Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Notices

Reply
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread 07-25-2019, 09:01 AM
Alan Wickes Alan Wickes is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Buxton, England
Posts: 359
Default After Auden (Paysage immoralisé)

Hearing of children dying in parched valleys,
'Heretics' besieged on arid mountains,
The dispossessed adrift on dangerous water,
Marooned in squalor on picture postcard islands,
Living rough within our glittering cities -
We toss loose change to salve our burgeoning sorrow.

We, whose trite anxieties mask endless sorrow,
Sit by pools overlooking verdant valleys,
Or penthouse balconies in towering cities
With distant view of smog-smudged, snow-capped mountains -
Share Snapchat pics of migrants trapped on islands,
Feign outrage as we sip our sparkling water:

Big pharma commodified tap water,
Cyber gurus monetised our sorrow;
Watch C-list celebs shag on virtual islands,
Eden shot in lush, panoptic valleys:
Re-tweeted memes make molehills into mountains,
A smog of sadness spreads across our cities;

Watch super-heroes save imperilled cities,
Their magic powers holding back the water
Rising all around like shimmering mountains.
Strip-back the CGI, a world of sorrow
Overwhelms us, shadowing our golden valleys,
Inundating once hospitable islands:

Hopeless, these once hospitable islands;
Crumbling, these old imperial cities;
Forgotten, these empty, blossoming valleys.
No gods or heroes sweep across the water
To save us from our desolating sorrow
Looming before us like dark, impassable mountains.

Our future is an aftermath. Grey mountains,
Half submerged, shrunk to humid, swampy islands
Give beggarly shelter, but from our sorrow
There is no shelter. Couched in ruined cities
Ragged gangs skirmish over dwindling water;
Nearby, arcane cults skulk in sunbaked valleys.

And sorrow falls like mercurial melt water
From cloud veiled mountains; forsaking bleak valleys
We dream of earth's cities as viridian islands.

Edit: S3,l3: 'Watch C-list celebs fuck' to 'Watch C-list celebs shag'

Last edited by Alan Wickes; 08-05-2019 at 05:43 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread 07-25-2019, 12:59 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952
Default

Hi Alan,

And welcome? I believe this is your first posted poem here, and a sestina at that. There's some wealth and tonal variety in your vocabulary, to my ear, and I think you do some work to evade monotony - always a risk with sestinas - in the music on your page. I do however think you've made your task harder by choosing feminine rhymes throughout - I wouldn't do it, I know that! Other than that, just the niggly note that I'd put a hyphen in the adjectival "cloud veiled mountains."

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread 07-25-2019, 05:02 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2,114
Default

Alan,

I appreciate and enjoy moments of this a good deal, to include such elegant imagery as ‘a smog of sadness spreads across our cities.’ Notwithstanding the excellences, some passages struck me somewhat like a fire and brimstone preacher on the end-times might, being less convincing to me thus. Such as the following, when considered on the heels of others equally apocalyptic
Strip-back the CGI, a world of sorrow
Overwhelms us, shadowing our golden valleys,
Inundating once hospitable islands:
What seems lugubrious and myopically doom-bent might be less convincing, the opposite fault to rose-colored glasses. Of course, to be a persuasive prophet on such sweeping things is not easy, let alone in the form of a sestina. In any event, this brings me to a related point.

Lest the poem should smack of blanket sermonizing, I reckon it might do well to deliver its import upon society by some particular focus or other which bears implications for it. This Auden does in the sestina Paysage Moralisé. There, he proceeds to comment on society not by blanket statements but by the allegorized narrative of the founders of cities in particular. The poem is less preachy and heavy-handed, more persuasive and effective for it I think. After wider connections to the agents of the tale are hinted at in the opening stanza, the proceeding tale focuses specifically on these city founders.
Hearing of harvests rotting in the valleys,
Seeing at end of street the barren mountains,
Round corners coming suddenly on water,
Knowing them shipwrecked who were launched for islands,
We honour founders of these starving cities
Whose honour is the image of our sorrow,

Which cannot see its likeness in their sorrow
That brought them desperate to the brink of valleys;
Dreaming of evening walks through learned cities
They reined their violent horses on the mountains,
Those fields like ships to castaways on islands,
Visions of green to them who craved for water…
Big pharma commodified tap water,
Cyber gurus monetised our sorrow;
Watch C-list celebs fuck on virtual islands,
Eden shot in lush, panoptic valleys:
For my part, the f-word here seems gratuitous; also, nothing if not incongruent with the rest of the diction exemplified by the subsequent line ‘Eden shot in lush, panoptic valleys.’ Not to mention that I found the interjection of crudeness killed whatever poetic feeling had been evoked in me in one fell swoop.

