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  #1  
Unread 03-23-2020, 06:51 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Default Burma-Shave Pitch

x

Pitching Words (v3)

Let me take another shot.
See what you think of this:
two people, it doesn’t matter who,
walk a winding dusty sign-strewn road
together, each following the other,
they walk straight off a cliff and into the mouth
of a deep canyon brimming with searing light,
obliterating everything that exists on the way down.
It turns out they have fallen through and out
of time and land with a thud in a place of no wonder.

They cannot see anything but color
and color becomes the language.
They can feel everything in the air
when it touches them.
Subtle greens and pinks and dark magenta
become the words of poets and poets
become the color blue.

One stands up and is new.
Light becomes him.
A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows the other.



----------
x
x

Pitch (v2)

What do you think of this:
A guy walks a sign-strewn dusty road
straight off a cliff and into the mouth
of a deep canyon brimming with sunlight,
obliterating everything that exists on the way down.
It turns out he has fallen through and out
of time and lands in a place of sense.

He cannot see anything but color
and color becomes the language.
He can feel everything.
Hues and tints become the words
of poets and poets the color blue.
He stands up and is new.
Light becomes him.

A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows you.
Burma-Shave.
x
x



----------

Burma-Shave Pitch

What do you think of this:
A guy walks a signless dusty road
straight off a cliff and into the mouth
of a deep canyon brimming with sunlight,
bouncing off jutting rocks on the way down.
It turns out he has fallen through and out
of time and lands in a place of sense.

He cannot see anything but color
and color becomes the language.
He can feel everything.
Shades of color become the words
of poets. Poets are the color blue.
He stands up and is new.
A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows you.
Burma-Shave.

x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-28-2020 at 09:21 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-23-2020, 08:36 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Jim, I like the conceit of this, and much of the execution.

The opening four lines are marvelous. I don't think the fifth line lands quite as well—it seems like an extraneous detail. Consider cutting it.

Likewise, I am not convinced the last line adds to the poem. I get how it emerges from the conceit. But you've already got "Burma-Shave Pitch" in the title—that's enough. The last line converts this, in my eyes, from a poem to a joke, and that undersells it. Let the "pitch" become something other than a pitch—let it "become the language". (I love the play, intentional or not, on the double meaning of "become".)

From "A lathered wave" on could perhaps be a new stanza.

Really nice work.
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  #3  
Unread 03-25-2020, 02:49 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Thanks Aaron.
Revision posted.

I've shortened the title to "Pitch" so that I can save the last line which is iconic to the Burma-Shave advert campaign. I had wanted the poem to lean heavily on that — But should more crits suggest letting the "pitch" be something other than the pitch I'll re-consider. It is an intriguing thought.
I'll think some more...

I did delete the fifth line as you suggested. Thanks.
x
x
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  #4  
Unread 03-26-2020, 11:09 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is online now
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Hi Jim. I enjoy the enigmatic images in this more than the interpretative parts. Enigma and non sequitur is the strength of it, I think.

What would you think of cutting back? E.g.,

What do you think of this:
A guy walks a sign-strewn dusty road
straight off a cliff and into the mouth
of a deep canyon brimming with sunlight,
obliterating everything that exists on the way down.

He cannot see anything but color
and color becomes the language.
He can feel everything.
[Add a line or two here stating specific hues that are 'words'? The abstract statement doesn't do much for me.]
Light becomes him.

A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows [him].



I’m not getting the switch to second person at the end. Could that be “him” and still say what you mean?

My example is just me trying things out. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Best,

Andrew
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  #5  
Unread 03-26-2020, 08:06 PM
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Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Jim —

I remember Burma Shave signs, reading them aloud as we passed by, or looking out the rear window to read them in reverse and then reconstructing. What immediately struck me about the poem is that the end, although it rhymes on -ave & suggests a sign sequence, is not in the classic Burma Shave form, namely 5 signs of verse followed by the Burma Shave sign. (There were other variations, but a minority.)

I read the poem as moderately light with an upbeat close. So it would be easy to carry through with a classic close, e.g.:

A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows you,
but it's
all right.
Burma-Shave.


Some examples here.

The book The Verse by the Side of the Road by Frank Rowsome, Jr. has just about all of the jingles.

