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ChrisD1 Profile
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untitled


something I started to write after Katrina and just found in my notebook--line breaks anyone?


Two weeks since the deluge
brought the levees down,
the ghost-heeled city offers up
the bodies of the drowned

Let us gather on the ground
to light small fires and describe
to one another what it is
that has transpired.
Oct/21/2008, 11:23 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Dragon59 Profile
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Re: untitled


Hope you don't mind my digging into this one. I have just been going through my Florida trip photos from July, and I was looking at the beaches where damage from the 2004 Hurricane Ira still had not been mended. So when I read your poem this morning is struck me as very distanced, very removed, rather too calm, in the way some 19th century poets tended to be after Wordsworth wrote his famous dictum about poetry being reflected in tranquility. The problem has been that poetry, following that, was often TOO tranquil, too distant, too removed. Your second stanza here particularly feels that way. You could in fact drop the second stanza entirely without harming the first stanza in any way.

You asked about line-breaks. I'm not sure how to reply, because you obviously have a quatrain rhyme going, xAxA, and how can I offer suggestions about changing the line-breaks without messing up your meter and rhyme? It's not possible. I can offer suggestions towards compression, but they would all disrupt your meter and rhyme. I would be happy to show you what I mean, but not without permission.

So, rather than focusing on line-breaks per se, I would recommend you pump up the energy overall. The poem has lots of filler words, and is pretty slack as is.

I like the images a lot, they're evocative. I wonder if you could compress this a great deal, even go towards a rally tight form like tanka or haiku, keeping the images, and thus also increasing the emotional punch. As it is, the emotion is way too far away for me to really care.

Hope that helps.

---
www.arthurdurkee.net
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Oct/21/2008, 12:16 pm Link to this post Send Email to Dragon59   Send PM to Dragon59
 
ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: untitled


Dragon,

You've given me lots to think about. Funny about the quatrain rhyme, I didn't realize (consciously) I was doing that. Could it be the source of the too tranquil tone?

Yeah, yeah, show me what you mean. I'd appreciate it. Thanks for your comments.

Chris
Oct/21/2008, 2:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Dragon59 Profile
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Re: untitled


quote:

You've given me lots to think about. Funny about the quatrain rhyme, I didn't realize (consciously) I was doing that. Could it be the source of the too tranquil tone?

Yeah, yeah, show me what you mean. I'd appreciate it. Thanks for your comments.



The quatrain rhyme is a contributing factor, I feel. At least to my modern ears. Some folks still write this sort of thing, and there's nothing inherently wrong with end-rhymes, meter, etc.—it's HOW they do it that matters as to whether or not it works. That's why I didn't want to presume, as your intentions might have been to go in that direction with this poem. That you say it was done unconsciously is interesting; you might to think about the implications of that for your poetry in general.

I hope you won't mind that I'll do a writing-through of the poem below, a little bit of an extreme one, to show my points.

The poem's serenity doesn't work with this topic, at least not for me. I wanted to read something more disjunct and emotive. Not necessarily tears-on-sleeve breast-beating, but some authentic feelings, which in this instance were mitigated by the too-serene tone.

For example (please forgive the somewhat radical changes; as usual, the poet is always free to ignore anything the critiquer has to say):



Two weeks since
the deluge
brought levees down,
ghost-heeled city offers up

bodies of the drowned

gathered to
light small fires, describe
what transpired.



Notice I've trimmed lots of filler words. I almost always write too many "the"s and "and"s in my own first drafts, and almost always can remove many of them. This makes the syntax less prose-like, more paratactical, even. It also changes the tone.

Another thing you might notice is that when you drop the "the"s and all your "on the"s the meter changes from heavily iambic to something more stop-and-start. The heavy iambic pulse was also something that made the poem too 19th century Wordsworthian-tranquil, I believe.

"to one another what it is / that has transpired" is over-writing. It takes two lines for what can be said in two or three words. This is the kind of over-writing one finds in much academic/workshop poetry, which is magnified by the tendency of many academic workshoppers to think that poetry has to use prose syntax and grammar, including full sentences. It doesn't. It can be paint thrown at the wall.

I tried to preserve a few of your rhymes in this version. "what happened." is probably better than "what transpired." but I left in "transpired" for the sake of your rhymes.

