46 thoughts on “Poetry Challenge Ten: Post Thy Poems

  1. When I had rested from my death a year
    And lain in Blessed Mary’s house in fear
    And early rose to take the Sacrament –
    I knew a period of discontent.
    Strange were the songs I sang then
    Cracked were the words I rang then
    Midnight’s core;
    Panes of shade
    Cross the floor
    Blindness fade:
    Angel feet
    Astride my street
    Rooted rise
    To mazed skies
    Fir-trees in
    The tempest din
    Try to leap
    Try to bend
    Branches rend
    Exult ye firs
    But he will keep
    And they who dance
    And they who fend
    Godly glance
    (The tall ones, sirs,
    Lacking bark -)
    Where’s the dark?
    Morning melts
    Soil welts
    Rain exhumes
    Earthworm tombs
    Drizzled panes
    Respite wanes
    He will know
    It’s time to go
    It’s time to leave a heart’s deposit here
    For I have rested from my death a year


    Revision:

    I’ve rested from my dying now a year
    And lain in Blessed Mary’s house in fear
    And risen soon to take the Sacrament –
    And now descends a time of discontent.
    Strange are the songs I sing now
    Cracked are the words I ring now:

    Midnight’s core;
    Panes of shade
    Cross the floor
    Blindness fade:
    Angel feet
    Astride my street
    Rooted rise
    To mazed skies
    Fir-trees in
    The tempest din
    Try to leap
    Try to bend
    Branches rend
    Exult ye firs
    But he will keep
    And they who dance
    And they who fend
    Godly glance
    (The tall ones, sirs,
    Lacking bark -)
    Where’s the dark?
    Rain exhumes
    Earthworm tombs
    Soil welts
    Morning melts
    In drizzled panes
    Respite wanes
    He will know
    It’s time to go

    It’s time to leave a heart’s deposit here
    For I have rested from my death a year

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    • I am almost hesitant to comment further on this poem, because while it is entrancing and evocative, with a smooth, strong voice that assures me there is more richness to be had glimmering beneath it’s surface, I am very conscious of it as a poem that has not fully disclosed itself to my mind, as yet.

      I do not, of course, think that all poems need to be immediately accessible! In ideal cases, the difficulty is innate to it’s being-what-it-is: an expression of something strained after, and rendered as precisely (and well, poetically) as possible may not simultaneously be a simple and easy read. Often after some mulling the poem breaks open to you, and these are moments of wonder, memorable, where you see that what seemed initially obscure could not have been said in any other way.

      But as I said, I feel like I’m in an in between place with this poem, as a reader, which is why I have been hesitating about what and whether to post. Then I thought I would go ahead and write about how I am reading it and where I am, to preserve the reciprocity and dialogue around here, and also I’m sure there are many people who read here but do not comment. Perhaps even if I ask some dumb questions the ensuing conversation will be educational for the hypothetical audience. 😉

      To begin.

      I feel like you are doing something new here, or experimenting in a slightly different style, with these shorter lines and less obvious, more idiosyncratic use of punctuation (and perhaps sentence structure). It is something that interests and engages me as I read although I’m not entirely sure of my opinion as yet, I guess. The lines certainly have an inherent power and grace– they skip and soar and are chock full of good, well matched words. I see this in your sea bird poem as well (and also, I hung back from commenting more on that one for the same reasons I noted above here– I was drawn to it and sensed it’s power but wasn’t sure I fully “got it”).

      So here I see that we are celebrating resurrection, as a wrenching, beautiful, uprooting event. I love the rending branches and uprooting firs! But there is much that puzzles me– who, or what, is being resurrected? At first I thought of Lazarus. I don’t remember precisely why, but there is not enough there to assume that. Then I thought it was a generic deceased person at the final Resurrection, but why the emphasis on it having been a year? Perhaps this is a cyclical event. Is it the Phoenix? But then why mix that up with Blessed Mary and the Sacrament? I did not think you, or anyone, would be likely to do that without some reason. So perhaps (I reasoned) it is a particular tree, or plant that is experiencing resurrection– or, perhaps, a personification of Spring. This latter understanding is what I have provisionally settled for although I do not really believe it is it— “Spring” does not rise to take a Sacrament in any sense that I can directly intuit or that seems metaphorically indicated by the poem.

      Anyhow. . . I know that when I am guessing at a poem like this rather than receiving from it and being illuminated as it unfolds, that something has gone awry, often with my reading. Apologies for being dense! It does sound lovely. I really like the cadence and resolution (sound wise) of the last two lines in relation to the energy of the preceding.

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        • Oh dear, I feel like I see it everywhere! But if this is just a case of me reading something into your poem it’s better to know. Here goes.

