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  #1  
Unread 05-18-2024, 01:33 PM
Glenn Wright Glenn Wright is offline
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Default La Catrina

La Catrina

Once at dawn in autumn’s cold
I caught the scent of marigold,
both repellent and inviting,
a mix of spices, earth, and mold.

In the east the sky was brightening.
Clouds of butterflies came delighting.
Orange and black, they brushed my face,
their kisses troubling, but exciting.

From the west, as if to embrace
the swarm, a woman of shadowy grace
slowly, sinuously promenaded.
Slender and proud, she found my place.

Upon her head a chaplet, braided,
waves of flowers and lace cascaded
around white skull and crimson lips,
her empty sockets darkly shaded.

Seductively she sways her hips.
She raises fingers of bone. The tips
just graze the hair behind my head.
A shock of fear and longing grips

my heart. Her grinning mocks my dread.
My breath has stopped. My fear has fled.
In twilight daze I join the dead,
and go with her to share her bed.

————————————
Edits:
S6L3: In twilit daze I join the dead, > In twilight daze I join the dead, (Jayne Osborn)

Last edited by Glenn Wright; 05-20-2024 at 04:59 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 05-18-2024, 02:02 PM
Yves S L Yves S L is offline
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Hello Glenn,

So the first reference that came to my mind for this genre was Keat's "La Belle Dame sans Merci" : https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poe...merci-a-ballad

My first thought is if writing this in ballad meter of alternating four and 3 beat lines might create better tensioned lines, since I am not really believing in the phrasing right now.

The emotional progression follows the prototypical model as demonstrated in Keat's poem: pleasantness --> turn ---> unpleasantness --> dread. However my feeling is your turn is too abrupt: as soon as the woman is introduced, then bang! she has hollow eyes.

I am not sure the execution of this idea would stand up even in Keat's time. The phrasing is lax, and there are not enough surprises to add tension to the conventional progression and themes and images.

It feels to me like the poem is going through the motions of rhyme and meter.

Yeah!
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  #3  
Unread 05-18-2024, 02:43 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Again you show your talent for storytelling, Glenn. The way you set the scene, with the delicate, but subtly foreboding scent of marigold and kiss of butterflies, is very effective. “La Belle Dame”—yes, she came to my mind as well, and I wondered if “La Catrina” would benefit from some splashes of Mexican color (more than orange and black butterflies) to set it apart from the European Gothic tradition.
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  #4  
Unread 05-18-2024, 03:43 PM
Glenn Wright Glenn Wright is offline
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Hi, Yves and Carl

Thanks for your responses! I did undertake this as an exercise in genre. I did have Keats and Poe in mind. It ended up as La Belle Dame sans Merci meets Annabel Lee. I simply wanted to evoke a dreamlike scene and briefly probe the speaker’s apparent death wish, but I wasn’t attempting any of the deeper psychological or philosophical issues that seem to get me into trouble.

It’s interesting, Yves, that you suggested the ballad stanza of “Annabel Lee.” That was actually the form I chose for the earliest drafts. Somehow it ended up as a rubaiyat, probably because I really like writing in this form. It also links it formally to Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, “ which is also arguably about a death wish.

I wanted some Mexican local color, Carl. I’ll think about adding more, but I don’t really want the poem to be any longer. Its purpose is to evoke a particular sensual and creepy mood—difficult to do with such a well-worn formula.

I was in Mexico a few years ago during El Día de Los Muertos and became familiar with the folk figure of La Calavera Catrina. She is partly drawn from Mayan goddess Mictecacihuatl or Lady Micte, the goddess of death. She was also partly drawn from a series of lithographs by José Guadalupe Posada done around 1910 satirizing the pretentious fashions of the lower classes and suggesting that death, for all classes is the great equalizer. More recently, the imagery of La Catrina has contributed to the cult of Santa Muerte, a syncretic combination of Catholicism, Voodoo, and Mayan/Aztec indigenous beliefs that has become popular among the drug cartels and Mexican gangs. She was probably also influenced by the European traditions of the memento mori, the danse macabre, and the Grim Reaper. European iconography tends to make death a male figure. In Mexico, she’s female, perhaps because muerte is a feminine noun.