I hope I haven't been too harsh with your poem. As I said, this is a radical re-arrangement designed to make a point. Maybe you'll like this other direction, or some of it, or maybe not at all. It's mostly to make the points I wanted to make, about punching up the poem's impact on the reader.

Hope that made sense.

---
www.arthurdurkee.net
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artdurkee.blogspot.com
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Oct/21/2008, 4:39 pm Link to this post Send Email to Dragon59   Send PM to Dragon59
 
ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: untitled


Of course it makes sense and thank you for the time and thought.

I was thinking about the tranquil tone. All during that Katrina catastrophe, I was feeling the sort of eerie tranquility that is a little like being in shock. You know, tunnel vision, elongated time, things experienced as though from a distance. You realize it's bad but it hasn't quite sunk in. Like, "Oh !@#$...oh !@#$." Or like "Heart of Darkness", "The horror, the horror." Guess that's what was trying to come through...but didn't.

I'll re-read your comments and think on them.

Chris
Oct/21/2008, 6:46 pm Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Dragon59 Profile
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Re: untitled


I just came home from a weekly grief support group I've been going to. They talk about shock and numbness as part of the process, especially in the early stages. I totally understand the feeling of eerie tranquility that you're talking about—it all feels unreal, somehow objectively separated—and I've experienced in similar contexts.

I think if that's what you wanted to convey in the poem, there are ways to do it. It's definitely a poetic project I would encourage, in you or anybody else. So I hope you return to this project and possibility. I just don't think this particular STYLE or type of poem was effective. I hope that you come back to it, one way or another, and that we get to see the results.

---
www.arthurdurkee.net
lcgallery.tv
artdurkee.blogspot.com
ruralplainsgay.blogspot.com
Oct/21/2008, 8:09 pm Link to this post Send Email to Dragon59   Send PM to Dragon59
 
dmehl808 Profile
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Re: untitled


Two weeks since the deluge brought the levees down,
the ghost-heeled city offers up the bodies of the drowned

Let us gather on the ground to light small fires
and describe to one another what it is
that has transpired.

I really like the rhyming aspect--thought maybe longer lines might enhance.
the only problem I see is the wordiness of "it is that has transpired." Transpired also seems too latinate, formal in connotation--what you want I think is something more gritty, earthy, anglo saxonish like drowned, ground, but I can't think of anything...you see what I mean? Doesn't have to rhyme but should grunt.
Oct/31/2008, 3:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
 
dmehl808 Profile
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Re: untitled


I think I admire the shorter lines too, now that I see my rewrite on the page--yours is more elegaic, softspoken, less in your face. Also keeping the rhymes buried helps to reinforce your sense. ghost-heeled is nice. I like this piece, but the end needs something.
Oct/31/2008, 3:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
 
ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: untitled


thanks dm,

I had the same difficulty re: line breaks and length. I'm glad you see something salvageable
here and thank you for telling me.

Chris
Oct/31/2008, 7:23 pm Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: untitled


Sorry, Chrisfriend, for taking so long to get to your poem. The thrice repeated rhyme of down, drowned, ground is bothering my ear. Take out down and drowned and ground become accentuated and I think more effective. And too I think a different sort of action brought to the levees might work better. Something like 'broke the levees through.' Just some thoughts.

As an aside I've discovered that Katrina has become a memory measurement for me.

Tere
Nov/1/2008, 11:48 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: untitled


Hi Chris et al,

What an interesting thread to read through. I really appreciated the exchanges: the thoughtfulness, the forthrightness, the lack of defensiveness. One of the best critique threads I've read.

Now to your poem, Chris. The first stanza works for me for the most part. Another variation I thought possible:

Two weeks since the deluge
brought the levees down,
a ghost-heeled city offers up
bodies of the drowned

S2 is more problematic. I like the image of gathering on the ground, lighting fires and talking to one another, but as other's have pointed out the language isn't quite working right now. I think it's close though and hope you return to the poem at some point. Perhaps some small changes in wording that break up the rhythm would help:

Let us gather on the ground
light small fires and describe
for one another what it is
that has transpired.

BTW, I see the N seeking communication, perhaps instinctively, as a means of coming out of shock.
Nov/12/2008, 10:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 


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