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areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Exercises for Week 4

Exercise 1: Critiquing a Poem

Here is an early draft of a poem. Read the poem critically and thing about what’s keeping it from being effective. List out individual lines (or just do a line-by-line. Be specific with your criticisms.

Tracks of the Wandering Mind

I want sometimes naught but to weep
as standing by the trestle deep
I long to follow that railroad train
to a realm of dream that’s free of pain.
What an urge I have to stray somewhere
on a train that’s bigger than a bear
which climbs up toward old mountain peaks
and watch the sea for days and weeks.
A train to some vast tropic isle
where swaying beauty makes me smile.
But the trains of reality just skitter off
and my city home where pollution does cough
doesn’t let me see the pyramids
or drink till dawn with memory’s kids
or ride off to the orient
to get away from this discontent.
But today something inside me went through a shift
and gave my spirits that needed lift,
and I bid adieu to my dreams of escape
while the train roared through like a ghostly shape.

---
1. Circle the archaic word in the opening line.
2. Circle a phrase in line two that seems artificial because it is inverted in a way that is unnatural in spoken word.
3. What is silly about line six? Why do you think the poet wrote the line that way?
4. Circle two phrases near the end that seem stale.
5. Re-write the first sentence (four lines) to be more effective.

Exercise 2: Creating Images and Scenes that Convey Emotions

Here are five statements that tell us what the writer was feeling. Retool them with descriptions that show rather than tell us the emotions. You’ll have to invent specific situations to fit the lines.

1. She felt very sad.
2. That summer at camp he missed his mother.
3. The letter confused her.
4. He felt angry.
5. She begged him to stay.

Exercise 3: Rewrite

Go back to a poem you have already written or been working on, one that you can now see has some work to be done based on the tips from this chapter. Rewrite the poem to make it more effective. If you have to start over, that’s fine- sometimes being able to salvage a really solid line or two is worth junking the rest.

——


For those of you playing from home, let’s try to finish these exercises by Monday, April 30th.

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lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Here's my original, for context.

lofi posted:

Yawn
An orbit is just a fall without an impact.
Earth falls towards Sun, you fall towards Earth.
When you fall at the same speed, in the same direction,
you stay together.
A careless change in velocity, and you drift apart.
Chasm yawns between ship and pilot, glacial, unstoppable.
No friendly ground here, no equal and opposite, no way
to exert strength
To change your fall, all you can do is cast mass away.
Exhale. Breath held in vacuum detonates lungs.
Close eyes, lest the moisture boil off as they freeze.
Alarms fade without air to transmit them.
Throw it all behind you and fly.

AYC pointed out it was very told-not-shown and dry, and I agree. I also used 'lest' which I couldn't think of a better replacement for but still sucked. So I've basically completely re-written, keeping very little of the original beyond the concept. I focused in more on the character's feelings and reactions. I figured 'write what you know', so I leaned into the feeling I get when I'm climbing and I get stuck up a wall and the only way down is to let go and drop down.


This is insane.
To be falling endlessly around a planet,
To be outside my ship and
To be hyperventilating the last dregs of my air.

This is insane,
To have hosed up so comically,
To have been such a loving moron as
To have tied the safety line to the panel that blew off.

This is insane,
To be utterly stranded so close to the airlock.
To thrash and howl and rage and
To have it make not a hair of difference.

This is insane,
To have only one plan.
To even consider this and
To know it's my only choice.

This is insane,
To disable the alarms,
To ignore the ice in my guts, and
To force terror-stiff arms to reach up.

This is insane,
To clench eyes, scream hard, wrench bolts.
To burn with cold as I tear the heavy helmet free.
To fling it behind me and demand that it be enough force
To launch me home.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Part 2: The Secret of Writing

Chapter 5: The Art of Revision

Some poems are lucky enough to write themselves in one attempt, coming together in an inspired flurry of words and meaning. Most of the time, however, a poet must work over several sessions, days or weeks or months or even years, to call a particular poem “finished”. Kowit writes that “if there is any secret to writing, it is rewriting – a process that can be every bit as exciting as getting that first draft down on paper.”

