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Unread 07-17-2019, 02:23 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,858

Hi Jake,

Lots of people like this poem, so take what I say here for what it's worth. At the end of the day, I see the work of making here, but plenty about the poem bugs me. Hence my delay in commenting, it's my usual method.
So here goes nothing.

I don't like ending a title with a comma. I've done it once, and still hesitate about that. FWIW, Bohemia (capital: Prague) ended as an independent kingdom in the High Middle Ages, though monarchs in Vienna maintained the title. It's perhaps like saying the Queen of Scotland? So to me, her being a literal queen seems far-fetched. Consequently, I read Bohemia in its figurative sense and am less surprised than others, apparently, to find her in McDonald's. Your contrast fails for me. Also, putting a monarch in McDonald's seems a bit cheap and jejune - done already in Coming to America, for instance. Lastly, I don't see how she remembers Chateauroux. I assume that's a wine? The town is far from Bohemia and doesn't draw foreigners. OK, hey, she has no wine, if I do a little violence to the syntax, but a milkshake instead. I'm not bowled over.
Closing out the stanza, I want "red shadows the avenue" to have literal meaning. Is there a red light somewhere? Is she reminded of red wine? I got your hint at blood in the flattish "or a shave," not sure how that escaped others, but don't see the implicit threat as earned. In Plath, it feels earned by madness, to me, but here, your tone does not seem unified. I do like "velvet gallantry."
Second stanza. Your enjambment doesn't feel earned for me in any way, as I think they should be. I want "out" on the previous line. How does a lightbulb briefly burn out, as noted upthread? I'm unconvinced. I googled music in McDonald's - I've never noticed any - and found out they play it. OK, how is it a barfly? Does it drink? How does it guard anything? Humpty Dumpty says, "The question is - who's to be master - that's all," and these statements of yours remind me of him, I don't yet see that they have any actual meaning. Also, I don't like the period in "goes. According," the violence it does to obvious syntax reminds me of what I did to create "poetry" on the page when I was about seventeen. Einstein writes, "Be as simple as possible, but not simpler," and I find that a worthy goal for us all.
Third stanza. I like the broilers, they seem lived and earned, and they are fun as music. Another satisfied seems a bit easy, as MCDonald's references go. I find it underwhelming. "A prince, too far to grab and small" is neat syntax, I like that. As for meaning, see my hesitations about your queen upthread. Is she time traveling? OK, so be it. Is she Austrian and imperial? Is she figurative? Your words raise these questions. Because the options seem mutually exclusive, I have trouble locating the prince you'd like us to find on your page. I think he deserves to be located.
Fourth stanza. So her (computer? smartphone?) screen is various things. It is, I think "dawn's / last dance or (dawn's) dismissal," where I don't enjoy the violence you do to syntax, notably in your enjambment, nor do I see another way to recuperate your meaning. Again, Einstein. The last two lines I find lovely. I'm not sure what they mean.
Bottom line: plenty of folks read this and say "Oh yes, poetry." They see the work done to make what is clear, opaque. They see play. It rewards people who like to get their money's worth on the page, the way Dali rewards the eye with draftsmanship and brutalizes the senses. But to my mind, Dali will forever be minor, and that is the choice he made. It's not my cup of tea. I'll add that plenty of people are writing and publishing this sort of stuff, and have been for some time. It bores me, and I feel doesn't reward the work it requires of me (the screen's syntactic attributes, for instance). I don't find that it earns my time, nor does it leave me feeling I have enjoyed, say, a nice wine rather than a high-sugar McDonald's concoction. So much for the syntax. As for the conceit or premise: I could care less about McDonald's. Again, the demotic has been in vogue for decades now, and will continue to be. People see McDonald's and go "Oh yeah, this is clearly a modern poem." To me, that is cheap, it's been done before - Ginsberg's superb Whitman in the supermarket - and I don't feel this adds anything useful to that rather nonce tradition.
I don't expect this poem to stand the test of time. Sorry. I agree, you'll find happy readers these days. Dali finds happy viewers. But he's not Picasso, he's not even Braque. There is a dullness, a lack of center, at his core. At the end of the day, there is no there there. I think you can do better.
OK. I took the time to comment at length here because plenty of poems like this are out there. I hope to speak my piece here about the genre, for what it's worth. Call it a manifesto.


Last edited by John Isbell; 07-17-2019 at 02:29 PM.
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