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  #11  
Unread 10-11-2019, 05:09 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Mark,

I enjoy the swing of it and the internal rhyme, and there are some nice lines and stanzas. As others have said, though, it's seems over-long and unfocused, a series of largely independent stanzas that don't really have a clear sense of a narrative unfolding, which long poems tend to benefit from. As result, overall, it doesn't really hold my attention.

Is there a reason why you don't present in ballad metre, alternating tet and trimeter. All the lines seem to break into four and three anyway. For me, separated them into four and three seems make for much easier reading/parsing and makes it easier to hear/see the rhythm and internal rhyme than these long lines of anapaestic heptameter.

I lost the metre completely in this line:

Making law often can be more tortuous than winding streets in Old Tangiers, Morocco.

MAKing LAW |OFTen CAN |be MORE TOR|tuOUS than |WINDing STREETS | in OLD TANG|iers, moROC|co.

I hear one clear anapaest. I guess you want "than" stressed? I'd say this is an example of a line where it would be easier to see your intention if you laid it out in ballad metre, which makes the internal rhyme clearer to see, and rhythm clearer too, since it shows need to pause after "than":

Making law often can be more tortuous than
winding streets in Old Tangiers, Morocco.

Here's another example:

If you choose to apply this assistance, then I say it’s likely you’ll triumph with splendor.

Broken across two lines, it's much clearer (to me anyway) that the 'I' is being stressed, and the line-break inserts the necessary pause after "I".

If you choose to apply this assistance, then I
say it’s likely you’ll triumph with splendor.


This line requires more forcing than I'd like, this is how I hear it:

MAKE the STRIKE |as inTENS|ive AS the| TET ofFENsive|.

though others may be happy to stress "the".

"sew the seed" or "sow the seed"?

best,

-Matt


How a Bill Becomes a Law

With a gentle good will, we envelop our children
in “truth” trimmed with frills that enamor.
When we’ve molted our youth and can handle the truth,
then we’re eager to sleuth like Mike Hammer.

Take my hand for a walk through the smell of the chalk dust.
It’s time for a talk pedagogic.
I have tips on the way legislation is made,
based on close observation and logic.

It is rare that a bill can succeed on The Hill
based on only the skill of a hobbyist.
If you suffer the lack of a plan of attack,
what you need is the knack of a lobbyist.

Since their fee must be paid and expenses defrayed,
I’ll dispense with all shades and pretenses.
You’ll need cash and a lot, or you’ll be a have-not,
peeking meekly through wrought iron fences.

Making law often can be more tortuous than
winding streets in Old Tangiers, Morocco.
But with cash, you’ll be in. They will greet you with grins,
wide and warm as the winds of Sciroco.

Is the nation a mess? Are the flyovers restive?
If so, then success may be tasted.
Be strategic and clever. Use angst as a lever.
A crisis should never be wasted.

If there’s no pressing need, then you must sew the seed,
with a chant loud, repeated and rhythmic:
“Pass this bill or we’ll see locusts, storms and debris,
plus a plague that will be cataclysmic.”

If a shutdown should loom, then it’s safe to assume
there’ll be fear and some room then to wrangle.
Put your bill on the block. They’re unlikely to squawk,
since they won’t let democracy dangle.

It is never a cinch that a deal will be clinched
if a bill makes some flinch, flail or bristle.
In that case, please stay calm. You can move with aplomb.
Just fly low like a Tomahawk missile.

Here’s the smart power play. Tuck your slim bill away
in a CR with pages aplenty.
You evade and elude. Like the deep-staters do.
It’s the trick of the true cognoscenti.

Give them minutes to read the bill. Vote at full speed.
Let the push to proceed be incessant.
When you press, just expect a scant few to object,
while the rest genuflect, acquiescent.

Swapping votes is an act both pragmatic and practical.
It’s just a pact, yours for mine.
It reduces the prattle. A vote cast for cattle
will earn, tit-for-tat, one for swine.

If things stall, then supply them with pork barrel pie,
like that bridge to the Island Gravina.
Spreading pork all around gets things done in this town,
with no risk of a downstream subpoena.

Court the press and be bold. Full court press is your goal.
Then your bill will get sold to the masses.
It takes charm and some luck. Be a mensch, not a schmuck,
or your bill will be stuck in molasses.

