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  #11  
Old 04-20-2017, 11:33 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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In the translation I'd go with "Titian's painted [or something] lords." I'm at a loss to find the original painting. Link?

I'm still troubled by the tangent the poem takes here:

But maybe I misjudge her smile. (15)
I view it through the prism
of factors I must reconcile,
like French conservatism,
a splash of Afrophobic bile,
and anti-feminism.
Perhaps she’s not a pedophile.
(Forgive my skepticism.)

Perhaps she smiles because she’s kind (16)
(though labeled “bored” and “haughty”).
Perhaps the lady’s too refined
to have a thought that’s naughty.
The dots connected in my mind
to Ganymede are dotty,
perhaps. To me, though, they’re combined.
These points are not staccati:

The feminine rhymes, as Aaron point out, send the tone into lightness, and it seems to me that you're reading more into the painting than is there. But I still need to see the painting. I assume this is it:

https://render.fineartamerica.com/im...nvas-print.jpg

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 04-20-2017 at 11:45 PM.
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  #12  
Old 04-21-2017, 08:14 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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I read it straight through without a hitch. That's a rarity in my distracted world! This is brilliant. As Susan said, "What an ambitious and encompassing vision!".

What I think most notable is the timeliness of it, though it's theme is timeless. The human condition leaves little room for improvement, though it could use copious amounts of it.

Really, really superb writing, Julie. It's wonderful to read a longer poem of yours that maintains the wit and profundity I've come to expect in your work.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 04-21-2017 at 02:46 PM.
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  #13  
Old 04-21-2017, 08:33 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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I think this is terrific, Julie. The poetic skill - and the compassion - both shine through.

It is, as others say, a tour de force, and that is the nub of my only cavil about it. Because you have chosen - and have breathtakingly succeeded in the attempt - to embed two sets of four rhyming lines in an unforgivingly tight verse scheme, over nineteen verses (the italics are mine, and they are admiring), there are points at which I'm more impressed by your virtuosity as a poet than by the argument of the poem.

Does that even make sense? Possibly not.

It seems a pretty minor point, no doubt, and I'm not sure it isn't one myself.

It is a truly impressive achievement.

Cheers

David
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  #14  
Old 04-21-2017, 12:00 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Aaron, thanks. I'll take a cold, hard look at the two stanzas you mentioned, and also at the possessive problem, which certainly seems like an annoying tic when you lay them all out like that. Hmmm.

Sam, as you note, the parallelism that my poem attempts to establish between the following three things is definitely the weakest when it comes to #3:

     1.) the situation of modern African refugee boys I saw in the Veneto region of Italy

     2.) the situation of Ganymede (the constellation Aquarius in the Zodiac) in classical mythology

     3.) the situation of the Renaissance slave boy in Heredia's sonnet

My poem may, indeed, be stronger if I get rid of #3 altogether. It pains me to contemplate losing that layer, but I'll give it a try to see if the result is a more effective poem.

Regardless of whether I keep the reference to Heredia in my own poem, I had better tweak the first two lines of my translation to avoid giving the impression that the sonnet is actually about a particular Titian painting. Actually, he's conjuring up the general class of Venetians who had their portraits done by Titian. I hope this rewording makes that clearer:

Quote:
It’s marble-carved, that palace. Crowded porch-lengths cry
as lords that Titian painted trade their pleasantries.
[Edited to say: Ugh, I really don't like those crying porch-lengths. I'll try this instead:

Quote:
It’s marble-carved, that palace. Porches amplify
the lords that Titian painted, trading pleasantries.
]

Jim, thanks very much for your vote of confidence.

David, you've touched on one of my major concerns about this piece: namely, that there's so much poem here for the reader to plow through that there's no time for ideas or images to sink in, before I ask the reader to move on to something else.

For example, I really wanted to end on the styrofoam cup, to give that image more impact, but that just didn't seem to work as an ending to the poem as a whole.

Maybe it's a mistake to try to present all this stuff in one go. (I certainly didn't think of all this stuff in one go.) Maybe I should break this up into chunks instead, and keep returning to it over the course of a few days in the overall poetic narrative, with poems in other forms (and on other topics) intervening.

Hmmm, hmmm. Lots to think about. Thanks, all.
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  #15  
Old 04-22-2017, 12:41 AM
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William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Hey, Julie! < Bill's imitation of the beginning of a Julie-critique.

