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Jim Hayes 07-19-2019 06:09 AM

In Vino Veritas
 
In Vino Veritas

Rewrite

The annual dinner was nearly over;
the fifth post-prandial toast
left still at the table attentive and sober:
Not Arthur the affable host-

the uncle who eighteen months ago
was found in O’Reilly’s bed.
Was O’Reilly there ? We’ll never know,
but that’s what the whispers said.

Not cousin Millicent, said to woo
Benny the local barber,
the butcher, the baker as well as the crew
off every ship in the harbor.

Not older brother whose wife agreed
he had served a term for fraud
to which he muttered; “Ah pay no heed,
sure I married a drunken bawd”.

Not Aunty Molly reduced to tears
hearing daddy was ‘Uncle’ Pat.
But where the abstemious wall had sprouted ears
and the Widow Cordelia sat.

The cupboard is open with skeletons out,
to everybody’s chagrin
each year they escape the louder they shout
and are harder to push back in.






The dinner was nearly over;
the fifth post-prandial toast
left few at the table sober,
not Arthur the affable host-

the uncle who eighteen months ago
was found in O’Reilly’s bed.
Was O’Reilly there? We’ll never know,
but that’s what the whisper said.

Not cousin Millicent, remarked to woo
Benny the local barber,
the butcher, the baker as well as the crew
off every ship in the harbor.

Not older brother whose wife agreed
he had served a term for fraud
to which he muttered to pay no heed
that he’d married a drunken bawd.

Not Aunty Molly reduced to tears
hearing daddy was ‘Uncle’ Pat.
The abstemious wall sprouted ears
where cousin Cordelia sat.

The cupboard is open, without a doubt
while the skeletons’ fun can begin,
each year, though easier to let out,
all are harder to get back in.

John Isbell 07-19-2019 07:12 AM

Hi Jim,

I do enjoy the dancing rhythms you generate. The story's pretty acid, enough so that I'd hope the gathering is unusual, if not unlikely. Rhymes do their work as well, though I'm not sure you can use ago where I'd expect before, losing the rhyme. At the close, you have to to, and a missing final period (or full stop). Typos.

Cheers,
John

Oh - the title may be apt, but to my ear, the phrase is well-worn enough to have lost definition and character. I'd look for alternatives.

Jim Hayes 07-19-2019 12:16 PM

Thank you John. This is a rewrite of something I wrote a few years back under the title of Aprez Dinner which maybe was a better, or at least fresher, title.
That ended;

The closet is open, without a doubt
which means that our skeleton kin
( for all they are easier to let out)
are harder to push back in.


I wasn’t particularly happy with the ending, it’s not our ‘skeleton kin’ that are let out , so I’ve been looking for an improvement, and I’m still not sure if I’ve got it.

All best
Jim

John Isbell 07-19-2019 02:32 PM

Hi Jim,

In the last stanza, I might change while to so.
How about "Skeleton Meal" as a title? It echoes the close and is suitably macabre.

Cheers,
John

Vera Ignatowitsch 07-19-2019 11:19 PM

Dark but fun, Jim.

The last stanza, indicating that the skeleton's fun is about to begin, throws me a bit, as it seems they've been having some fun already.

Perhaps:

The cupboard's open, and there's no doubt
they're cavorting — our skeleton kin.
Each year they are easier to let out,
and harder to get back in.

Best,
Vera

Andrew Frisardi 07-20-2019 11:48 PM

Hi Jim, I like the spinning out of local color in this, and the rhyming.

A few possible tweaks come to mind:

S2L4: make “whisper” plural?

The next line: I’m not familiar with that usage of “remarked”—is that idiomatic for you? Would a straight-up “rumored” or “believed” be better?

S4L2: I’d add a comma after “fraud.”

I like Vera’s suggestion for the last stanza, which I agree needs to be ironed out more.

Fun and witty, this is. I enjoyed it.

Andrew

Matt Q 07-21-2019 08:14 AM

Hi Jim,

So, overall, I find this fun. At times though the punctuation makes it harder to follow than it should be.

Also, I do find it very odd that the poem starts out with a tri-meter quatrain and then switches to ballad metre, which throws me out of the poem at S2L2 when an unexpected additional foot turns up, the metre seems off, and I need to stop to reread the line. Why not ballad metre throughout?

I'd punctuate the last two lines of S1 as:

left few at the table sober:
Not Arthur the affable host-

I'd suggest a colon, because what follows is a list. The whole poem follows on from "left few at the table sober". All the following list items, the "Not so-and-so"'s, begin new sentences, and so if the first one does, when I get to the second one, it's easier to see that it's part of a pattern.

I'd echo Andrew on 'remarked', which also wrong-footed me; it has the potential to be read at first glance as a verb, which might briefly wrong-foot the reader.

Not older brother whose wife agreed
he had served a term for fraud
to which he muttered to pay no heed
that he’d married a drunken bawd.

There's 'he had', then 'he'd'. I'm not sure why you vary it. Are you trying to avoid repeating "that he'd"?

You need a comma after 'fraud', because 'to which' begins a new clause. I'd also say you need a comma after 'heed' -- assuming the sense is 'he muttered to pay no heed (and muttered) that he'd married a drunken bawd'. Currently it says that we should "pay no heed (to the fact) that he'd married a drunken bawd", which doesn't seem like what you might want here. But maybe you do.

