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Unread 09-05-2019, 03:26 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,155

Is there any reason this has to be rigidly pent or tet? You have a discursive style John, could your meter not be similarly discursive? With your poems I sometimes feel they are pieces of nicely written prose 'hammered' into metrical boxes. If you embraced a freer style it might lead you to rid them of redundancies designed to pad out a metrical line. This one starts with a bit of a 'Dover Beach' feel. I think you should go back to your first revision (version II) and allow the lines to fall with the rhythm of thought. Like Arnold does.

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
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Unread 09-05-2019, 11:13 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Nemo, hi Mark,

Nemo: welcome! At the end of the day, I have to agree with you. I have no objection to hammering lines into new form, I think it's a worthwhile occupation, but here, the result hasn't yet arrived at poetry. I've been tinkering some today with the half-dozen MS. poems I'm looking at moving to tet, and will decide which of them gain from the process and which do not.
Mark: that could indeed be the way to go. I think the revision process showed me some fat in the original that could be trimmed, but the tet version doesn't work on the page. There may be a halfway point that will make the MS. less monotonous (though it has its share of free verse), and find art in the way Matthew Arnold does. People knock "Dover Beach" but I like it.
Let me just add, to be contrarian, that my first book of poems, Allegro, is very likely 75% rhymed tet. I write in various styles, and post various things on the Sphere. Though I do like banging on.

Cheers, and thank you both,

Update: so I rejected about half of my tet revisions, but they did feed back into the final pent versions. Here in MS. I'm working with a slight variant of Version II at this point. I can post it if folks would like, as Version V, but the changes are minor. Thanks Mark, yes, that was pre-tet days. Oh - the MS. now opens on tet, it's quite a bit more striking IMO.

Last edited by John Isbell; 09-06-2019 at 12:20 AM.
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Unread 09-06-2019, 12:54 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Lazio, Italy
Posts: 4,968

Whichever way you decide to go with this, I think your recent post "Attributes of Birds" shows the possibilities of fat-reduced expression. The technique of that poem--almost all incomplete sentences--produced a more direct statement, which in fact people responded to. It's not a technique to replicate from poem to poem, but it shows you don't only write sprawlingly and verbosely.
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Unread 09-06-2019, 08:09 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for the thoughts on "Attributes of Birds." Yes, that other MS. in which it figures, To Our Alien Overlords, ended up with a little cluster of verbless poems along similar lines. It's a technique I'm quite fond of, but don't want to overdo. I also did some work in language poetry at one point, around 2006.

Here in Ice Cream and Talmud, my religion MS., I've now added three tet versions to the couple that were there already. They rhyme a bit - I do like rhymed tet for its sing-song quality, I'm a huge fan of Hilaire Belloc - and I think they jazz up the MS. in important ways, they change the tone. It's a bit more magical, which fits with the topic, and sometimes a bit funnier or more acidulous. This is thanks to your suggestion, Andrew, so thank you. The poems where I abandoned the tet experiment were mostly revised thanks to the process, so it was well worthwhile. Thank you Nemo for telling me what wasn't working.

This current poem, "Fear and Trembling," has been mildly altered but mostly follows Version II at this point. As I say, if folks want the latest version I can post it. Thank you Mark for pointing me back to that one.

Cheers all,
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Unread 09-06-2019, 08:33 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 781

Hi John,

I think there is a "nailed-it" place where you are both conversational and concise without being wordy or austere. This, to me is close. And you've clearly got a hold of a moment and a delivery technique worthy of the pleasure that whittling on this poem is.

Here's a few thoughts on meter etc.

The clouds are salmon-pink. Beyond
L1 = fine, beyond is nicely placed for multiple reasons.

loom up the singing centuries.
L2 - to me, problematic
loom UP the SINGing CENturies
you fool yourself thinking the "ies" rises. (I do this to myself all the time.)
syntax a bit 'pinchy' and not natural tone to go from beyond to loom
a. inverted, b. subjectless
?them loom the centuries that sing? --> not perfect, but see how the "ies" really would get lifted here? and more natural (take/toss)

Birds swim off through November sky.
imo to austere of articles: consider 'the birds swim through November skies"
birds without a modifier is not conversational tone here, I think, as is Nov., unless it points to a plural (t/t).

Beneath our huddled roofs not made
for flight folk dream the day away.
--> both are good. folk is always iffy to me. no good one syllable word exists I think. nothing wrong with 'folk' really it's just not often used. Here, consider 'we' -?
--> There's another caution. The smoothness is a bit interrupted by starting these lines with "because" --the first natural imputation is to use the birds as a subject, before correcting by virtue of grammar.
On second thought, why not:
We are not made for flight. We dream
the day away beneath our huddled roofs.
CRAP one foot too long. You get the gesture. ?How to carve around the knots? Maybe also 'dream the sky away'... just musing...

Hope these thoughts are of some use.
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Unread 09-09-2019, 07:22 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
Join Date: Mar 2017
Location: TX
Posts: 4,952

Hi Daniel,

I do always enjoy your thoughts on meter. Here I'm afraid I've wasted your time somewhat, since I've gone back to Version II, in pent. But the tet version made me go through the whole MS. thinking about my pent being wordy, and in consequence, I now have three tet versions scattered through it. I'll post one this evening, that opens the MS. In the meantime, I'm happy for this to sink. Version II seems to do what I need, with the tweaks I've made to it, and the tet exercise was pretty useful in the end. :-)

Thanks all,
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