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  #1  
Unread 08-29-2019, 04:03 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Default Trying to Remember the Myth of Poppies

Removed for cleaning.

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 10-01-2019 at 10:11 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 08-29-2019, 05:46 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Andrew,

To my ear, this aims at the high tone of great poetry - a worthwhile goal - and hits it intermittently. I think that's very hard to achieve, and that it can be nice then to have an outsider's ears listen for ways to achieve the tone throughout. So let me see if i can help you any in that project.

Anemones have theirs, and ancient women
would beat their breasts for that delicious red,
but I donít know what story makes these human
or joins their dribbled brilliance with the dead.

OK, nice. I puzzle a bit, in this first sentence, as to the predicate - their what? Their myth, I assume, but I wonder if that could be any clearer. Maybe "Anemones have one"? I then wonder about the word "ancient" - old, or from Antiquity? The term seems just a tad offhand and dismissive as is, which I don't think you're looking for. This is also not a trope I'm familiar with.

The jolt of color must have roused a tale
from someone once. Vermilion in crabgrass,
gravel, and glass, their petalsí flesh is frail
as reckless adolescents trembling en masse.

From someone once seems a bit flat to me. That may be what you need, I'm just observing. Then you do your interesting, and perhaps rather bold, rhyme on crabgrass and en masse, defying what I hear as natural scansion. I'm afraid that's probably my least favorite decision in the poem, but that may be just me. I also wonder as to how exactly reckless adolescents trembling en masse tremble - with frail flesh, I guess? I like the sound of reckless adolescents, but might look for alternatives to the rhyme and the image. But again, I like the quatrain's high tone.

I gaze a bit before I leave the train,
searching for words that perished on my tongue
too soon to hear. I rummage through my brain

Here the first sentence I think is splendid. However, I'd remove the period, and run on - "to soon to hear; then rummage," or something along those lines. I gaze - I leave - I rummage, with the various my's, feels heavy-handed and a bit simplistic to me, and detracts from the perfection you are reaching toward as I see it. I don't think you need to do so. I also think the pace of that longer sentence I propose is OK here.

for whatís still left of that unsettling song.
There no doubt was a person in the past
who gave his breath to them and spoke, aghast.

The first line here I like a good deal. The last sentence, hmm, OK. I do feel it might be improvable. How does "was no doubt" sound to you? I'm not saying it's better, just wondering. I also like "gave his breath to them," but the word "aghast" to my ear kind of sits there at the close as if appended as an afterthought. I'd love a way to avoid that effect - "and was aghast" won't do it, for me, but perhaps there is a path to integrating it into the final clause.
All this to say: to me, this is intermittently great, a piece that gives me, at least, real and unusual pleasure, as great art will. I myself would love to see it hit that note (for my ear) throughout, as I think it can. This reader would then be very happy indeed.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 08-29-2019, 01:28 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Andrew!

I love the irony of the narrator's obliviousness to the fact that he is successfully creating a new, humanizing myth, while he's in the act of failing to remember an old one.

The final couplet is so dramatic that I wondered what the whole thing might look like in couplets. I did a rewrite like that for my own amusement, but I know that a lot of poets--myself included--hate seeing presumptuous readers' rewrites, so feel free to skip it. Drag your cursor over the following if you're curious.

I can't recall what story makes them human.
Anemones have theirs, and ancient women
might beat their breasts for poppies' luscious red,
to join such dribbled brilliance with the dead.
That jolt of color must have roused a tale
from someone once. Their petals' flesh is frail
as reckless adolescents, trembling en masse--
vermillion splashed on crabgrass, gravel, glass.

I gaze a bit before I leave the train,
delaying while I rummage through my brain
for any trace of that unsettling song
whose words of ruin perish on my tongue.
There no doubt was a person in the past
who gave his breath to them, and spoke aghast.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-29-2019 at 01:30 PM.
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Unread 08-29-2019, 11:03 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Thanks, John, for the close reading and excellent critique. I really appreciate it. I don't have time today to give it the attention it will need, but I should have some time over the weekend.

