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  #1  
Unread 08-23-2019, 08:05 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Default The Empty Tray

The pantry, rummaged through without results,
the silver tray on the cold countertop,
the demi-tasse gone cold: These are insults
to inspiration no one should let drop.
So sip your Harar just the same and let
the coffee bolster your response. You must
begin to see what is not there, not yet.
The basest crumb holds art that you can trust.
But who, by clever combination blends,
by inexpressible device, such worn
and humble means into such perfect ends,
the perfect out of imperfections born?
Oh Dionysus do not dine alone,
all artists forge the unknown from the known.

edits:
L5 was So sip the coffee just the same and let
L6 was the bitter brew demand response. You must
L13 was O e/Epicurean you're not alone (still pondering)

Last edited by Daniel Kemper; 08-27-2019 at 06:55 AM. Reason: fix cut/paste error
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  #2  
Unread 08-23-2019, 03:26 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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I rather like this, its sense of absence. But the matter that jumps out at me most is the word “epicurean”. It’s fine to be an Epicurean, and fine to be a connoisseur, but what about being a Stoic or beyond (“Oh stoic fellow/artist, you are not alone” - “Oh philosopher, you’re not alone” - “Oh Batman’s shadow, you’re....” - “Oh hungry nibbler, you’re....” - “Oh blah blahblah, ....”)? You are characterizing yourself here. If you want to be a small “e” epicurean, that’s ok. What do you want to be?
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Unread 08-25-2019, 10:59 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I like the conceit in this, Daniel, but one spot I’ve having trouble with right off is the credibility of “These are insults / to inspiration no one should let drop.” The details before this statement don’t evoke any question of inspiration for me, but rather possible feelings of deprivation or desolation. So I experience an incongruity in the opening.

Line 5 would be more immediate for me reworded as

You sip the coffee anyway and let

Then, in line 6, I’m again having some trouble identifying the experience of the addressee of the poem.

So sip the coffee just the same and let
the bitter brew demand response. You must
begin to see what is not there, not yet.

I’m just not recognizing the experience of coffee demanding that sort of response. Also, the last line of these three seems padded: “begin” and “what is not there, not yet,” feel stretched out for the meter.

In line 8, maybe “smallest” instead of “basest” for the crumb? That seems to fit the scarcity theme better.

I think the sestet is the strongest part of the poem so far. I enjoy the elevated tone of lines 9-12, and the closing couplet is fabulous and could almost stand alone as an epigram.

I hope you find something helpful in these comments.

Best,

Andrew
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  #4  
Unread 08-25-2019, 06:09 PM
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Daniel,

The couplet is dynamite wit! But I can't quite grasp what precedes it, has earned it. Asses of Parnassus might like the couplet.
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  #5  
Unread 08-25-2019, 06:50 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Allen, your finale, "What do you want to be?" got me to thinking Ghostbusters: "Ray, if someone asks you if you're a god, you say, "YES!" So then... Dionysus... Which I rather enjoy, but seems to require other tinkering in the poem. Heh, perhaps this penultimate line would be funny: "Epimetheus, don't dine alone." heh heh

Andrew, I see what you are getting at, but I'm not sure yet how to address it. I've made a stab, but still not sure. Let me say what I was after, here in prose, and maybe that will help.

With "These are insults," the speaker, who is trying to create something of culinary value, does not appear to have anything to work with. The emptiness, even the feeling of desolation, are the insults to imagination. My kids, and all kids, often say: "I'm so bored; there's nothing to do." I tell them that's not an insult to my intelligence to think suddenly all possible activities in the world have vanished; it's an insult to their own intelligence. That's sort of the vein I was following. The poem is about the artist's response to tabula rasa.

"begin to see what is not there" --That's not an easy concept, "to see what is not there". It might feel padded and I might have to go back and address, but my intention was to slow down a bit to allow such a concept to be grasped a little better before moving on.

So sip the coffee... --> [demands] might be the wrong word. The response demanded is not a response to the coffee, it's the bitter brew demanding response the the situation of emptiness. Note though: this poem is addressed to the reader, though that might be a vehicle for self-talk. I want it in "command form" (at least for now).

Now having laid all that out here is not by way of correcting your reading- the text was not strong enough to focus down to this situation in mind and rule out less defined or different readings...
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Unread 08-25-2019, 06:51 PM
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RCL - Hey, saw your post just after I'd composed some thoughts offline. Some of what I posted still seems germane to your response. Please let me know if I'm closing in on a tough concept to handle any better, o.k.?
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  #7  
Unread 08-25-2019, 08:19 PM
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Aha, Dennis the Menace!
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  #8  
Unread 08-25-2019, 11:24 PM
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Basically, the narrator has nothing better to consume right now than a leftover cup of coffee, so he settles for that.

And because he also has no better ideas to write about today, he settles for making that unremarkable, emotionally un-engaging experience scan and rhyme (and wrenchingly at that: e.g., "reSULTS" is rhymed with "INsults," and there's awkward inversion in "the perfect out of imperfection born").*

And in the course of those efforts to versify, he proclaims--in a more oblique way than Ozymandias's "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and Despair!", but still implicitly self-congratulatory--that artists like himself can perform the miracle of art on anything.

Really, Daniel?

Art is more than using "clever combination" to turn sow's ears into silk purses (or coffee into Harar). To be art, it has to move the audience emotionally. And making me feel grumpy that I read fourteen lines for so little reward doesn't count.

Bottom line: if the poem's thesis is that art can be created even from unpromising material, it would be far better to show us that than to tell us that.


* The misplaced linebreak in L5 is an easily remedied typo, so I won't deduct any points for that, but you'll want to fix it.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-25-2019 at 11:30 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 08-27-2019, 06:59 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi Julie!

So I'm guessing this poem isn't your cup... of tea.
vs. Harar.


It's quite a personal response and I think there's something of an achievement here to have a poem taken so personally, almost as a trigger. There's a great deal of misreading or half-reading too, but I can still pluck a few useful bits from it. Take the fruit and leave the chaff. I receive it as good faith: blessed are the wounds of a friend.
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