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  #1  
Unread 01-01-2021, 10:37 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Default Shakespearean Satire

Draft 5

The Fair Youth’s Complaint

Well, Bill, your sonnets finally got to me,
With all their pressures to impress my seal
On waxen fruits that fruit eternally,
Et cetera, so forth, you know the spiel.
Enticed by your advice I grabbed a wife
With features fairly fine but not so strong
That they might mask my own engrafted life,
So sweetly celebrated in your song.
She birthed a boy. I staked and pruned him well;
I snipped and shaped his soul to match my own.
He blossomed, and I watched a false fruit swell
Where my full-bodied likeness should have grown —
Engorged with glory, bitter, seeping scorn.
If that were me, I’d wish myself unborn!


Changes since last draft:
L12 colon to em-dash
L13 em-dash to period
L14 “An aberration better left unborn” —> “If that were me, I’d wish myself unborn!”

******
Draft 4

The Fair Youth’s Complaint

Well, Bill, your sonnets finally got to me,
With all their pressures to impress my seal
On waxen fruits that fruit eternally,
Et cetera, so forth, you know the spiel.
Enticed by your advice I grabbed a wife
With features fairly fine but not so strong
That they might mask my own engrafted life,
So sweetly celebrated in your song.
She birthed a boy. I staked and pruned him well;
I snipped and shaped his soul to match my own.
He blossomed, and I watched a false fruit swell
Where my full-bodied likeness should have grown:
Engorged with glory, bitter, seeping scorn —
An aberration better left unborn.


Changes since last draft:
L11 “then” —> “and”
L11 “bad fruit” —> “false fruit”
L12 comma changed to colon at end of line
L14 “my opposite, and” —> “an aberration”
L14 “never born” —> “left unborn”

******

Draft 3

The Fair Youth’s Complaint

Well, Bill, your sonnets finally got to me,
With all their pressures to impress my seal
On waxen fruits that fruit eternally,
Et cetera, so forth, you know the spiel.
Enticed by your advice I grabbed a wife
With features fairly fine but not so strong
That they might mask my own engrafted life,
So sweetly celebrated in your song.
She birthed a boy. I staked and pruned him well;
I snipped and shaped his soul to match my own.
He blossomed, then I watched a bad fruit swell
Where my full-bodied likeness should have grown,
Engorged with glory, bitter, seeping scorn —
My opposite, and better never born.


*****

Draft 2

The Fair Youth’s Complaint

Well, Bill, your sonnets finally got to me,
With all their pressure to impress my seal
On waxen fruits that fruit eternally,
Et cetera, so forth, you know the spiel.
Enticed by your advice I grabbed a wife
With features fairly fine but not so strong
That they might mask my own engrafted life,
So sweetly celebrated in your song.
She birthed a boy. I staked and pruned him well;
I snipped and shaped his soul to match my own.
He blossomed — and I watched a bad fruit swell
Where my full-bodied likeness should have grown,
Engorged with self-importance, seeping scorn,
With bitter core, and better never born.


Edits to this draft:
Changed title from "The Fair Youth's Regret" to "The Fair Youth's Complaint"

L6 “fine” was “nice”

******

The Fair Youth, Older, Answers

Well, Bill, your sonnets finally got to me,
With all their pressings to impress my seal
On waxen fruits that fruit eternally,
And so on and so forth, you know the spiel.
Enticed by your advice I picked a wife
With features fairly fair but not so strong
That they might override that second life
You urged on me so sweetly in your song.
She birthed a boy. I fed and pruned him well;
His soul I manicured to match my own.
He blossomed, and I saw my own pride swell
In him in whom my doubled self was shown,
Engorged with glory, skin secreting scorn,
With bitter core, and better off not born.


Edits to this draft:
L4 "and so on and so forth" was "et cetera, et cetera"
L8 "urged on me" was "recommend"
L10 "His soul I manicured" was "Even his soul I shaped"
L12 was "As in my seed my doubled self was shown"
L14 "With bitter core" was "Rotting within"

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 01-06-2021 at 12:30 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-01-2021, 12:42 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Default Murderous Mirrors!

Coleman, your satiric cadences of Billís sonnet are very effective, and the development suggests his sonnet's a prequel to William Wilson and The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Iíll comb through it again for nits, if any to be found.
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  #3  
Unread 01-01-2021, 03:40 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Thanks Ralph! As so often happens, I've already noticed a few places to tighten it up (mostly for the sonics), so you can check the newer version for nits as well.

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 01-01-2021 at 03:48 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 01-01-2021, 07:51 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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Coleman, my main problem with this is that you don't provide any evidence in the poem of why the son should never have been born. If you are going to write a whole poem about why having children was the wrong thing to do, I expect more of a payoff at the end. A lot of the middle seems unimportant, so you could have room to build a stronger case there. A few other problems include that Shakespeare's nickname seems to have been "Will," not "Bill," and "you know the spiel" sounds much too contemporary. I can't scan L4 to get five beats in that line. "Pruning" a child sounds rather violent. The main thing is to get the content to seem worth all of the effort. If you can't do that, the surface problems are moot.

Susan
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  #5  
Unread 01-01-2021, 08:25 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Susan McLean View Post
I can't scan L4 to get five beats in that line.
D'oh! Thanks for catching this, Susan. I'll come back later for a longer response to your other thoughts, but I'm just popping in now to fix the meter. Thank you!
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  #6  
Unread 01-02-2021, 02:25 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Hi Coleman,

I suspect there are direct echoes of the Shakespeare sonnets in this, but, though I’ve read those sonnets (my least favorite of his sonnets!), I can’t say I know them so well I would catch direct echoes.

