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  #1  
Unread 07-08-2019, 06:23 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Default Horatian Ode

California Funeral

It’s deep-sixed, John, my Viking funeral—
with permits, Paula can’t afford it all.
This is a loss, for sure, but then again
..........I’ll just be shade and whispers then.

Now you can rest at ease when my soul has quit—
an over-laden mass will still be lit.
So consider your inebriated oath
..........evaporated with my ghost.

Paula will take my ashes west and walk
through rootstocks whose arms reach up and interlock
with day, and when the tour guide turns her head,
..........discreetly she’ll pour me on my bed.

And then I’ll rest among Sonoman vines,
what’s left of me a subtlety to wines.
They say you can taste Vesuvius in a glass,
..........so what’s the impart of my fat ass?

You’ve never been, John, but you have to go.
It’s an elemental palette of yellow-
greens billowing around the purples tight in rows
..........where each cuneiform vine grows.

When I’m gone, you’ll go. Let your gaze
turn from the lamb limping off to graze,
and let it settle there where, since you know it,
..........soil is all mixed up with poet.

There’ll be no Viking pyre, though, which is tragic:
no one will see you light evening arrows and panic
because you miss so much that when I finally light
..........my body would contest the night.

***

Original

It’s deep-sixed, John, my Viking funeral—
with permits, Paula can’t afford it all.
This is a loss, for sure, but then again
..........I’ll only be shade and whispers then.

Now you can rest at ease when my soul’s erased—
a corpulent vessel will still be set ablaze,
so consider the inebriated oaths
..........as valuable as last week’s loaves.

Instead, I’ll rest among Sonoman vines,
what's left of me a subtlety to wines:
when you can taste Vesuvius in a glass
..........what’s the impart of my fat ass?

I think of Paula on a tour. She’ll walk
through rootstocks whose arms reach up and interlock
with day, and when the tour guide turns her head,
..........discreetly she’ll pour me on my bed.

You’ve never been, John, but you have to go.
It’s an elemental palette of yellow,
blue, white, green and purple tight in rows
..........where each cuneiform vine grows.

When I’m gone, you’ll go and let your gaze
fall on the cow limping off to graze,
then let it settle there where, since you know it,
..........soil is all mixed up with poet.

But, though I wouldn’t be there, I’m torn: no one
would see you fire flames in the fading sun
and miss so often that when I’d finally light
..........my body would eclipse the night.

***

L2: fixed typo: Paula's --> Paula
L10: fixed typo - what left --> what's left
L19 was "blue, green, white and purple tight in rows"

Last edited by Andrew Szilvasy; 07-14-2019 at 02:32 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 07-08-2019, 06:44 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Andrew, I think you want "what's left" in line 10.
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  #3  
Unread 07-08-2019, 07:02 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Andrew,

I like it. I'd change corpulent and put an Oxford comma between white and purple. The fiery shots missing for the Viking funeral reminds me a bit of Game of Thrones ...

Cheers,
John
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  #4  
Unread 07-08-2019, 07:09 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Poochigian View Post
Andrew, I think you want "what's left" in line 10.
D'oh. Thanks Aaron. It's fixed.

John, thanks for your thoughts. What if I swapped white and green and kept the comma out?

Also, any reason you don't like "corpulent"?

Game of Thrones? Hmm. Is that going to be a problem here? I wasn't a big fan of it, though many were.
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  #5  
Unread 07-08-2019, 07:43 AM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Andrew,

I really like this. On the first read, it captured the spirit of Horace really well! It mingles all the familiar elements - the self-deprecating (vulgar, at times) humor, addressing known personages, bittersweet turns, the everyday (with permits -- legalese, kind of). Boy, I didn't find anything to fault.

You do some interesting revising --- bringing in modern vernacular (deep-sixed) and adding a Viking funeral. "Paula's" -- is this meant to be possessive? I imagined it was a business, but it seems the intention is "Paula," the partner or female inspiration a la Beatrice/Laura (I can't think of any now -- too early; Phyllis?).

I don't believe the rhyme scheme you employ was used by Horace -- I've not quite grasped Latin meter yet, nor delved in much to try. Quantitative verse seems tricky.

I wonder, assuming this is original (not a translation?), if you can add modern/local place-names?

Sonoman vines could be California, I guess, but the Vesuvius comes in -- what if, to swerve away even more drastically from Horace's locale, you put something more blatantly NOT Italian-sounding? Examples in the US would be somewhere in Long Island or the Pacific NW, possibly with names derived from Native American languages or Dutch.

"so consider the inebriated oaths
as valuable as last week’s loaves." -- Loved this couplet!

Many of the stanzas and rhymes are strong -- I haven't marked all the remarkable stanzas, but they are numerous!

"discreetly she’ll pour me on my bed." -- This was the line where I recognized the cremation...So I guess N is having his remains left in Italy? My advice above can probably be dismissed then, or you can reconsider if non-Italian place names still sounds like a solid idea?