To conclude on a positive, I enjoy the following imagery at the ending a good deal and find it effective. One of my favorite parts!
Couched in ruined cities
Ragged gangs skirmish over dwindling water;
Nearby, arcane cults skulk in sunbaked valleys.

And sorrow falls like mercurial melt water
From cloud veiled mountains; forsaking bleak valleys
We dream of earth's cities as viridian islands.
My two cents’ worth. I hope it might help one way or another.

All the best,

Erik

P.S. I find this poetic commentary rather Juvenalian than Horation. Auden seems to balance his indictments on society with a gentler touch that places him for me in the Horation tradition. That said, I suppose there is nothing to prevent you from taking on a Juvenalian model of angry indignation and unmitigated pessimism even in an echo of Auden whose commentaries seem more balanced or Horatian. Then again, I have always found it a hard sell to swallow this armageddon.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 07-25-2019 at 07:57 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread 07-26-2019, 03:15 AM
Orwn Acra's Avatar
Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: NYC
Posts: 1,985
Default

This sestina does not enthuse me, and you rely too heavily on the Auden. But the bit that Eric mentions:

Couched in ruined cities
Ragged gangs skirmish over dwindling water;
Nearby, arcane cults skulk in sunbaked valleys.

And sorrow falls like mercurial melt water
From cloud veiled mountains; forsaking bleak valleys
We dream of earth's cities as viridian islands.

is really good.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread 07-28-2019, 06:09 AM
Alan Wickes Alan Wickes is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Buxton, England
Posts: 359
Default

Thank to all for your insightful critiques, When you have not posted here for years you do so with slight trepidation as it is somewhere that doesn't suffer fools gladly, and part of me had concerns that the poem was a foolish attempt – what was meant to be a homage to Auden was in fact an act of clumsy vandalism. At least it seems it is not quite that bad!

John: I have posted here before – it was years ago though. You are right about the missing hyphen – I’ll fix that. Having decided to try to re-cast Auden’s celebrated sestina in the context of current events I was committing to work within his given pattern of repetends. It is true the feminine endings make it tricky to avoid monotony – I gave it my best shot.

Orwn: Thanks for reading the poem, at least you found part of it 'really good'!

Last edited by Alan Wickes; 07-28-2019 at 07:44 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread 07-28-2019, 06:15 AM
Alan Wickes Alan Wickes is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Buxton, England
Posts: 359
Default

Erik: You pinpoint the issues in the poem concerning how strident it becomes in places – I think you are right that they are the result of abandoning Auden’s allegorical framework which softens the edge of the terse, imperative diction you find in his poems from the early 30s. It’s not easily fixable as one of starting points was an attempt apply the structure of ‘Paysage Moralisé’ to the stream of shocking images appearing on my phone’s news feed – which I began to think of as a ‘Paysage immoralisé’.

At the risk of lapsing into anecdote it might be worthwhile saying briefly how that came about. For the past five years I have spent half my life travelling. I spent October 2015 journeying around the Peloponesse. It was empty, tranquil and very beautiful. Yet less than 100 miles to the east Greece was being overwhelmed by thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. My phone filled with haunting images of human suffering. On Facebook Alicia Stallings posted a personal account of her work with refugee families. Occasionally our tranquillity was shattered by the sound of F15s flying from bases in S. Italy to Cyprus to bomb targets in Syria. Then the mysterious algorithms that control what appears on my phone decided to post an article about Paysage Moralisé’ – highlighting the influence of Erwin Panofsky’s work on Northern Renaissance allegorical landscapes. I had the idea to recast the Auden poem that was structured around allegory – an overtly moral narrative, choosing instead imagery derived from online feeds that operate covertly. I felt these resulted in 'landscapes' that are at best ‘amoral’ but frequently manipulated in ways that are immoral. It proved to be trickier to pull-off in practice than I anticipated. The first half was written in 2015/16; the final stanzas reflect more recent feeds concerning the Marvel Superhero films, Brexit, ‘Love Island’ - particularly on-line discussions resulting from the double suicide of a former contestant and her boyfriend. ‘Our future is an aftermath’ was the only thing I could clearly remember of a dystopian dream I had which probably reflected debates provoked by the activities of Extinction Rebellion activists. Perhaps the project was ill-conceived in the first place but I felt compelled to complete it..

