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  #11  
Old 06-17-2017, 11:12 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I think this is your best poem to date that I’ve read -- at the very least your most ambitious one. It’s got beautiful dimensionality to it. It uses theatrical devices that are script-like: (dream), the opening italicized lines, the scene-setting (It’s loud. Hot.) You present the poem in two scenes with the (dream) being an interlude. It’s brilliant.

The first three lines do everything necessary to empower the rest of the poem to be wistfully dream-like and impressionistic. What you do in those opening lines is to immediately tell the reader that what is to come is your recollection of her recollection – and her recollection as you recall, was given slyly with a smile which speaks volumes. It's only after then that you proceed.

The spacing and grouping of lines throughout echoes beautifully the fragmented quality of your recollection of her memories. In particular, the interlude that is provided by the (dream) line is perfectly complex and adds a touch of theatrics. It (the spacing) allows the poem to live in the airy world of memory. It is something of a break from your usual tightly spaced verse. It works.

Some Thoughts:
  • First, the only lines I think preventing this from being nearly perfect are these:
you pay for a lost

tomorrow in the Palais fire,
with milk money you haven't got.


It’s good, but not as strong as the rest of the poem. Some have questioned the mushroom cloud, the (dream), the last line – but I like all of that.
  • The poem unfolds much like a fine painting. First, the overall image of a young woman; then the colors, the skirt, the various fibrous roots chopped, the hands occupied, the mushrooms, the candy – all the separate pieces of the image that go into the whole. Yet the eye would finally settle on the parabola formed in the skirt from the candy. Just wonderful.
  • The rhyming kicks in only after the dream (dream). Although there is no specific mention of music, it is felt through the meter and rhyme. Different from the first half of the poem where things are more hazy, more disconnected.
  • Some beautiful descriptions: furtive lap, mushrooms…like fleshy human tumours, arcing sweets to mouth
  • I was amazed to find out (via pm) that “Nightingale” was your mother’s maiden name -- that is serendipitous in the truest sense! I hesitate to ask what here first name was…
  • I being a theatrical sort, I immediately connected with the (dream). I see it as a one-word stanza that gives the entire poem a pause that allows you to bring two time-unrelated memories together. It’s a true interlude.
  • The cameo appearance of Maggie Sutcliff is wonderful. It takes your mother out of isolation in that first half of the poem and puts her in a social context. The whole poem is about social interaction when I think of it – the kind we had before texting and technology usurped it and transformed it into virtual interaction instead of actual interaction. A true lost art.
  • The final line is electric. I wouldn’t touch it. (I remember those lights being switched on so suddenly at Saturday nights dances in the Immaculate Conception Church basement. The lights being flipped on was like being doused with cold water). There is no better way of describing the end of a teenage dance.
  • The whole poem is revelation. The act of “dancing harder” to cope with frustration is beautiful; the phrasing “he skiffles on your button heart” so poignant; the milieu that is the dance hall and it’s uncomfortable environment (Loud. Hot) is all that’s needed to put the reader there; the moment of extreme angst when “He left with a lot/of laughing girls you heard. A mushroom/cloud behind your eyes. Fungi/to be with. You laugh. Glad he’s gone” is perfectly paced; and this: “a low sun bloody/behind the spire” is a blazing, bleeding image.
And on and on and on... It’s the best thing I’ve read by you.
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  #12  
Old 06-17-2017, 05:27 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Jim,

Her name was Shelia. And I'm otherwise kind of speechless. Thank you, I'm so happy you like it and took the time to write such an amazing response to it. I feel I know the poem better myself after reading it. Thanks again.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 06-17-2017 at 06:12 PM.
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  #13  
Old 06-19-2017, 05:08 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi folks,

I thought I'd try one more thing with this: basically a rethink of punctuation in the use of more em-dashes. The impressionistic nature of these scraps of second-hand menory seems to warrant them.

I've also re-written the 'mushroom cloud' line (again). Any thoughts? etc. And if not it can happily sink away.

Cheers!
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  #14  
Old 06-19-2017, 05:23 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

Since I first broached the subject: "mushroom / clouded eyes" and "when those unforgiving / lights crash on" resolve all my distracting nuclear questions. They work for me: I like the former, and the latter is exactly how I remember the end of High School dances.
I enjoyed this a good deal.

