How did I know as I did know then
    An understanding I did see
    Broken hope had come again
    Here to visit me.

    In the distance still she glowed
    As I lay there on the floor
    Like a Pinocchio turning back to wood
    Behind the closing of the door.

    Her brilliance dimmed to fire flies
    Outside the window of my room
    I groped and moped and then did rise
    In darkness I did roam.

    Still somewhere in that darkest night
    Did peace, a hope return
    It wasn’t another brilliant light
    A candle it would burn.

    “A mystery!” I say to fellow men
    Acting cool as morning dew
    Yet I know that I had dropped the reign
    So stunned was I of you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for participating, Ralph! Well, this is brave. Very romantic. Some really excellent images here:

      “plagiarized the sky”

      “…Pinocchio turning back to wood/behind the closing of a door”

      and you made excellent use of the rhymes, as well.

      “her brilliance dimmed to fire flies”

      Yes, that’s very good. I’m impressed that you used every rhyme, in the exact order of the original poem, and replicated the meter as well. That’s quite a challenge.

      I think what you need to work on most is diction. This could be a long struggle because it’s not as cut-and-dry as grammar. It’s almost a matter of eye and ear.

      “I saw her basking in the sun” (most poets will tell you that the first word that springs to mind is usually a cliche. Your idea here is fine – the first-person character sees a woman enjoying the sun. But ‘basking’ is not a good word for it. Why? Well, for one thing it feels automatic. For another thing, without further qualification it suggests what reptiles do. “I saw her face was lifted to the sun,” is an example of a more thoroughly thought-out way to say it. (There are many other possibilities, of course, but you have to find your own way to get across the image in your mind.) My suggested line has five stresses, but I’m also going to suggest that iambic pentameter might have worked better for you here. I know you copied Bronte’s meter exactly, and that’s impressive, but the shorter the line, the more restricted the options.)

      “Oh, what delight and joy” (Feels automatic, like a throw-away line. It’s not really a throw-away line because there’s an important step in the thought-process there, but it needs something to make it particular, to make it unique.)

      “To behold the essence of the one” (No one can behold another’s essence. The essence is hidden in the form. You need another word.)

      “Who plagiarized the sky.” (Again, this is good – it’s thought out, it’s unique – but it needs a little more development. In other words you need to show precisely WHAT it is that she plagiarized from the sky. Her radiance? Her mildness?)

      “My steadfast gaze and grip locked eyes” (not really thought-through. How can a gaze, which is something eyes do, lock eyes with a grip? It’s convoluted.)

      “Let loose this heart of mine” (“this heart of mine” is an example of extending a line without adding anything to its sense or feeling. I know it’s part of a favorite hymn – ‘Out of the Ivory Palaces’ – which is decent poetry for a hymn but this particular example is an easy out.)

      “My breath was lost repeating sighs” (excellent line! it might be slightly better to say “spent” instead of “lost” because ‘lost’ kind of implies that the person stops breathing.)

      “Beholding such divine.” (‘divine is an adjective. You can turn it into a noun by adding an article: “the divine” but not by adding an adjective like “such.” Or you can attach it to a noun: “beholding such a face divine,” for instanct. Those two are really your only options.)

      “The reflection from her face; the beams,” (very good)

      “All focused there towards me” (very good)

      “Mixed awe with misty long lost dreams” (it works overall but “long lost” is a cliche – a pre-fabricated combination of words that leaps easily to mind but doesn’t necessarily pull its weight in the line. I actually like this line overall. I think it’s a courageous step toward romanticism.)

      “From deepest inward sea.” (not bad, but I see one problem. ‘Inward’ suggests inside a person, but the person is not identified. The great thing about articles (‘the’, ‘an’) and pronouns (‘her’ or ‘his’ for instance) is that they disappear in the meter. You can say “From her deepest inward sea” or whatever and get away with it, even though it multiplies the meter a little.)

      “I thought but once upon the star
      My wishes placed there on” (Another convoluted line – probably the result of a difficulty with the rhyme and meter. If you place this line in parantheses and change it to “My wishes were placed thereon” that should fix it.)

      “And took my ticket from oh so far” (“Oh so far” is another cliche. On the other hand, the idea of taking a ticket to claim the star on which you want to wish is interesting and original.)

      “To claim this very one.” ( “this very one” is another cliche.)

