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  #11  
Unread 01-17-2021, 11:02 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I like this a lot, Susan. The abstraction doesn’t bother me; there are enough images to ground my fantasy in the poem. And the variations on the repetend appealed to me. In a villanelle, I can enjoy as much how the exactly repeating lines are used in various ways, as I can how they themselves are varied. Either way, there’s the confounding of expectation that poetry needs.

One image in the poem strikes me as worth rethinking: S3L1, “skin by skin.” Since masks aren’t generally made of skin, I found the mixed metaphor distracting. Also, you could use those three syllables to hint more at the other meaning of “play” there, referring perhaps to different expressions on masks. E.g., “look by look.” Or maybe synonyms for mask: “veil by veil.” Or, to stick with the magma metaphor, “crust by crust.”

I agree with Bill on the last line: it’s a perfect finish.
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  #12  
Unread 01-18-2021, 01:15 AM
Golias Golias is offline
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I get it now, Susan. Sorry.

Wiley
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  #13  
Unread 01-18-2021, 07:31 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
You can go ahead and tinker with this — but I say it's done. As is implied in the poem, things are never done anyway. Leave this to be what it is: ars poetica.

My only quibble is that you call the whole thing a game. I get the analogy/metaphor, but I'm not sure it is a game we/you play. I think maybe it's more than that. I hope it is. It is, at the very least, a game we must play. Can't quit. Will never finish playing.

But I think the poem is gorgeous. Villanelles are meant to pull you in and have you feel the pulse of the poet's heart. This one does.

Thanks for writing and thanks for sharing here.
.
.
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  #14  
Unread 01-18-2021, 09:18 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Bill, I am glad you like it.

Andrew, you got me to reconsider "skin by skin." I had wanted to use "strata" but hadn't seen how to fit it in before.

Jim, though I wasn't thinking of this poem of Frost's as I wrote the poem, I think the second line here was hovering in the back of my mind:

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.
--"Two Tramps in Mud Time"

Susan
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  #15  
Unread 01-18-2021, 01:14 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi Susan,

I'm bi-polar on this. Love the villanelle.
Love the smoothness of the grammar and sentence structure, but don't love the didactics.
Don't love some of the metrical substitutions (that's me), but do love the metrical substitutions in the B lines as a whole.
Love that it keeps the discipline needed for all good writing, no matter the form-- e.g. it would still be sensible were it layed out as a paragraph. Don't love the contradiction of dismissing posterity, yet playing the long game.

I *think* the contradiction is resolved if I imagine the speaker is playing the long game for some unnamed reader to notice and reach out. But I'm not sure the text really carries that.

Love that there is yet something very satisfying in the conclusion.

Here are some more detailed metrical (etc) observations/ideas that I hope are of some use.


L4 {and try transcribing what just drains away]
L5 {or turns to empty noodling...}
L7 {while knowing that their strata overlay}
L8 {harsh enjambment}
L9 {Rapt as a child = cliche and trochee}
L10 {there ARE dialects that say "ed" like "it" but the speaker isn't one of them}
L13 {"thank it" is a stretch, IMO. thank who (silence or uncertainty) and for what}
L14 {and let the clock}
L15 {PULLing oBLIV ion Over YOU like a BLANKet}

In lines 8 and 11, you have set a very difficult task for yourself to enjamb after the __ it device. It's still a smart choice. it's just the right amount of enjambment to break up the pattern of sentences ending on the __ it. The enjambment is still quite harsh though. It might help some if the foot that followed those enjambed lines were the same. IOW always follow the enjambed __ it with an unstressed foot. Or with stressed. Either way, just the same pattern. Either way it will be a bump: would be great if you could work it into the meaning. It really almost works with the pause to think it/is you... but it would have to be set up better to suspend the reader in thought after "it", before you let them off the hook in the following line. For my aesthetic, I think I'd prefer those lines start with trochees and be a half a foot short. That might defeat your purpose though. My flow idea would be that if the pair of lines were read through ignorning the break, they'd still be IP.

Hope this is in some way catalytic~ I always scan for your work and always learn something from it.
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  #16  
Unread 01-18-2021, 04:49 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Daniel, it is always good to hear what is not working for other readers and why, and to consider other options. I did take a look at the lines you flagged, and I considered various alternatives, but in each case I wound up sticking to the line as I had it because I did not prefer the changed line. It is true that I use a lot of metrical substitutions and that I have more than usual in this poem. But the poem is partly about breaking or ignoring expectations, so the deliberate looseness, both in the meter and in the B rhymes, seemed to fit the theme. I hear L15 as PULLing oBLIV ion Over you LIKE a BLANKet. That is probably the loosest of the lines, but it does illustrate what I mean about hearing a music no one else would play. I have to trust my own ear.

I L13 the logic is that the speaker thanks uncertainty for NOT making oblivion certain. You mention that you find the poem too didactic. Do you find "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night" to be didactic? I ask because that one actually adopts a hortatory tone, whereas I think the list here is just descriptive. I think the poem does not dismiss posterity. It does include "To let time have its say." But it states that the speaker is not thinking about posterity while writing each line. The long game is the one played not for short-term goals like prizes, publication, or praise, but for trying to say something true or beautiful, whether or not that truth or beauty is in fashion at the moment--or will ever be in fashion again.

I write not to express what I think, but to find out what I think, so questions that help me articulate that are useful, just as writing poems is useful.

Susan
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  #17  
Unread 01-21-2021, 02:26 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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Interesting poem.

While going through the "to..." "to..." "to..." process, though, it feels like the periods should be semi-cola and that the list should eventually have a concluding part of the sentence structure (for example, "to...is..." as in "to err is human"), without which it feels incomplete.

Consider indeed making it one complete sentence. Also, perhaps it would be better to personalize the last line ("the only game I play" instead of "...to play").

Maybe something like this:

To... ;
To... ;
To... ;
etc.
Is the long game - the only game I play.

.

Last edited by Kevin Rainbow; 01-21-2021 at 02:33 PM.
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  #18  
Unread 01-21-2021, 10:03 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Kevin, with a litany, which is what this is, I have found that it preserves an element of mystery if I don't spell out for the reader the meaning of the list. It makes the reader participate actively, rather than just waiting for the meaning to be summed up by the writer. It also leaves the meaning open-ended, rather than tying it up in a neat package. The poem is meant to be about writers, rather than just about me, so I don't want to mention myself at the end. I was thinking about writers like Keats and Dickinson in particular, but the situation fits so many lesser known and unknown writers, too.

Susan
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