Poets who frequently call a first attempt a “final draft” will not progress as fast as those poets who revise their work. Cold critical eyes are required to look at one’s own work, and sometimes if you are having difficulty disconnecting from the emotional rush of finishing your poem, setting it aside for a few days might be helpful in approaching it later with a bit more objectivity.

Here is a poem in need of revision:

Tracks of the Wandering Mind
I want sometimes naught but to weep
As standing by the trestle deep
I long to follow that railroad train
to a realm of dream that’s free of pain.
What an urge I have to stray somewhere
on a train that’s bigger than a bear
which climbs up toward old mountain peaks
and watch the sea for days and weeks.
A train to some vast tropic isle
where swaying beauty makes me smile.
But the trains of reality just skitter off
and my city home where pollution does cough
doesn’t let me see the pyramids
or drink till dawn with memory’s kids,
or ride off to the Orient
to get away from this discontent.
But today something inside me went through a shift
and gave my spirits that needed lift,
and I bid adieu to my dreams of escape
while the train roared through like a ghostly shape.

---
Woof, right? There are a lot of issues here that a revision would dramatically help. Kowit takes us through a few of them.

“...naught but to weep” in line one is a mistake, indicating that the author is doing that thing of trying to sound poetic instead of being poetic.

“trestle deep” ‘is likely a forced rhyme with “weep”. One note made by Kowit is that the forced rhyme at the beginning of the poem raises the question of whether it’s worth it to pursue a rhyme scheme in subsequent drafts. This decision needs to be made early on in the revision process as it will inform our edits.

Kowit walks us through a re-write of the first sentence.

I want sometimes naught but to weep
As standing by the trestle deep
I long to follow that railroad train
to a realm of dream that’s free of pain.


Let’s start by trying to avoid telling the reader what we feel (bummed out, as evidenced by “weep” in the first draft). Let’s also work on cutting out unrealistic detail (unlikely the guy is standing right next to the trestle) and the overly-poetic language. This is Kowit’s example:

When the Amtrak hoots by in the morning
I sometimes want to be on it, heading to Tucson,
Austin, Oshkosh – anywhere but here in this
awful life I’ve been leading…


This is better. It’s got some realistic (and specific) detail that helps the reader connect with the poem. However there’s still some issues: “here in this awful life” is vague, and boring, and “I sometimes want to be on it” is a bit . Kowit makes another attempt:

When I hear the amtrak hoot by at 6:34 in the morning
I groan, still half asleep, and draw the sheet over my head,
and dream of what life might be like in Tucson, Austin,
Oshkosh – anywhere but here in this life with its bitter
coffee, and dust streets and measly paychecks. Wherever
that train is going I want to go too!


Not bad, but Kowit states that it’s overly verbose. Let’s cut some stuff:

When the Amtrak hoots by at 6:34 I groan,
half-asleep, drawing the sheet over my head
in this city of dusty streets and lousy payhecks
and wish I was anywhere else – Tucson, Austin,
Oshkosh. Wherever that Amtrak is going
I want to be on it!


Better, but we’ve repeated Amtrak and half-asleep could be implied from the time of day.

When the 6:34 hoots by I groan,
drawing the sheet over my head,
and I wish I was elsewhere – Tuscon,
Austin, Oshkosh. Wherever that Amtrak
is going I want to go too!


As you can see, there’s a lot of effort that goes into a re-write. Kowit uses two more attempts of introducing details, forming the direction of the poem, before landing on:
When the 6:34 hoots up its head of steam
in the morning, screaming over the trestles…
panting like somebody’s lover,
I roll over groaning, pull the sheet
over my head and wish
I were snuggled inside her –
Carson City, Austin, Oshkosh… To hell
with my coffee at 7, the bloodthirsty
morning
Gazette, the godawful 8 am traffic.
I want to head for the Desert, whitewater
country, Tuscon, Oshkosh –
Wherever that Amtrak is going I want to be on her!