The last stanzas are wonderfully sentimental -- the imperative to a friend about a place to visit, followed by a bit of ribbing with regards to said friend's marksmanship (not to overly deploy formal words here, that all sounds stiff).

I think it's a very strong piece. But would maybe consider, for an additional revision of Horace, making the place names non Italian and check out the apostrophe in "Paula's."

I hope this is helpful. Delightful read
Jake
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  #6  
Unread 07-08-2019, 08:08 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Andrew,

Yes, corpulent seems to me too located in the body to apply to a ship. A judgment call, of course. :-)
The Oxford comma to my mind simply makes the grammatical point that in a list - say, yours - the phrase "white and purple" implies that the other two items are autonomous whereas white and purple are a unit. I don't believe that is your intent, and that's why I suggest the comma. For instance, "Fred, Harry, John and Paula, and I, all came" will suggest that John and Paula are a couple. I don't think flipping colors will affect that.

Cheers,
John
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  #7  
Unread 07-08-2019, 11:37 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Jake: Thank you for your comments here. I'm glad you like it. Thank you too, for catching the typo lingering from an earlier draft. Cleared that up.

You're quite right that I didn't use the rhyme scheme of Horace: classical Latin poetry was not predicated on it at all (though Medieval and Vulgar Latin did). Other than the sapphic meter I don't really think they translate, and I don't think the qualitative meter works all that well in English (though Swinburne has some successes). As such, this is stressed-based and only slightly mirroring the look of a Horatian ode.

You're first instinct about the ashes was right: Sonoma, CA. Vesuvius is callback to Italy, but also the fact that its volcanic ash affects the flavor of the wine. I'll think about how I might incorporate other place names, but I don't want to add any more stanzas.

Thanks again for your feedback, Jake!

John: Thanks for the clarification.

The oxford comma is something I'm very rigid with in prose but less so in verse. I do see your point, and I think there's a fruitful minor ambiguity in it with the colors inverted (the green and purple both discrete colors and also of the vine).

As for corpulent: you're right. It was supposed to be a joke--the burning boat (& body) replaced by the body alone. Corpulent works well for a body, not for a boat. So now I need to come up with a self-deprecating adjective that can go for boats and bodies.
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  #8  
Unread 07-08-2019, 11:25 PM
Lee Meadow Lee Meadow is offline
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Am I allowed to just add my 5c to the comments already made? I hope so.

I have issue with you switching the colours around:

blue, green, white and purple tight in rows

runs off the tongue so much more smoothly than

blue, white, green and purple tight in rows which jars.

With 'and', this is a list and if you are pedantic about Oxford commas this would then require one. Switching up the colours doesn't alter that. However as it is not a firm and fast rule you are quite entitled not to use one. Particularly if you feel if it adds an unnecessary pause.

I like the irreverent humour of this, and sorry your Viking funeral was scuppered by red tape, nonetheless being cremated is still (as you noted) a fiery send off. I just hope Paula doesn't get caught scattering your ashes - some people take a dim view of things like that.
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  #9  
Unread 07-09-2019, 12:33 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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This is excellent, Andrew. I really enjoyed it. The play with words and puns and Horace is fun, and the writing is very nicely crafted. The concluding image is stunning, and blends the light touch with the elegiac mood in a way that does remind me of Horace.

A couple of questions:

I get why you’re saying Viking funeral at the opening, but for me it’s a bit of an overload with cultural references. In a short poem, the reader is already taking in a blend of American and Latin/Italian images and stereotypes. “Viking” sets up the expectation of more Viking stuff to follow, which it does only with “corpulent vessel . . . etc.” (I love that image). I think a non-proper adjective would work just as well or better in line 1, something like “my lavish funeral.”

S3L4: I’m not familiar with “impart” as a noun, but stand to be set straight on that. At the same time, I wonder if it’s a typo for “import.”

S5: Nice phrase, “cuneiform vine.” The list of colors for the vineyard doesn’t match my experience of vineyards (especially the white and blue). Interspersing other adjectives besides colors would make that stretch feel less fillerish.

At the end, I feel like I'm missing something about the temporal sequence in this. John is fanning the flames of the cremation after the ashes have been spread in the vineyard? Obviously that's not what is meant but like I say, I am a bit muddled there.
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  #10  
Unread 07-09-2019, 08:45 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is online now
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Lee: Thanks for your thoughts here. I'm going to consider going back (also going to consider cutting some of the colors at Andrew's suggestion). I'm glad you like it.

Andrew: I'm glad you like it and that you think it appropriately channels Horace. The Viking funeral comes back in the last stanza as the final image, so I want to keep the specificity (and absurdity) of it.

On "impart"--yeah, it's not a noun normally. I spent a lot of time trying to think of a word, but all of them didn't jibe with the joke at the end of the line. I thought "nouning" "impart" could and would work best, giving that situation.

I think you're right on the colors, and I'm going to think about replacements to make it more engaging and surprising.

The final image is of an alternative that will not happen. The speaker is sad that no one will now see the Viking funeral.
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