Poetry Challenge Six: Post Thy Poems!

Loch and Mountain

Our challenge is to write musically, like Sidney Lanier, and to write a poem about a body of water.  Was it hard to get the meter out of your head? It was for me! Or was it a relief to relax into the more natural rhythms?

I can’t wait to see!

Post away in the comments section below.

As always, there’s no deadline. Poetry Challenges remain open forever.

Night Bird Lake Trees

114 thoughts on “Poetry Challenge Six: Post Thy Poems!

  1. Wither, Lilly slim and white
    Shrink, stem-enclosing green Pool
    Roll in around her, Night
    Aghast and whispering and cool
    Creep in her heart, animals small
    She who was so straight and tall

    O pool
    For now your strengthless breast can bear the spear she let fall

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ooh, this is entrancing. On the first couple readings I have to confess I was looking for Metaphor, but by the third I just wanted to hear the sounds visualize the images, and I realized that is your point here, at least I think so– depicting a single moment in nature in as lovely a way as possible with words. In that spirit, the words “whispering and cool” seem to describe the poem as well as the scene itself.

      Although of course, evocations ripple and there is innate pathos in mystery here, in the wilting white flower resting a moment on the surface of the pool, even if not a “this-for-that other meaning”, at least not that I detect.

      Sonically, it sounds good to me. I am on shaky ground here because I don’t believe I have a naturally good ear for rhythm (so without a formal meter I feel a bit lost) but it’s something I work to cultivate. But really I can’t think of anything I’d change, although if I were going to nitpick I might consider removing the “that” from the last line, only because it doesn’t seem to add anything and perhaps impedes the flow of the line slightly. How do you hear it?

      Also, I’m curious about your decision not to use punctuation?

      To answer your question in the post above, when it came to the challenge itself I simply tried to think watery thoughts and go with what came to me, leaning into the feel of the sounds without consciously thinking about meter or syllable stresses much– I didn’t mark out the feet even afterwards out of principle. It was a fun exercise but in mine the result is probably still frequently iambic!

      Like

      • So I had to sleep on it – I went and took a nap. And coming back – yes! It’s so much better without the ‘that.’ For one thing it meterizes it, but at the same time it forces ‘spear’ to behave as a short syllable when it clearly wants to be a long one.

        I am thinking of revising this poem to put a few more warrior/watchman-like ideas in, so the spear becomes more of a fulfillment than an innovation.

        Thank you for your compliments! I did have a good feeling about this one, although I struggled to get back into the poetic mindset before writing. I’ve been away from this for too long.

        Yes, you’re right about the level of meaning here. Just what is, and little more than that – perhaps slightly evocative.

        As far as punctuation, this is something that I’ve been playing with lately. I’ve always capitalized and punctuated so carefully to indicate meaning. For me the poetic form interacted with the sentence and if both were perfect at the same time that was triumph.

        I read something about poetry being lines, not sentences. And I’m not sure that’s entirely true but it may be true that it MUST be lines, and MAY be sentences ALSO. So I’ve been trying to write poetry with minimal punctuation and using line breaks and line structure to indicate what would otherwise have been indicated by sentence order and punctuation. And I have to say, I like the clean look. The lines breathe or something. It’s probably aesthetic at the level of presentation rather than being something poetic, but it’s nice anyhow.

        What do you think?

        Like

        • Well, I like punctuation, probably for the same reasons that you were previously more of a stickler about it– I feel like if the sound, sense, and form of the poem are all in harmony the proper punctuation will naturally fall in places where it is not obstructive, and to me it makes a piece of writing look neatly tied up and finished. I’m sure there are exceptions especially in poetry that is more experimental. But I guess it’s a matter of preference. 🙂

          Like

          • I still have access, I guess, to that way of feeling about it. And if I were writing say, a metaphysical poem, I think I would still be using the punctuation criteria I previously developed for poetry. It feels nice, though, to let this one be less neat and more, mmm, perceptually focused I guess.

            Like

    • Here’s another possibility:


      A Lilly withers, slim and white

      Shrink, stem-enclosing green Pool
      Sing, Wind, that she was straight and tall
      Roll in around her, Night
      Aghast and whispering and cool
      In her heart creep sectioned animals and small

      O pool
      On your breast whose strength is slight
      Awhile bear still the the spearhead she let fall

      OR


      Wither, Lilly, slim and white
      Shrink, stem-enclosing green Pool
      Roll in around her, Night
      Aghast and whispering and cool
      Creep in her heart, sectioned animals and small
      Sing, Wind, that she was straight and tall

      O pool
      On your breast whose strength is slight
      Awhile you still can bear the spearhead she let fall

      Like

      • I just wrote an explanation of why I prefer revision #1 above–and suddenly it disappeared from my screen as I tried to post it! I’ll see if I can remember what I thought. If not, stick with that version anyway. It’s far and away the best one.

        Like

        • Back again. Changed my mind: after reading once more, and another once more, I prefer the first stanza of the first version I saw: “Wither, Lilly,. . . “But I suggest replacing the second stanza (too much of a contrast with the delicately balanced first) with final stanza of revision #1. That last line “Awhile bear still. .. – – with its solemn tolling of five single-syllable stressed words, one double syllable word (each stressed, the way I read “spearhead”), and the mournful “Awhile” at the beginning, which emphasizes a frustrated desire to hold on to beauty that’s gone–all this packed into a concluding line that preserves the form set up in earlier lines makes for strong and memorable effect.

          I have other thoughts but they will come in bits and pieces (as my days have gone lately: two Christmases are one too many)

          Like

          • I think you are right about ‘Awhile bear still…’

            But I do like ‘valiant.’

            So:

            Wither, Lilly, valiant and white
            Shrink, stem-enclosing green Pool
            Roll in around her, Night
            Aghast and whispering and cool
            Creep in her heart, armored animals and small
            Creep in her heart who was so straight and tall.

            O Pool
            On your breast whose strength is slight
            Awhile bear still the spearhead she let fall


            I wonder if you think that makes the last two lines of the first stanza too long and upsets the balance you spoke of.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Not at all. In fact it ties the stanza together without being intrusive or distracting. I remember reading a long time ago something that Thomas Carlyle wrote about repetition :  all deep emotions come out naturally in song. He used the example of anger (“I told you not to do that.  I told you what would happen. I told you.  Didn’t I tell you? ” – – my example, trying to clarify his, which I have forgotten) ).

              In your two lines the emotion is more gentle, but the repetition works the same way: both to express that emotion and to evoke it in us (or, rather, out of us).The subtle change in rhythm – – “Creep in her heart, PAUSE” and “Creep in her heart who…” No pause; the line runs on in a kind of peaceful sadness – – this little change, along with the switch in focus from the present animals to the past version (“was”) of the lilly, keeps the lines from being too repetitious (i.e., forced, artificial, inauthentic) and therefore “off key,” so to speak; or at least off-putting.

              If I sound pretty sure of myself, you know who(m) to blame.

              P. S. I prefer “valiant” too, finally. Although it was puzzling at first, I can see that the image effectively introduces your thematic view, which is repeated directly in “armored” and “spearhead,” and indirectly by its reminder of the stylized fleur-de-lis symbol, which I of all commenters here should know about since it is my hometown’s favorite identifier (St Louis). King Louie 9th is said to have said that the three petals of the flower represent faith, wisdom and chivalry, and the flower itself was “a sign of divine favour bestowed on France.” (wiki) And your poem brought that whole history and tradition to mind–my underdeveloped one, it seems–just now! Can you believe? I kept saying to myself, what am I missing here? What’s going on with the military references? I could picture the flower itself through the spear image, but the rest didn’t quite fit together.

              Then, bam, it hit me. Tonight. Days after first reading the poem (and now does this lilly feel silly!). I should have picked that up right away. I did warn you that I am a slow reader; I’m also a bit just plain “slow on the uptake,” as certain beloved family members get inordinate pleasure from saying. Anyway, I like the poem even more now.

              Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you for this analysis. I’ve been distracted for a few days, but I appreciated the thoughts this comment brought up for me. And I do feel fairly happy with this version of the poem, having seen it through your eyes like this (and heard it through your ears.)

              I think that chivalry does best express the feeling I’m getting at with the valiant lilly but I kind of meandered there through the different versions of the poem, so it’s not surprising it took you a minute, too.

              Like

    • I can hear the light musical cadence of the piece…a quiet sort of aqueous vignette. I’m guessing the emotional connection is that of wistfulness, a gentle mourning of sorts.

      The third version below works best for me. It flows best I think.

      Question: Why is pool not capitalized in the envoi like it is earlier in the poem. Typo or on purpose?

      Critique: Though I like the third version best, I am not overfond of “sectioned animals.” Sectioned suggests dismembered. It also sound a bit sterile, especially paired with animal, which is already a generic term. There must be a more telling word.