          In the first line, there is mention of the speaker having rested from a death. A mere two lines later we have “and early rose. . .”. Death/rising = resurrection in my mind, so I think from the beginning I was assuming I was reading a kind of description of the early moments following. . . someone’s resurrection. Then there is a shift from midnight to morning, which I took to be further cementing of the theme, and the exhumed earthworm tombs a continued echoing of the same. Not that I imagine earthworms being resurrected, but I was thinking of nature sort of uprising from the cycle of decay. Extrapolating, perhaps.

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      • What if I change the early lines to present tense:

        I’ve rested from my dying now a year
        And lain in Blessed Mary’s house in fear
        And risen soon to take the Sacrament
        And now there comes a time of discontent.

        Strange are the songs I sing now
        Cracked are the words I ring now:

        Midnight’s core (etc…)

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      • Your commentary is interesting, Leah, and helpful. There are times whenI also feel that I am connecting with a poem, often on several levels at once, even though I don’t feel satisfied talking about it in prose.

        A note about Alana’s poem – I think the two pronouns (“he” and “He”) are important. Not that it’s a matter of capital letters; all the lines start with one. It’s the matter of pronoun reference. And what he will keep. And why he will know. These things stand out for me.

        Another issue is the change in line-length and tone. The short fragments must be the “strange songs” and “cracked words” that flow from the speaker’s “discontent” after her year of resting from a death. She says “my death,” but I wonder if that might mean her loss of someone so important that it is like a death of spirit.

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        • Albert, thank you! You are exactly right that the short fragments are the strange songs and cracked words.

          However, “my death” is definitely the speaker’s own death. I know it’s an odd way of talking but it’s how I’ve come to think. That we are all dying a death, all the time. That for each of us our own death is personal and individual, and something we have to get to know, like a second guardian angel. However, as I think about it, bringing in death of loved ones does make sense because it is at those times that we seem to penetrate a little deeper into our own dying, isn’t it? It’s the co-inherence of ourselves with our family members and fellow-beings that allows for this, I guess.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Leah and Albert, I appreciate that both of you are enjoying and engaging with the poem, without leaping to unwarranted conclusions, and just sort of nosing at the ambiguities. I’m blessed to have such readers!

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    • New issue to consider – , the change in the first line from abstract concept (death) to an active process (dying) would most likely lead a reader to think that the speaker is quite sick, probably “terminally ill,” as the professionals say. I think this impression is reinforced by the present tense in lines 4-6, along with the the three “now”s.

      And so, If i hadn’t read your commentary on the poem I might not have gotten to that very unusual idea about becoming familiar with one’s own death. That’s not to say that I got there from reading the original opening. But there was still an illusiveness that could have kept me thinking more deeply.

      Also, the use of stanza breaks in the revision gives an impression of order throughout, whereas the first version’s chaotic movement from iambic pentameter (lines 1-4) to a seven-count couplet with a startling irregular beat (5-6), to a long rush of haunted phrases suggests a complex internal thought process that seems to resolve itself in the last two lines without giving anything away. That is, the poetic element is still there as we are returned to the rather peaceful but strange and thought.provoking first line, although now in the active present (“It’s time . .”)

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      • Yes, that’s all true. Well-said.

        I guess I have to put this on the pile of poems that doesn’t necessarily get better through revision. As a collection of evidence, it seems to be growing larger. It makes me think that there’s something organic about the growth of a poem, and you can’t do revision without re-entering the greenhouse – without getting back into that same creative mindset in which you made the poem in the first place. So, revision is a creative and not an editorial activity. And therefore, because creativity is unpredictable, there’s no guarantee that the revision will ever solve a poem’s obscurity.

        It also makes me wonder whether a poet has the responsibility to elucidate ideas in a poem. The fact that there are truly literary readers (like you and Leah – or like Harold Bloom – for instance) who can enjoy what a poem is without altogether being certain of what it means suggests that this responsibility doesn’t exist. But is it preferable?

        I think perhaps a title would help a bit. How about

        The Sudden Night of the Death-Finisher

        ???

        That way, the idea of resting from death can be paired with an idea of finishing death, modifying the possible interpretations of the phrase. I might also capitalize Death, and perhaps add a few lines.

        But ultimately, that “illusiveness” is a quality I want to preserve, I now see.

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        • “It also makes me wonder whether a poet has the responsibility to elucidate ideas in a poem. The fact that there are truly literary readers (like you and Leah – or like Harold Bloom – for instance) who can enjoy what a poem is without altogether being certain of what it means suggests that this responsibility doesn’t exist. But is it preferable?”

