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  #1  
Unread 08-27-2019, 04:49 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Default Even though nobody likes poems about poetry ...

All my darlings

Some arrive too early,
flicker out

in the incubator
despite nights of tubing
and prayer,

or it happens
when I leave them
overnight, exposed
on a hillside.

Others are born misshapen,
eye sockets empty, mouths
that will never speak, limbs

misplaced or missing. Surgery
is unsuccessful or leaves scars
cosmetics cannot conceal.

Also the stick children
that manage motion
but cannot grow flesh.

Some nights I take my shovel,
dig one up, incite it
with necromancy

or drag it home
to cut up for parts,
assemble a monster,

pray for lightning.

---
S2L3 "intubation" -> "tubing"
title was "all my dead poems"

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-13-2019 at 03:31 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 08-27-2019, 06:30 PM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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I do like poems about poetry, as it happens—it's list poems that have a hard time convincing me, and this one isn't doing it.

Your usual facility with language shows through here. Sentence by sentence, there's a lot to like. The poem is taut, economical; the phrasing is sharp; the rhythm and line breaks well-sounded.

But what does it add up to? I see a bunch of colorful metaphors likening poems to living beings, the myriad ways they can die. And I can make sense of them as metaphors—I can think of poems of my own that died in these ways. So it's effective at that level.

But I guess I don't feel I've gained insight into poetry (yours, mine, or poetry in general) by thinking about it in these terms. The lightning isn't there, as it were. (This poem is perhaps the stick that cannot grow flesh.)

I'm not sure exactly what's missing, but the first place I'd look is the final metaphor. The Frankenstein metaphor is hackneyed, and then the last line being "pray for lightning" calls to mind another, related cliché. So, at just the moment when the poem should be coming together, when the list should be rounding into its final significance, things fall flat.

It's possible that, with the right ending, the many virtues of this poem could be integrated into a living whole. I have no idea what that might be, but I think there's enough good here that it's worth hunting for.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-27-2019 at 10:03 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 08-28-2019, 02:36 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Matt,

Inspired by your generous comments for others, I'm going to try to go through your poem with equal care, though I doubt I'm as delicate a reader as yourself.
First, then, I thought your Marianas poem was excellent (I kind of liked Moving on up as the title - in the US, that echoes both The Impressions and the Jeffersons' theme song). This I like less, in part for the reasons Aaron N incisively lays out. Also, I'd say, because globally, I'm a bit uncomfortable with the weight of problem births - a huge trauma for families - devoted metaphorically to something as untraumatic as producing verse on the page. It does not feel as lived as I might like, it feels as if the weight is got with a certain youthful ease and convenience. Not the case for miscarriages et al.
On to detail. I quite like the title. I might put periods after early (They flicker out...) and prayer. I'd like incubator and intubation to sound more different. I like the exposure image - ancient (Spartan) and uncommon these days, so without the drawbacks I note above - though I do know a family member born small, in the early C20th, and left in a March room with open windows all night to give death a window in.
Mishapen has one p too many. I'd prefer not to have misplaced so soon after. This was a problem stanza for me because I couldn't get the actual children of your metaphor out of my mind's eye. I feel for them. Surgery, OK. That is a gamble, obviously, and parents go in anxious and wait anxiously through such procedures. I had a student once with empty eye sockets. Great student, straight As, tremendous confidence. She was very happy the day she got a dog instead of a cane. Life was not easy for her. There is no surgery for that, nor really any cosmetics, though she did wear sunglasses.
I prefer the stick children, fairly safe in the land of metaphor. I then quite like the shovel, but not much the cutting up for parts, though you have your precedent. Perhaps phrased differently I'd have less problem with the dead baby being dismembered. Necromancy is nice. I don't mind Frankenstein coming in here but I might reword this passage a bit.

OK, I think I've laid out the stumbling block for this reader with your poem today. As i say, your trench poem I thought was very nice indeed - a good conceit well executed. In this particular piece, I am constantly and somewhat violently pulled out of the poem by the extended metaphor you've chosen. That's this reader, but I do think you've set yourself a tightrope walk here that will always be tough to execute. I'll be interested to see others' reactions.

