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  #11  
Unread 09-06-2019, 12:00 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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I did not interpret this as it was intended until Julie entered (stage left) with her brilliant exposition. Still, I don't view it as a puzzle so much as an example of a sort of old world decorum and misdirection, a kind of censorship aslant. As such it can't help but remind me of the private joke of a bunch of elderly gentlemen in a smoking lounge of yesteryear. In the context of times past it might seem inoffensive; but contemporarily speaking I am afraid I would have to agree with Julie's (ever-cautious) assessment. Oh, I did admire the craft of the rhymes when I first read it, but felt it was a bit too little, too inconsequential to merit much attention. Now that I know the much more that it is about, I still feel inclined (despite its craft/craftiness) to disinterest for the reasons stated above. That may be an entirely unfair reaction, Daniel, but even your defense of the woman's role in the poem is so entirely from the male perspective (as such explications almost always used to be) that it seems somewhat suspect and self-serving to me. And as for "animal pleasure", well, my idea of that is far from this hyper-civilized tidbit of verse. I am afraid you would have to put on period costume in front of a movie camera for me to remain in your audience.

Nemo
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  #12  
Unread 09-06-2019, 12:15 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Daniel, it’s a fact that language can lead in many even contradictory directions when a word has multiple scenarios affiliated to it. “Duck” is a good example. I was fastidiously dodging clarity in my reference to “cracker”. “Cracker” and “crack” have too many diverse resonances for comfort. I once wrote about a “crack” train, that is, a rapid express train, but it was thought I meant a vehicle for concentrated cocaine. Thus, at a minimum and without going to Urban Dictionary, these two words can suggest:
drugs,
something very good like a fast locomotive (now this usage has almost been killed),
a negative ethnic characterization of certain southern US reactionaries,
responding to a funny joke (as in “cracking up”),
a hostile remark (a “nasty crack”),
a disparaging description of one of the human reproductive organs, or one who possesses such an organ,
etc., etc., etc.

In the context of your poem, I was thinking *exclusively* of the last item listed. I thought it unfunny.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 09-06-2019 at 12:18 PM.
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  #13  
Unread 09-06-2019, 06:19 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Daniel, I don't find this one so hard to interpret—the "still feminine" points in the right direction, and once you start to see it, it becomes unavoidable: "strenuous tongue", "satisfaction flowers", etc.

But I do share Julie's and Nemo's basic worries. As so often with your poems depicting male/female sexual relations, the females don't quite enter as fully fledged people. They exist too much in the male's eyes. One doesn't get the sense that the man much cares about them, I guess—only the pleasure they bring.

Making the women come alive would make the man come alive as well, make him more human. Make the interaction bidirectional.
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  #14  
Unread 09-06-2019, 08:37 PM
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There are two Benjamins here, no? Breadcrumbs or not.
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  #15  
Unread 09-07-2019, 09:24 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
(I don't know what you should do about the title.)

I read this as soon as you posted it because I always find your phrasing excellent and technique well-wrought, but skimmed it in a distracted state and didn't get what Julie (who cannot, will not, could not be distracted) got from it. I'm almost always glad to have Julie do my reading for me --her multiplicity of POV's covers all angles -- but once in awhile methinks she overthinks things. (But on the way she nailed it.)
This is a shrewdly written poem worthy of Old Ben's wit and witticism. That's it. Oh, and the rhyming is amazing.

One thing I found curious. When crackers go stale it is usually from exposure to air. And when they go stale they usually lose their characteristic snap. But you claim that they turn harsh, hard and grim. I personally find stale crackers have their own appeal. They are softer, "ripened". I find both states appealing. (Julie, don't even think of it. Leave me alone : )

Now if it were fresh bread vs. stale bread. That would make the metaphor really kick- in for me. Yet I get it. It works beautifully, as is, with the bisque. Did I mention how good the rhyme is? I did.

Anyway, thanks to Julie, Allen, Aaron, et.al. the poem was finally supped by me the way it was intended.
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 09-07-2019 at 05:23 PM.
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  #16  
Unread 09-07-2019, 06:24 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Daniel,

I have a funny feeling I'm partly responsible for the title. Didn't we have a friendly argument a while back, when you were posting lots of very long poems? I recall taking exception to your saying that you can easily write short poems, that you can 'crank them out like crackers and cheese'. And now it seems to have become a motif of yours, title-wise.

