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  #11  
Unread 03-14-2019, 04:34 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Jim,

I think you've pretty much nailed this with your revision - well done. Your dad comes alive in his younger days and in his last moments, as does your love for him and your loss. It is a touching elegy. The whole form to my mind works well as you now have it, though I'd consider two very small revisions: in half-jokingly, I'd cut the -ly for the beat, and in the final refrain, I'd stick to yourself not myself, to be true to the refrain as it has played out. I don't see any need for it to change there.

Cheers,
John
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  #12  
Unread 03-14-2019, 02:40 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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The bruise and bleed? My God. It's so precious it must be right on. Use your head Jim. It's trash.
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  #13  
Unread 03-14-2019, 03:58 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Jim - I think this is vivid and heartfelt for the most part. I have a few nits:

I can sort of see where James is coming from with the opening. Those melodic inner rhymes and alliteration ('young and stung' 'bruise and bleed' 'scrape and sear') feel a bit too much. It's a Fern Hill idyll:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry

I'm genuinely wrestling with my own poetic instincts over on met, to embrace or resist my tendency toward the sweep of sentiment, so I sympathise. It's a tightrope walk. I don't know if you get across safely here. Dylan Thomas is so hard to imitate, because what seems free and easy is so easy to get wrong. I'm not saying you are imitating him, but I hear something of the like. Here, I should feel the boy falling and hurting himself, but all I hear are the mellifluous sounds. I want to feel the nettles and the gravel. I want 'quell' to feel more real and less precious. Ease?

I don't think you need 'And that is what I/he did'. The voice sounds, I don't know, faux-naive or something. Like the speaker thinks the reader needs the obvious pointing out to them.

I'm not sure about 'half-jokingly', which sounds like he only half meant it. I think he fully meant that he felt rotten and used humour to express that. It's more of a dark joke than a half-joke. I think just 'he joked that he felt ninety-nine' would be better.

I don't like 'the hollow people'. It sounds too melodramatic and again naive and kind of insulting to people who work in social care who are just doing a really tough job.

I'm not sure that 'Felliniesque' is quite right. I think I've only seen one Fellini film, philistine that I am, so I could be wrong, but I associate the adjective with a kind of fantastical, carnivalesque flamboyance. I think I see where you're going, but the allusion felt off and out of place to me.

In general I don't know if your tendency to the rhapsodic, with lots of the same rhymes in rapid succession, is right for the subject here. It might be a poem where the precise detail can do more of the work, rather than the music.

All the best.

Mark
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  #14  
Unread 03-15-2019, 02:15 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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My comment was too harsh, Jim. Thank you Mark for picking that up and making it constructive. I might argue that writing very emotional poetry is as hard as it gets and I'm often flirting with, crossing that sentimental line as well. But I risk it because it's the kind of stuff that's most appealing to me. I don't think the refrain is necessarily the problem, though if this were mine, I'd probably try to cut it down a bit. I just believe that if you decide to keep it, there needs to be something more in the poem that justifies it. Whether that's some unique angle or sharper edge, I dunno.
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  #15  
Unread 03-15-2019, 07:43 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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James, I had a feeling youíd be backÖ You are infuriatingly helpful. Thanks for the dope slap. And thanks for coming back to elaborate. But donít stop being blunt, at least as far as criticism of my poetry. It would take a poetic kick in the nuts to have me cry foul : ) You and Mark are right in one crucial respect: writing emotional poetry is like walking a tightrope. If Mark hadnít followed up to show me where to look amongst the garbage and the flowers (thanks L. Cohen for that image) I might have just walked away.

Mark, you've given me a trove of insight. I can't thank you enough.

The poem is very accurate in its recounting of things. Though it is not completely accurate depiction of my Dad... He had estranged himself from the family and eventually everyone with egotistical personality. He was a womanizer and a know-it-all and a funnyman; something of a product of his generation of the 50ís when men were kings and the sexual revolution of the 60ís just added fuel to the fire that was male chauvinism. But he was engaging, witty, discriminating, had good taste, etc. Complicated guy.

John, thank you for your empathetic reading. It does have an elegiac feel to it as I read it now, but I hadnít thought of that as I was writing. Everything was essentially as I described it: the advice of the rehab staff, the metal bed, the plastic mattress, the corners of his mouth blackened by his favorite food (Oreos), the eyes fixed/wide/wild, the complete tensing up of his body as if bracing for something. Most important to the poem is the final roller coaster sequence. Those last few hours were uncannily like a pantomime of a white-knuckle roller coaster ride. It was emblematic of his entire life. The staff reassured me that the behavior was ďnormalĒ (though they didnít describe it as a roller coaster ride ) and in retrospect Iíve found out it largely was, but at the time it was a vivid metaphor being played out. The silence that enveloped the room as he gave up was powerful, too.