      Suggestion: For the envoi, what would it sound like to you to rearrange the front end of the first line a little. Presently it reads “Awhile you still can bear the spearhead she let fall” Awhile is an abstract modifier. You have to read deeper to connect it to an action or an image. What if “bear is moved to the head of the line” and let the “you” be understood (Bear awhile…). I think it would read more actively and create a stronger final image.

      Those are my thoughts such as they are.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mm, good catches. Thank you! Yes, you’ve caught the feeling I’m trying to convey. I do like ‘animal’ but only because I am trying to use it in a way that’s surprising. And clearly failing. How’s this?


        Wither, Lilly, valiant and white
        Shrink, stem-enclosing green Pool
        Roll in around her, Night
        Aghast and whispering and cool
        Creep in her heart, armored animals and small
        Sing, Wind, that she was straight and tall

        O Pool
        On your breast whose strength is slight
        Bear still awhile the spearhead she let fall

        Like

        • No. armored animals alliterates nicely with itself, but the image of armor inside a wilting flower doesn’t gel. For the sense you are after I would dip a little in Scots vocabulary, or an archaic form like “deor (OE and ME for animal, later specialized in meaning to one particular animal)” or “wee” Armor speaks to strength and hardness. I think you want to be more evocative of the small and delicate. “Creep in her heart wee chitinous deor,” Get your Spenser on…just a scooch.

          Like

          • Unles the whole poem were written in archaisms and Scots then that would create an inconsistent aesthetic effect.

            No, I don’t want to evoke the small and delicate. Not at all!

            Like

            • Well maybe it can be resolved by specificity…a particular type of bug vs armored animals.

              Archaisms are fun..ice breaker’s, conversation starters. Imagine the joy of being asked about what you meant by “wee deor” and the opportunity you will have to discourse upon the influence of Norman French and Church Latin upon the English language and how it’s introduction of multiple words with the same meaning forced some terms to specialize and narrow and others to broaden, thus enriching our poetical and literary vocabulary…good for a solid fifteen or twenty minutes before the other guy gets to reenter the conversation. And if you need a handy rabbit trail to extend the discourse a bit, just pull out “shall” and “skull”, and unpack their gradations of meaning and their etymological common forbearer in Proto Indo European 4000 years ago, that explains so much about them and their usage.

              Or not…my ideas of what’s fun and other people’s ideas on the same do not play well together. Actually mine just gets out of the sandbox and goes to find a secluded spot in the shade to read or draw pictures.

              But do consider specificity when speaking of the little creepy crawly’s in the flowers.

              Like

    • My only thought about this is more conceptual — I loved the ending. I wondered about writing in the ‘mirror’ effect of water in some of the wording with the musical element: ‘Wither, Lily (Lily, Wither) slime and white (white and slim).’ But I wouldn’t know how to go on from there so will just throw out the suggestion.

      Like

      • That could be very fetching with an expansion of the poem. When I come back around and collect my poems for publishing, I will probably look at all the comments and poems freshly and rewrite and revise then.

        Like

  2. “First Water”

    Agua, acqua, mare, mer-

    in other tongues I taste your name;
    just as the seas return again
    unto the place from whence they came,
    so your echoes spin eddying, rippling their same
    low-toned wave
    of a windy refrain:

    rio, river, lago, mar.

    Word tides tugging from afar
    unite sea with sea again.

    Always you, mon Ponchartrain.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ah, here’s one of those mindful, intelligent poems that’s also musical. It feels like what it says, and that is a virtue. And then the surprise at the end – it all becomes something immediate, personal, sentimental, concrete, and localizing. Lovely but a bit salty, just as it should be.

      I had to look up Pontchartrain and I’m only seeing it spelled with a t before the c – do you want me to correct that above or was that a purposeful choice?

      Things I like:

      1. The embedded scriptural quotation, how it’s woven in without fanfare and then reworded later as “unite sea with sea again.”
      2. The internal rhyme of ‘mon’ and ‘Pon.’ Do you want to italicize the French pronoun?

      3. “Word tides” – what a nice idea and I think it’s true – the influence words exert on one another and the human heart or mind.

      4. Standing the foreign-language words in their own lines. When reading the poem aloud one gets to pronounce them and it really is a pleasure.

      5. It feels like you could have ended at “sea again.” BUT the “second ending” surprisingly justifies itself by surging in with a new thought that pulls it all together and emotionally ties it all up. It’s a movement of words that is like a wave spreading on the beach, receding, and then coming in again even stronger. I can see where the “watery thoughts” took you. Great effect with the final two lines.

      One suggestion: “low toned wave of a windy refrain” sounds to me like it has too many syllables and perhaps too many thoughts. Pare it down? It might be a good idea anyhow for the fact that I don’t see a rhyme for wave.

      Like

      • Thanks, Alana! It’s always fun and helpful to read your comments, to see in some detail how and whether the poem is working. I’m glad you liked this one, it was enjoyable to write.

        Yes, I did misspell Pontchartrain! If you can fix that for me I would be grateful. I don’t think I want to italicize “mon”, it might seem out of place in the middle of a line, or at least drawing undo relative attention to the word. I italicized the other foreign words, not because they were foreign so much as to suggest that they may be read in a different voice than the rest of the poem– more musingly, musically, refrain-like.

        I agree with you and Robert that the last two or three lines of the first stanza are a bit garbled and confused, sound and sense wise. I was hesitating over them but not coming up with a good alternative in time for the challenge. More on this in my reply to Robert.

        Like

    • A more general thought for everyone to contemplate: Leah’s comment about “I just thought watery thoughts,” may be more profound writing advice than it may seem with its Peter Pan-like wording.

      Here’s a comparison. There’s a book online called the Psychology of Singing (it’s free on Amazon for Kindle) that defies all the singing advice I was given when I took voice lessons, until a brief encounter in college with the psychological method. When I was taught to sing, I was taught to think about moving and exercising distinct organs – internal organs as well as voluntary ones. The tongue was held so, the larynx was used so, and the diaphragm – oh that elusive diaphragm that no one could actually feel but was supposedly the key to good singing!

      ‘The Psychology of Singing’ is emphatic that the old tradition which produced such splendid singers in the golden age of opera was not based on commanding individual body parts, but rather on psychology. One thought the sound one wanted to produce, and the body would automatically follow, the involuntary organs doing their jobs involuntarily like God intended.

      My singing, such as it is, certainly improved after working with this idea.

      One thing we complain about on this blog is overly self-inspecting poetry. The tendency among educated American writers to self-watch-self-watch-self. (Albert says he knows what I am talking about!) Perhaps this tendency arises from instruction to command one’s mind while writing, to marshall all the effects and insert them voluntarily, instead of a more psychology-of-writing approach.

      Why – is the human mind really so mundane, so temperate, so pedestrian and prosaic that only under the lash will it produce poetry? The opposite is clearly true, and all the approved poetry now is very unlike poetry.

      Why should this psychological method be so effective? (And we can see above that it is, though Leah is still a very careful writer, which is another virtue.) Perhaps because of the aspect of communion that it entails. When one thinks the thoughts of water, one communes in some measure with water. After all, we are partly water ourselves. We are partly everything within creation in a way. Become that thing, then speak as that thing – here, perhaps, is the beginning of the mystery that is poetry.

      Like

    • The opening cadence strikes my ear like a more erudite ennie meanie minie moe and flows on nicely from there. I could be over reading it but that introduces a possible subtext of making choices. The envoi of Always you mon Ponchartrain casts everything before in a new and personal light, that these different waters are intersecting metaphors for a particular person. Ponchartrain is a lake but also the sea, a microcosm of the larger sea outside its coasts. It has aspects we associate with lakes (enclosed, bridgeable), and aspects we associate with the sea (salt/briney water, salt water creatures). This implies that the person referenced embodies/expresses this microcosmness in endearing ways…one’s own beloved sensible contradiction.

      Critique: For me the last 3 lines of the first stanza don’t quite work for me. It could be the way I’m reading, but the beat feels confused. The flow from the first part is lost. It works up until the word “spin”, what comes after trips rather than skips. It might be the entry of the syllable count of the gerunds don’t mesh as well as one would hope. I also don’t quite get the last image construction “low toned wave of windy refrain”. It’s beats are consistent with the earlier verse, but I am muddled on it’s sense. Maybe it’s the descriptor “low toned”. Not sure.

      Suggestion: What would happen if your echoes “spin eddies”…to make the sentence more active. It drops a syllable, but I think improves the flow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for reading and commenting!

        “. . . that these different waters are intersecting metaphors for a particular person.”