      “Then fear did grab this trance to break” (“grab” is an undignified word, so it should never be paired with “did” which implies an elevated style. Also, if you are trying to say that fear broke the trance, the padding in the line looks like padding in the line.)

      “Not love?”; perchance a spell (it would be more easily understandable to say, Is it love or just a spell?)

      “I wanted so to kiss her cheek” (that’s sweet)

      “And moved but then I fell.” (OK)

      “From up to down it came so straight
      And hit me in my brow” (interesting)

      “I had well begun to elate” (unfortunately ‘elate’ as a verb must have an object. In other words, you can’t simply elate; you must elate someone or something else. ‘Elate’ can also be used as an adjective. For instance, “My soul had risen up, elate.”)

      “And then I felt so low.” (Sounds out of place, like it comes from a blues song. You could write the lyrics to a blues song, if you want, but this isn’t it. Generally you should keep the tone at the same level throughout a work.)

      “This view of doubt had made a veil” (By ‘view of doubt’ do you mean someone’s understanding of what doubt is, or a view that made you doubtful? This needs to be clearer)

      “So there stood I quite still
      I looked far out over dale” (“the dale”)

      “To watch her on the hill.
      How did I know as I did know then” (“How did I know, as I did then,” works better metrically and makes more sense, too)

      “An understanding I did see” (“I did see” is no good. There’s another way to say this with ‘see’ at the end, you just have to find it.)

      “Broken hope had come again
      Here to visit me.” (Not bad. )

      In the distance still she glowed
      As I lay there on the floor
      Like a Pinocchio turning back to wood
      Behind the closing of the door. (Love it.)

      “Her brilliance dimmed to fire flies
      Outside the window of my room” (excellent!)

      “I groped and moped and then did rise” (“did rise” is no good. Also, in a romantic context you can almost never get away with “grope.” Also, “mope” is a word, like “grab” that is beneath the otherwise elevated tone of the poem.)

      “In darkness I did roam.” (“did roam” is no good. It’s redundant.)

      “Still somewhere in that darkest night
      Did peace, a hope return” (this is pretty good. You used “did” again, but it’s better when it’s not right up against its verb, “return,” so that it actually has a function, which is to clarify the action. When it’s right next to its verb there’s nothing to clarify so it’s just redundant.)

      “It wasn’t another brilliant light” (“wasn’t” is a contraction, and as such it’s beneath the elevated tone of the poem.)

      “A candle it would burn.” (Eh…. the problem here is that it’s a bit contrived. Wouldn’t it be better to say, for instance,

      “Not like the first, more brilliant light
      but like a candle burn.”

      “Would” is kind of like “did” in that sense.)

      ” “A mystery!” I say to fellow men” (In order to really work, “fellow men” should be preceded by “my.” Otherwise, you just say “other men.”)

      “Acting cool as morning dew” (Hmm, a bit of a stretch. This use of ‘cool,’ as in “nonchalant,” is very low-level colloquial language – in fact it’s pretty much slang. On the other hand the “morning dew” comparison, if overly common, belongs to a tradition of elevated poetic diction. So, the two expressions shouldn’t be combined.)

      “Yet I know that I had dropped the reign” (You can’t drop a single reign, the expression is “dropped the reigns.” While that would slant the rhyme a little more, I think slanting the rhyme is preferrable to not making complete sense.)

      “So stunned was I of you” (You can’t be stunned OF someone, only BY them. The other problem is the sudden switch to “you” from she. However, this is, while stylistically unorthodox, at least emotionally authentic and I think you can get away with it for that reason, as long as the other wrinkles are ironed out.)

      ***

      Here’s a suggestion for the last stanza, which I puzzled over for a while. The problem I had is that, though it actually works as an ending, a sum-up, and the idea behind the stanza is excellent, and the thought-progression is good, the language was awkward. My sense is that fatigue is setting in by the time you write this stanza.

      “It’s puzzling,” I say to other men
      “Our love was sweet but brief as dew.”
      Yet secretly I know the reigns
      of love were dropped – though not by you.

      Although I’m aware this changes the meter so I’m offering it as an example, not as a solution.

      Very generally, I think you should also be aware that complex language is only acceptable to express complex thoughts. If your language is becoming complicated but the thought you are expressing is really simple (as in the “I fell” stanzas”) then it’s usually time, I find, to scrap the writing and start that section over again. This phenomenon indicates a faulty conception of the line(s).