And again, Michaelís sympathetic reading of the nostalgia in it was clearly exactly what I was feeling.

But I think I can improve it. Iím working on a revision that responds to the most recent crits. I workshop poems here to develop my voice but am finding out that a part of that process includes defending it. My difficulty is in determining when to defend it and when to adjust it.
x
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Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-15-2019 at 09:45 AM.
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  #16  
Unread 03-15-2019, 07:33 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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x
Revision posted.
My apologies for this gravitating almost completely away from the metrical. It is now teetering on the prosaic. Double apologies for that.
I've said things differently in this version. It does feel right. Like the last one did. And the one before that : )

The punctuation and line breaks need work but first I want to know if the phrasing is better. Sinatra is still there. He's the one with blue eyes.
x
x

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 03-16-2019 at 05:01 AM.
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  #17  
Unread 03-16-2019, 07:37 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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x
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Revision posted for anyone still following (this really should be sinking).
No more back story.
x
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  #18  
Unread 03-17-2019, 03:57 PM
Adam Palumbo Adam Palumbo is offline
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Hi Jim,

Following this thread from afar, I'm really enjoying watching the poem evolve in real-time.

I'll agree that there is a very prosaic quality to v5, particularly in the opening stanza. Not a whole lot there to draw me in. But I think the elegaic takes over pretty well from there, leading up to what is probably my favorite line (and one I'm glad you've kept in)--the "attempt to survive the last bend of being alive."

--Adam
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  #19  
Unread 03-17-2019, 04:43 PM
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Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
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Hi Jim,

I'm still following; I just had another busy work week and I didn't get a chance to visit the 'sphere.

I find back stories very interesting, so I really like your post #15. I think it provides some insight into your approach to writing this poem. I also think your latest version (5) is the strongest so far.

Are you sinking at this stage, or would you like to continue workshopping? I'll be busy this week too, but I could try to return :-)

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #20  
Unread 03-17-2019, 05:12 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Jim,

I think it's getting there. The latest revision could do with some tightening in places, I think, but for me the structure works.

When Dad turned eighty-nine and said,
just for a laugh, he felt ninety-nine


Do you need "just for a laugh"? And was it just for a laugh? From what follows it doesn't sound like it.

we both knew what was coming
we both were woefully unprepared.


I'd say "woefully" is an unnecessary modifier, and "woefully unprepared" seems like too obvious a pairing, kind of a stock phrase; "were unprepared" would seem to be enough.

And when he fell, as he often did
I would sing, light-hearted, that little ditty:


Was the N really "light-hearted" at this point? Seems more likely he was it putting on. Again, do you need the modifier? I'd say the reader will figure, from the context, that the N was worried or sad, but putting on a smile. So maybe, "I would sing to him that little ditty" would be enough. (Or I guess something that says something like, "I'd (fake a) smile and sing that little ditty", but trust the reader here maybe)

xxxPick yourself up champ
xxxdust yourself off
xxxand start all over again.

He made it to ninety. Falling
all the way there. Almost daily
the firefighters came calling

I wonder a bit about the inversion. "Almost daily the firefighters came", but in its favour the line break works very well, so that it reads "Falling ... almost daily".

and lifted him back into his uneasy chair.
Things just, kind of, stalled.
Everything (ahem) clogged.

I do like "uneasy chair". I wonder though about the "(ahem)". I'm guessing "everything clogged" is intended to refer to constipation, and "ahem" is apologetically announcing the pun and/or the subject matter. Still, I wonder if it's the right voice. Does it work without the "ahem"? I might lose the commas "Things just kind of stalled".

That winter they pulled me aside
and said, “It’s best for both of you he stay”
and kept him. It killed him. Or at least
it was the last stop anyway.

He rode out on a metal bed
Oreo crumbs in the corners of his mouth
with a wild look in his blue eyes as if
embarking on one last roller coaster ride.
A strange clench of strength coursed through him

Do you need "strange"? It doesn't give any concrete or specific detail. Besides, we have what's just gone before and what follows to show us the strangeness.

in a Fellini-like attempt to survive
the last bend of being alive
before careening into the silence.
That night I dreamed that old blue eyes
was there, sitting in his easy chair, crooning,
xxxTake a deep breath, champ
xxxbrush yourself off
xxxand start all over again.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-17-2019 at 05:16 PM.
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