        Yes, that is very much what I was trying to convey. It’s an expression of an experience I’ve been having lately. Duolingo is my new hobby, and in learning foreign words for various bodies of water childhood memories and associations (frequently connected to Lake Pontchartrain, also the Mississippi River) often come back, even if there isn’t a direct match between kinds!

        It makes sense that the last three lines of the first stanza aren’t working, because I think what I’m hoping to express there is a bit confused in my own head– that the memories and associations spread like ripples, so that I “hear” them in unexpected contexts– and the effect is like a sound or water wave, muted like the waves of Lake Pontchartrain on the lake front, which are clearly not very dramatic or overwhelming, but rather make an agreeable kind of windy refrain. In such a way do the memories ripple through words even for other bodies of water, even in other languages.

        Maybe I need several more lines to actually say all that and to say it gracefully. I’m going to try to work on a revision over the next few days as time allows and will post it here when done.

        As a beginning, do either of you think these few minor adjustments help matters:

        so your echoes spin eddies, that ripple your same
        low-toned wave of windy refrain

        ?

        Like

        • I’ve got duolingo too. I did several lessons in Irish and got a couple of dictionaries and grammars because Duolingo doesn’t do much by way of explaining…like what the heck lentation is or how it works. But my habit got interrupted and I never quite got back to it.

          I also looked at Norwegian and Russian when they added them. Might get back to it one day.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, I think duolingo is a great tool but incomplete on it’s own. I supplement with grammars as well as music, children’s books, Netflix shows, etc. in the target language. Not sure how far I’ll actually get in the absence of regular practice with a native speaker, but for now it’s fun to see my comprehension picking up.

            Like

        • (So Leah, I took your advice and tred to say below what I thought.)

          No, no, don’t be too quick to do away with what you first heard as you wrote. Try putting a comma after “spin” in the original version. It forces us to pause twice– before and after the three-syllable “eddying” –and the effect mirrors in sound what is being described visually (which is a metaphor for the kind of double metaphor the whole poem is built upon–complicated! If I’m understanding it right) Also, I think the letter “a” should stay–the repeated pattern (da-da-DUM, da-da-DUM) emphasizes the contrast between the essence of water (“low-toned wave” and our human attempts to catch that in words (“windy refrain”l

          Like

          • Thanks Albert, and I think I’ll take your advice too, as in fact, I’d all but decided to let this poem stand without revision at all. Not because I think it’s perfect, but because I simply can’t come up with a rewrite that satisfies me, and it feels like I’ve tried at least twenty different times between last night and this morning! So I’ll leave it as is and keep the critiques in mind for future poems. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    • Ah yes, a good de-modernizing poem. The “unite sea with sea” bit pulls it all together and gives it meaning as well as the lie to modern compartmentalizations. Your use of other languages reminds me of Barfield’s point in Poetic Diction that all languages began as poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Unlingering
    by Robert Hegwood

    He sat down at the edge of a pond
    A nail clutched tight in his hand
    A waif of a boy by a dot of a pond
    And the weight of a world
    Through the dark waters swirled
    And left not a trace where they ran
    And left not a trace where they ran

    He sat down at the edge of a pond
    Scribed his name with a pen made of iron
    On water that welcomed the furrowing nail
    Though he wrote it with care
    Not a trace lingered there
    But his face and the sun on the mire
    But his face and the sun on the mire.

    He sat down by the edge of a pond
    Where the waters lay shaded and still.
    He gazed at his gaze gazing back from the shade
    Until his eyes grew sad
    His face could not stay
    Past the end of the day
    No lingering neath the night’s veil
    No lingering neath the night’s veil

    Liked by 2 people

    • Robert, thanks for posting! I enjoyed this lyrical poem – especially, “He gazed at his gaze gazing back from the shade – ” this is one of those ‘It sounds like what it is’ lines that we’re all noticing this time around. Or perhaps more accurately, “It does what it says.”

      Because this seems like a song lyric, I’ve actually sung through it (impromptu melody) to help me see what works and what doesn’t. I feel that what I’m seeing here is a beautiful, evocative song with a few extraneous words and phrases that need to be pared off. Once you do that, the proverbial David sculpture will emerge more clearly from the proverbial marble.

      What I like: the aesthetic effect of this song has a lot to do with what you hold back.

      1.) You don’t tell us the boy’s back-story and we don’t even know his name – we feel what we feel because of what he does in the poem’s action. That’s good.

      2.) You keep emphasizing the disappearing nature of what he looks at. First, it disappears because it’s water, and then even what the water reveals, disappears because it’s night.

      So first of all, I suggest losing the word ‘waif’. The action of the poem tells us that he is in a world of disappearances. You just need to trust your poem enough to not jump in front of it and tell us what we’re about to see. Now, that’s not good news for the meter. You consistently have four stresses in that line, and taking out ‘waif’ leaves you with three. That’s OK. It’s an opportunity to flex your creative muscles, or descend into the chamber of insight, and find something more revelatory to tell us in that spot.

      Similarly “dot of a pond” doesn’t do a lot for the aesthetic effect. It puts us high in the air, the only place from where a pond could look like a dot. However, that’s not where you want us to be, because you’re about to show us all these appearances and disappearances on the water’s face, where we need to be close-up.

      “Weight of a world” – I like the ‘world’ rhymed with ‘swirled.’ Because the reflection in water does indeed seem like a whole other world sometimes, and the dark swirling water suggests the disappearing of the world.

      What doesn’t work is getting there by using the familiar phrase “weight of a world.” You need to use ‘world’ in a different way. This is a ready-made phrase that would be appropriate in a pop song, but not in the kind of art-song type thing you’re doing here.

      “Scribed” – good word, you know I like your unusual verbs. I think it needs to be supported by something else that shows us the boy’s character as being deliberate and searching. Because ‘scribed’ is that sort of word. Instead, it interrupts the aesthetic effect we’re otherwise experiencing, where the boy’s actions seem kind of lost and desultory.

      Also, you need to lose a beat from this line. In the other verses this line has only three stresses.

      I like the repeated phrase at the end of each stanza.

      I’m not sure about ‘mire’ – it refers to especially filthy mud. Did you want ‘mere’?

      You may want to consider the aesthetic effect of ‘sun.’ Without any qualification, this generally has a bright and hopeful effect. Is there something else he can see in the water instead, that will make us feel something more, and maybe learn something more about the boy?

      ‘Until his eyes grew sad’ – I would lose this line entirely. For one thing, it’s an extra line that the other verses don’t have. For another it doesn’t tell us anything we weren’t already assuming from the previous information. Let the reader’s imagination take the leap: “He gazed at his gaze gazing back from the shade/ but his face could not stay.”

      By the way, the fact that his own face disappears last of all is very affecting. I think you want to play that up.

      You might sand off a few words and phrases as well: “Where the waters lay shaded and still” – this line could FEEL more still, for instance, if you wrote, “Where water lay shaded and still.” ‘Waters’ suggests movement because of the ambivalent nature of the plural form of this word is due to its fluid nature. It is usually just water -it is only waters when different streams are joining one another or splitting off. Fortunately, losing the ‘s’ emphasises the ‘w’ alliteration (I LOVE that) and you just get this placide deep feeling.

      I would find a way to say what you have to say in the last line without using ‘neath. You know I like archaic words but this one seems out of place in this poem, where the words are all quite modern otherwise. One of the important ways you strengthen your aesthetic effect is by being consistent about things like that.

      You could change it into a question, for instance, and break free from that suffocating subject-verb-object pattern we fall into too often.

      “What lingers beneath the night’s veil?” or something like that.

      Finally, I would double-check your rhymes if I were you. Since you wrote something this formal, with meter and rhyme, you want to keep to the rules.

      I would like to see a revision; it’s already quite singable so I think it has potential to be really classic.

      Thanks again for participating! This is a different attempt from what we usually see here so you’ve enriched our little group.

      P.S. – Great title!

      Like

      • Okay so I read your comments, considered your suggestions and made some changes.

        Some comments on your comments:
        Weight of the world: fair dinkum. It is too used an image and needed a fresher angle.

        Waif and dot: I changed these too though I did not entirely agree with your arguments against them. Their point, as well as the birds eye view they offered was meant to emphasize the smallness of both in the great scheme of the cosmos. But since it seemed off-putting for the reasons you gave, revisited them, I think with better effect, keeping the emphasis on smallness but doubling down on water imagery, linking the boy more closely to it.

        Until his eyes… You are right, I had miscounted the lines of the section and added one too many.

        Waters: also agree. The plural suggests movement not stillness. I sanded off the “s”.