Cheers,
John
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  #15  
Old 06-19-2017, 06:06 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Mark,

I liked this a lot -- a favourite of your recent poems. My nits are pretty minor.

I too wonder about the "(dream)" interjection. At first I assumed it was there to tell us that what follows is a dream. And yet there doesn't seem dreamlike about it. It reads as real, and for me, at least, has more power if it's real. So I assume it is. In which case I found the "(dream)" interjection misdirecting.

I think the fungi joke works, old as it is, because you've set up her repulsion for mushrooms in opening, so it's doing work on more than one level.

In this line:
He skiffles on your button heart
from hockey fields

I can't work out how he skiffles from hockey fields. Is he on the hockey field? Or is in her head while she's on the hockey field. In which case maybe "in hockey fields"?

you pay for a lost

tomorrow in the Palais fire,
with milk money you haven't got.

This had me rereading. I reads like she's paying (now) with milk money she hasn't got (now), so how does she get in? Do you mean she's paying with milk money she does have now but won't have tomorrow as a result of spending it? Or does she borrow the entrance fee against milk money she will (or won't) have tomorrow? Ah, maybe she has money, tells herself it's milk money (i.e. disposable), but actually it isn't? Tomorrow is lost, I take it, because she'll be hungover/tired. "pay for" also has a connotation of consequences, which seems slightly at odds with the sense here. She's enjoying it now, she'll pay for it later. Anyway I was bit confused by this when I tried to work out the exact nature of the transaction. That said, it sounds good if I don't stop to think about it, which may be the mistake I'm making.

In the penultimate stanza, I'd put a comma after "laughing girls" to make clear that she doesn't hear the laughing girls, but hears about them. I'd also hyphenate "one-string bass", because well, we are British after all, and it's the British way. American laxity with hyphens seems out of place in the poem like this one, not to mention downright unpatriotic.

best,

Matt
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  #16  
Old 06-19-2017, 05:21 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John - thanks for coming back. I'm glad those two changes work for you. Glad you enjoyed this.

Hi Matt - As always your keen eye makes me take a fresh look at detail. I've added the comma you suggest, for good reason, after 'girls' and added the hyphen (for England!) in 'one-string bass'.

The (dream) interjection isn't supposed to suggest that what follows it is a dream, as you rightly assume. More that it's a bridging point in the poem's narrative where we leave her 'dreaming' in the cookery lesson, then 'dissolve', in a cinematic sense, to the next scene later that evening.

In the 'skiffles on your button heart / from hockey fields' lines, I want to give the sense that she can see him through the classroom window on the field, and his presence there is affecting her.

In the 'milk money you haven't got' line, your first reading is more or less what I was going for (Do you mean she's paying with milk money she does have now but won't have tomorrow as a result of spending it?). I'm thinking of a phrase familiar from when I was growing up and skint, as most of my friends were, where we would be paying for drinks/to get into a club or gig and look at the tenner in our hands, bemoaning 'I haven't really got this money'. So it's that sort of idea, yes.

Cheers. I'm happy you enjoyed this one.
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  #17  
Old 06-19-2017, 06:09 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Mark,

OK, he is on the hockey fields. That is exactly how it reads. I think I was just associating hockey with girls, and assuming she was there. I'd forgotten that boys played hockey too back then. My dad did anyway. Maybe they do now as well. Just not in my day -- or at least, not at my school. Did they in/at yours? I guess you have the option of "from football fields" for the ill-informed like myself.

On the milk money, I get the idea of paying with money you haven't (really) got. But in this case, it's money she hasn't got because it's tomorrow's milk money. So, it seems to me, either she pays with tomorrow's milk money, or she pays with money she hasn't got (because it's tomorrow's milk money). But I just don't see how it can be both. So, if it were me, I'd be looking for a slightly different wording. But as I said, it sounds good, and probably works if you don't think about it. My problem, which should be evident by now, is that I do think about these things. That doesn't have to be your problem too, I guess

best,

Matt
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  #18  
Old 06-20-2017, 02:09 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Matt,

Yes, the 'milk money' line makes enough emotional sense to me, to get across the idea, in a poem that is a once-removed account of memory impressions.

The boy in the hockey field I'd actually imagined as a slightly older boy just hanging around louchely during school hours. Not a fellow pupil. I like the slightly feminised connotation that 'hockey', as opposed to 'football', fields gives him.

Anyway, this should probably slide away now as I think (think!) It's done. Cheers!
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