To avoid the 'he had' repetition (and assuming I'm reading your intention correctly) I guess you might go with:

Not older brother whose wife agreed
that he'd served a term for fraud,
to which he muttered to pay no heed,
for he’d married a drunken bawd.

though 'for' he sounds maybe more archaic than you'd want, so maybe

to which he muttered to pay no heed,
he was wed to a drunken bawd.

You lose the anapaestic rhythm here:

The abSTEM-i-ous WALL SPROUTed EARS

which ends up sounding more like trimeter than tet

The abSTEM|-i-ous WALL| sprouted EARS|

putting a 'then' between 'wall' and 'sprouted' would fix it I guess, but there may be something better.


The cupboard is open, without a doubt
while the skeletons’ fun can begin,
each year, though easier to let out,
all are harder to get back in.

I can't make much sense of "The cupboard is open, without a doubt while the skeletons’ fun can begin". It seems the wrong way round. "While the cupboard is open ... the skeleton's fun can begin" would make sense. Or even just, "The cupboard is open, without a doubt, and the skeletons’ fun can begin". But that may not be quite what you mean, since from the above the skeleton's fun has already begun.

Punctuation: A comma is needed after 'doubt', as 'without a doubt' is a separate clause. 'Each year' begins a new sentence (as far as I can tell), so a full stop is needed after 'begin'. Or an em dash or semicolon maybe. Like so:

The cupboard is open, without a doubt,
and the skeletons’ fun can begin.
Each year, though easier to let out,
all are harder to get back in.

With a comma after 'begin' it's confusing. I had it to reread to parse it.

The metre of the last two lines could be tighter/clearer, especially given that this is the close. I can kind of force it, but I'd rather not have to. In the last line I hear 'all' as stressed. And why not 'they' which more clearly refers to the skeletons? Or does 'all' encompass the people as well. It's harder to get them back in too?

best,

Matt

Jim Hayes 07-21-2019 12:05 PM

Thank you ver much John, Vera, Andrew, Matt .

John, I will indeed give some thought to your title suggestion, and I do like your suggestion re the final stanza Vera.

The reason I chose ‘remarked’ Andrew is because I wanted it read as a snide comment, but as both yourself and Matt find it a somewhat awkward construction I will just use ‘said’ and perhaps use whispers also.

Matt, think you for a very close read and good suggestions as always, I have adopted most and rewritten accordingly. Regarding the ‘older brother’ line, I’ve decided to colloqualise it , to make it clearer and perhaps add to the fun.

The final stanza, for obvious reasons, has been the one presenting the most difficulty.
I have a problem with my original use of ‘skeleton kin’.
Fundamentally it is not the skeleton kin that are locked away but the old dark secrets everybody has. This is the
point I have been attempting to make clearer and I wonder how closer I am getting to it in the rewrite above.

Thanks again all for your help, much appreciated,

Jim

Jake Sheff 07-21-2019 06:11 PM

Jim,

To me this feels well-crafted but unadventurous.

The ballad stanzas seem done well. I guess because its power depends so strongly on the characters, it falters by their lack of development.

We have a lot of the common foibles and folly here -- infidelities, peccadilloes of the criminal sort, too much wine. But nothing to make any of these stock characters special and brand new. This actually sounds like a poem from another era, a tad.

I'm afraid the cliches are not refreshed at the ending either. I could be completely wrong -- I don't want to speak with too much certainty. But the skeletons in the closet (or cupboard) and the walls with ears... Those are great fun -- Kay Ryan says something somewhere (Paris Review interview?) about rejuvenating cliches as part of her job. I'm not sure these are made new, although they didn't fall flat when I read this the first and second time. So I don't know.

Overall, I'd say you clearly are adept at the ballad form and have read deeply enough to know how we can poke fun at ourselves. Maybe what this requires -- to me, and I might be wrong -- is deeper family members or some irony (where N is clearly wrong in his perceptions). They're a bit underdeveloped/two-dimensional. I admit it's hard to develop characters in a brief ballad like this, and imagine to do so would require more stanzas; rooms for the family to be dysfunctional in :)

I do hope this helps! And I'm sorry if I miss the mark in any suggestions or my understanding of your poem.

Cheers,
Jake

Ashley Bowen 07-21-2019 06:46 PM

The craft here is admirable. You're working with sound in a traditional way that is appropriate to this form.

And I suppose my chief thought is that I wonder if the form is holding this back. Right now, I think the pace is a bit sluggish, and I wonder if this could be rewritten in couplets. A major overhaul, to be sure. And this could be complete heresy to this project, but I wonder if this could improve the pacing:


The annual dinner was nearly over;
but one at the table was still sober:

Not Arthur the uncle who eighteen months ago
Was O’Reilly there ? We’ll never know.

Not cousin Millicent, said to woo
the butcher, the baker as well as the crew.

Not older brother whose wife agreed
she'd married a drunken pay-no-heed.

Not Aunty Molly reduced to sobs
hearing she was really Uncle's Rob's.

The cupboard is open with skeletons out,
each year they escape. The louder they shout.

I obviously didn't have suggestions for every line, but you see the point that I hope that I'm making. I know this edit is incredibly insensitive to the care that when into your draft. Please don't hate me.

At any rate, there's much joy and enthusiasm in this piece that I fear is being choked off by the form.

Best wishes moving forward with this. I'm really interested in seeing where you take this.


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