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  #1  
Unread 05-25-2019, 06:39 PM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Default A Genuine Concern

Revision 3:

Sorting them took absolutely ages,
from disarray to shipshape A to Z:
Millions of words on several thousand pages
of poetry (not all of which I’ve read,
but treasure nonetheless) in golden rhyme.
They make me sigh – I wish I had more time!

It pleases me to see the names of friends
on many of the spines; I think it’s fair
to say that this collected work transcends
my other bookshelves. Brooke, Cope, De La Mare,
and other favourites, all there row on row…
the passion of a lifetime’s seen them grow.

And, speaking of a lifetime… what of mine?
What will become of all these books? One day,
when I have gone, will somebody consign
them to a dustbin? Thrift shop? Will they say,
“The whole lot’s on the Internet.’’

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWell, yes,
…that doesn’t make me love them any less.


Revision 2:

Sorting them took absolutely ages,
from disarray to shipshape A to Z:
Millions of words on several thousand pages
of poetry, not all of which I’ve read
but treasure nonetheless. They’re all in rhyme,
and make me sigh – I wish I had more time!

It pleases me to see the names of friends
on many of the spines; I am aware
that this collection certainly transcends
my other bookshelves. Brooke, Frost, De La Mare,
and lots of other favourites, row on row…
the passion of a lifetime’s seen them grow.

And, speaking of a lifetime… what of mine?
What will become of all these books one day,
when I have gone? Will somebody consign
them to a dustbin? Thrift shop? Will they say,
“The whole lot’s on the Internet.’’

Well, yes,
…that doesn’t make me love them any less.


Revision 1:

Sorting them alphabetically takes me ages –
to ‘W’, …as yet no X, no Yeats, no Zed
– millions of words and tens of thousands of pages:
my poetry books, not all of which I have read,
but nonetheless I treasure, new and old;
nice on the book shelves, better still to hold.

I see the names of good poets I count as friends,
alongside the greats like Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare,
which delights me; I think my collection transcends
mere rows of books. While I look, I become aware
that my pleasure is tinged with slight dismay:
What’s going to become of these books some day?

I wrote my will, and my valuables have been shared;
it simply didn’t occur to me to include
instructions for this collection. Now, unprepared,
I’m wondering about all these volumes I’ve accrued.
I’ll make a list. My friends can then decide
which books they’d like to have when I have died.

******************************************

If Brian, Chris, Michael, Aaron and Gail are uncomfortable being mentioned in this poem, I'll substitute different names. I'm sorry I can't include many others but I really am fretting about my large collection of individuals' poetry books, and lots of anthologies, ...and what will become of them all when I die.

A Genuine Concern

To sort them alphabetically took me ages –
(from A - W, …there is no X, Y, Zed)
– millions of words and tens of thousands of pages:
my poetry books, not all of which I have read,
but all of which I love, some new, some old;
lovely to look at, better still to hold.

Allgar, O’Carroll, Cantor, Poochigian, White…
There are so many well-known names, so many friends:
Kipling, Brooke, Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare, – all delight
and thrill me so much, for My Collection transcends
just mere shelves of books – it is so much more
than that (plus, I feel an esprit de corps...

...though I joined the ranks in a very humble way.
My own contribution counts for very little.)
What worries me, sadly, is leaving them one day;
what will become of My Collection, for it’ll
be packed up no doubt? I can’t bear that thought.
Someone must cherish these books that I’ve bought!

I’ve written my will, and all I own has been shared
(that’s except for the poems I didn’t include;
it just never occurred to me). Now, unprepared,
I’m thinking about all these volumes I’ve accrued.
Some of them are valuable, and rare.
I’ll rest in peace if they are loved elsewhere.
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  #2  
Unread 05-25-2019, 07:06 PM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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I've got lots of thoughts about this. I'll thrown them at the wall and hope something somewhere in here is helpful.

This is a moving situation most Spherians, I imagine, can relate to. Finding someone to love the books is the bare minimum, isn't it? Even then something will inevitably be lost. I read that Philip Roth found a New Jersey library willing to preserve his bookshelves, or a facsimile, maintaining his arrangement of his collection. The rest of us will have to settle for less.

(If you'll really be satisfied to find good homes for your books, that's likely doable. I'll bet many Spherians would be willing to offer good homes. I'm sure there are many of your books that I would love to have and would sincerely cherish.)

For the poem to go beyond a statement of this moving sentiment, I don't think the list of names is enough detail to help the reader feel N and her collection. Maybe a story of how she acquired one (or more) of the books, or (and?) the special contents of (a) rare (or rarely well-enough loved) one(s), or a special reading experience she's had, or an experience of sharing one of the books or having it shared with her, or something showing that the books are "lovely to look at" or "better still to hold."

How will the poem convey your feelings to a reader who reads all her poems online and can't think why anyone would bother owning such a collection?

