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Unread 06-07-2019, 06:30 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Default Echo

Echo (Draft 7 plus tweaks)

She’s wall-to-wall at rallies—doppelgangered, multituded—
reciting all the slogans that his message-hole extruded:
“Us FIRST!”, “We’re NUMBER ONE!”, et al. But sadly, she’s deluded
if she believes his royal “we” implies that she’s included.

Without him, she was voiceless; as his megaphone, she can’t
be silenced or ignored now. It's empowering, to chant
a bully’s latest bullshit claim, a tyrant’s latest rant,
a stomach-turning egocentric’s latest nauseant.

His poison-flower’s doomed to wilt; she'll shift from shout to song
(of glory—We were GREAT once! We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—Then those evil Others schemed to do us wrong!)
until the next supremacist Narcissus comes along.


Tweaks:
S1L1 She's wall-to-wall at rallies <-- She populates his rallies
S1L2 reciting <-- repeating
S2L2 was:
be silenced or ignored. It feels empowering, to chant
S2L4 was: egocentric's <-- Nazi-winker's
S3L1 was:
He’ll flower, and he’ll fade; her shouts will dwindle to a song
And when his toxic flower fades, her shouts will shift to song
His poison-flower’s bound to fade. Her shouts must shift to song
S3LL2-3 parentheses added
S3L4 was:
until another nativist Narcissus comes along.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Echo (Draft 6)

She populates his rallies—doppelgangered, multituded—
and mass-produces mantras that his message-hole extruded:
“Us FIRST!”, “We’re NUMBER ONE!”, et al. But sadly, she’s deluded
if she believes his royal “we” implies that she’s included.

He’ll flower, and he’ll fade; her shouts will dwindle to a song
of glory—We were GREAT once! We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—Then those EVILDOERS schemed to do us wrong!
until the next edition of Narcissus comes along.

S1L2 was:
to mass-produce the slogans that the demagogue's extruded:
then:
to mass-produce the prototypes his message-hole's extruded:
S2L1 was:
He’ll flower, and he’ll fade; she’ll waste away to just a song
S2L4 was:
until the next assembly-line Narcissus comes along.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Echo (Draft 5)

Without him, she’d been voiceless, getting scant
attention; as his megaphone, she can’t
be silenced. How empowering, to chant
a tyrant’s latest boast or threat or rant!

She populates his rallies, multituded,
reciting every slogan he’s extruded:
“Us FIRST!” “We’re NUMBER ONE!” But she’s deluded
to think his royal “we” means she’s included.

His day will pass. She’ll fade to just a song
of glory—We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—Villains schemed to do us wrong!
until the next Narcissus comes along.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(Draft 4 was too bad to post.)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Echo (Draft 3)

She populates his rallies, multituded,
repeating all the slogans he’s exuded:
“Us FIRST!” “We’re NUMBER ONE!” But she’s deluded
to think his royal “we” means she’s included.

He loves himself, and no one else. That’s clear
to all but her. He only keeps her near
because he thrives the more, the more her fear—
Without him, I’d be voiceless—grows severe.

When he decays, she’ll fade to just a song
of glory—We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—TRAITORS made our reign go wrong!
until the next Narcissus comes along.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Echo (Draft 2, plus tweaks)

She populates his rallies, multituded,
repeating all the slogans he’s exuded:
“Us FIRST!” “We’re NUMBER ONE!” But she’s deluded
to think his royal “we” means she’s included.

He loves himself, and no one else. That’s clear
to all but her. He only keeps her near
because he thrives the more, the more her fear—
Without him, I’d be voiceless—grows severe.

“We’re BEAUTIFUL,” he gushes. “Look at US!”
The water’s not a limpid looking-glass,
but dazzlingly distorted, so it’s less
the details that she glimpses on its face—

more those she can’t—that make her a believer.
Her mind supplies what’s missing, to deceive her.
“We’re AWESOME! We’re the MOST TREMENDOUS EVER!”
he cries. That vision sets them both a-quiver.

When he decays, she’ll fade to just a song
of glory—We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—TRAITORS made our reign go wrong!
until the next Narcissus comes along.

Tweaks:
S1 was S4.
S2LL3-4 were:
because he craves the power that her fear—
Without him, I’d be voiceless—lets him steer.
S3L4 was:
the details Echo glimpses on its face—
S5L3 was:
and grievance—TRAITORS made our rule go wrong!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(Draft 1)

I published an earlier version of this, but based on the responses I received, that version didn't provide enough clues to support the interpretation I was hoping for. So I'm interested to hear what people who didn't see the other version think of this one.


Echo

She stands behind him loyally—a stance
that guarantees she’ll never have a chance
to look at him directly (or askance)—
and scans their shared reflection, in a trance.

“That image isn’t real,” his critics say,
while lobbing rocks to put this on display,
they hope. Instead, those rings of disarray
just help him help her look at things his way.

“We’re BEAUTIFUL,” he gushes. “Look at US!”
The water’s not a limpid looking-glass,
but dazzlingly distorted, so it’s less
the details Echo glimpses on its face—

more those she can’t—that make her a believer.
Her mind supplies what’s missing, to deceive her.
“We’re AWESOME! We’re the MOST TREMENDOUS EVER!”
he cries. That vision sets them both a-quiver.

She chants at all his rallies, multituded,
repeating all the slogans he’s exuded:
“Us FIRST!” “We’re NUMBER ONE!” But she’s deluded
to think his royal “we” means she’s included.

He loves himself, and no one else. That’s clear
to all but her. He only keeps her near
because he craves the power that her fear—
Without him, I’d be voiceless—lets him steer.

