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Old 06-14-2018, 02:36 AM
John Whitworth's Avatar
John Whitworth John Whitworth is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: United Kingdom
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Default Withering

Nothing, or very little, do I know
Of time, of earth, and of oblivion.
Thy flicker past me, like a picture show
Of ladies in a silk pavilion.

I am a blind man, sniffing at the air.
I hear the wild dogs snuffling as I pass.
The hurrying people do not care to care.
I hear them in the rustllng of the grass

Where has it gone, the radiance and the laughter?
Where have they gone the coruscating years?
It's little that I have, but what comes after?
I am a prey to nameless hopes and fears.

The inconsistencies just grow and grow.
I have the understanding of a child,
who listens to the croaking of a crow,
Perched on a branch, above the forest wild.

Nothing, or very little, do I know.

Last edited by John Whitworth; 06-14-2018 at 02:52 AM.
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Old 06-14-2018, 04:40 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 3,454

Good morning John,

How nice to see you posting!
In L3, you seem to have thy for they.

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Old 06-14-2018, 10:07 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,136

John, I hear Ernest Dowson, but that's all right with me. This is very nice. I'd like something more Western for the pavilion, maybe some European wood; or an era, such as "Regency pavilion", though that would take metrical adjustments (perhaps): you name it.

There's some pity in "do not care to care", that may be a tad OTT. The passing busy shepherd people will care if they know you and haven't got too many miles to go before they sheep. [That's meant to be humorous.]

Maybe a different title? "Knowledge", eh?
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Old 06-14-2018, 11:25 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,749

When writing is this good, criticism is beyond me. This is a pure pleasure to read and feel and hear. The thought and expression of such big things is so honest as to be heartening just in and of itself to read.

So much so that I wonder why the title, "Withering"?

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 06-14-2018 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 06-14-2018, 11:26 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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John, so good to have you back. Yes, there are some typos but, ignoring those, I still think you can do better than

The inconsistencies just grow and grow.

The abstraction + "just" = a line not as good as the rest of the poem. Give me conundrums, enigmas, a labyrinth!

I like the return to the opening line at the end but I think you should structure the whole thing like Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night”—a tercet terza rima sonnet ending a couplet:

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain - and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

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Old 06-14-2018, 12:07 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 14,212

This strikes me as a bit too easy. A familiar and entirely generic lament competently laid out, with echoes of other poems along the way (Millay in L8, Wordsworth in L9, and others that sound familiar but I can't place offhand).

I wonder why the speaker asks "Where has it gone...?" as if to suggest that he once knew something but no longer does. That, along with the echo of the Immortality Ode, suggests that the speaker found wisdom and radiance as a child, but then the speaker declares, to affirm his ignorance, that he has the understanding of a child.

Why are the "hopes and fears" (slightly cliche) said to be "nameless"? I think they would be fairly easy to name. At any rate, a different adjective in that spot could carry a lot more weight (and if you need room, you can ditch "hopes") and the fact that you didn't name them would be apparent in any event.
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Old 06-14-2018, 05:40 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
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A riff off the ubi sunt ending on a dated inversion. Not your normal standard John. The music of course is always there.



Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 06-14-2018 at 06:31 PM.
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Old 06-14-2018, 06:05 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is online now
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Location: Portland, OR
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The music of this poem is, as usual for you, excellent. Although I am enthralled by the mysterious terms and moved by the brilliant simile of the first stanza, the others are not without issues even though the sonics are deftly managed and enjoyable of themselves throughout. I offer my cursory observations and criticisms.

The first stanza, I venture, exemplifies the effective use of abstract terms in poetry. It draws me in at once and excites my curiosity as to who or what the narrator is whose identity remains mysteriously withheld. Further, the ‘picture show’ simile ‘of ladies in a silk pavilion’ works very well; it is precise, beautiful, and brilliant.

The lack of sight being compensated for by the acuity of other senses in the blind, it is only fitting that the second stanza should thus evoke the narrator’s ‘sniffing at the air,’ as well as his hearing ‘wild dogs snuffling’ and ‘the rustling of the grass.’

‘It’ in ‘where has it gone, the radiance and the laughter?’ is not incorrect, but they would be clearer at least grammatically, insofar as the question refers to two things. ‘Coruscating’ is a nice word and makes for a nice epithet modifying ‘years.’ The depiction of the blind as void of radiance and laughter seems fraught to me, as deaf to both what is sensitive and what is true to the experience of blind people. Surely there may be some tragic truth in it, but to say it so starkly and unqualified seems reductive, and thus undermines any authority or credibility that the narrator has.

If I were to be pernickety, I would say this line falls below the standard of those that came above it in the poem.
It's little that I have, but what comes after?
In the first place, I prefer to avoid contractions as a matter of personal taste; and in the second place, the circumlocution had me wonder if it would not be better to simply say I have little. I appreciate the word-choice of ‘nameless’ in ‘I am a prey to nameless hopes and fears.’ But ‘prey ’ strikes me as taking a myopic view of the woe of the blind condition, not to mention a melodramatic one.
Likewise for this line:
The inconsistencies just grow and grow.
However hard to come by and hard to do to avail, I do love a good inversion when one appears. That said, the one at the end of the last stanza gave me pause: There is no apparent reason why the author should invert ‘wild forest’ save that of rhyme; the which is too loud and apparent.

I enjoyed the first two stanzas foremost and found little if anything at fault; indeed, the simile at the end of the first is sublime. As for the rest, the excellence of the music is not sufficient to rescue the oversimplicity of the depiction of the blind experience. In other words, my objection remains about the easy depiction of the blind as debarred, irrevocably debarred from all laughter.


Last edited by Erik Olson; 06-15-2018 at 11:39 AM.
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Old 06-16-2018, 01:49 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Wouldn't it be "Where have they gone . . ."? "Radiance and laughter" can't contend with "wine and roses."

I can suspend judgment on the first inversion, but not the one in the penultimate line, followed by a repeat of the first.

"Coruscating" is one of those words that sounds very different from what it means.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 06-16-2018 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 06-24-2018, 05:19 AM
Perry James Perry James is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: Rhode Island
Posts: 91

I'm new to the forum, and for that reason I hate to make any negative comments. However, in this case I feel that the language is a little too grand and pretentious. Time/earth/oblivion -- concepts don't get any bigger than that. At least one image -- "ladies in a silk pavilion" -- sounds a little archaic. "Radiance and laughter" sounds grandiloquent, as does referring to yourself as metaphorically blind. In my experience, the greatest poetry finds deep meaning in ordinary circumstances, using ordinary language.

(I just realized that I've said negative things on two of your poems in the last day. I'm not singling you out. I'm new here, and I'm just going down the list and sharing my comments on the poems that I can relate to on some level. Sorry.)

Last edited by Perry James; 06-24-2018 at 08:27 AM.
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