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Unread 10-05-2019, 05:23 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 4,049

John, you have received some valuable help with this poem. I'm afraid I will be more thematic. There is something missing here. The words are appropriate but they fail at giving the poem the intensity it needs. I know this is vague. I know he is persona non grata around here but I suggest reading, or rereading, Allen Ginsberg's "Kaddish." It may not be a great poem but it is actual as regards experiencing his mother's death.

Diverting to killing a spider is overly ironic. It feels obvious and perhaps even pedantic.

My comments are predicated on the assumption you are trying to write about that sudden awareness of emptiness we have when someone we love dies. The failure to connect to the received ritual is the heart of the poem and it isn't given enough attention IMO.

I'm not sold on Section II. It expresses the poem's theme in professorial manner. I'd suggest taking the unanswerable questions in Section II and make them the core of Section I.

This is all my opinion of course. I think you are trying to write a powerful poem. I admire that. I hope something I said will help you pull it off.
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Unread 10-05-2019, 06:35 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Aaron, hi John,

And thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I appreciate the time you've invested in this poem of mine.
John: I have no objection to Ginsberg, I love his Whitman tribute and Kaddish and Howl both have tremendous moments. I did dip back into his Kaddish recently, but you're right, I should read the entire thing. It is I think quite different from my own poem. This piece wasn't trying to be epoch-making, but I value your suggestions as to how I might improve it and give its voice more weight. I like having Part two here, but wil see if I can make it less professorial as it advances.
Aaron: you've made a series of suggestions here, and I'll try to address each one. Thank you for the time you took.
People have different experiences of death. My N was struck at Simchat Torah by the long process of calling out the names of the dead to be remembered. The Mourners' Kaddish brings that home in a way unavailable basically to Christian worshipers, and does so weekly. So I quite like the line "So many dead." Pluck out is, as noted upthread, in part a reference to Augustine and T.S. Eliot, which I find apt in this somewhat quotidian scene. So I want "out." Exit would be fine, but I like exit from's flatness, it's what this poem is going for. It's also slightly better English to my ear. Washing the dishes is what I say, and refers to a specific set of dishes - those in my house. Washing dishes is something I might do at a restaurant. Similarly, I'm cleaning the toilets refers to the toilets in my house. My occupation is not toilet-cleaner, though I have known toilet-cleaners in my time. Is going to be I like for its accommodation with time; wil be is more straightforward and is not what this narrator means. That's one dead spider I want. We are discussing death, and here it is brought about, rather coldly, by the narrator. This ties in with the Buddhist poems later in the MS., and with various mentions of bugs throughout. Lastly, I agree, the enjambment at that / leaves is somewhat harsh. That here refers to the long journey taken by us in this section, and so I find it less weak than you seem to; moreover, it off-rhymes with out in the previous line. But I will look at it and tinker. In short, sorry I'm not adopting more of your suggestions, but they've certainly made me reflect on my choices and the last one will bear sustained thought. Thank you.


Update: John, I've done some tinkering with Part Two.

Last edited by John Isbell; 10-06-2019 at 10:59 AM.
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