You might not think you hear her in the crowd,
a mob that’s mostly masculinely loud.
You do, though. She’s possessing every proud,
full-throated fool the demagogue has wowed.

When she repeats his self-congratulation,
he calls it independent confirmation.
Addicted to each other’s validation,
they both keep swallowing exaggeration.

He’ll drown. She’ll waste away to just a song
of glory—We were SPECIAL! We were STRONG!
and grievance—TREACHERY made things go wrong!
until the next Narcissus comes along

and promises he’ll not just make her GREAT,
but make her GREAT AGAIN: her fondest thought.
(What former diva doesn’t feel the right
to special treatment, like she used to get?)

So even when you’ve watched Narcissus drown
and Echo fade, do not assume they’re gone.
They’re archetypes. They’ll both be back again.
Some tragic tales go on and on and on.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-14-2019 at 03:17 PM. Reason: Draft 7 tweaks
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  #2  
Unread 06-07-2019, 06:43 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Julie, though I think it could be shorter, I get what you are doing here. One point that could be improved is the last line: "tragic tale" is too flat and unspecific for this case. How about something like "toxic loves" or "doomed affairs" or something else that shows that their dysfunctions are puzzle pieces that fit together just right. In Ovid's version of the story, Narcissus does not drown, he just keeps gazing at himself until he wastes away. I don't know where the drowning version of the story comes from.

Susan
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  #3  
Unread 06-07-2019, 10:52 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Hi Julie,
it's pretty clear to me--very topical! Though I enjoyed all the craft (though the break from nearly perfect mono rhymes in S3 and the last two verses might be taken as a flaw), it did seem to be longer than needed. Though I like them, S2, S6, and S10 might be immediately expendable.

Thanks for the read!

Martin
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Unread 06-08-2019, 03:08 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Julie,

I think this is both right and topical and a bit unexpected. People tend to read for the easiest explanation, and the fact that Echo is female will trouble readers' default male protagonist IMO - that's how you'll get readers assuming this is about, say, Melania T. It's kind of a stupid reading, but those happen. There may be ways to flag more that your protagonist is the whole dictator fan base, to avoid that misreading. However, the poem feels already on the long side (not that there aren't long poems, but that this can perhaps be told quicker), so I wouldn't counsel expanding it.
I like your craft here as well. Thanks for the read.

Cheers,
John
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  #5  
Unread 06-08-2019, 09:27 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Thanks so much, Susan, Martin, and John. New draft posted. More than 50% less filling!

I'm hoping that the new "She populates his rallies" tweak will help to reduce the risk that this poem will be taken as only a statement about female supporters of Trump, or specifically about Melania. Probably best to put the multitude first, and thus avoid a wrong impression right from the start.

Susan, there's a version of the story in which Narcissus had a twin sister who looked like him, and she died, and he missed her so much that he used to gaze at his reflection in a well and pretend it was her, and he (apparently accidentally?) drowned in the well. (That's cited in Eustathius of Thessalonika's commentary on Homer--super late, in the early 12th century AD.) But that version obviously doesn't have a parallel with the political situation. All of the older versions I found either had Narcissus dying of a broken heart on the riverbank, committing suicide with a sword on the riverbank (and his namesake flower springing from his blood), or being transformed into a flower on the riverbank while still alive. No drowning. I just like the idea of someone in love with an insubstantial image eventually drowning in the reality of substance. Clearly, not all readers will let me get away with tinkering with the underlying myth like that, without some sort of explanation. I'll keep thinking about it. Maybe something more vegetative? "When he decays, she'll fade to just a song" ?

Okay, I'll stop editing the OP now, so people can comment without my changing Draft 2 on them anymore.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-08-2019 at 09:52 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 06-08-2019, 09:35 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Julie,

I like this a lot. It's a clever metaphor for the moment and it's well executed.

Two sort of half-formed thoughts:

1. Part of me wonders if, beyond the title, you need the names in the poem.

2. The second two lines of S1 are a bit awkward: "because he craves the power that her fear lets him steer." The metaphor is that her fear lets him steer power? I mean, I guess? But I think you could make the metaphor more effective. It's seems it could be useful to bring the ancient ship of state metaphor in here, particularly since Narcissus is associated with water. I don't know, that may be worthless, but maybe it will bring along something fruitful.
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  #7  
Unread 06-08-2019, 09:54 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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How about "because he craves her power, which her fear...lets him steer"?

"The details she can glimpse upon its face" would get rid of the "Echo." I do want to keep the "Narcissus" in the final line, though.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 06-08-2019 at 01:54 PM.
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Unread 06-08-2019, 10:31 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Julie,

I'm going to think more on the first suggest. I think the issue for me is he steers or directs, if anything, fear, not power. But I recognize I might be overly nitpicky here.

I think you emendation for taking out "Echo" is good, and ultimately you're right to keep Narcissus in the last line. My one worry is "upon." It feels a little formal for the rest. "The details that she glimpses on his face" might work better there.
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  #9  
Unread 06-08-2019, 02:14 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Thanks, Andrew. Draft 3 posted above. Even shorter.
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  #10  
Unread 06-08-2019, 04:09 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Julie,

Here's a vote for your latest short and pithy version. I think it contains what you need and nothing of what you don't need. It packs a punch. I do have two thoughts. For "Without him, Id be voiceless", have you considered brackets? I was thrown a bit by the syntax, reading it as "the more her fear (does)," a reading I think you'll want to prevent. Myself, I'd also look for another verb than decay, since dictators typically die speedy and often painful deaths, notwithstanding say Mugabe.
Two little thoughts. I like this a good deal.

Cheers,
John
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