Or have I dreamed all this?

Anyway. I don't find much that appeals to me in the poem, I'm afraid. I did manage to puzzle it out, though I wasn't sure who Benjamin was because I was unfamiliar with Benjamin Franklin's letter. Disregarding the crackers metaphor, the content reminds me of stand-up material by the sort of comedian I would probably try to avoid. And coating it in the metaphor feels oddly coy, and yet also serves to make the whole thing somehow...creepy. There are no real people in the poem, just unrealistic assumptions about the desires and motivations of stereotypes. I suppose this might work in some sort of bawdy comic verse, but is this supposed to be funny? I suppose it's 'light', but it feels quite earnest. It smirks, perhaps, but there's no joy in it.
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  #17  
Unread 09-08-2019, 03:02 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I don’t know, to me this soft-porn light-verse poem is well done. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, and the sexual hints are plain enough (spoon, tongue, etc.) so that it’s not overly coy.

The question that seems to be raised by some people in this thread is whether what the poem does well is worth doing at all. And that seems a matter of taste. Yes, it has a patronizing tone toward the woman or women, which feels dated or paternalistic, but I can’t see that the poem is egregiously offensive or creepy.

Cavalier innuendo itself has a long and distinguished (especially premodern) history.

“Sexual innuendo was funny until comedians started shoving it down my throat.” --Oscar Wilde
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  #18  
Unread 09-08-2019, 06:37 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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I'm not sure if the voice is supposed to be Franklin himself or a more contemporary speaker advocating his Advice for a new audience, but either way the poem's reading of Franklin's letter of 1745 seems shaky, and gives a more reductive portrayal of older women (or 'neglected crackers') than the nearly 300 year old original, in the way that it seems reluctant to allow them any agency or personality. In the letter, Franklin suggests that one of the advantages of an older mistress is that they are more sexually experienced and will, in fact, 'take the lead' in the bedroom:

Quote:
'the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement'
Whereas the poem portrays the women as sexually inert and needing the attentions of a younger man to 'gather them, / imperfect as they are, still feminine, / and break them into salty broth', which will only be achieved by 'patient spooning'.

Similarly, Franklin cites superior intellect, conversation and general agreeableness as another of the advantages of older women. In fact these constitute his top two reasons:

Quote:
'Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreable...

(they) are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman'
which seems quite different to the poem's descriptors: 'harsh', 'hard', 'grim' and 'ignored as dull by everyone'.

The part of the letter that the poem seems implicitly to take to heart is its final point:
Quote:
Lastly, they are so grateful!!
As I said, I hadn't heard of this letter, but that phrase definitely rang a bell and I imagine this is the bit that has entered the popular consciousness by way of locker room jokes etc: the idea that old women are a kind of untapped, and therefore easier, source of sexual pleasure for the younger man willing to overlook their obvious surface flaws and put the effort in. To be clear, I have no problem with descriptions of sex, or with innuendo, or indeed with the idea of old women and young men getting it on (or old men and younger women/men and men/women and women of whatever age. You get the idea. As long as it's consensual and everyone's happy, go for it). But there's something about the tone here. Yeah, I think I'm with Julie, Aaron and Nemo on this one.
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  #19  
Unread 09-08-2019, 08:06 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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It's true that the Ben Franklin allusion invites comparison, which creates a new set of expectations. Maybe you could just drop Ben from the title. It also just occurred to me: where's the cheese? I also forgot to mention: the poem isn't really my cuppa soup, my comments are an attempt to judge it on its own terms. Which strike me as borderline ok. The "I'll take care of it, I know how to satisfy the older woman" tone does grate (me), but so what?

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 09-08-2019 at 08:12 AM.
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  #20  
Unread 09-08-2019, 09:19 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Andrew, I suppose occasionally when I'm reading a poem, the tone seems to override everything else and that felt the case here, for me. And general tone seems as much open to critique as any other aspect of a poem. Also, I'm not really sure what 'its own terms' are. If it were more obviously comic, well at least I'd know where I was. But in its current form as an elegantly presented sonnet with no jokes or obvious irony, I'm not even sure how I'm supposed to relate to the speaker, or who he is, or how exactly to take his sweeping assertions about older women and the joys of having sex with them. Or why I should care. So the poem doesn't work for me.

Daniel, you're just as free to ignore these criticisms as you would be if the criticisms were about rhyme or metre, of course. They're just opinions.
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