At this point, the poet has a much better sense of the poem’s voice, it’s organization, it’s imagery, and can now move on to other parts of the poem. Remember that was just the first sentence! If we look back at the very first draft, it’s really easy for us to see how ham-fisted that attempt was, with forced rhyme and cheesy “poetic” language. Even though our re-writes are still in infancy, hopefully you can tell that what Kowit has down in that last attempt is the beginning of a real poem, with complexity and passion that was sorely lacking from the first draft.

Rewriting isn’t necessarily just messing around with a word or two but rather redrafting the poem from scratch, “finding the poem that was buried under that first ineffectual version.” There is no one way to write a poem- maybe you want to take out the colloquialisms from our train poem and introduce more “lofty” language, or maybe you like the direction it’s going. No two re-writes are going to be the same.

--------
Exercises for Week 5

Exercise: A Guided Rewriting Exercise
Follow these instructions:

1. Select a poem that you have written recently. Read your poem over to yourself as objectively as possible.
2. Underline one passage, or word, or phrase that seems particularly good to you.
3. Circle a line, phrase, or section that seems unsuccessful. Awkward phrasing, dull words, no voice- whatever the reason, just recognizing that it needs work is enough to get you started.
4. Try to find other passages that might need some work. Once you begin to get critical, it will be easier to find weak spots. Circle them also.

Sometimes poets find that the real poem starts and stops within the larger body of the first draft. Hack what you have to pieces if you need to!

---

For those of you playing at home: let’s try to have this exercise done by Monday, May 7th.

Thanks for participating!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Just a note on last week’s exercises, don’t feel obligated to post your answers to the first section. Just a revision attempt it fine. I’ll be critiquing lofi’s work and posting two of my own revisions sometime this week.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


lofi posted:


This is insane.
To be falling endlessly around a planet,
To be outside my ship and
To be hyperventilating the last dregs of my air.

This is insane,
To have hosed up so comically,
To have been such a loving moron as
To have tied the safety line to the panel that blew off.
You lost me here. Using “gently caress” seems really out of place. It’s also not very musical and lacks punch, which is ironic.

This is insane,
To be utterly stranded so close to the airlock.
To thrash and howl and rage and
To have it make not a hair of difference.
Telling, not showing.

This is insane,
To have only one plan.
To even consider this and
To know it's my only choice.

This is insane,
To disable the alarms,
To ignore the ice in my guts, and
To force terror-stiff arms to reach up.
Another lackluster stanza. I’m just a bit bored at this point.

This is insane,
To clench eyes, scream hard, wrench bolts.
To burn with cold as I tear the heavy helmet free.
To fling it behind me and demand that it be enough force
To launch me home

Really dramatic to the point of silliness.

I think this one suffers from being over dramatic, which makes it a bit dull to read. There’s a few lines in there that don’t execute well. I think the central concept is really what’s holding this back. I feel like it’d be more suited to a short story or prose than poetry.

Free Drinks
Dec 16, 2006

Oh, my God; I care so little, I almost passed out.


Hello there. Me stumbling in here is more of a fluke than anything but tonight I felt compelled to put something down and would prefer to share it with internet strangers than people I know since I have a hard enough time worrying too much about others opinions.

The Fade
The trudging through the air
The hated spaces between the hands
The empty chest full of life
The heat of breath
The sleepy eye’s line
The burnt smell of nothing
The comfort of solitude with another
The disappointment of a good time
The pleasant smile of ruined plans
The pleasing creak of stairs defeated
The buzzing draft of air
The satisfying safety
The weight of self
The fade


Out of it I enjoy "the comfort of solitude with another" but admit that "The pleasant smile of ruined plans" is too awkward. Just having trouble finding a satisfying way of phrasing it.