— Woody

Last edited by Woody Long; 03-26-2020 at 08:17 PM. Reason: put "Burma Shave" in italics in the example closing verse
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  #6  
Unread 03-28-2020, 09:40 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Thanks Woody, Andrew.
I've decided to go in a different direction. See revision.

The poem began after watching a few episodes of Mad Men. What I wanted was the voice of an advertising executive pitching an idea. But the unexpected hook of the poem is that the idea being pitched is the answer to the profound question that has been asked over and over throughout recorded history: Is there life after death? Only an advertising person would have the audacity to "pitch" the answer! (I've always been enamored with the meaning of the word "pitch". I come from an extended family of Irish Catholic Mad Men. A family-owned business operating out of the NYC/NJ area. My father was a Mad Man.)

Back to the poem... Somewhere along the line I hooked the poem onto the Burma-Shave phenomenon that swept the nation back in the days before street signs were strictly regulated. I think that was a tactical poetic error on my part. It boxed the poem in. So I've let it out of the box and taken another shot. This time getting back to the original concept I had thought of and came up with revision #3 posted.

Am I going down the wrong path with this? Have I even earned the right to take a shot at answering the question? What is the answer?
x
x
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  #7  
Unread 03-28-2020, 03:40 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Jim, I think your first version was the strongest, with the caveats that I raised in my initial comment standing.

You've got something close to a really finely chiseled, fat-free piece here—don't let maximalist instincts bloat it.
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  #8  
Unread 03-28-2020, 11:54 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is online now
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Jim,

My reaction is the opposite of Aaron's. I think this is starting to get interesting. Your background info is fascinating:

The poem began after watching a few episodes of Mad Men. What I wanted was the voice of an advertising executive pitching an idea. But the unexpected hook of the poem is that the idea being pitched is the answer to the profound question that has been asked over and over throughout recorded history: Is there life after death? Only an advertising person would have the audacity to "pitch" the answer! (I've always been enamored with the meaning of the word "pitch". I come from an extended family of Irish Catholic Mad Men. A family-owned business operating out of the NYC/NJ area. My father was a Mad Man.)

Wow, such rich material, lost (for me at least) in the generic-sounding first version. What I'm getting in the new version is a prose poem (I'm not seeing the advantage of lineation or stanzas per se), a Russell Edson - meets- Mad Man poem. Such an intriguing idea. So more, not less, is what I like in this.

Andrew
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  #9  
Unread 03-31-2020, 03:51 PM
Alex McMillin Alex McMillin is offline
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After reading all three versions, I feel that the latest version is the strongest. I like changing the single man to two people who go through the experience together. I also feel that the imagery is most precise in the third version. In my opinion, the third version is close to complete.
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  #10  
Unread 03-31-2020, 05:54 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Just to keep things confusing: one reason I prefer the original, aside from the fact that I think it dilutes its central images less than the latest version, is that I *much* prefer the he/you framing, which I thought was perfectly clear. L1 establishes the "you" (the reader) as someone who takes a perspective on the story of the individual. And then the "you" being swallowed up by the lathered wave follows on consideration of that story. These multiple layers get flattened in the latest version, and it dulls the emotional impact of the poem.

I feel as strongly in favor of the original version as Andrew and Alex feel in favor of the revision.

I'll expand a bit on the dilution point, too. "See what you think of this" has become:
Let me take another shot.
See what you think of this:
What have you added beyond a line of throat clearing? Impact diluted.

With the changed framing, you have:
two people, it doesn’t matter who,
That "it doesn't matter who" is again a case of subtraction by addition. You're editorializing, where before you were just giving the scene.

"a deep canyon brimming with sunlight" has become "a deep canyon brimming with searing light." You've gone from an easy, natural, image, to one that's trying much harder, and the result is again that the impact is, ironically, diluted.

"bouncing off jutting rocks on the way down" has become "obliterating everything that exists on the way down." Now I dislike both of these lines and think you should just stop after "brimming with sunlight", but of the two, the first strikes me as clearly superior: again you've gone from something understated to something overstated, and again the result is that it feels like you're trying too hard.

The changes to the current stanza two are less problematic and may even be improvements, suitably translated back into the he/you framing.

For the ending:
A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows you.

A lathered wave
of foaming white
swallows the other.
I can only speak for myself, but the first is vivid and grabs me as a reader with the direct address; the second is distanced and, to use that word again, diluted.

Ok, I hope that muddies the waters sufficiently.
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