      I know you’ve been writing for a while. My feeling is that your progress has been uneven – you are accomplished in some areas and undeveloped in other areas. I hope you’ll take the challenges as an opportunity to strengthen some weak areas. I look forward to seeing your progress.

      Finally, I enjoyed this narrative poem. Even though I picked it apart, it’s just because I thought that was best for you. As a poem and a story, it touched me.

      Thanks again!

      Like

      • Hi Alana,
        Thanks so much for your detailed critique. Let me know where to send a check. Your comments and the time you must have spent far exceed what I would expect in a class on poetry. Furthermore, they are spot on (to use yet another cliched statement).
        For me, I do not expect to be a great poet; but maybe occasioanlly real good. I would like to be a great communicator – at least in writing. I freely use cliched sayings and lose a sense of propriety when assembling jelling thought into storyline which you very clearly and very precisely pointed out. I also thoroughly enjoy puns and tongue-in-cheek communication.

        This poetry challenge 4 poem was intended somewhat to be self-deprecating and disclosing of not only my, at times immature self, but also the male gender in general. So the stanza’s “A mystery”, I say to fellow men, as cool as morning dew; was intended to alliterate to the aloofness of guys minimizing loss of control when going through the emotional throes of being love-struck. That was followed by a more honest disclosure where the speaker intentionally changes audience to the object of his enthralling love where he makes full self disclosure over his own character failing of doubt coming in and paralyzing his ability to move towards interacting in a relationship.
        As to your comments regarding word selection. Ok. As well as being a bit hard of hearing on better diction, I am a bit lazy and probably stop when I think it’s good enough.
        The “plagiarized the sky” metaphor(?) is meant to convey a projetion of the speaker who readily sees the object of his new love as easily being one to whom he could attribute the glorious presentive work of the sky. The poem is really supposed to be fun hear for the reader who sees the gaga-ness of male behavior (I have some guilt here). If you are familiar with Al Capps L’il Abner play, I was thinking of something of the sort of reaction males had looking at Miss Stupefyin’ Jones.

        Now, regarding using every word of rhymes in the order of the template poem by Emily Bronte; it was easiest to do this way. If you or some of the others reading here try it, you might find it works well, especially with iambic pentameter for those of us who spend life da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum. Not that I am remotely cognizant of meter while writing. It just flows pleasantly and lightly.

        Although not eastern orthodox (I am orthodox in a wider sense of belief) I enjoy reading here. Your comments seem always poignant as well as comments of other readers.

        Like

        • Ralph, thanks for your reply. I don’t want a check; I simply want you to improve. This is not a showcase for half-assed literature. It’s meant to be an exhilaratingly difficult group climb up the heights of poetic acheivment. I can easily tolerate a low level of ability as long as the person is trying.

          Let’s put it this way. If you submit a mere two lines of perfect poetry, the poetic angels will send up a shout of joy. If you submit 100 lines of “easy” and “lazy” poetry they will weep. Do you want the angels to shout with joy or weep with disappointment?

          Now as to being ” a bit hard of hearing on better diction” there is a possible cure for that. Here’s the cure, if you are serious about being an “occasionally real good poet” and a “great communicator – at least in writing” (because I assure you, you are nowhere near that goal, at least poetically.)

          Take three months and during that time read nothing but the best classical poetry and novels. Read nothing that was published during or after World War I. During this time if you read the Bible (and you should, a lot – especially the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) you should read only the King James Version of the Bible. (I’m no onlyist in theology, but that book, along with Shakespeare, is the cornerstone of the modern literary English language.) During the first six weeks you should read enormous amounts of children’s literature, proceeding to adult literature in the second part. If you aren’t sure what qualifies as classic literature, you can get some help from the lists that people make on Goodreads or elsewhere. That’s just the first element of the challenge. It’s the “cleanse” part of the diet.

          The “exercise” part of your poetic fitness diet is this: Every day if possible, or twice per week if you can’t hack it, you should copy, by hand, with pen on paper, word-for-word, a tried-and-true classic poem. I’m talking Shakespeare, Jonson, Spencer, Milton, Herbert, Donne, Pope, Dryden, Lamb, Keats, Blake, Wordsworth, Swineburne, St. Vincent Millay, de la Mare, and others of similar fame and value. Again, nothing tainted by WWI.

          If you do all this and your diction doesn’t improve, then you have an excuse.

          Like

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