          I actually enjoy reading poetry in other languages occasionally– I have a book of children’s poetry in Spanish and some Italian love poetry. Depending on the poem, I’m lucky if I can get a line or two here or there and a general sense of the whole, without a dictionary, but there is still the enjoyment of language itself, satisfyingly arranged. And some meaning surely inheres in sound, as we were discussing recently about names.

          Of course there’s also the nonsense poetry of Lewis Carroll. I am not saying that this is a nonsense poem! But I think that the answer to part of your question is no, a poet does not have a responsibility to elucidate ideas in a poem. Whether it’s preferable. . . I suspect it depends on the poem. Meaning in a true poem is always something more than can be flatly translated into prose anyway, although it may be described or indicated. I guess the more intellectual the poem, the less leftover to be lost in translation.

          Having been mulling over your poem a little more today and considering your comments and Albert’s, I’m finding myself reading it slightly differently, as an account of a person who, having come to terms with her death, is now faced with the task of coming to terms with life and experiencing discontent and strangeness in the interim. This feels closer to the mark but I won’t be shocked if I’m told I’m still off.

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  2. What though we did not, could not, stay?
    I roam alone through wheaten fields
    and sense, above all, You- away-
    and learn the ways that missing feels.

    The enclosed space of shared content,
    an offering, a sacrament
    lifted from time and the rounding year
    remains in reach- an abiding Here.

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    • Ah, this is perfect. I know this feeling, but never knew it so well. The poem expands around me as I read, creating the space and the rounding it speaks of.

      Well “turned.” The pathos of the first stanza giving way to the garnered consolation of the second; the second finishing in an inevitable yet surprising insight.

      And the familiar ache, remembered in manageable doses.

      For this poem doesn’t make me want to talk like a technician. Like a good poem should, the structure draws me in to the content. You are clearly a poet of the personal. A metaphysical poet of sorts, rendering clear the usually murky movements and states within.

      I feel that this poem brings into completed being something that was only partly emerged before. Perhaps something that was better enjoyed and suffered in process, but required eventual completion?

      Anyhow regardless of that, it’s revelatory and I don’t really have any criticisms to offer. It’s a living and whole enough thing that it would be like criticizing someone’s nose or eyebrows. Each part is right in reference to the whole.

      I was especially pleased by the things the rhythm does. There’s a personality to the rhythm of each line, despite their overall submission to the metrical expectations of the verse. It creates an effect both breathless and pressing.

      Well done.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks so much, Alana! I’m very glad to know you liked this one so well and that it speaks to you. I do feel like it is more emotionally direct than many other poems I’ve written. It almost wrote itself, I just kind of whittled away it (hmm, I think that is a phrase I borrowed from Robert in relation to editing) until it seemed ready.

        “I feel that this poem brings into completed being something that was only partly emerged before. Perhaps something that was better enjoyed and suffered in process, but required eventual completion?”

        You’re right, I think for awhile now I’ve been feeling my way into a sense of that consolation the poem describes, in relation to what feels like a series of connections that have either paused or faltered. Actually writing the poem was probably a part of that process.

        Although, generally I don’t really go for “poetry as therapy” or catharsis– perhaps realistically when you pursue it for it’s own sake it becomes also a little of both.

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    • While reading over, Leah, I thought about Alana’s Aril 6 introductory comment, “And then you wonder about Dickinson’s capital letters. It’s a Romantic-poetish way of writing, sure, but . . .” I wondered about ”You” and “Here” in your poem. Aside from any “Romantish-poetic” quality, the capital letters could work in two ways: to emphasize the importance, almost sacredness (in a human love relationship) of the person addressed and of an idea contained in “Here”; or to acknowledge that the poem is really a kind of Prayer.

      Or they could do both, except that ”wheaten” might then be difficult to picture in an individual relationship (unless the poem actually is located in a field). Of course ”sacrament, fits both interpretations , but I’m not sure how “offering does”–athough come to think of it , what is true human live but an offering, a giving of oneself.

      I do like this poem. Very much!

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      • Thank you! 🙂 The capitalizations are “Romantic-ish”. In writing this I was partly trying to offer a kind of distant homage to Emily Dickinson, hence the capitalization of important nouns, and also the dashes (which I use sometimes anyway, lol), and even the wheaten fields. People in Emily Dickinson poems seem to do a lot of wandering about in fields. 🙂 I also had the rhyme to consider!

        However, the field imagery worked for my innate purposes too– I thought of it as potentially metaphorical for a state in the relationship, what was sowed together in the connection is now being reaped alone, or at least, the speaker is alone at the time of harvest. There’s also the allusion to autumn, a melancholy time of year, and a tie in with “the rounding year” in the next stanza.