        Scribed: Ambivalent. I like the word, but I wanted to entertain your critique. I think the change made the line better, and it freed the word for use elsewhere…which I did. That said, I’m not entirely satisfied with it’s new location. It works logically but not entirely euphonically. It’s a scrappy word not a silky one, and I think a softer sounding word matches the environmental tone better. But I used it because I was coming up dry on workable alternatives. While there are no traditional metrical forms that the poem follows, succeeding stanzas follow the “accidental” form of the first. Actually I wondered if I should cut all the stanzas but the first and let it stand alone. So I don’t care as much about strict rhyme. It’s the internal dynamics of the line I find more interesting, assonances and alliterations.

        Mire: I changed this too because I had to change the rhyme for the line based an another change in line above it. Mire was fine because of it’s associations with uncleanness, not in spite of them…like seeing your face reflected in the still green of a septic pond. It speaks to the layered implications of where and how we see our image. But be that as it may, that line has changed…one verse gone, another in it’s place with a different meaning/emphasis.

        Final question: I did not take this suggestion, though it has merit. One variation I considered but did not implement this go around was “Nought lingers neath the night’s veil” But veil is not a clean rhyme with “still” so I modified the line.

        Neath: Though I changed the line, this word does not bother me. It’s alliteration worked well with “No” and “night”.

        To name or not to name: You first liked the not naming, then rethought it. Yes names can be potent, but given the structure and thrust of the poem, I saw no good place to include it, nor anything of substance gained by it. As defense for an unnamed subject I offer these lines once sung to great effect by Nat King Cole:
        “There was a boy
        A very strange enchanted boy
        They say he wandered very far, very far
        Over land and sea
        A little shy and sad of eye
        But very wise was he,,,”

        Title: Thanks. I was unsure of it.

        Thanks for your critique, many useful insights.

        rwh

        Like

        • Yes, I understand your considerations here and I see a lot of good changes. More below.

          As far as the name, I was suggesting that you replace ‘He’ with a name. Currently ‘He’ is in a weak position metrically.

          Of course we can find many songs where there’s a name or there’s not a name. I do suggest that you consider what his name would be if he had a name, and just try it both ways and see what the effect is.

          Like

    • Addendum: I know I was initially positive about not knowing the boy’s name. However there are a couple of reasons to reconsider.

      1.) Using a name in a song is a classic strategy to plunge the reader/hearer into the song’s world with a single word. It would need to be a very expressive, evocative name that tells us not what his name might be in real life but who he is in a more complete sense.

      2.) The rhythm works really well if you stress ‘He.’ However, since it’s the first word, and we often don’t stress ‘He,’ it’s hard to know what to do with it when you first start reading. That could make for a weaker beginning than need be.

      3.) Names are mystical creatures, and it doesn’t hurt to have one of those about.

      Like

    • So, briefly, I agree with Alana that the layered disappearances are a big strength of this poem, along with the sad juxtaposition of the iron with the water in this situation– the utter ineffectiveness of a strong and solid implement to make any kind of lasting impression on something so formless and changing.

      It makes me think about some of the things I’ve read about early childhood development– how a child has such a crucial need to be seen, heard, mirrored, to know he can make an impression and yet be contained.

      This child’s experience of nature and the nature of his play with the nail and water seem to express the absence of those things in his life, without it being directly stated. It’s sad and effectively conveyed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your read and critique. This poem occupies a lot of the same territory as Shelly’s Ozymandias http://www.online-literature.com/shelley_percy/672/. It grew from the saying “Though we write our name with a pen of iron, we scribe it on tablets of water.” Basically life is ephemeral, and living like it’s not is a delusion. Nothing of us will remain given enough time. The world will keep spinning as if we had never been, just like uncounted billions before us. And if this is how it is with us, how should we then live? All our dreams of legacy, all our monuments to our achievements are just our “rage” against the dying of the light. It is our fear of death carved in stone, shaped in precious metals and printed in books.

        In my opinion this is one of the reasons the Orthodox faith claims so powerful a place in our heart, next to it’s constant refrain of “Lord have mercy” is it’s antiphonal cry of “Remember me O Lord in Thy Kingdom” The legacy we cannot accrue of ourselves, the overcoming of the vanity and banality of death is our hope for “Memory Eternal”.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I vote for this version over the second, where “sins of a world” changes the tone–although in both versions I wonder about the difference between “a world” and “the world” (as I carelessly misread the line the first time). Also, while “scribed the night’s quill” fits better with the iron pen theme, it calls attention to itself and thus lessens its impact (as does “neath” however) in a way the that the rest of the poem, formal as it is, does not. It s not sufficient that the ending of a poem be consistent with its dominant imagery; it should be strong and lasting. “Night’s veil” effectively brings to resolution the melancholy that is building throughout the poem, specifically in phrases like “weight of a world,” “not a trace” (repeated but made more personal), and “eyes grew sad,” By way of imagery, a veil just works better emotionally than a quill.

      P.S. I kept repeating the line “He gazed at his gaze gazing back from the shade.” Wonderful! I had to pause between “gaze” and “gazing” and that really emphasized for me the slight change in meaning. It’s one thing to gaze at someone else, or at a scene–which is a kind of unreflecting, passive mental behavion– but to find a blurry self looking back with curiosity (implied, I think, in the “-ing” form of the word) must raise one’s level of thought, and perhaps in this case generate not only sadness (as in the next line) but also a bit of fear, or at least confusion about his place in the world.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not to get between Robert and “Someone” but I agree that Night’s Veil is in itself more poetic. I was telling Josh that sometimes a tweak is better than a total rewrite of a line, because with a total rewrite you often lose the original poetic impulse. ‘A world’ vs. ‘the world’ – good point, we want to be conscious of these things. “Sins of a world” does change the tone – and it may be an over-correct, but I think it is generally in the right direction. It need not be ‘sins’ specifically, but if the water is dark and swirling, then ‘weight’ doesn’t explain the darkness while ‘sin’ does. I do understand the sensitivity to the word. ‘Grief’ perhaps would do as well, or some other one-syllable word.

        OK now I’ll get out of the way.

        Like

  4. OFF BIILOXI

    Between the Gulf of Mexico and protected shipping lanes
    There is a spiteful island. Well, it is proud. Too proud to languish
    From the insults of wordy cloud-borne winds
    and tides that caress as they seduce these sands.

    Horn Island still stands
    alone, holds together, warms itself in its own seagrass arms
    And the charms in the bones of the bleached trees
    washed up here in storms and wild water-wilderness hours, dark hours, of nowhere seas.

    The beach is literally littered with these
    And the bird tracks and the holes in the snow-like sand
    The scavenging terns made as they hunted for ghost crabs to eat
    While drugged night nudged and nestled the shore.

    Here time begins once more its slow drift from speech.
    There are no wars here; long hours restore sense; no screech
    of night owl news men, each dogged and impersonal as waves that keep on
    beating against nothing
    That’s real, or keeps shifting, as the shape of this island does

    And does and does again.

    Now slow water slaps and curls in the evening shallows.
    Graciously a dance of slight spray starts,
    Greeted by clap clappings and, suddenly, thousands of stars beneath us:
    The sea’s rare show of phosphorescent organisms. Angel visions,
    Heavenly things living in salt sea currents.
    Like pilgrims, or doomed men just released from our private prisons,
    We praise life’s beauty burning on the shore.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The birds are terns, of course, not Turns.

      P. S., Thanks, Leah, for the inspiration. Your reference to Lake Pontchartrain reminded me of an experience from way back. All week I worried because I couldn’t think of a water subject (not knowing yet about “watery thoughts”). I was ready to give up. But a sailing adventure with my dad years ago popped back into mind when I read your poem. The connection probably won’t seem clear, but memories are jogged by the slightest things. And so it was fun to try to make a new poem out of an old one.

      Like

        • No, I’m landlocked. We would trailer my dad’s 25′ Venture south from Missouri down to Mississippi and then east along the coast to Davis Bayou where we could buy supplies, back the trailer down the ramp, and head out into Mississippi Sound for a week of sailing in and out of the barrier islands. Biloxi was somewhere nearby. I always liked the name

          Like

        • Yes, please change.

          Your other questions about the first stanza and about individuals words are right on (e.g., “literally littered” – what hoot! And who ever heard of “wordyc winds? I was thinking about wind noise and maybe some imagined anger contained there or resulting from its. But. . . ) I was up late rushing to get something together, and as often happens to me the inner editor fell asleep while the gamer went all wordy like those winds. Fortunately I had some previously written images to work with, but the really exciting part fir me was the new ones that appeared. It was an odd kind of rush. Exciting at the time, though as I look at it now, maybe not quite as much. I really appreciate your and Leah’s careful readings and pinpoint comments. It’s a treat to have conversations like these. I intend to join in very soon. Slow reader here. And not always confident in my opinions/judgments. So I often end up being tentative, cautious, not wanting to misread, offend, or overpraise (is that possible? I tend to like the work of persons I have even a small connection with. Blog-reading, like being a student or teacher, tends to promote connections.)