I apologize for how amateur it is. It might even be more prose than poem, this is just a form of creative writing have have zilch experience in. This is the only poem I've ever written that hasn't been an assignment. Part of me felt is was too mopey, seeming more like a lovely livejournal poem, but I also feel that the emotions I put in were sincerer, so I dunno. It's not even meant to be dour, but I worry that's what it looks like to others. I guess I'm open to criticism since that is that only way to improve anything you don't intend to keep in your head.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Hey there! Don't worry, you're not the only one figuring this out as you go! And yeah, sharing poetry is hard, I absolutely get the feeling of "but everyone will think it's whiny emo devart poo poo", it gets easier after the first.

Free Drinks posted:


The Fade
The trudging through the air
The hated spaces between the hands
This is unclear, not sure what the space is referring to.
The empty chest full of life
I really like this, nice juxtaposition of empty and life
The heat of breath
The sleepy eye’s line
I like this! This line brought up a really vivid image to me.
The burnt smell of nothing
The comfort of solitude with another
The disappointment of a good time
The pleasant smile of ruined plans
The pleasing creak of stairs defeated
Repetition of pleasing is a bit jarring. Maybe dig into why it's pleasing?
The buzzing draft of air
The satisfying safety
Not sold on this, too vague
The weight of self
The fade


I think you've got nice images in this! My main difficulty with it is that it doesn't seem to go anywhere - even if it's a mood piece, focusing on a sense of progression would help a lot, something to lead the reader through the poem. Sorry I can't put it better than that, I've only been at this a month myself!

areyoucontagious posted:

I think this one suffers from being over dramatic, which makes it a bit dull to read. There’s a few lines in there that don’t execute well. I think the central concept is really what’s holding this back. I feel like it’d be more suited to a short story or prose than poetry.

I may have overcorrected a little. Judging how much drama to add is a skill I'm... "working on". I kinda agree this concept is more suited to a short story - it was written with the intention of turning it into a super short comic originally. But now I just want to get my silly scifi stuck-astronaut poem working, there has to be a way... Thanks for the crit!

lofi fucked around with this message at May 5, 2018 around 09:23

Free Drinks
Dec 16, 2006

Oh, my God; I care so little, I almost passed out.


lofi posted:

Hey there! Don't worry, you're not the only one figuring this out as you go! And yeah, sharing poetry is hard, I absolutely get the feeling of "but everyone will think it's whiny emo devart poo poo", it gets easier after the first.


I think you've got nice images in this! My main difficulty with it is that it doesn't seem to go anywhere - even if it's a mood piece, focusing on a sense of progression would help a lot, something to lead the reader through the poem. Sorry I can't put it better than that, I've only been at this a month myself!


I may have overcorrected a little. Judging how much drama to add is a skill I'm... "working on". I kinda agree this concept is more suited to a short story - it was written with the intention of turning it into a super short comic originally. But now I just want to get my silly scifi stuck-astronaut poem working, there has to be a way... Thanks for the crit!

Thank you for taking the time to help! It’s so spooky sharing things if you just aren’t used to it.
This is where a lot of my inexperience with writing comes it. I purposely wanted it to be foggy but it's a touchy thing to keep it from becomming opaque.

I suppose me feeling the need to dissect the poem in front of everyone is a bright red flag that it isn’t a good poem, but I hope something positive can come out of it. At least this phase is about revision, so maybe it can be helpful in that way too.
Where this poem came from is me describing what I’m physically feeling, what I’m doing, and what I’m thinking about when I’m falling asleep. The ones that aren't physical sensations were intended to be references to those nagging thoughts you get about an old significant other or good / bad times when you were younger.