If your foes face election, your goal is eject them.
With ads that connect, you can beat them.
Make the strike as intensive as the Tet Offensive.
You might just upend and defeat them.

Act with zeal and with zest. Make the effort your best.
It’s the hare who will rest, not the tortoise.
And the push by your foes to derail and to slow
will itself undergo rigor mortis.

If you choose to apply this assistance, then I
say it’s likely you’ll triumph with splendor.
If you don’t, you won’t win. You will grimace, chagrined,
saying “I could have been a contender.”

Yes, the goalposts are wider if you’re an insider.
A point you may try to ignore.
But it’s they, you will see, who will grace the marquee.
And so shall it be, evermore.
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  #12  
Unread 10-11-2019, 09:38 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Aaron: Thank you for taking the time to read the poem and share your opinion.

Ann, Thank you for your positive comments. Regarding the length, my problem is that I like all the stanzas. Are there any that strike you as weaker than the others such that they can be cut? You indicated you will make additional comments in the future and I look forward to that. By the way, I'm also a big Tom Lehrer fan.

Matt, I think presenting the poem in ballad meter as you suggest is a wonderful idea. I will revise the poem accordingly forthwith. And I will take another look at the specific lines that create issues for you. Regarding the length, if there are any stanzas that jump out at you as being weaker than the others, I would be curious which ones those are. And you are correct on the spelling of "sow." Good catch. Thanks again!

Mark
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  #13  
Unread 10-12-2019, 02:38 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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Sorry, Mark. Between “Service Temporarily Unavailable” and “Annie temporarily unavailable” I’ve been hard put to find a time to finish what I had begun.

I brought Tom Lehrer into it because he embodies what I’m trying to say. I could have said George Grossmith but you’d have to be a real G&S buff to know who he was. Both, though, had the tongue, the bravado, the personality, to bring this sort of “patter song” alive. I think it’s the gap between page and stage that is causing the problems and is making it, effectively, too long.

I, too, love all the stanzas, although the Tet Offensive line is a bummer because of that definite article. It’s the line, though, that best embodies the discrepancy. A reader just can’t make it work on a first read but a Tom or a George could push it through by sheer stage presence – even make a deliberate point of its glitchiness.

I was cheerfully singing along with it, acting it out, being the narrator, even laughing when it made me say “lever” to rhyme with “ever” rather than with “fever”, as Brits do. And “missile” as “missal”, which Brits would never do. It roars along with merry gusto as long as the reader lets go and performs the piece, gets into character and gives it laldy.

What it needs as a piece on the page is a bit of eye-relief to help the reader to “get” it. It looks so daunting. Matt’s suggestion is excellent. It makes the poem even longer-looking, but tells the reader, through their eyes, that this is a “long” poem because ballads are. It gives their head time to process the pattern. It may need a tweak or two to make the diction indisputable but worth the effort.

Another idea I was playing with was the introduction of a refrain, a sort of chorus, to interrupt the long lines but I think Matt’s idea is better. Especially as, because the lines are so long, it might be difficult to print it in a journal or volume and keep the integrity of the appearance.

A performer – it needs and deserves a performer – can just as easily lift it from a shorter-line format and make it sing.

Finally – a tip of my tatty hat to the awesome craft of it.
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  #14  
Unread 10-12-2019, 08:10 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Stone View Post
my problem is that I like all the stanzas.
Mark, I hope you'll continue to participate here. I appreciate your congeniality.

My impression is that several others are working harder in this thread than you are. Changing what critters want changed is no requirement of Sphere workshops, but an honest interest in working to improve a poem is an expectation--particularly in the deep end.

In addition to technical flaws which you've thanked critters for pointing out and then made no effort to improve, there's a lot of filler, stanzas that add nothing, sections of stanzas that are there only for the rhymes. Some readers will forgive such sections if the payoff is high enough, but in this poem there is more filler than delight.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Stone View Post
Are there any that strike you as weaker than the others such that they can be cut?
On the assumption that this is an honest question, I've gone back to the poem. "A crisis should never be wasted" is the first stanza-ending that amuses me. I would gladly see all the prior stanzas cut or revised and an equally high standard used to evaluate what comes after.