          OK, Albert, why don’t you just shut up and read the poems. Then you can talk some more about something besides yourself. Right. Good thought, Albert.

          Like

          • Hah, yes it is possible to overpraise. No one wants that. 🙂

            I do see possibilities in the wordy clouds… it would just need to be clarified I think.

            As far as taking your time… well, take your time. 🙂 We don’t mind the party going on for a few days.

            And I value all your thoughts so don’t be shy.

            Like

            • Along the lines of taking time, as of the next half hour I’ll be away for a couple days and I’m not sure how much internet time I’ll get, so if I suddenly stop responding for a little while that’s why. 🙂

              Albert, I think if someone sincerely likes poetry and has no wish to offend, simply being genuine about one’s impressions in the comments is the best thing. And if one of us misreads or has poor judgement in some area, some others may come to our aid with a kindly correction, but it can’t happen if we don’t speak up. 🙂

              I feel like offering helpful critiques and suggestions is something I don’t have the knack for, or rather a skill I haven’t developed, so for the most part I focus on articulating the things I like, unless an idea for a genuine improvement occurs to me, which it occasionally does.

              Anyway, just some thoughts.

              Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I like this! I think of all our efforts so far, this comes closest to Lanier style musicality, particularly the last two lines of the second stanza, in my opinion. That could almost be him writing! I think the way you’ve timed the rhyming is effective, too; it meanders and repeats in a way that is satisfying but not predictable.

      The second and last stanzas are my favorite. “Now slow water slaps and curls in the evening shallows”- to borrow from Alana’s comment to me, that sounds like what it means and leads well into the winding down of the end, also the last two lines are solid. Bringing together two different types that “praise life’s beauty on the burning shore” when they see it, the pilgrims and the doomed men released from their private prisons, gives added force to association, as the motivations combine in one’s mind. Very nice!

      Well, I might come back with an attempt at a more detailed and intelligent comment later, but wanted to say this at least for now as I just read it.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Albert, what a gift this poem is. We praise life’s beauty burning on the shore… by the end of this poem, we do indeed.

      I believe that admiration is the primitive core of aesthetic experience. And praise, the primitive core of the moral experience. But praise is admiration expressed. So, to admire and praise what is good – this is True Man. That’s why I love this line, and this poem. It’s a funny thing about those primitive cores, that maturity brings one back around to them in a form fulfilled and deeply realized. I’m so glad to have read this poem.

      What I specially like:

      How we are delivered, step by careful step, in “it’s own seagrass arms.”

      “washed up here in storms and wild water-wilderness hours, dark hours, of nowhere seas.”

      This is a great example of a line that is very wordy, without getting clogged by the wordiness. We’re led through the words, each building on the other, but the action remains clear. Perhaps it is the single verb ruling the whole action that helps; and perhaps it is that you have repeated ‘hours’ once its modifiers became more than two.

      And “the charms in the bones of bleached trees” – I want to pronounce ‘bleached’ as two syllables, just as a compliment to the line. 🙂 It’s one of those perfect figurative lines where you know exactly what is being described and yet you’re led to conceptualize it in a new way. This is the transcending action that we love so much in poetic speech. I want to try this more.

      “While drugged night nudged and nestled the shore.”

      Not what I normally think of night as doing, but I totally see it. Revelatory, and surprisingly good use of the word ‘drugged.’

      “suddenly, thousands of stars beneath us:
      The sea’s rare show of phosphorescent organisms. Angel visions,
      Heavenly things living in salt sea currents.”

      This was a rare, clear, and divine vision for me. Thank you.

      Suggestions: change “from the insults” to “under the insults”?

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not sure how the clouds are wordy? Does it perhaps sound as if they are speaking or perhaps muttering; or does it look as if there is writing in the clouds because they are so frittered?

      Although I am intrigued by how this idea shows up again later – the beach is littered “literally” and time drifts “from speech” – so there’s this exploration of the relationship between words and nature.

      Also, are the tides still insulting as they caress and seduce? If so, perhaps caress is too positive a word? But… then I wonder, if the tides really are caressing the sands, then how is the island too proud to languish from/under them? It would seem that does suffer the tides in some sense.

      So I think the first stanza needs a little clarification, although we’re still getting the gist.

      I don’t see the same problem at all in the following stanzas, which are quite clear.

      I want to make a separate comment to inventory the musical effects, which are plenteous. I agree with Leah, this is the closest to Lanier’s style.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ok, here’s a revision based upon Alana’s suggestions. We’ll see how this works. I tried for less shop worn images and tightened the rhymes…but I didn’t lose all my more interesting words…shifted a little instead.

      Unlingering (version 2)

      He sat down at the edge of a pond
      A nail clutched tight in his hand
      A drip of a boy by a drop of a pond
      And the sins of a world
      Through the dark water swirled
      And left not a trace where they ran
      And left not a trace where they ran

      He sat down at the edge of a pond
      Laid his name with a pen made of steel
      On water that welcomed the furrowing nail
      Though he wrote it with care
      Not a trace lingered there
      But his face and the sun’s burning wheel
      But his face and the sun’s burning wheel

      He sat down at the edge of a pond
      Where the waters lay shaded and still.
      He gazed at his gaze gazing back from the shade
      His face could not stay
      Past the end of the day
      “No lingering,” scribed the night’s quill
      “No lingering,” scribed the night’s quill

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think that’s a lot better.

        ‘Drip’ and ‘drop’; clever, though they feel a bit frivolous.

        The sins swirling through the dark water; makes a lot more sense.

        I don’t know if I mentioned it, but all clutches are tight; ‘tight’ is redundant.

        The line ending in ‘steel’ still has too many stresses; regardless of the fact that this is a nonce form, it is still metrical (and more or less has a rhyme scheme.)

        HOWEVER

        The two lines beginning in “Laid his name…” read beautifully now. I like the enjambment. It’s fluid; we’re getting a touch of that “sounds like what it represents” stuff here.

        “Sun’s burning wheel” – ah. Nicely done. The wheel rolls, so more impermanence. It burns so it’s not the cheery sun of a child’s drawing. Good save.

        “Past the end of the day” – a more advanced consideration you may want to take here is that ‘past’ is a long syllable, and you have it in an unstressed position.

        How about something like,

        His face could not stay
        At the ending of day

        or

        His face fled away
        With the flight of the day

        Really there are lots more possibilities.

        “No lingering” scribed the night’s quill

        Are you happy with this line? Or does it perhaps feel a bit cramped?

        Liked by 1 person

        • No, not satisfied with the last line but could not keep it consistent with the other verses and find words that actually worked the way I needed them too. Scribed has the right meaning but is not sufficiently euphonic. This will have to be something that comes to me…not going to be forced it or discovered easily.

          Liked by 1 person

    • About those musical effects:

      First this is a really good example of that “rhythmic but not metric” thing that we all wanted to go for. I’m feeling the surge but it’s not timed. Nice effect.

      “And the charms in the bones of the beached tree” – sudden ascent into meter, and then falls off again – quite charming!

      The occasional rhymes – not often enough that we start expecting them, often enough that they please the ear every time.

      The dying off of sound with “does and does and does again…”

      then silence

      followed by the gentle whispery awakening

      “Now slow water slaps and curls in the evening shadows…”

      All those w’s and s’s!

      The build through the next two lines

      (Clap clapping – perfect moment to stop narrating and submerge in the action a moment, unobtrusively)

      until “suddenly”

      and the light show

      (Love the timing)

      And then the slow burn and the praise.

      So much to learn from here!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Terror of the tides
    Clearer than crystal
    You are the greatest of your brothers
    None of whom are humble.

    Doom of iron ships
    Locked Gate of the North
    You deliver not your dead
    Thou weeping widows gaze deepest into your heart

    Behold the colors of grey
    You cannot imagine
    In his apocalyptic winter storms
    Approach if you dare.

    “I have swam you
    And survived.”
    “I was but sleeping
    And you but touched my colden shore.”

    “I have ridden you calm
    And seen your riddling cliffs.”
    “On them is writ the Doom of Man.
    I permit fools to read.”

    I am fathomless
    I am Greatness
    I have no peer among my peers
    I am Superior!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, a sudden blast from the North! This was bracing and moving. Genuinely poetic.

      What I like: the primitive, at times almost savage, diction fits well the subject matter.

      I think you could even heighten that a bit, thus:

      Tide’s terror
      Crystal clear

      Or

      Terror of tides
      Clear as crystal

      (‘Clearer than crystal’ seems unlikely; it’s not meant to be an exact statement but a simile.)

      (‘None’ is an old contraction of ‘no one’, so the verb needs to be singular: ‘is’, not ‘are’)

      You might also consider a different comparison than “crystal” which is the obvious one, though it never fails to be accurate.