I think the title would be better off being “The Drift” since that’s a bit more evocative of sleep so it might help a little.
“The hated space between the hands” was an attempt at commenting on my thoughts about poor body image. I wanted it to be like “The space between your ears” meaning you brain/mind, without being that familiar.
The pleasant/pleasing repetition in those two lines bugged me, but when I posted it I struggled to find a different way to phrase it that I liked. And besides, the creak of the stairs line is out of place anyway. If it goes anywhere it would be near the top. It’s supposed to be walking down stairs to my room and it being a signifier of being able to rest, but I think it’s better just cut out since the rest is stuff that happens IN bed. Mainly I just liked the sound of the word ‘creak’.

“The satisfying safety” absolutely is a problem line. During the day of thought of changing it to “The satisfying safety of cloth” to try and evoke a bed, sheets, or a blanket without using the words ‘bed’, ‘sheets’, or ‘blanket’. Though I don’t know if cloth is strong enough to point the reader in the right way.

Again, thank you for your critique.

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


ok, so I lied- I tried to revise some of my older poems but once they were blown up I had a helluva time putting it back together. I might (if I get up the ambition) go line by line revising one, including my thoughts as I go through. Depends on how many “working lunches” I have to suffer through this week, as that’s normally when I write. In the meantime, here is this week’s post and it’s a fun one!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


Section 3: Music and Metaphor

Chapter 6: After-glow: The Interior Music

The goal of this chapter is to focus less on the construction of the poem from memory but rather on how the words of a poem come together to form music. A great poem is one that uses the musicality inherent in language as the building blocks for the content. One of the main musical devices in English poetry is internal rhyme. We can see from this poem of poet Raymond Carver’s that the prose-like quality and internal rhyme really elevate the poem.

After-Glow
The dusk of evening comes on. Earlier a little rain
had fallen. You open a drawer and find inside
the man’s photograph, knowing he has only two years
to live. He doesn’t know this, of course,
that’s why he can mug for the camera.
How could he know what’s taking root in his head
at that moment? If one looks to the right
through boughs and tree trunks, there can be seen
crimson patches of the after-glow. No shadows, no
half-shadows. It is still and damp…
The man goes on mugging. I put the picture back
in its place along with the others and give
my attention instead to the after-glow along the far ridge,
light golden on the roses in the garden.
Then, I can’t help myself, I glance once more
at the picture. The wink, the broad smile,
the jaunty slant of the cigarette.

-Raymond Carver

Assonance

Assonance is the use of identical vowel sounds close together to form a partial rhyme. In Carver’s poem we read in line one “dusk, of evening comes”- “dusk”, “of”, and “comes” all use the uh vowel sound. Likewise in line two “fallen” and “drawer” have the same awe sound, repeated later in the poem as well. There are several vowel sounds (the long i in find, the long o throughout in open, photograph, etc.) that are found which anchor words together and give the poem a lilt.

Repetition

All the long o sounds in the poem help strengthen what Kowit states is the central word, “know”. The word appears three times in the poem, not including two additional uses of the homonym “no”. The technical name of the repetition of words or phrases in a poem is repetend.

Alliteration

This should be very familiar with English speakers. Alliteration is the repetition of the initial consonant sound in words or syllables. We see this several times in the example, such as “the man goes on mugging”. Loosely considered, alliteration can be any repetition of the consonant sounds in a word or phrase, such as “slant of the cigarette”.

Rich Consonance

In the example poem, the word “root” in line six and the word “right” in line seven form what is called “rich” or “full” consonance. This device is where the words begin and end with the same consonant sounds but have a different internal vowel sound. Other rich consonant rhymes with “root” could be rat, rate, wrote, rout- remember here it’s not the letters that matter but the sounds.

Partial Consonance

Partial consonance is the effect where two words share the same end consonant sound, like “fallen” and “open”, with the -en being shared. “Up” and “Step”, “swoon” and “bone”, these pairs are also examples. Kowit writes that “if you are inclined to think that such repetitions of vowel and consonant sounds are inevitable, given that there are a limited number of sounds in the English language, you are quite right”. The difference between regular writing and poetry, however, is that the poet seeks these devices out and puts them to conscious use for a musical effect.