        I think sacraments are also offerings. . . . as in, “Thine own of Thine own we offer up to Thee, on behalf of all, and for all.” I also think that all moments of life that are deeply experienced and received with thanksgiving, especially occasions transformative personal encounter are potentially sacramental. Someone recently lent me a book called “Being Bread” that discusses this, interestingly not long after I completed the poem.

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        • I agree about moments that are “deeply experienced” being sacred, though i dont refect on it often enough. Also I think I had forgotten the imortance of the thanksgiving part. How could I, when the root of “Eucharist” means just that.

          Your comment helps me to get back to a fuller vision of human intimacy. (Actually the poem itself provides that; it’s there in the story, I see that now. It couldn’t be a prayer. I just didn’t read the first line carefully.)

          I’m going to look for the book.

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    • I think it could be paraphrased like this:

      What does it matter that we couldn’t stay (together)
      Now as I wander around these wheat-colored fields (musing on this situation)
      and sense above all you – I mean You – you very important person that I can’t modestly name
      And just experience the feeling of missing someone (You, of course)

      What we experienced was a shared feeling of content, just to be with one another, and that contentment was like a space that formed around us
      But now that we had to give it up, that experience has been turned into an offering or (to put it another way) a sacrament. Because we gave it up for right and holy reasons so it was like a gift to God.
      Lifted out of the specific time – the time of year or the date that we were together or whatever
      our connection has become something that each of us can still touch in another way – a “here-ness” that abides, above and beyond the limits of linear time and physical presence.

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  3. CONFESSION

    Father, bless. I am here today
    At last to ask forgiveness.
    I made up a story in church once.
    As I waited in ine to see the priest
    I imagined I heard him say,

    “Be merciful to us confessors, stay
    Focused. Don’t ramble, or stretch out the content
    Of your sins. This sacrament
    Works more simply. We stand here
    Together. You talk, priests listen.
    It’s been going on for some time. All year
    I’ve been here, waiting. Though now,
    during holy week, i have to stay
    Late and hear confessions even from the children
    Who should know better.

    “So be content to summarize your year
    ‘s worth of troubles. Then go away
    In peace. God forgives. Stay hopeful, do that for me,
    Won’t you? It feels better for both of us.
    And its true–you are newly free.
    The tree of life keeps growing in you.
    Don’t try to chop it down again.”

    Would he have said that, Father?
    Or was it my sin to think it?
    Did I talk too long?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been re-reading this. First for the story and the thought, which I like and appreciate very much. The more we can interact with our faith in a humane, and not a religiose, way, the happier we will all be, I feel.

      But also I’ve been re-reading it to find the rhymes. Oh it’s very nicely done. Subtle, and very Albert. And I like that both “you” and “me” come in close to “tree.” That’s a marvelous little touch!

      And you changed the meaning of “content” – just as I altered it to “discontent.”

      And did the necessity to use the rhymes give rise to this image about the tree of life growing in us, and how over-dwelling on our sins can “chop it down”? At any rate, I think that is excellent.

      The confessee having mercy on the confessor – nice reversal.

      There’s something humble and tentative about this that I also appreciate. I suppose as an artist you would have the license to simply speak as the priest, leaving out the opening and closing stanza. Those stanzas bring in musing and wonder and invite the reader to think about the problem for himself. I think this is one of the most pleasing and significant awarenesses that you’ve contributed to my poetic understanding. My intellectual training was so relentless positive and absolute and insistent. It’s very hard for me to to relax and let there be some questions, some pondering.

      I think you’ve also rendered something of the confessee’s vulnerability with the confessor. That’s a real feeling I recognize. It’s hard to bear – perhaps for both sides at times. It’s important to be aware of, too, for both sides.

      Well, I like that we’ve all used Sacrament in our poems, and I have enjoyed noting the different ways we’ve used it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the tree was a drag-in. I think i’m getting to like it however. Wait until you see my latest version. There have been several before and after i finally drifted off to sleep. I was going to introduce that post with the words, “rough draft,” but that wouldn’t allow for the likelihod that few poems are finished until the person just stops writing.

        Would you believe that something lie this actually happed to me? Not the confession itself, but the kernel of the sinful story.

        Thank you your thoughtful comments.

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  4. Ooh, I can relate to the speaker of this poem! I was just chrismated last November and although I’ve done a few confessions since then this last was my first Lenten one, and I imagined something very similar! I was briefer than usual in consequence, almost crisp.

    I agree with a lot of Alana’s comment. I love the tree. I also especially appreciate that the poem wasn’t simply set out as the priest’s utterance but rather an impression refracted through the speaker’s own delicacy and insecurity. Because even though I’m guessing there’s some accuracy, it would sting just a little too much for a priest to state it baldly, even in his own head in a fictional poetic rendering. 😉

    So glad you decided to take part in this challenge after all!

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