Since this sounds harsh, I'll repeat my sincere wish that you stick around and continue to work with us.
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  #15  
Unread 10-12-2019, 11:19 AM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Max, I don't consider your comment to be harsh. It's a fair point. I have a poetry workshop today, but then I plan to pick up the pace. Also, I definitely intend to stick around because (1) the advice I receive on this website is much too valuable to forego, and (2) you have expressly requested that I do. Mark
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  #16  
Unread 10-13-2019, 10:23 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Matt: I changed the poem to ballad meter, revised the line beginning with “Make the strike as intensive…” (S15L3), and changed “sew” to “sow.” The suggestion about meter was very astute.

Ann: I was not aware that Brits pronounce “lever” and “missile” differently from Americans. I guess I need to visit the U.K. I revised the line with “lever” (S6L3). I have not changed the line with missile (S9L4), and am still trying to figure out how to address that. I agree with your analysis regarding page to stage, and how the poem is best presented by a performer. Finally, I greatly appreciate your supportive comments about the poem overall.

Max: I have changed “looming” to “loom” to get the true rhyme with “assume.” I also made a couple of other small word changes to make the poem flow more smoothly. I understand that not all of the stanzas are amusing. I wrote the poem so that it might be used in a high school government class or a college political science class, perhaps as a way to launch a discussion of how laws get passed in the real world. If parts of it are amusing, that’s a plus. And I agree that making more of it amusing would strengthen it. I do appreciate your excellent analysis and support.
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  #17  
Unread 10-14-2019, 02:17 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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Oh, Mark - I wasn't suggesting you changed those two words. The difference delighted me. There's lots of Lehrer that uses "two ways" words like that. You need to be true to your own voice* - think of the relative sizes of the two potential audiences - Brit-speak limits your appeal!

I, as a Brit whose speaking voice has been described (by a beloved American) as "middle-class London", found that the grin and wink I added to those words in reading them aloud was all part of the "performance". And don't forget this is US procedure you're describing.

Polish away, but don't erase good things for the wrong reasons.


* I hope it's clear what I mean by "voice" in this context.
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  #18  
Unread 10-14-2019, 08:39 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
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Annie, I think you're trying so hard to be nice that you're confusing Mark. You're certainly confusing me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ann Drysdale View Post
the Tet Offensive line is a bummer because of that definite article. It’s the line, though, that best embodies the discrepancy. A reader just can’t make it work on a first read but a Tom or a George could push it through by sheer stage presence – even make a deliberate point of its glitchiness.
Is it a bummer or not?

Should a writer strive for as many glitches as possible? Is it possible for a glitch to be unhelpful? If so, is there a way to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful glitches?

Mark,

I applaud your willingness to look at the rhythm. "Fierce" is easier to stress than "the." It still naturally takes less stress than "Tet."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Stone View Post
I wrote the poem so that it might be used in a high school government class or a college political science class
IMO, it's too long and too abstract to be of use in a classroom. It takes three stanzas to say lobbyists and money are needed to pass laws, and it does so without making clear what lobbyists actually do.

Given that your goals for the piece are so modest and that you don't seem interested in major changes, why did you feel the Deep End was the better place to post this?

Last edited by Max Goodman; 10-14-2019 at 09:58 AM.
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  #19  
Unread 10-14-2019, 10:44 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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Oh, dear. I didn't mean to confuse anybody. I had hoped to convey that that line was a bummer on the page because it comes into a reader's head through their eyes, "sold as seen", but it can be glossed-over, or even used to advantage, by a "performer" who will deliver it to a listener, pre-prepared, through their ears.

We, here, have been asked to criticise it eyes-wise and it was perhaps wrong of me to have introduced the element of performance to the piece on the page.

Apologies to Mark and Max.
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  #20  
Unread 10-14-2019, 01:31 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Ann: Good point about the relative sizes of the two audiences. I have put “lever” back into S6L3. Thank you for your support of the poem!

Max: Thank you for your persistence regarding “genuflect.” I have revised S11L4 to remove it. Regarding my choice of The Deep End, I read the guidance. One part says that The Deep End is “for advanced critique, close reading, and frank comments.” I thought to myself, “Yes, I want that.” Another part says that “work should be well developed, not an early draft.” I thought, “My poem is not an early draft, since I’ve been working on it for quite a while.” However, since you are the second person to raise the forum issue, I think it would be prudent for me to post, going forward, in the Metrical Poetry section (where the analysis and critique are also very robust). Finally, I will continue to mull over your comment that the poem is too long and abstract for the classroom. Thanks again for all of your help!
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