Anaphora

This device is the use of a repeated word or phrase in several successive lines. We have seen this with our list poems in earlier exercises, and also below in an excerpt from one of Walt Whitman’s famous poems, “Song of Myself”:

Where the humming-bird shimmers, where the neck of the long-lived swan is curving and winding,
Where the laughing-gull scoots by the shore, where she laughs her near-human laugh,
Where bee-hives range on a gray bench in the garden half hid by the high weeds,
Where band-neck’d partridges roost in a ring on the ground with their heads out,
Where burial coaches enter the arch’d gates of a cemetery,
Where winter wolves bark amid wastes of snow and icicled trees,
Where the yellow-crown’d heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs,
Where the splash of swimmers and divers cools the warm noon,
Where the katy-did works her chromatic reed on the walnut-tree over the well,

Beginning each of these lines with the word “where” imparts a drive to the poem, conveying a great energy. As readers, it feels to us that something is building up. In addition, there are examples of our previously discussed devices throughout that excerpt. If you read it aloud you can start to pick out repeated sounds.

Diction and Sentence Grace

Kowit writes that “in English there are harsh sounds and softer ones, phrases that seem quick and energetic and others that are slow, deliberate, meditative, or mournful”. The idea is that every phrase will have its own particular pace and tone depending on how the words come together. This is a very meta idea- that the very nature of your phrases and how they come together in their unique musicality can add or detract from the message of your poem. Kowit gives us a few lines of Carver’s poem reimagined as something worse and far more clunky:

As the somberness of evening takes place
and after it had been raining for a while
but now the rain had stopped,
you open up a drawer in which, behold, you find the photograph there of a man and that man
you know has, alas, got only two more years in which to live


Woof! All the grace that littered throughout Carver’s poem is thrown out the window and we’re left with this trash. Serious poets are concerned not only with the message of their poem but really with each and every syllable that is set to paper. During revision this will come up a lot, as you struggle for that perfect phrase to match what your heart desires for your poem.

Exercises for Week 6

Exercise 1: Recognizing alliteration and internal rhyme

Go through the Whitman passage and identify some of the devices we’ve talked about this chapter. Do the same on other example poems.

Exercise 2: An Exercise in describing scenes and brief encounters

Walt Whitman habitually kept a notebook where he jotted down much of his life experiences that led to the creation of his poems. Keep a notebook this week and write down brief descriptions of anything that catches your eye, whether it is animals, birds, events, people, etc. - try to keep each to no more than two or three lines. Make your descriptions as rich and evocative as possible, choosing your language carefully and avoiding some of the pitfalls we’ve talked about in the past. Do not be overly flowery, avoid adjectivitis, don’t be too vague. Make your descriptions as concrete as possible using sensory detail. Don’t be too judgmental in your choices of subject- anything will do. Use some of the devices mentioned above, but don’t be too generous with their use, as with anything else that’s considered “poetic” too much of a good thing can quickly bog down a poem.

Exercise 3: An Anaphoric List Poem

Another list poem! Use your descriptions from exercise 2 to create an anaphoric list, similar to Whitman’s example. If all your descriptions are from the same area, starting with “where” might be appropriate- it also might not be. You can start with anything, from “how seldom I see” or “I see the...”, etc. Once you’ve put your descriptions into the poem, do whatever re-writing is necessary to make it cohere both logically (don’t combine insects and cars, for example, unless you’ve got a good internal theme with which to do so) and musically. Again, avoid overuse and instead use controlled, careful execution of these devices lest you weigh your poem down.
—-



[b]For those of you playing from home: let’s get these done by Monday, May 14th.

lofi
Apr 2, 2018



Wow, this week's a tough one. I'm really struggling to pick out much beyond obvious alliteration. I guess if it was easy, I wouldn't need to learn it!

areyoucontagious
Jun 13, 2007

Hell is other people.