Last edited by Glenn Wright; 05-18-2024 at 04:05 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 05-18-2024, 04:05 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Wright View Post
I was in Mexico a few years ago during El Día de Los Muertos ...
Oh, I envy you that, Glenn. I’ve just read, though, that Mexico City didn’t even have a Día de Muertos parade until 2016, after they saw how cool it looked on screen. Are they up to Hollywood standards?
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  #6  
Unread 05-18-2024, 04:29 PM
Glenn Wright Glenn Wright is offline
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I was in Cancún, which is very touristy, so they no doubt played it up more than they might do in other parts of the country.
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  #7  
Unread 05-19-2024, 06:53 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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As a genre exercise, Glenn, this doesn't have anything to justify it, in my view. I think I agree with Yves that, even in "Keats' time", it would not pass muster. In our own time, however, there certainly needs to be some more pressing reason for its composition, some inner commentary on itself, some innovation to the mood, something that sets it apart from mere fidelity to a genre already exhaustively worked out in the past. Mere affection or fascination for the form and content are not enough. The idea that it is transplanted to Mexico is a good start, but there is nothing particularly reflective of that setting in the poem itself. For me the poem would be in all that is left out about the current setting, with what is here merely a tone or flavor imparted to what is new. In the end it seems merely a school-boyish gesture of reverence for the past—its sensuality and its creepiness filtered so thoroughly through the letter that the spirit is lost, the sensuality is bloodless and the creepiness is rote. I understand the impulse to homage, but homage must be more complex to be memorable as a poem in its own right, and not merely an expendable academic parlor-game.

Others here might disagree.

Nemo
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  #8  
Unread 05-19-2024, 09:42 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
Quote:
Originally Posted by R. Nemo Hill View Post
As a genre exercise, Glenn, this doesn't have anything to justify it, in my view.... Others here might disagree.
Not me. I agree 100%.

I can't speak for Nemo, but I'll try : ) I've always admired Nemo's penchant to go directly to the heart of poem and ask how it justifies itself. What is the intent of the poet? what is the reason for writing the poem? This poem does indeed read as an exercise. That's all well and good, but the exercise needs to be buried within the poem's heart, imo.

Personally, I think the first stanza is the poem. Nothing more is needed. It's beautifully phrased and hauntingly atmospheric. It is supremely Frost-like in its mood.

The butterflies are not believable to me because Autumn is typically too cold for them.

(Mexican culture is fascinating to me. I'm headed to San Miguel, MX this fall during El Día de Los Muertos. I've spent Easter and Christmas time there, too.)

An Alaskan in Mexico — Now there's a poem : )

.
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  #9  
Unread 05-19-2024, 10:01 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Glenn, others have said it well. I don’t care for the end rhymes. It’s nearly impossible to write a poem that tries to carry an interesting theme that also has what I call bang-bang end rhymes. They end up being a little amusing, cute like a limerick. I’m sure others will disagree with that but it’s one of the reasons others have called it an exercise.

This one is like the last one. It ends up being empty inside the meter and rhymes. I like the ending half more than the beginning. The idea there is where a more interesting poem could come. Maybe relax the strict structure a little and work with that.

I hope this helps. That is the intention.
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  #10  
Unread 05-19-2024, 10:09 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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One way of seeing how padded out this is with unnecessary lines and rhymes is to delete the final two lines of the opening four stanzas. It still makes sense, and nothing that I can see is really lost:

Once at dawn in autumn’s cold
I caught the scent of marigold.

In the east the sky was brightening.
Clouds of butterflies came delighting.

From the west, as if to embrace
the swarm, a woman of shadowy grace.

Upon her head a chaplet, braided,
waves of flowers and lace cascaded.


It's still somewhat meaningless and empty, but it flows a lot better not to be bludgeoning us with extra forced rhymes. I just wish it were saying something of interest.
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