That N neglected to include the collection when she willed "all [she] own[s]" works a bit against a sense that the books are important to her, but it doesn't need to. The value of the collection goes beyond its monetary value and it is just the sort of thing one might (intentionally or inadvertently) omit from a will. Maybe the poem could explore this difference between the collection and N's other possessions.

The rhythm is pleasantly loose. Most of the lines I can give five stresses, though not always the way I'm first inclined to read.
There are so many well-known names, so many friends:
and
Kipling, Brooke, Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare, – all delight
would be easier for me to make pentameter if they were shorter; both are easily shortenable if you're inclined.

I like there not being any X, Y, Zed (it's among the things that make this a specific collection, but it does make me wonder: No Yeats? (The authors listed in S2 suggest N would like Yeats.) Maybe some lines about why Yeats has been banished? Often, what's not part of a collection (because one doesn't see it as worthy to take up space beside the more loved books, or because an affordable copy hasn't been found) provide a lot of a collection's character.

The title feels unhelpfully defensive.

This is definitely a topic worth writing about.

FWIW.

Last edited by Max Goodman; 05-25-2019 at 10:49 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 05-26-2019, 03:30 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Jayne,

I like the idea of the poem, but I feel it skirts the surface and doesn't do enough to evoke why the N is so attached to her books. I'm sure I should crit what you have written, rather than what you haven't, but for me you miss an opportunity to get across these things: the tactile, sensual pleasure of the books as physical objects ('lovely to look at, better still to hold' could be much richer); their sentimental or emotional significance to your life; and the actual content, the soul-enriching power that poetry has had on you.

'To sort them alphabetically took me ages –'

The past tense might suggest that you don't buy poetry books any more, or no longer alphabeticize them at least, otherwise it would be presented as an ongoing thing. I used to keep my CDs (not books, though) alphabetical and it was a pain because whenever I bought a new one the others would have to all move along the ranks of several shelves. What about:

'To keep them alphabetical takes an age –'

This would also allow you to make the rhyming word 'page' on the third line and do something more evocative with it perhaps than just tallying pages and words: 'a something something something on every page' maybe.

'Allgar, O’Carroll, Cantor, Poochigian, White…
There are so many well-known names, so many friends:
Kipling, Brooke, Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare, – all delight
and thrill me so much,'

Ok, I'm getting into dodgy territory here (ha) but are the listed Spherians really 'well-known names'? (sorry folks) Or do you mean that they are the 'friends' and 'Kipling' etc are the well-known names, in which case the word order and punctuation choices here seem off. Generally, this part makes me wonder about the audience for the poem beyond these hallowed halls. If you don't anticipate one, that's fine I suppose.

'for My Collection transcends
just mere shelves of books – it is so much more
than that (plus, I feel an esprit de corps...'

Do you need the caps here?

You tell us (with italicised emphasis) that the collection 'is so much more than' mere shelves of books, but don't articulate what that 'so much more' is. Instead, in the parenthesis, you start a new thought ('plus, I feel…'). This feels like a missed opportunity for the stuff I was talking about earlier.

In S3 'sadly' feels unnecessary.

S3L6 - 'Someone must cherish these books that I’ve bought!' seems to rattle along too much like anapaestic tet to me.

'I’ve written my will, and all I own has been shared
(that’s except for the poems I didn’t include;
it just never occurred to me).'

This confused me. From the context of this poem I think you're saying that you forgot to include your poetry books in your will, so the sense would be this: "I’ve written my will, and all I own has been shared, except for the poetry books, which I didn’t include; it just never occurred to me". But I find the second line confusing — 'except for the poems I didn’t include' reads that you did include some poems, but not all. And 'poems' rather than 'poetry books' is confusing. And if you did mean books it sort of suggests you included your other books, but missed out the poetry books, which seems odd. I think these lines need re-writing for clarity.

Generally, I appreciate the poem's personal sincerity and its easy simplicity. But it all feels a bit flat, and I don't think it captures or universalises the attachment to books in the way it might.

Cheers.

Mark.
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  #4  
Unread 05-26-2019, 06:48 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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I am fascinated by the notion of alphabeticality. I gave up trying years ago. I put my books where I think they would want to be. Elizabeth Smart is next to George Barker, with Sebastian in between, and Rimbaud is alongside Verlaine.

I think you've got two things going on here, Jayne; the books and the poets. I once bought a signed secondhand copy of a book (one I'd already got) by a friend, for more than I'd intended to pay, because she had signed it to another friend who had decided not to keep it. I wanted to make the hurt better before it happened. In the context of your poem, that means I feel your pain in the eventual letting-go, although by the time you envisage, you would be beyond blame.

I wonder if you could try using the stanzas to emphasise the difference - the classical poets and why they matter, separated from the friends and why they do. Then follow with your own position as a poet among poets, learning from the classics for what they were and loving the contemporaries for who they are.

I am with Mark when it comes to the Will and the fate of the rest of the books and I too am confused. I am OK with the conclusion but am not sure of how you got there.
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  #5  
Unread 05-26-2019, 07:33 AM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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I thought I'd follow Jim's example and post here at The Deep End; this is the first ''serious'' poem I've written in a while, and I need the robust feedback, which you've all given me.