OK, here’s an effort post! The caveat is that I am a terrible poet. I write what I think is good, but all I have to go on is the advice of internet strangers, so don’t pull any punches and take all my analysis with a grain of salt.

My poem that I posted into the poetry thread:

We Perform for the Gods

My glass bell chimes in time with the dancers -

flowing scarlet, blue, and black -

to better please our audience

of human beings and gods.

The rites have carried down

in proper oral tradition

tattooed in grandmotherly whispers

on our young ear drums.

Our arms are bent in divine angles,

ratios set by wizened men

whose milky eyes can track

the whorl of the heavens.

We perform for the gods.

We perform for the gods,

but enjoy the applause

from the imperfect hands

of our fellow mortals.


On a first read, I can already tell there are lines I like and lines I don’t.

Line one I think is very musical, including examples of rhyme (chime, time) and assonance (glass, dancers).

The next line is much weaker- evocative, perhaps, with the flowing colors but it lacks punch. All tell, no show. Let’s come back to it.

More assonance here (please, audience) that I like, so I’m keeping it. I wrote out human beings as opposed to humans, or mortals, as I wanted it to feel more concrete when compared to the idea of gods.

“The rites have carried down” is a bit lackluster, but I think the next three lines are the strongest part of the poem. We can probably fix that first bit.

Personally I’m fond of the next sentence. I’m not sure if divine is strong enough a descriptor, but I think the specific details of old men tracking the stars is very vivid.

I like the repetition of “we… Gods”, and particularly enjoy the partial consonance of “gods/applause”. “Imperfect hands” is okay but “fellow mortals” is a poor way to end the poem.

So big themes- religion, obviously, and tradition, maybe a little mystery- we can work that in to the first bit a little more. Can I get more specific about the dancers themselves? Do we need to elaborate on the bell itself? I the the “glass” modifier and the musicality of the first line stands as enough, but the dancers could be fleshed out a bit:

“...dancers, their hand-stitched gowns of scarlet, blue and black

flowing like the tides, under Andromeda’s chains.”

Ok, in my head I’m picturing a nighttime scene, with dancers on a beach, moving in time with bell chimes and lapping waves. But did I capture that? Partially, maybe. “Andromedra’s chains” is just a constellation reference, trying to connect to the heavens line farther down, but maybe it’s a bit overwrought.

“...in time as the dancers,

dressed in hand-stitched scarlet, blue and black,

flow like the tides around our moonlit altar.”

I like it! A little bit of mystery, plus a connection to the later parts of the poem.

The next part is the couplet “The rites… tradition”. Firstly, this is a chance to expand on the magnitude of this passage of knowledge. We can suggest that this has been happening for a long time.

“The ancestral secret has carried down…”

“The ancestral secrets trickle down…”

“Ancestral ciphers are offered down…”

I like it! We’ll have to see how it fits in the whole of the poem.

One thing that bugs me is the word “proper”- it feels clunky and really what’s an “improper” oral tradition? I’ll give you part the stream-of-consciousness I used to land on a better word. (There were a lot more that were garbage which were thrown out)

Heady
forceful
Vibrant
Vivid

I like vibrant. So what’s the whole sentence look like now?

Ancestral ciphers are offered down
in vibrant oral tradition
tattooed in grandmotherly whispers
on our young eardrums.


Sounds pretty good! I worry I’m straying into being too poetic or overwrought, but based on feedback I can always revert it.

As I focus on the next section, I realize that I want to focus more on the mathematical piece, that these seers are calculating divinity.

“Our arms bend in a calculated knot,

angles set by wizened men

whose milky eyes

Can track the whorl of Heaven.”

Things I like: changing heavens to Heaven, suggesting more power in the seers’ eyes.

Things I don’t: “calculated knots” is super clunky.