Your postscript concerning Juvenalian versus the Horation mode is very astute – you are right, we do celebrate Auden’s balance and humanity – his overriding sense that the marvellous (or terrible) happens while someone else is walking dully along. However, to some extent he did conspire to be remembered like this by attempting to suppress his more Juvenalian work – both ‘September 1, 1939’ and ‘Spain’ are deliberately excluded from my edition of ‘Collected Poems’. The final lines of the latter poem were rejected by Auden as something he only said for effect. ‘History to the defeated/May say alas, but cannot help or pardon.’ Auden concluded that this was a ‘wicked’ notion; however, I think it contains a discomforting truth - is my poem one long ‘alas’? Not entirely - the final stanza does hold out an olive branch to hope – interestingly, it’s the part that you and Orwn liked best.

Finally, you may be right about the ‘f-word’. I’ve changed to the good old-fashioned English slang term ‘shag’, partly because this has connotations of sex as a kind of social sport, so more appropriate to lines about ‘Love Island’; also, it sounds better – picking up on the preceding sibilance.

“Watch C-list celebs shag on virtual islands,
Eden shot in lush, panoptic valleys:
Re-tweeted memes make molehills into mountains,
A smog of sadness spreads across our cities;”

Apologies for the long-winded response, I appreciate if I intend to become a regular here again, I need to offer more critique than material to be critiqued – I will endeavour to do that.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread 07-28-2019, 07:56 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952
Default

I do like the word shag and am glad to see it replace the f-word here.

Cheers,
John
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread 08-04-2019, 12:21 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 781
Default

Fortune favors the bold and posting a sestina here after a long pause is definitely bold. Fortune also plays rough with the bold, just be bold right back, no slacking up for the next post, eh?

I noted the horation/juvenalian sense as well, but might not have been able to phrase it so well. In for a penny, in for a pound I say and lay it out as a diatribe, at least once in private writings to see what's to come.

This perfectly encapsulates the highs and lows of the poem for me:
"Re-tweeted memes make molehills into mountains,
A smog of sadness spreads across our cities;"

First compliment: The culmination of "a smog of sadness spreads across our cities" is so perfectly layered in after mention of mountains that I'm sure you have the bowl-shaped region of LA in mind. The last bit is idiosyncratic for sure, but you get the overall praise.

Second: Nit. Molehills/mountains. This happens to me all the time *ping* in the middle of all my hard work, a cliché slips in. Argh.

Third: Idiosynca-nit. "Re-tweeted memes" It's so topical that in a year or three, I'm not sure anyone will remember what that phrase means. Doesn't make the poem good or bad, but limits the shelf-life terribly. Sometimes though, that is just the way things are.

That's poetry often naming things just as they pass
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread 08-05-2019, 04:14 AM
Alan Wickes Alan Wickes is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Buxton, England
Posts: 359
Default

Hi Daniel,

You are right, it was a bit risky posting this; it's fared better than I might have hoped.

I think all the points you make are good ones, I am not entirely happy with the 'molehill/mountain' line either, but I can't figure out an alternative within the constraints of the sestina form that communicates the sense of how the accretion of on-line messages creates a 'smog of sadness'. As it stands there is a certain shock in the way the clichéd phrase and the stronger line following it are juxtaposed.

So far as 'shelf life' is concerned, I am not too troubled by including slang and ephemeral phrases in my work. I wonder what percentage of poetry published in magasines gets re-read in later years? A tiny fraction I suspect, the chances are most of what we write is going to get forgotten quickly anyway.

If by some freak chance a poem does wriggle its way into 'the canon', then the odd anachronistic phrase will end up with a footnote in all probability - take Auden's lines in 'Unknown Citizen' - And had everything necessary to the Modern Man/A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire - of course they seem very quaint now, but they have period charm, I think.

I can see how the 'smog of sadness' might remind you of LA, I did stay there 12 years ago around Christmas time - as I remember it the place definitely fits the line. I don't think I was thinking of a particular city when I wrote it - any sprawling megacity really.

Thanks for your comments - I will try to think of a way of removing the annoying molehill.

all the best

Alan
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 8,016
Total Threads: 19,925
Total Posts: 255,057
There are 444 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online