Julie, I really enjoyed your couplets rewrite! I don't think that's the direction I would want to go with this, but it does have its appeal. Were you prompted to try that because you don't like the current scheme? If you don't like it, I'd like to hear your insights about it.

More over the weekend,

Andrew
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  #5  
Unread 08-29-2019, 11:46 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Andrew, there's much good here, but two things are tripping me up right now and keeping me from fully appreciating this poem:

First, I can't make my brain accept "crabgrass" stressed as "crabGRASS"óit's demanding the stress on the first syllable. (Besides ruining the rhyme, this also makes me want to stretch "ver-mil-i-on" to four syllables, rather than the three I think you intend, and this is awkward.)

Second, "frail / as reckless adolescents trembling en masse" is evocative if I don't think about it too much, but the more I think about it, the less it helps me get a vision of these anemones and their frailty. It's not actually landing as an image.
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  #6  
Unread 08-30-2019, 12:34 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Andrew,


The jolt of color must have roused a tale
from someone once. Vermilion in crabgrass,
gravel, and glass, their petals’ flesh is frail
as reckless adolescents trembling en masse.

This is actually my favourite moment of the poem. I had to read that second line a couple of times, but then decided I would scan 'vermilion' as 4 syllables and 'crabgrass' as a feminine ending. When I did it sounded beautiful. I still hear the rhyme with 'masse' and the different stress placement doesn't bother me because there's also the quick successive DUM dada DUM alliteration and rhyme of 'gravel and glass', so there's a whole cumulative musical effect. There might be a better image than 'reckless adolescents'.

I like the poem. I think it's about mythmaking and how it never dies, though we might think it has.

Something about these lines feels slightly flat, or filler-ish to me.

I gaze a bit before I leave the train,
searching for words that perished on my tongue
too soon to hear. I rummage through my brain
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  #7  
Unread 08-30-2019, 01:44 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Just passing through, and I'll respond to all comments later, but I have a question in the meantime: Are the mythological/historical allusions an obstacle for folks? I'm getting the sense they are, so I'll post this Wiki passage on all that:

Quote:
Adonis was the mortal lover of the goddess Aphrodite. . . . One day, Adonis was gored by a wild boar during a hunting trip and died in Aphrodite's arms as she wept. His blood mingled with her tears and became the anemone flower. Aphrodite declared the Adonia festival commemorating his tragic death, which was celebrated by women every year in midsummer. During this festival, Greek women [and Roman women, btw, in a variation on this] would plant "gardens of Adonis", small pots containing fast-growing plants, which they would set on top of their houses in the hot sun. The plants would sprout, but soon wither and die. Then the women would mourn the death of Adonis, tearing their clothes and beating their breasts in a public display of grief.
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  #8  
Unread 08-30-2019, 01:51 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Well, they were for me Andrew. Classical allusions, other than the most obvious, often are because I never studied them formally and have never really had the time to do so informally. This did occur to me when my two words of schoolboy Spanish were called into question as being potentially alienating for an audience in my 'Familia' poem. But I didn't say nothin' ha.
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  #9  
Unread 08-30-2019, 02:28 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Thanks, Mark. That's a definite drawback to the poem, since it means if it were ever printed it would have to have a note longer than the poem itself. In a book that is not really a problem but in a po-mag it is.
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  #10  
Unread 08-30-2019, 03:00 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I wasn't suggesting it was necessarily an obstacle, actually, only that I didn't get the allusion. I don't expect to understand everything in a poem and obscure references don't bother me unless I think the poet is being pretentious, deliberately obscure or otherwise 'showing off'. Or they overwhelm the poem to the detriment of any other pleasure. Those things aren't the case here. And there's always google.

Also, as far as studying the Classics, my claim that I "have never really had the time to do so informally" isn't strictly true. All those hours I've spent watching obscure vintage horror movies, listening to weird punk psychedelia, masturbating, lying on my back trying to figure out 4 dimensional space, playing Risk etc, well I could have been reading Ovid or Homer I suppose. But I wasn't. But that's my problem.

In short, I don't think you need a note. Though I don't know what the standard policy of poetry journals is. I suppose it depends on the journal.
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