“Our arms bend in a measured grace

to match the frame of stars,

angles set by wizened men

whose milky eyes can track

the whorl of Heaven.”

I like it! Onward to the poem’s close.

“Fellow mortals” is just boring to me for some reason. My immediate strategy is to cut stuff to simplify:

“...but enjoy applause

from imperfect hands

and praise from human tongues.”

I think it sounds okay? At this point I’m pretty desperate for some constructive criticisms.

Here’s our “fixed” version:

We Perform for the Gods

My glass bell chimes in time as the dancers,

dressed in hand-stitched scarlet, blue and black,

flow like the tide around our moonlit altar

to better please our audience

of human beings and gods.

Ancestral ciphers are offered down

in vibrant oral tradition

tattooed in grandmotherly whispers

on our young eardrums.

Our arms bend in a measured grace

to match the frame of stars,

angles set by wizened men

whose milky eyes can track

the whorl of Heaven.

We perform for the gods.

We perform for the gods,

but enjoy applause

from imperfect hands

and praise from human tongues.


So what do you all think? Where can it be improved? Where is the language too flat or too flowery?

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lofi
Apr 2, 2018



areyoucontagious posted:


We Perform for the Gods

My glass bell chimes in time as the dancers,
dressed in hand-stitched scarlet, blue and black,
I think your original analysis was right, but after the next line is improved 'hand-stitched' feels like overkill - I think the simple/short original line worked fine as a segue. That or simplify the colours.
flow like the tide around our moonlit altar
to better please our audience
of human beings and gods.
Really nice chunk, totally agreed about 'human beings' being the right choice.
Ancestral ciphers are offered down
in vibrant oral tradition
tattooed in grandmotherly whispers
on our young eardrums.
Such a good line, tattooed...eardrums is the highlight of the piece imo.
Our arms bend in a measured grace
to match the frame of stars,
angles set by wizened men
whose milky eyes can track
the whorl of Heaven.
whorl of heaven doesn't click for me - the rest of the line is good, but 'whorl' feels like a really vague ending - something like 'machinery of heaven' but less ugly could work.
We perform for the gods.
We perform for the gods,
Good repetition!
but enjoy applause
from imperfect hands
Yes.
and praise from human tongues.

Hmmm, a weaker ending than imperfect hands, I don't think it adds anything. I reckon chopping this bit would make the ending much more crisp.

So what do you all think? Where can it be improved? Where is the language too flat or too flowery?

I'd lose the line-breaks. Could just be me, but I found your whole post there a bit hard to follow with so many short lines. Was it copy/pasted? Sorry if my comments are a bit vague, I'm really struggling to put stuff together in my head at the moment. It is a good poem, it really shows me the scene you're describing, and tattooed/eardrums and perform for gods/imperfect hands are great lines.

My effort for this week. It's not really had much of a chance to 'settle', I waited to collect fragments and didn't really leave myself enough time to write & edit it. I did enjoy scribbling down a couple of lines regularly, it was really nice to spend a minute going 'hey, let's really pay attention for a bit'. Ghetto mindfulness. (Ghetto Mindfulness is my new trip-hop band name.)

Winter has passed, now woodsmoke smells fill my room in the evening.

Winter has passed, and I eavesdrop upstairs' arguments through
open doors and windows. Each day a variation on the theme, he doesn't
love her enough, she screams.

Winter has passed when kids dart around drying clothes on a shop roof,
inventing the rules of their game as they go. A tinge of jealousy for their
improvised playground, a smile that it's not wasted.

Winter has passed with a dusty scrape as I drag my chairback-turned-cushion
to stay in the sun, toes curling into the warmth.

Winter has passed, but pale blossom falls like snow in the sun, turns road into
river and dances in the wake of the cars.

Winter has passed, and four old men sit watching the traffic,
each alone at their table.



e: My poem was so bad I killed the thread!

lofi fucked around with this message at May 19, 2018 around 21:41

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