I'm very glad you decided to workshop this ambitious poem, although because of its length it would be crazy to try and go stanza by stanza and pick nits. I will not do that, although the vote is still out as to whether or not I'm crazy.

I agree with the general applause. Your poem is obviously very well-done and the time and effort you put into it shows, in spades. I cannot say exactly why, but I was reminded a wee tad of Wordsworth (will hunt up the poem) when I was reading, and of another British poet one does not hear mention of very often, George Barker. Barker wrote a very long poem in this ballad-like style, though loosely, as was his wont, but I can't recall the title at the moment. I do recall that he was sick when he wrote it, and bed-bound (I will hunt it up, later). It doesn't matter - just giving you my immediate poetical impressions. I will home in on the Wordsworth as well, and maybe PM you on that note.

***

I honestly don't think we can put ourselves inside another person's skin. I am having the same trouble (though not nearly to the same degree) with your poem that I had with David Callin's, about the poet Philip Larkin. Do we know who this "dogaressa" is? Can we stand in her skin and know why she is smiling, or exactly what nature of affection she has for the child? The answer is - No. We can't, and we don't. Simple.

You, as a follower of Christ, must know that we are advised not to render these kinds of judgments on other individuals. The reason Christ was so repetitive, and so precise, IMO, about that subject, was for the simple reason that for every individual, there's a back-record of experience, environment, external and internal causative factors, that go into a person's immediate and subjective, dynamic personality and behavior at any given time.

The observer is at a great remove from the subjective agent. We have limited information, limited sensory data, an ever-shifting flood of input and processing, so that at every moment, almost literally, we are not the same creature we were one moment past. Who was it who said we don't step into the same river twice? That's what I mean.

While I admire your poem tremendously for its beauty of language, the way you have mastered the form, the insistent and always in-yer-face rhyme (which I've never tried, by the way); and while I admire the courage and tenacity required to take on such difficult and controversial subjects, I think that, if this were mine, I may have left out, or changed, certain lines** that seem to render a rather fixed, if in poetic disguise, judgment on these these young boys (and peripherally, the dogaressa), and the complex environment and history that molded them.


** [emphasis on words I would not use]

Ive seen his clones on city streets.
in school. Hell be no engineer. >>> how do you know that?
Perhaps shes not a pedophile.


I think you might want a slight recasting of S19? I can't offer any suggestions, though. I wish I could. "Every clone's unique" sounds really clever, but I don't know if it works. ?
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  #16  
Old 04-22-2017, 01:20 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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I did look at some images of Ganymede. Why Zeus would have wanted the peeing brat in Rembrandt's version is beyond me.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...rt_Project.jpg
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  #17  
Old 04-22-2017, 07:16 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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Bill's review (because that's what most of the crits on this poem could be called: rave reviews) is an excellent one. Its worth the critic questioning whether or not anyone can truly get inside the mind of someone else. In fact we cannot (though, alas, someday...)

But I think poets have the capacity to imagine they can. If only for meditative reasons. I see it being done in almost every good poem I read. I see it in Bill's Lazarus poem. In David's Larkin poem. It's more a matter of how well the poet can imagine. Yes, we the readers will be quick to call out any infractions to the subjective truth. But the poet must try to get into the mind of the subject in order to discover. I work with actors from time to time who make it their duty to do the same in order to fully assume a role they're playing. Sometimes they take great liberties with it. Other times they treat the role with reverence. Case in point: Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln. The point is, artists must go there. Poets, painters, et al.

I do like Bill’s suggestions, though don’t think any changes need to be made. I personally think S19 is one of the strongest in the entire poem. The previous 18 stanzas are well-concluded with the 19th and final one.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 04-22-2017 at 08:31 AM.
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  #18  
Old 04-22-2017, 11:33 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey/Hi, Bill! Thanks for your thoughts on this. I value them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by William A. Baurle View Post
Do we know who this "dogaressa" is? Can we stand in her skin and know why she is smiling, or exactly what nature of affection she has for the child? The answer is - No. We can't, and we don't. Simple.
Sexual exploitation is a theme that comes up a lot in my poetry. Given my obvious preoccupation with that theme, I may, indeed, see it where it is not, and I may be reading too much into this.

And if she were a real, historical person, I'd certainly be more hesitant about judging her unfairly. The narrator of my poem does acknowledge that the view Heredia gives us of this woman is biased by "French conservatism" and "Afro-phobic bile."