Max, Mark and Annie,
Thank you so much for your excellent critiques. I'm just getting ready to go to a big family get-together, my youngest grandchild's 1st birthday party, so I'll reply properly later on!

Cheers,
Jayne
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  #6  
Unread 05-26-2019, 05:36 PM
Jayne Osborn's Avatar
Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Max,

Thank you for your thoughts on this, and Iím glad you think itís a worthwhile topic. The simple truth is that Iím in the throes of sorting out my study; although I love books I have far too many! My poetry collection, though, is precious to me and in arranging the books in alphabetical order again (theyíd got a bit muddled, plus Iíve acquired some new ones lately) I was delighted to discover certain books Iíd forgotten I had, or hadnít looked at for ages.

Then it struck me that I couldnít bear the thought of them just being got rid of, when IÖerÖ snuff it!! Hence the poem, in which I want to convey that, nothing more really, not how I came by the books etc. The title isnít a good one, but it is a Ďgenuine concerní so itíll have to do for now. My revision is shorter and deals with some of your points, I hope.

I surprised myself when I realised I donít have a book of Yeatsí poems, nor Benjamin Zephaniah, so I can easily address that and have a collection from A to Z! (I have lots of anthologies so Iím not entirely devoid of those two.)

Mark,
Iíve taken out all the Spherean names, so the poem is even more simple now (and possibly even more flat, sorry). Iíve taken out the caps on Ďmy collectioní, and yes, the poem is not intended for a wider audience than my poetry pals, I suppose. A throwaway poem, some would call it, but thanks for all your thoughts on it. Things such as the ďsoul-enriching power that poetry has had on [me]Ē is for another poem, another day.

Annie,
I simply have to have my poetry books in alphabetical order so I can instantly put my hands on whichever one I want; I used to waste loads of time searching my shelves before I did that!
I think my revised shorter version sorts out the will confusion.

Thank you all for your helpful comments.

Jayne
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Unread 05-28-2019, 11:56 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Jayne,

'Throwaway' or not, I reckon you can do better than this:

'nice on the book shelves, better still to hold'

which is even flatter than what it replaced.

And here, I don't think you need the bland telliness of the highlighted parts:

I see the names of good poets I count as friends,
alongside the greats like Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare,
which delights me;

All the best

Mark
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  #8  
Unread 05-28-2019, 01:17 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Sorting them alphabetically took me ages –
to ‘W’, …as yet no X, no Yeats, no Zed

("W" uses up three syllables and screws the scansion - look again? Do we really need to know your collection is missing a few faces? Find a new line - it's an easy rhyme to work with)


– millions of words on several thousand pages
of poetry, not all of which I've read,

but nonetheless I treasure, new and old;
nice on the book shelves, better still to hold. (Mark's said what needed to be said here)

From here, the scansion's gone completely...

I see the names of good poets I count as friends,
alongside the greats like Wordsworth, Frost, De La Mare,
which delights me; I think my collection transcends
mere rows of books. While I look, I become aware
that my pleasure is tinged with slight dismay:
What’s going to become of these books some day?

I wrote my will, and my valuables have been shared;
it simply didn’t occur to me to include
instructions for this collection. Now, unprepared,
I’m wondering about all these volumes I’ve accrued.
I’ll make a list. My friends can then decide
which books they’d like to have when I have died. This implies you've made an arrangement for all your other (mere rows of?) books and forgot about the poetry. Feels a bit odd

I changed the tense in the first line because once you've got them in alphabetical order, there they stay, do they not? - and you just have to put one back where it belongs after you've got round to reading it and poke a new one in where it goes when you've bought it. (I'm reminded of Dryden and Duffy and my own bookshop infiltrations...)

I think you can get rid of the judgmental words "good" and "great" - it's the names that matter -

My system lets contemporary friends
lie between Wordsworth, Frost and De La Mare...?

And do have a look at the number of times you've mentioned "books", even to adding the word to the shelves at one point.

Basically, it's too big for its boots. It needs easing and lightening. It needs a little music. You're trying to fit it into a tweed suit when it's crying out for a party frock.
.

Last edited by Ann Drysdale; 05-28-2019 at 03:29 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 05-28-2019, 05:04 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Jayne, I enjoyed this very much. I understand that "Poochigian" (a ridiculous-sounding thing) had to go.

Lately, I have become nitpicky about consistency of voice. This may be only my pet-peeve, but it seems to me that if you are going to use the contraction "Iíve accrued" (and other contractions) that you have to use it at the end as well--somehow "I've died" for "I have died."

I would love to see your poetry collection.

Best, best,

Aaron
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  #10  
Unread 05-29-2019, 02:13 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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Aaron has a good point.

Perhaps if you want to go for minimal tinkering you might just expand "have" into "foster" and then contract "I have died" as Aaron suggests?
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