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Unread 11-02-2019, 01:38 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,188
Default Chemistry


So right, that moment, bright and strange
all cramped up in the backseat, glazed
on chemistry, the rain-washed streets
all rainbow oil. O little town —
we yawned, but just for oxygen,
then laughed and played at being bored.

And every small town shrinks some more
when children glimpse the great absurd.
For years we'd heard the holy word,
now there it was in coin-scored wood
of bar stools, hidden jukebox gems
then midnight weaving past the tracks
to forests, quarries, secret caves.

Let’s not go home. We have no home —
pretend with me. The rocks are warm,
eat tree bark, let me drink the space
between your buttons and your neck.
O please don't check your watch, you know
it kills me so. Such holes in us
we tried to fill with every pill
and powder, snare shot, every thigh.
It’s magic here above the town
so high, so high, so stay here looking down.

But homes scowled, always, at our backs,
heavy with soap opera, toast and honey,
the Daily Mirror, the meter money
and people stay the same, or change.
I can’t remember, can’t arrange —
it blurs to a dim nostalgic song

that whispers it was all so foolish
and softly croons that we were wrong.

S2L7 -- changed "quarries" to "hilltops"

(then back again)

S2L4 -- changed "now suddenly there's" to "now there it was in"
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Unread 11-03-2019, 09:40 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 4,971

I love it, Mark. Just the way it is. If that’s a lousy crit, I apologize, but I’m just not seeing anything I’d want changed.

Ok, maybe one thing, a little narrative info: in “then midnight weaving past the tracks” could you insert the fact somehow that they’re now moving “above the town,” as the poem later says? That latter statement would feel more organic with a heads-up earlier on.

But whatever, I think this is lovely and evocative. Fine work.

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Unread 11-03-2019, 07:17 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Posts: 2,681

This is beautiful Mark

I am also unable to give negative crit only praise.

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Unread 11-03-2019, 07:45 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 6,118

Oh, all right, I'll say something critical.

There's an awful lot going on here. Not that that's a bad thing. For instance:

* Chemistry, both as sexual attraction between two people, and also as the mechanism by which psychotropic substances (alcohol, other drugs) work to change one's perceptions, which might lead to a perspective that is simultaneously interior and exterior, simultaneously intimate and distant, and simultaneously within a car and outside, hovering over the town.

* The "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" song, and its trope of viewing a small town (such as the narrator's) from a distance, and the song's religious implications, and its wintery associations (although there seems to be rain rather than snow in this scene), and how the song might be playing on a car radio while secular things are going on in the back seat.

* Coming-of-age, both sexually and independence-wise, corresponding with the narrator's outgrowing a religious orthodoxy that (one is left to speculate) had more to do with elders disapproving of and controlling children's behavior, perhaps with threats and promises about an unimaginably distant afterlife, rather than offering anything inherently useful for navigating the real world, right now.

Personally, I would appreciate a bit more help connecting dots and understanding contradictory juxtapositions in the poem. I can't deny that the poem is magical at times, and that magic should be disorienting and expectation-defying, or else what's the point of magic? But I find it a little too disorienting at times. Could be that I'm just a fuddy-duddy, though.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 11-03-2019 at 07:49 PM.
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Unread 11-04-2019, 02:32 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,229

The first time I read through this, I found it confusing, but not impossible to follow, and I concluded that the confusion was the point. So I don't think you need to change that. The last line of S3 stood out for being a foot longer, but that extension seemed to fit the meaning of the line, so I don't think that needs changing, either. But I did feel that the iambic beat felt a little too regular. If you added a few more substitutions, it would feel more conversational, but that would also give you a chance to emphasize what you want to emphasize, since variations in the meter make the readers pay more attention.

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Unread 11-04-2019, 02:45 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Mark,

Glad people are enjoying this. The poem seems to do pretty much what you set out for it to do, so that's a good thing. If you want to tinker with it, I think Julie and Susan give you some possible avenues.

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Unread 11-04-2019, 02:58 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 4,971

Just to chime in with a different perspective from Susan's, about adding substitutions. You often use substitutions effectively, to create the sort of effect Susan describes. But for this poem, I relish the regular iambic meter, which creates a calm undercurrent to the turbulent/exciting developments in the narrative. The iambic lines are skillfully handled, with enjambments, caesuras, punctuation, etc., so there is no sense of monotony. Not at all, from my perspective. Just an authoritative steadying voice in the present, looking back. My attention doesn't fade for an instant, spell-bound by that voice.
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Unread 11-04-2019, 10:26 AM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Australia
Posts: 3,985

Well, Sharkey, I do believe this is my favourite of yours so far.

I'm sensing a certain kind of mastery here. The poem has a voice, it's an image-making machine, it has lyricism, it has an argument/a turn, an atmosphere, and it has a predecessor. Some poems as songs flow on through time, and never lose it, never. And I hear 'To His Coy Mistress' here so powerfully it catches my breath. Gorgeous tetrameter lines throughout, with that one poignant pent/plea line, 'So high, so high, so stay here looking down' -- before we get the turn into time and place, the unerasable 'but at our backs' line.

It's so Marvell-ous, and it makes me realise there's always been a lot of Marvell about you. And this means a lot to me, because if I had to point to a poet in the timeless stream who I have most feeling for, and feel most like, it would be Marvell.

One for the book.

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Unread 11-04-2019, 12:27 PM
R. Nemo Hill's Avatar
R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Halcott, New York
Posts: 8,991

Yes, there is so much going on, but I don't feel lost for a moment except in concert with the voice of the poem. In other words, I feel, not confused, but invited to be lost. And I agree with Andrew that the masterfully handled iambic beat holds me steady throughout the whole magical journey, ticking like that ghost of time.

You've mentioned that you haven't been able to write much recently. But this poem is evidence that not writing is as valuable as writing: it's good to stop and let the pressure shift and build inside one. What eventually gushes forth is often more remarkable than the steady dutiful stream.

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Unread 11-05-2019, 02:19 PM
Mary Meriam's Avatar
Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: usa
Posts: 7,309

I'm with those saying not to revise. "Quarries" was one of my fave words - why change it to hilltops?? This is a poem of "bright and strange" moments. Love this: "let me drink the space / between your buttons and your neck." Love how you go from "thigh" to "so high, so high" (a great line). "So right."
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