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Unread 01-02-2021, 09:49 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,612

Matt, I can envision arguments for both versions. The second shorter version would work better if presented below the image than it does before the reader is aware of the image. What I like about the original is there is a story in the poem that is less dependent on the image. I didn't know the image was available as I read it and felt no need to see it. I prefer the original for this reason. I like the narrative. That isn't to say the revision isn't effective but it is less engrossing and has less of an emotional connection to this reader. I wouldn't want for you to lose that and it is greatly diminished in the short version.

I have no nits for either version. It's great work and I'm happy I read it.

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Unread 01-04-2021, 03:06 PM
Jane Crowson's Avatar
Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: UK
Posts: 336

Hi Matt,

As promised, I’ve thought about this a bit more and returned (though you might not thank me for it!)

My thoughts:

I would consider ditching, or reworking the regular tripartite structure as it stands, as by using it you set up anticipation in the reader that certain aspects will progress or echo each other, or reinforce each other - repeating motifs. I think this was my problem with my first few readings.

I don’t understand why you have separated this into regular three line strophes, either - I’ve read it a few times now and it seems to impose a faux regularity on the poem that it doesn’t need or ask for. For me, it’s stronger when read as a story, winding forward, like the character’s tiredness. If it’s a looping, magical, mythical narrative does it need these kind of constraints?

I would consider editing the filler words - not all of them, but do you need the ‘And, of course’ at the start of the second section, or could you start on ‘She ate’ so you have one bit of the narrative in the present tense, moving from past to present as the poem reads on? Personally, I’d do the most trimming in this section. For example, I’d cut out the ‘like a sickness’ as I think you’ve described this well enough anyway and don’t need to tell us, too.

I like the precise details of ‘brutalist architecture’ and wonder if you could bring in a couple of other very contemporary references that locate the poem in the present as well as the fairytale.

I think the end works nicely - and if you wanted to you could draw out a growth metaphor; using seeds in the first few strophes, having her being fed with the fruit, and then introducing the blossom - it’s out of order but the poem, in my reading, is more magical realist than realist so that doesn’t matter too much.

These are quite specific thoughts (apologies) but I hope they’re helpful. They're probably better framed as the following three questions:

Why are you using the tripartite structure?
Why have you separated the poem into regular three line strophes, each a similar length?
Why are you so keen to name the fruit bats as a sickness rather than leaving them as more ambiguous figures?

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Unread 01-21-2021, 03:14 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,953

Andrew, Andrew, Mary, James, Sarah and John.

Many thanks for your comments and apologies for taking so long to come back to you.

So, differing views on the long version version versus the short version. I'm back to the long version for now and have posted a revision that's mainly different in form, plus a few word-level changes, and a change in tense in the final third.

Andrew F,

The em-dash was supposed to show an addition, but I think probably it works better as three separate setences (one per dream), which is what I've done with newest version.

I guess I don't have a problem with woken by the dawn being non-specific. Good to know that is not quite working for you though. I'm not wedded to it though. I had wondered about her being woken by a dawn breeze (the window being open), or by the scent of dawn.

Andrew M,

I like the idea of the bats being really there, rather than psychological figments. Looking at the image I was thinking of an "invisible" chronic illness. You carry it around with you, you hope no one will notice. So, in that sense, I wanted the woman to really be burdened by the bats, not just in her dreams. Though that may not make complete sense!


I thought about "gift" and leaving behind, and tried removing them, and also changing "a gift of blossom" "a spray of blossom". I think that I need them though, partly because without them it seems to me less clear that the bats have gone for good.


I'm really pleased you like the longer version. Thanks for your explanation as to why. I think losing "pomegranate" is a very good idea, and it's gone.


Thanks for some very useful questions.

I don't have a good reason for the tercets; it's a bit of a default structure for me. So they've gone from the revision.

Essentially I had the three-part structure because a) the poem seemed to fall into thirds (descent, leaving, bat dreams) and b) I wanted to separate the final third which seems different somehow; a little separate from what precedes. So in the revision, I've kept that last third seperate.

I didn't think I was naming the fruit bats as sickness. The poem says that being burdened by the bats is like being burdened by a sickness. Which seems to me different from saying the bats are a sickness; it seemed to me to be almost implying they weren't. I dunno. I'll think about it. It's one of my favourite lines.


Thanks. I think I agree on the longer version; there's just more going on. And as both you and Mary have said, it's not dependent on the image in the way the short version is, which I think is a good thing.

Thanks again everyone!


Last edited by Matt Q; 01-21-2021 at 03:28 PM.
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