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  #1  
Unread 07-05-2019, 12:20 PM
Catherine Chandler's Avatar
Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
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Default Semicolon

The Saving Moon
for Tommy, Neil, and Andy


The 5 a.m. dawn chorus and first light
accompany my questioning of "use".
A wavering pragmatist, today I might
unsheathe the Henckels, maybe Google noose,

or, thinking an ambiguous OD
would prove less hurtful—that is, if it works—
I may lay down my new G43
and take the catastrophic plunge with Percs.

But something holds me back—not Virgil's voice
of reason in the gruesome wood, nor threat
of other hells from other creeds. The choice,
though binary, is unresolved as yet.

I get up off my twisted, sweat-soaked sheet,
pull back the blackout curtains, open wide
my window to the silent, stifling heat
of noon, and take a desultory look outside.

A waning children's moon is riding high,
and as I monitor its certain climb,
I am the little girl who scanned the sky
back in a far-off place and distant time,

gazing through her spyglass telescope,
wonderstruck at marvels such as this.
I curse the knife, the gun, the pills, the rope,
and turn away—for now—from the abyss.

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  #2  
Unread 07-05-2019, 07:07 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you, Catharine, for sharing this piece about suicide.

I want to feel the pain, the poignancy of suicidal thoughts in the first four stanzas. I find the speaker too rational about and too distant from the contemplated act.

For example, the speaker is actually thinking, "Ah, what's the use?" We get a "questioning of use."

I also have to say that I don't buy the turn at stanza five. I don't feel why the waning children's moon, glimpsed in childhood, dissuades, for now, the speaker from suicide.

I don't get the title "Semicolon" and the last word "abyss" is a cliché.

Best,

Aaron
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  #3  
Unread 07-05-2019, 10:47 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I agree with Aaron's assessment, Cathy, pretty much all of it.

It might be worth considering opening the poem with this:

I get up off my twisted, sweat-soaked sheet,
pull back the blackout curtains, open wide
my window to the silent, stifling heat
of noon, and take a desultory look outside


in medias res, placing the N in the minutes just after being gripped by suicidal feelings, and taking it from there.

But yeah, the thoughts/tone in the opening stanzas don't seem apt for a first-person poem about a near-suicide.
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  #4  
Unread 07-05-2019, 11:11 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Catherine,

The poem itself is binary, three stanzas of a down dark mood; three stanzas of an up light mood, two independent, contrasting thoughts divided by an (invisible) pivotal/contrasting semicolon. I’m not clear about a “children’s moon,” except for possibly suggesting the innocent and awed reaction of a child looking up to it—N’s salvation a recovery of the child’s perspective, a stay against abyss, though not necessarily forever. The sweats and swinging moods are familiar and the poem seems to say, perhaps, unavoidable; consequences avoidable--implicit in the orderly, Apollonian structure.
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  #5  
Unread 07-06-2019, 12:54 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Catherine,

A worthy topic and worthy metrical execution. My personal take on Aaron's and Andrew's point is that anyone I've known actually contemplating suicide, on a given day, has already narrowed their thinking down precisely to a preferred method - they have stepped into that funnel, and the how is not a problem. Any wavering is instead focused on the simple fight between dying now and, for whatever reason, staying alive. Your N sounds to me much less far along that road.

Cheers,
John
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  #6  
Unread 07-06-2019, 06:04 AM
Catherine Chandler's Avatar
Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
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"children's moon" (aka daytime moon) is explained here.


the "semicolon" concept is explained here at the bottom of the article, under the heading "Other uses".


If and when the girl decides on the method, I will think about revising this poem. The word "abyss", however, with respect to all of its origins and definitions, is the only word I would use for the very last word in the poem.



Thank you for taking the time to read and crit this poem, which I wrote at first in the third person, but then changed. The distant, clinical opening stanzas are attempts to manage chaos via perfect rhyme and perfect meter.
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  #7  
Unread 07-10-2019, 10:18 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Cathy,

Reading this again, I had a thought.

Aaron's point about incongruous mood/reason at the start of the poem might be fixed by changing the verb tense to past:

The 5 a.m. dawn chorus and first light
accompanied my questioning of "use".
A wavering pragmatist, today I might
have pulled the Henckels, maybe Googled noose,

or, thinking an ambiguous OD
would prove less hurtful—that is, if it worked
have set aside my new G43
and taken the catastrophic plunge with Percs.

But something held me back . . .


Maybe. To me, changing verb tense makes the scenario and narrative pov more plausible.

Best,

Andrew
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  #8  
Unread 07-11-2019, 04:37 PM
Jake Sheff Jake Sheff is offline
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Catherine,

Difficult theme. A writer could easily depend on the emotional response of a reader, which, depending on reader and writer, could probably range from pity to embarrassment. But to go beyond those to awe requires, I think on the part of the writer, a great deal of disinterest. N does sound rational and calm -- this doesn't come close to approaching bathos (which it easily could, I believe). By mentioning "binary," you mention Hamlet, another N with suicidal ideation. In considering Shakespeare and suicide I think of R&J, where J's suicide is completed on the page/stage.... But they are characters in a tragedy; we are not given much background/context on the speaker here. The ending brought to mind Parker's "Resume," which may - paradoxically - be the most effective way to handle this theme; with dark humor...