However, this dogaressa is a completely fictional character, placed in the volta of a sonnet that has spent eleven lines talking about male, male, male nobility and white, white, white marble. To me, that context strongly implies that the apparently-innocent smile of this marginalized woman at an even-more-marginalized black boy is intended to represent something sinister and decadent and threatening to the social order celebrated in the preceding eleven lines (which is, after all, based on the purity of one's aristocratic blood).

Quote:
in school. He’ll be no engineer. >>> how do you know that?
I think it's a reasonable guess that a kid whose formal education ends at age 11 or 12--and which was probably of questionable quality before that, given the chaotic conditions that forced him to leave his homeland--is not going to pick up enough calculus and physics on his own to become an engineer.

Sam, I think that's exactly the impression that Rembrandt wants to give with his Ganymede painting--i.e., that there must be something very wrong with anyone who could find that even remotely attractive, and that the event was so traumatizing to the vulnerable, babyish boy that he peed himself.

Adamo Tadolini has some more attractive depictions, e.g. here and here. Note the Phrygian cap (aka liberty cap) that Ganymede is wearing. (I don't think it's an ironic statement on his lack of liberty--it's just showing that he was Phrygian. But I can't help but see irony in it, anyway.)

Jim, thanks for returning to this. As I've often said, the problem with empathy is that even when we try to put ourselves in someone else's position, we remain ourselves, with our own strengths and limitations, rather than theirs. But I think it's important to keep trying to do so anyway.
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  #19  
Old 04-22-2017, 04:25 PM
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Claudia Gary Claudia Gary is offline
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Hi Julie,

I'm arriving late, but would like to say that I both enjoyed and admired this poem a great deal. The combination of conversational quality, artistry, and compassion carried me along without stopping. I offer you no complaints and much applause!

Claudia
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  #20  
Old 04-22-2017, 04:50 PM
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William A. Baurle William A. Baurle is offline
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Jim,

You're right about my Lazarus poem - I did the very thing I accuse David and Julie of doing - which is why I felt ashamed of it, and why the poem has lost favor with me. And not only did I do that about the Lazarus character, but about Christ Himself - WTF was I thinking, I keep asking myself now. But you're also absolutely correct that an artist, and probably especially poets, MUST do these things. How in the hell would poetry get written if we didn't?

Julie,

I retract (or at the very least, regret) my issues about brain-hopping. But I felt it was what I was feeling and was genuine when I wrote the crit - and still is at least to some degree. I am conflicted on the whole thing to the Nth degree, like I'm conflicted about so many things - my faith being one of them.

However - about the boy not being able to be an engineer: I can only suggest that in this day and age, particularly since the advent of the Internet, autodidacts are taking the stage in dramatic fashion. The greatest musicians extant (IMO) are children and young adults who are entirely self-taught.

Then there are people like Ian Anderson, long before the Internet of course - who taught himself how to play the flute, well enough to perform with it on stage no less, in six months - a very difficult instrument to play without being taught, as well as how to compose complex music without knowing a thing about formal notation; and let's not forget Frank Zappa, who became a world-respected composer - even of classical music - by going to a library and teaching himself musical theory and how to write in formal notation.

A quote of Zappa's I love is, among many: "If you want to get laid, go to college; if you want an education, go to a library."

There may be no way to literally become an engineer without some form of credentials these boys will not be able to acquire, but then again, I would not write any of them off just yet (not that you've done that! You are extremely sympathetic to these young men).

Edited in:

Julie,

I found my little copy of Wordsworth's Selected Poems on Signet Classics - one of the very first books I bought. The poem I was thinking of is Yarrow Revisited - a poem of fourteen eight-line stanzas in ballad form. I was thinking his rhyme scheme was the same as yours, but it's not.

I still can't find the Barker, but I do know it was included in The Mentor Book of Major British Poets. I've found the companion book, The Mentor Book of Major American Poets, but the other is hiding on me, no doubt on purpose, the little bastard!

Barker starts out writing about something mundane - being bed-ridden because of the flu, and winds up, through many stanzas similar to yours, touching on very serious themes. I will find the book eventually, and cite the title. I think you and others would really enjoy the poem. Barker is under-appreciated nowadays, IMO.

Last edited by William A. Baurle; 04-22-2017 at 05:42 PM.
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