      I love the reference to iron ships. However, you use ‘doom’ to great effect later in the poem, so you may want to find a different word here. For instance,’ruin’ or ‘bane.’

      Locked Gate of the North – perfect

      You deliver not your dead – excellent literary allusion and very apt to the present context

      I think you want ‘though’ rather than ‘thou’.

      Now, this line about widows lacks some consistency. Widows cannot weep and gaze at the same time. Find the better verb and give us a more resonant picture.

      ‘Deepest’ is a comparison word, but there is no implied or explicit comparison going on. A new expression is needed I think.

      “swam” is past tense: you want “have swum” as swum is the form for use with the perfect tenses (have)

      ‘but’ is fine before ‘touched, but you don’t want it before ‘sleeping’ also. It works just fine as, “I was sleeping/you but touched my colden shore

      Colden – nice invented word

      LOVE ‘riddling cliffs’ and

      “On them is writ the Doom of Man/I permit fools to read”

      The last stanza is good also, a fine summing-up. “I am Greatness” adds nothing; you can do better there. The final line is assertive enough without the exclamation point; I would lose it.

      Finally,

      I think you might want to consider making it more consistent who is talking to whom. It starts out with man addressing the lake; then man adresses man about the lake; then the lake and the man have a dialogue, then the lake boasts in soliloquy. The speaker does not need to be the same throughout, but I think you could be more conscious of your effect here.

      Good work, and thanks so much for participating!

      Like

      • First Attempt:

        Terror of the tides
        Clearer than crystal
        You are the greatest of your brothers
        None of whom are humble.

        Doom of iron ships
        Locked Gate of the North
        You deliver not your dead
        Thou weeping widows gaze deepest into your heart

        Behold the colors of grey
        You cannot imagine
        In his apocalyptic winter storms
        Approach if you dare.

        “I have swam you
        And survived.”
        “I was but sleeping
        And you but touched my colden shore.”

        “I have ridden you calm
        And seen your riddling cliffs.”
        “On them is writ the Doom of Man.
        I permit fools to read.”

        I am fathomless
        I am Greatness
        I have no peer among my peers
        I am Superior!

        Second Attempt:

        Terror of the tides
        Clear as crystal
        You are the greatest of your brothers
        None of whom is humble.

        Doom of iron ships
        Locked Gate of the North
        You deliver not your dead
        Though widows may drink of you and live.

        “Behold the colors of grey
        You cannot imagine
        In my apocalyptic winter storms
        Approach if you dare.”

        “I have swum you
        And survived.”
        “I was merely sleeping
        And you but touched my colden shore.”

        “I have ridden you calm
        And seen your riddling cliffs.”
        “On them is writ the Doom of Man.
        I permit fools to read.”

        “I am fathomless
        I am reckonless
        I have no peer among my peers
        I am Superior!”

        Superior is unlike any other body of water I have ever experienced. I wrote the truth about it, and didn’t touch the depths. I have swam in its icy claws; I will never forget it. The currents are strong, and pull one out to sea. It is like the Sea of Galilee in that storms come suddenly and catastrophically. One recalls the Edmund Fitzgerald; I have been to Whitefish Point, where the wreckage of that ship is laid as a word to the wise. Superior has great cliffs, like Dover, that fall sheer to the depths, and they are so queerly shaped that they are called (stupidly) the “pictured rocks”. The land there has been confiscated by the Government and designated as a national park, though there are so few inhabitants that preservation is probably needless. The water is clear: one can see 20 feet down or better from the surface, and it is quite drinkable, unlike its brothers Erie and Michigan. Superior has the largest surface area of any lake (if you can call it that) on the planet, and is second only to Irkutsk in depth. It forms the northern border between Michigan, Wisconsin, and Canada. Snowfall in the winter depends on location, but is around 200 inches. Superior is an inland Sea; if you visit, you will understand.

        This was my inspiration for the poem, and I wrote it in about 15 minutes. Having grown up in Michigan, the Great Lakes formed the foundation for my imagination, especially in regard to the natural world. They not only created the borders of the States, but also of Nations. Michigan is composed of two peninsulas by the Lakes, and there is a sense of moderate isolation as a result. The weather in that state is highly arbitrary and is created by the Lakes.

        As to the poem, I have tried to accommodate the critiques as best I can, but some things are not changing. “Terror of the Tides” is a phrase I really like, as the first word of the poem is Terror. That is and was my first impression of Superior and the impression I would impart to others. Doom is used 2x, and I can’t find another word so packed with meaning as that one that would say what I am attempting to say. The “!” at the end indicates Superior ending the dialogue with a roar appropriate to his nature. A “.” makes him appear smug, while placing no punctuation at all looks silly and undefined.

        That being said, I fixed all the other problems (I hope) so that perhaps the above lack of changes will not seem as obnoxious. I corrected the speaker issue and eliminated the Man-to-Man voice, fixed the crystal simile, and rewrote the fourth line of the 2nd stanza. The 3rd stanza I revised to be the voice of Superior. The 5th stanza has “swam” changed to “swum” and the 1st “but” to “merely”. In the 6th I changed “greatness” to “reckonless”.

        Liked by 1 person

        • A lot of improvements, Josh. I liked the image of the widows gazing down into the depths but not being able to get back the dead; I wish that back. Other than that all good changes. ‘Reckonless’ is good.

          Like

        • Good resolution for the speaker dilemma.

          The repetition of the ‘but’ and ‘merely’ idea still sits heavy on my ear.

          I slept;
          you but touched…

          One of the things you learn after a while is how great a weight each word has in a poem – unlike everyday speech or even a novel.

          Like

        • And finally, the exclamation point. I was not suggesting that you follow me into the territory of no punctuation.

          However, ‘I am Superior’ is strong. Anyone who said that of himself and wasn’t entitled to would be an arrogant prick. It is the reflection that the speaker is entitled to the word that creates the aesthetic effect here.

          So no, you do not need the exclamation point for extra emphasis. It’s redundant.

          Like

  6. Like spume from waves inwrought to their inclining,
    A snowflake spins above the Arctic sphere, aligning
    Flight to wind: an albatross above a sea
    Of undefiled world. Elaborately
    Woven, while the water slips beneath the frozen
    Water, snowflakes spin and glitter: thousand,
    Thousand flutter, for that instant when spume hangs above a wave.
    Snowflakes descend like breadcrumbs in a nave
    Columned by indecipherable forms immaculately
    Clean, washed in the instability that gave them birth between
    Erupting knees – breaking the water of the earth, the icebergs
    Float superbly imperturbable. What do icebergs
    Mean? – We stammer over them, until they spell
    A word lost in a garden and confused at Babel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How gorgeous. Thank you for participating, Heidi. I can’t wait to re-read this and dig into it more. Further comments to follow – in the daytime when I’m fully awake.

      P.S. Love those erupting knees!

      Like

    • The one line (9, I think, counting on my tiny phone) should be instead ‘Columned by forms immaculately clean /’ then the break: no ‘indecipherable’.

      Like

    • (Like so — & more changes incorporated in homage to Lanier — I especially liked the impact of his one word line ‘Free’ and tried to echo it in my own way. I think my effort was inspired in various ways by each poem posted previously, too, though.)

      Like spume from waves inwrought to their inclining,
      A snowflake spins above the Arctic sphere, aligning
      Flight to wind: an albatross above an undefiled sea.
      Elaborately free
      While water slips beneath the frozen
      Water, snowflakes spin and shimmer: thousand,
      Thousand, for that instant when spume hangs above a wave,
      When breath hangs above a man. Then they descend, like breadcrumbs in a nave
      Columned by forms immaculately clean,
      Washed in the element that gave them birth between
      Erupting knees – breaking the water of the earth, the icebergs
      Float superbly imperturbable. What do icebergs
      Mean? – We stammer over them, until they spell
      A word lost in a garden and confused at Babel.

      There’s more I wish I could put in: the wingspan of an albotross that seems to form a cross with its body (isn’t it beautiful how every bird’s flight stretches in that shape) — the way the snowflakes are intricately frozen, falling freeform while the ice below is trapped. Etc.

      Like

      • So here I am – at last – raising a cup o’ kindness yet and reading your poem aloud over and over. It’s been so long! But I still have those copies of your poems you sent me, what was it, 8 years ago now? And I re-read them from time to time. And lust, a little, to publish them. I’m so glad to see something new from you.

        Hm, Albert and Robert won’t think 8 years a long time but so much has changed it seems like half a lifetime to me.

        I think you did bring away something from Lanier here. You’re threading us through, well not a needle’s eye, but perhaps a very close arctic passage. I went through an arctic-explorers phase about a dozen years ago – read all sorts of stuff – oh, fascinating, gorgeous stuff. I recommend Andrea Barrett’s novel “The Voyage of the Narwhal” to anyone who hasn’t read it.