Cheers,
John
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  #4  
Unread 08-28-2019, 07:19 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I like this poem--probably because my own writing process is similarly pathetic/desperate/doomed.

Personally, the metaphors didn't bug me at all. Then again, my kid's medical ordeals have all worked out pretty well so far. I might feel differently if they hadn't. I've had the luxury of time that some other parents have not, to make my peace with things, and with my now-adult kid.

Comma after shovel?

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-28-2019 at 07:45 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 08-29-2019, 05:26 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I like it too, Matt. It's light and self-deprecating in a tongue-in-cheek way. And I can relate to it.

A comma after 'shovel', like Julie says. And maybe send it to Light.

Coming back with another suggestion: I think the last line could be a stand-alone sentence fragment: "Pray for lightning." End the previous line with a period. That would make the last line more ambiguous, maybe referring to the Frankenstein thing, or maybe to the whole question of inspiration.

This reminds me of something the poet-critic Randall Jarrell (I think it was) said: "A poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lightning once or twice."

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 08-29-2019 at 05:35 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 08-29-2019, 06:18 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I've liked Randall Jarrell for a while and that quote makes me like him even more. Splendid line!

Cheers,
John
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  #7  
Unread 08-30-2019, 08:45 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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John, Aaron, Julie and Andrew,

Thanks, for the comments.

Aaron,

Possibly what's missing from this poem, but informed its writing and mood, is what it feels like to read through old poem drafts (especially late at night, for some reason), many of which are a record, of sorts, of my life, and the events, places, recurring themes, thoughts and feelings that gave birth to them -- and still evoke those for me even though they didn't wholly succeed as poems. A bit like reading though old diaries, I guess. So maybe there's a way to tie something of that into the close of the poem. As yet, I've no clear idea how I might do this, but I appreciate you pushing me.

When you say that "pray for lightning", calls to mind another, related cliché, can you say which? Do you mean related to Frankenstein, and how he was given life? Of how it rarely strikes (twice)? Or lightning as a metaphor for inspiration? Those were the associations I was going for.

John,

I guess part of the conceit here was the disparity between the metaphor/tone and the subject-matter. When I wrote it seemed appropriate, somehow, to late-night reviewing of one's old poems (see above for a partial stab at explaining that), but I can see how the infant death motif might be found distasteful by some, and it's useful to know that it troubles you.

"nights of intubation" was 'nights of tubing' until moments before I posted it, maybe that's better, so I've gone back to that. Thanks for flagging the misspelling of misshapen. I kind of liked the sequence of "misshapen", "misplaced" and "missing". My punctuation prejudices prevent me from using ellipses in the way you suggest

Julie,

I'm pleased you like it. I've fixed the comma.

Andrew,

Likewise, I'm glad it worked for you. I'll think on making the closing a line a fragment. I guess if it's not read as connected to the Frankenstein reference, then it might come across as an imperative (which wouldn't be a sentence fragment and might overpower the sense of it as a fragment). Currently, I think, it refers to both the necromancy and the Frankenstein, and I'd hope it plays with lightning as a metaphor inspiration. I don't know that I want it to refer to writing a fresh new poem: having the N looking though old ones and wishing for inspiration for a new one. The though happens too I guess.

Thanks again all,

-Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 08-30-2019 at 08:51 AM.
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  #8  
Unread 08-30-2019, 08:54 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Hey Matt, the second cliché is the same as in the Jarrell quote, the idea that poetic inspiration is like being struck by lightning.
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  #9  
Unread 08-30-2019, 09:44 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Matt,

It was nice to see after I commented that a bunch of readers were untroubled by your extended metaphor. That suggests it works as you might like. I think though that it's worth bearing in mind how your poem may find a subset of readers who are troubled by it as I was.
Your other points sound fine to me. Long live punctuation prejudices! I have my share.

Cheers,
John
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  #10  
Unread 08-30-2019, 01:33 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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I actually liked the incubator / intubation chime. My daughter spent her first week in an incubator, and she later was intubated for surgery so many times that her vocal cords got badly scarred by it, and at one point she needed over a year of speech therapy in order to be able talk for more than a minute at a time without the cords spasming and making her lose her voice. Fun times.

[Increasingly off-topic digression deleted]

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-30-2019 at 05:54 PM.
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