I don't think the iambic pentameter ABAB quatrains lends itself to the theme. I think it'd be more appropriate to use varying line lengths, a less predictable rhyme scheme and maybe less regular iambs. What actually comes to mind are Sapphic stanzas, because the fourth, truncated line always feels like a thing cut short (which is what suicide does, cut short a life; or what a person does when talking themselves out of it -- cut short a thought or act or impulse).

I liked how you used everyday speech: OD, G43, percs... Or at least, it feels contemporary. Most people might find this stanza implausible, I worry; is it common knowledge males usually use violent means (G43) and females pills? I think it is, but could be wrong.

Some of the modifiers -- this is my taste -- are uninspired. "Take the catastrophic plunge," the gruesome wood."

Random thought inspired by the argument: What if the choice isn't binary, and something like a poetry is a sort of third (albeit impermanent) choice? Or the "other creeds"? It is a way to see "what dreams may come," no?

The details of the room, for whatever reason, bring to mind Philip Larkin. And I think this piece, if you can do it, would benefit from some levity or self-deprecating; a little dark humor, kind of like I was getting at with Parker above.

"A waning children's moon..." This stanza seemed a tad on the prolix side to fill the meter in... I wonder if you cut some modifiers -- "certain" from this stanza, "catastrophic" or "gruesome" from their respective sections -- it might actually have the slightly jarring effect one would expect listening in on a suicidal person's thoughts. It might feel like "something's missing" and enact "catastrophe" without saying the word?

"The 5 a.m. dawn chorus and first light (Doesn't N have blackout curtains)
accompany my questioning of "use".
A pragmatist, today I might
unsheathe the Henckels, maybe Google noose,

or, thinking an ambiguous OD
would prove less hurtful—that is, if it works—
I may lay down my new G43
and take the plunge with Percs.

But something holds me back—not Virgil's voice
of reason in the wood, nor threat
of other hells from other creeds. The choice,
though binary, is unresolved. (Getting rid of "as yet," might startle in a subtle way with all the previously established rhymes?)

I get up off my twisted sheet,
sweat-soaked, pull back the blackout curtains, open wide
my window to the silent, stifling heat
of noon, and look outside.

A waning children's moon is riding high,
I monitor its climb
and I'm the little girl who scanned the sky
back in a far-off place and distant time,"

Isn't wonder-wounded from Hamlet? Anyway, I find the last stanza rational; it's moments feeling wonderstruck that many of us live for. I think Eliot said culture might be the only reason for living somewhere? And culture, like astronomy, can certainly wonderstrike a child or adult; we often need child-like eyes to be wonderstruck, I think, or if we're wonderstruck we're at the same time in a child-like state of mind...

I do agree with Aaron "abyss" is cliche and actually verges on bathos. But it makes me think of the third option of poetry or religion as opposed to life or death; a kind of second life. The reason I think of it is Joyce said something somewhere about spending his life looking into the void or abyss (to write the things he wrote).

I guess, to summarize, I'd say 1) with this theme, us writers may have more limited options for ways of handling than with other themes, 2) I'd consider less regularity or different stanzas/line lengths/rhyme scheme/meter altogether, but I think you could have the subtly startling effect expected of a suicide's thought process by simply removing some of the modifiers put in place to (it seems) flesh out the meter (I went a bit further playing above -- moving down sweat soaked and removing as yet, as well), 3) the ending is right, inevitable but somehow ineffective (in my opinion). Sometimes I think the best thing to do in those instances is drop the theme or what I want to say and just let the poem choose the right ending; this can result in a brand new train of thought? But maybe that's how suicidal people think, suddenly dropping the subject of suicide and instead considering what to make for dinner?

Or what if you just cut the final stanza completely? It would answer the reader's question, "What is a 'saving moon'?"

I hope this is helpful (and worthy of the deep end)! To borrow your phrasing, I don't want this plunge to be catastrophic.

Cheers,
Jake

Last edited by Jake Sheff; 07-11-2019 at 04:41 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 07-11-2019, 07:57 PM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Cathy,
a poem like this always worries me, especially after reading the third paragraph of your reply (post # 6). Unlike Jake, I found the first two stanzas reminiscent of DP's Resumé; to me they are grimly humorous. For me, S3 is where the tone becomes more earnest. S4 is particularly grim, since it tells us N has stayed suffering in bed from 5 AM until noon. And then we get the moon's conditional reprieve for N, which is moving and effective.

I don't have much to suggest; perhaps remove the double reference to pills--OD and percs in S2. And to wish you well and many children's moons.

Martin
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  #10  
Unread 07-12-2019, 06:33 AM
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Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
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Hi, Martin, Jake, and Andrew,
Thank you for your thoughtful critiques of this poem. I wasn't aiming for a grimly/darkly humorous tone, but rather a detached rationality. I see now this is not how it is coming across, and this issue will have to be addressed. Jake, welcome to the Sphere, and thank you for the stanza-by-stanza analysis and for taking the time to offer specific suggestions towards the poem's improvement. I do write many "hetmet" poems, but chose the regular IP and perfect rhyme in my attempt to corral the chaos. I've written some Sapphics as well, and your suggestion is a good one. Also, your idea of a third option (poetry) is interesting. Andrew, thanks for coming back with the suggestion of a change in tense. I think I will start with this one and see what happens.

Cathy
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