        What I like: How you carve the waves, the way they are carved, with “inwrought to their inclining”

        I see what you did with the short ‘elaborately free’ line there. I’ve taken note of the effect – a sudden short line. Like that rest-station by the Way in Pilgrim’s Progress. It eases the mind, and then one begins the journey again. The line itself is a pleasure to speak, so that ‘elaborately’ means more than ‘complicated’ – you hear the turns and tumbles that can’t be recorded.

        The water slipping beneath the frozen water – that pictures delights the light-hungry eyes. Although I may be importing the light a little from my arctic reading. Could you perhaps illuminate these forms a bit?

        The return of the spume and its thousand thousand “snowflakes” – this is great. I was really skeptical at first of how a snowflake is like spume – in the first line – but this brings it back around and I’m convinced, and glad to be so!

        The similes, (like breath, like breadcrumbs) – the piling up of them increases affect and leads into

        “Columned by forms immaculately clean,
        Washed in the element that gave them birth between
        Erupting knees…”

        The best lines in the poem, placed fortunately at the climax. Unforgettable.

        I was going to suggest replacing ‘imperturbable’ but then the poem confesses to stammering, and explains why –

        “What do icebergs
        Mean? – We stammer over them…”

        and oh that Bright Blot – the imperfectly rhymed ‘spell’ and ‘Babel’.

        After cataloging these I do have two – questions more than suggestions. You’ve explained that when you see the albatross you see a cross, but that doesn’t get into the poem. So what we have is this bird that is often associated with misfortune in literature. For me this darkened the reading experience a bit while I was in that spot. I’m not sure that bringing in the cross even fits the theme here. And I had a hard time picturing a likeness between a snowflake and an albatross. I wonder if there is a way to work out these difficulties.

        I do suggest changing ‘sphere.’ From the height of a snowflake you would be able to see the curvature perhaps, but not the whole globe. I think it takes us out of our viewpoint too much. Maybe you want a geometric term here?

        Thanks again for joining in!

        Like

        • This is so very helpful, Alana, thank you! Poetry seems to have a special capacity for suggestiveness, where the symbols individually and collectively play off one another other beyond our conscious depth. I get bogged down in it and editing is often for me working towards simplicity :-). I don’t necessarily think the associations with the albotross totally inapt but you are right that it is a complication where I could probably work out the spume more simply — a complication of an idea that isn’t worked through in the poem. I had previously tried to take out that sphere and given up, but tried again :-). Third version below incorporating your suggestions and I think it is probably the best of these.

          If you author a book of poetry I will buy it! Poetry will almost always draw me out of the woodwork. I am probably clumsy at toasting (like most things) but cup of kindness raised back. 🙂

          Oh, I also ape Lanier’s ‘free’ without any variation here. And I substituted out a few other things — I loved the ‘thousand’ shimmering of undersea things in the poem above and though imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and I couldn’t help wanting to write about a shimmering of oversea things) I wasn’t sure about amplifying/employing that here.

          Does this clarify ‘water slips beneath the frozen water’ a little better? (Just of how the ocean is moving under much of that ice crust?) Thanks for the book suggestion! I have this 20 minute nature special I watch over and over again . ..

          ‘Written in Water’
          John 3:5

          Like spume of waves inwrought to their inclining,
          Snow spins above the Arctic — latticed wisps aligning
          Flight to wind, feathers of ocean. Elaborately
          Free
          While water slips beneath the frozen
          Water, snowflakes spin
          And shimmer: undefiled sand
          Along that instant when spume hangs above a wave,
          When breath hangs above a man. And they descend like breadcrumbs in a nave
          Of towering, immaculately clean,
          Eccentric forms, washed in the element of birth between
          Erupting knees. Breaking the water of the earth, the icebergs
          Float superbly imperturbable. What do icebergs
          Mean? – We stammer over them, until they spell
          A word lost in a garden and confused at Babel.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Heidi, our school day is just starting so I can’t give this the attention it deserves right now, but I do want to clarify that I completely understood what you originally meant about the water beneath the frozen water. I thought it was great. My request for illumination was literal, not figurative – you might add a little light to the poem… or you might not. My understanding is that the abundance of light is one great feature of the arctic landscape. However if you tend to treat everything symbolically then that might be a bigger and more complicated suggestion than I realized.

            Like

            • I wasn’t sure I had understood that part correctly 🙂 That is a beautiful suggestion. If I can figure out how to add light in I will (one of the variations of ‘aligning / Flight to wind’ was ‘aligning / Light to wind’). I’m sure you’re a very engaging teacher, Alana.

              PS. Something is due out from a small poetry press before April (won’t be under my native name and it wasn’t my idea: I wouldn’t have chosen to do this now, but increasingly I wouldn’t choose to do it ever. I draw comfort from something Lewis said about how we aren’t to judge our own work. Simply to work hard with the opportunities we have.)

              Like

          • Hi Heidi, I’ve been following your drafts. The poem keeps getting tighter (a good thing, in most cases, and very good here) without losing the vivid images of water in its different forms. It wasn’t until I saw “John 3:5“ that I began to understand how the middle section of the poem, which begins” when breath hangs above. . . ” and concludes with” Erupting knees” – – what a powerful image!– might be using that same element, water, in a complex theological metaphor.

            I was wondering what breadcrumbs were doing floating down in church, and who or what the Eccentric forms were. Now I’m starting to think of manna, the bread gifts for liturgy, and icons, or statues?, of saints. I hope I’m not adding things that I want to be there because of the clue in the title.

            What adds to the complexity for me is the “breaking the water of the earth” image. It is the icebergs that are being born too. And they “mean” something. Something cold and hard that once was light and airy, or clean and pure in its most “natural,” i.e. original, form (love, I want to say–or truth–changed that way by human choice).

            I like this poem so much, but I pray I haven’t altered it’s meaning. I should not be liking what I’d like to be there instead of what you intend to be there.

            On the other hand, I can like the whole thing for its depiction of the Arctic and for the delightful sound combinations that are there, no question. I won’t list them, but I assure you I can hear and enjoy them.

            Oh well, I will quote one : “superbly imperturbable” – – and it says something very true too! – about icebergs, I mean. (Maybe even about their meaning, in an ironic way?)

            Like

            • That’s very kind, Albert. Clearly some parts of your poem inspired some aspects of mine.

              Saints yes, all those who receive the word of Christ and have the Spirit. (I’m a reformed gal so not so much icons or statues: but certainly the connection with manna, the bread of life, the broken body). Originally I was hoping to express something, if one reads beyond the imagery, of how the Bread of life comes down from heaven and makes it possible for humans to be washed, pure again, born of water, sanctified: I can’t help seeing glimpses of this awing possibility in that pristine strangeness. I’m not sure the concept is expressed very exactly (and I think art is liable to interpretation within various frameworks — I get something from the Agememnon trilogy that an atheist doesn’t) but you’ve been true to its deepest sense and that makes me very glad. Thank you. Also for your poem above, which I copied into a journal to reread (with your name). I especially love the rhythms and the way you employ the sounds to work with them — as
              ‘And the charms in the bones of the bleached trees
              washed up here in storms and wild water-wilderness hours, dark hours, of nowhere seas.

              The beach is literally littered with these
              And the bird tracks and the holes in the snow-like sand . . .’ Also that line especially about the slow drift of time from speech. It’s poetry that communicates its atmosphere and speaks significantly in that way as well as the more simple meaning of the words.

              Liked by 1 person

          • I’m back! So, I’ve been comparing this most recent version with the others.

            I think most of the changes help rather than hurt. Here’s the one thing I wonder about:

            the difference between

            Flight to wind, feathers of ocean. Elaborately
            Free

            and (the possible line)

            Flight to wind, feathers of ocean,
            Elaborately free

            A couple of concerns:

            1) The loss of your rhyme scheme. In the original line you had ‘sea’ rather than ocean, which rhymed with ‘free.’ I do wish that back.

            So that it could-might become:

            Flight to wind, feathers of sea,
            elaborately free.

            Perhaps you heard this as too sing-songy?

            2)Now given that suggestion, your experiment with the single syllable line: ‘free’ has to be considered. My feeling is that when you think about Lanier’s poetry in musical terms, that single-syllable line is like a long single-note musical phrase. And in a good symphony, as I’m sure you know, that kind of thing is something you build up to, a sort of triumph of simplicity that only sounds right as a contrast to previous complexity and length. (I hear The Marshes of Glynn as sounding a lot like Sibelius’ Swan Symphony – the 7th, isn’t it?) Basically what I am saying is that Lanier earned that line. I don’t think it has a similar effect in a shorter poem, especially near the beginning.

            So what I am suggesting is that in the context of your poem, ‘elaborately free’ really is the equivalent (though not exactly the same) as Lanier’s line. And as I mentioned before, the way the syllables follow each other, the music of ‘elaborately free’ when you don’t have to stop between the two words, is delightful.

            3)Putting these two points together, I suggest that A) you use the original ‘sea’ rather than ocean, for the rhyme’s sake, and that B) You hold ‘elaborately free’ together for the music’s sake AND the rhyme’s sake, and finally C) that you perhaps lengthen the ‘feathers of sea’ phrase a bit to emphasize the shortness of ‘elaborately free.’


            So, you’re publishing? Well, I of course am glad to hear that your work will be available for me to read, but I’m sorry that it’s happening before you want it to. Poetry is, among other things, the transformation of the exquisitely personal into something public, and to witness a poet co-erced to undergo that transformation is, for me, a painful sight, a sort of violation, even. The world is full of painful sights, but among them ranks solidly the sight of anyone arrogating the disposal of delicate things, the right to which originates with authorship rather than with rank.

            I do think your work is good. And I think it can be helpful to have interested readers reflecting back to you the light that shines on them in your work. To learn what we are capable of, how we measure against others, our natural field of labor, what we can strive for, and the best direction for striving, these are all benefits The Academy – or whatever substitute we find. So far, I definitely agree with Lewis. And for that reason and others, I hope you stick around.

            Like

            • I love the thought you put into these things: it’s very helpful and very kind of you to share it. Most people I know aren’t that deeply interested in poetry and I admire the poetic values (musicality, comprehensibility, significance) that make the poems here lovely. Ruben didn’t like the freestanding ‘free’ either. He let it pass as a specific tribute to a specific poem :-). The one syllable ‘free’ would rhyme with ‘elaborately’ if I put that at the end of the line? — but I see your point about building up to that sort of thing musically. I think it struck Ruben’s musical ear the same way. I really like the phrase ‘feathers of ocean’ for whatever reason . . . Probably because ocean is one of those words I overuse :-). I will have to think about it and find some way around these dilemmas. ‘Sea’ doesn’t suggest the same depth or force to me somehow?

              It’s more that I was approached rather than approaching, than co-ercion. I signed realising that those misgivings will probably not diminish and only increase (that’s been their tendency) and trusting to providence. We can hope it won’t be a disaster, and I pray so! I don’t expect it will be a big deal, gratefully. I may make enough in royalties to purchase a slice of cheesecake :-). Perhaps God will put it in the hands of a few people to whom it will have something of value to say, even in a small voice — that is what I hope for it. Do you find this tendency to believe that words in print have more lasting value than the words we say daily? I struggle with that. Book-words will perish too eventually, but the ones we say to another (which seem to slip away unrecorded) find an eternal home. Thanks again for inspiring and helping me write this – I will keep working at it (and look forward to more challenges).

              Like

            • Well, I’m glad you’re able to be sanguine about publishing, even if it wasn’t your idea.

              As far as ocean vs. sea, I do get it. “Feathers of ocean” has the music and it creates an effect of openness and softness, while ‘feathers of sea’ is sibilant, which you may not want.

              Besides that the semantic range is a bit different. ‘Ocean’ seems to be substance, while ‘sea’ seems to indicate identity.

              As far as ‘elaborately’ rhyming – well, not really. I mean, it depends how you pronounce it. Rhymes, as I’m sure you know, are judged from the last stressed syllable. I hear that as ‘lab’ rather than ‘ly.’ Maybe you are saying it a bit differently, where ‘ly’ bears a secondary stress. Here’s what I think: that this could work in a metered poem, where the meter itself is coaching our pronounciationg by creating expectations about stresses. But in a free-rhythm poem like this, you tend to pronounce things like you would in conversation.

              ‘spell’ and ‘Babel’ are not properly rhymed either, according to this rule, but I think it is one of those instances of rule-breaking that is lovely and effective. ‘ly’, being a mere suffix, I don’t think is deserving of such consideration.

              May I suggest that you either find a different word altogether, or that you create a word-formula that brings ‘sea’ closer to ‘ocean’?

              As for instance, “feathers of the winged sea”? I don’t mean that you should use that very formula, but just showing you what I mean by formula.

              Here we are all teachers to one another, it’s not a hierarchical thing. I hope I’m helpful, but I’m helped even more. It’s just that as the blog owner, I do play hostess. And I get a big kick out of digging in and making myself think about how these things work.

              I think those of us who have been around for a while are starting to be allusive of one another’s poetry, and to anticipate one another’s critical approaches.

              Like

  7. Third Attempt

    Terror of the tides
    Clear as crystal
    You are the greatest of your brothers
    None of whom is humble.

    Doom of iron ships
    Locked Gate of the North
    You deliver not your dead
    Though I gaze over twenty feet into your heart.

    “Behold the colors of grey
    You cannot imagine
    In my apocalyptic winter storms
    Approach if you dare.”

    “I have swum you
    And survived.”
    “I was merely sleeping
    And you but touched my colden shore.”

    “I have ridden you calm
    And seen your riddling cliffs.”
    “On them is writ the Doom of Man.
    I permit fools to read.”

    “I am fathomless
    I am reckonless
    I have no peer among my peers
    I am Superior.”

    Like

    • Josh, I got chills with this version. It seems perfect to me, and a striking work from a very, very beginning poet such as yourself.

      My last niggling suggestion: lose the quotation marks between “fools to read” and “I am fathomless” – it’s still the same speaker.

      You may not need a title. Sometimes poems are just referred to as Untitled or “an untitled poem.”

      In case some of our other readers didn’t notice it, you have an interesting nonce form here. I don’t know how consciously it was done – you start out with two stresses per line, three on the long line, and you end with one stress per line, two on the long one. But in the middle your lines have more stresses. It almost makes a mountain or iceberg shape. At any rate it’s both sharp and fluid, and comes to a sharp point at the end.

      Like

    • My favorite sounds:

      “None of whom is humble” (effective reversal of normal speech rhythm emphasizes the first word and allows the last word to die out quietly–in keeping with its meaning, which we are reminded of by the contrast with its “feminine rhyming” * opposite two lines above)
      “Locked Gate of the North” (side by side heavy stressed single syllable words at the beginning, along with the clicking sound at the end of the first one and the “g” and “t” sounds of the second–these echo what the image describes. Nice!)
      the last two lines – no need to explain, right?

      Best images:
      1. “the colors of grey / you cannot imagine” (a surprising challenge, both to the speaker and to the reader; arouses both curiosity and maybe a bit of apprehension)
      2. “seen your riddling cliffs” (another surprise, but even more challenging–suggests that maybe the speaker is not as brave as he would like to think; after all he has only “seen” the cliffs, not solved them)

      Opinion: I think it will benefit from a title.

      Like

      • Forgot to add * explanation: “rhyme that matches two or more syllables, usually at the end of respective lines, in which the final syllable or syllables are unstressed. It is also commonly known as double rhyme.” also “relatively rare in English poetry and usually appears as a special effect” (wiki)

        Note to self: to avoid micro-aggressing, probably better to use the term “double rhyme” from now on.

        Like

    • Sometimes a title can be found within the poem; e. g., “no peer among my peers” could become “Among Peers” or “No Peer” or even “Peer 1” (an “in” culture joke–probably not useful here, but you get the idea)

      I’m not saying that any of these would work for you, but it’s fun to play around like that, especially if the title can generate curiosity at the same time that it conveys clues. If it is met again later on in a slightly different form, that adds to the reading pleasure, the way repetition works in music. Also “peer” is such a rich word. Sounds like “pier,” brings to mind “appear,” and even the other meaning of “peer” (a verb) could come into play. All of these association are relevant to your poem

      Another idea: to avoid the issue of the reader’s keeping track of who is talking, and to create an appropriate air of mystery, the lake’s statements could be written in italics without quotation marks. This way the reader is not tempted to say, c’mon–lakes don’t talk. He is given the freedom to think that this is what the speaker imagines the lake to say, but also that maybe nature really does communicate with us, just not in the normal everyday way.

      But be careful, Josh. Don’t take any of this stuff too seriously. Writing poems is an enjoyable and satisfying activity, but it’s easy to become obsessive about it. Don’t hang up a sign that says “poet,” unless you want to be miserable half the time. Poems can save your life (important parts of it, I mean), but poetry can change it, like religion. I’ll take religion any day–every day–and let poems come when they may.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Up to you. The only virtue of “Lake” without “The” is it functions like a short of riddle with the first word of the answer in the title and their last word at the end of the poem. On the other hand “The Lake” gets across that this is the big one for you.

    Like

Chime In!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s