So if I am missing any of that, my apologies. Just going with your own sonnet in itself, while I admire your skill and attention to words in general (including in other poems of yours I’ve seen here), I find that this poem’s core is rather swamped by technique.

The poem opens with the thought that Shakespeare’s having encouraged the young man to have a child has born fruit. I’m not getting why the fruit is “waxen,” however. A seal is generally impressed on wax, it’s true, but “waxen fruits,” to my mind, turns a positive into a negative, since it’s not very appealing to think of his issue as being made of wax. And even if I were not to take the metaphor so literally, wax fruit per se is not impressed by seals, the way, say, the wax is used to close an envelope.

Line 4 is a toss-off, not really adding to the poem, and as Susan says, “spiel” goes off the register of the language used in this poem.

Lines 5-8 say that the N found a wife with whom to have a child, but I am not getting how or why a wife’s beauty could detract from the love for the physical and personal attributes of the son. Surely loving both and admiring their beauty in different ways is an option. So the argument in those lines is not convincing. Also, “fairly fair” is not a catchy wordplay; “fruits that fruit,” earlier, might be ok but this one for me is only a distraction.

The sestet moves to the birth of the boy who is supposed to be the double of the N, his own immortality so to speak. I recognize that you’re continuing the fruit tree metaphor, but “fed and pruned” sounds odd in relation to a baby. I can’t really think of what aspect of raising a small child is similar to pruning; and “fed” sounds more an action related to a human or an animal, not a tree. “Manicured” is not usually associated with fruit tree care, either, so again the word choice for me confounds the poem’s metaphorical sense.

I take it that the concluding couplet is a reflection of the N’s own unpleasant qualities? That he is “engorged with glory” etc., so any “double” of him will be like that too. But by this point, the fruit and fruit tree metaphor is entirely lost, so I don’t have a sense of what the N is trying to communicate overall about Will’s suggestion, the wife, or the offspring. I think the intention would need to be much more focused and consistent to make this persuasive and engaging.

I hope some of these thoughts are helpful.

Best,

Andrew
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  #7  
Unread 01-02-2021, 10:19 AM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi

This, for me, was an entertaining read - so cleverly written and I enjoyed the concept of the narrator’s dialogue with WS through (in my reading) a reply to the ‘procreation sonnets’.

I quite enjoyed the change in tone to ‘spiel’ - it locates the poem in the contemporary - but it perhaps stands out as the only contemporary vocabulary so I’d maybe consider bringing in another fun switch to contemporary word-choice or phrasing later on.

I think the unlikeable narrative voice is very clever (the choice of wife governed by an urge to ensure the child can grow up as a mirror-image of N is a great ‘bit’ and very cleverly worded).

I read ‘waxen’ to be pale, which reminds me of mistletoe and other poisonous berries. It’s also a clever play on words in the seal/ sealing wax which you echo, perhaps not quite as successfully, in ‘pruned/manicured’. I think maybe I’d consider a bit of a sense-check there, simply because I’d argue that manicuring has connotations of prettiness/grooming whereas ‘pruned’ has connotations of cutting back and careful gardening to connote growth. I can’t think of any three-syllable alternatives that fit your stress pattern, though. ‘Trimmed’ might carry an additional meaning of narrowing, which would fit with a mean soul, although it doesn’t fit the metre.

The end is very clever, and works well for me, with its adept imagistic shift from the skin to the core - the engorged fruit (a great way to describe ripe fruit in an unpleasant way) and bitterness at the core. Quite melodramatic, but also an interesting hint at darker things.

I’m not sure your title does the poem justice. It place-holds and sense makes well, but it’s not enticing, nor does it bring out any of the darker ideas in this. At the moment your metaphor holds together well with the story and moral message, and a different title could just shift the balance onto one or another of these, just add a tiny highlight and subtle pointer for the reader to draw them in.

I read various strands of meanings in this. I read the (main) moral message to be around the flaws of vanity - here exposed as the narrator looks at his mirror-image in the son and doesn’t like it very much. I read the poem as a dialogue with WS’s sonnets, and also as an exploration (through the metaphor of cultivation/tree/fruit) of how our actions nurture our children/those we have influence over. There’s also a more under-developed glance at the difference between external ‘look’ and inner beauty (brought out in core/skin) at the close. All these readings are there in the sonnet, existing with nearly equal balance and sitting almost as discrete units within the poem - a different title could nudge the reader towards one of them without it impacting on the others’ existence or help all three cohere.

Having said all that, for me, it’s cohesive, technically lovely and the word-choices so clever - and funny in places, which I enjoy very much.

Sarah-Jane
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  #8  
Unread 01-02-2021, 03:11 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Coleman, I would expect this narrator to be contemptuous of his son for falling short of his own uniquely unrepeatable wonderfulness, not for mirroring his own flaws too well. I can't suspend my disbelief that the narrator would even recognize the existence of his own flaws.
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  #9  
Unread 01-02-2021, 06:17 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Thanks all. Draft two is posted with some significant revisions.

Susan, thanks for your comments. Good to know what’s not working for you. In terms of the set-up and the payoff: I’m hoping to establish from the earlier parts of the poem that the speaker is a self-obsessed, unpleasant fellow. He’d rather not see that, so when he sees those qualities in his son - whom he wanted to reflect his great qualities - he wishes the son had not been born. I know “Will” is Shakespeare’s nickname, but the narrator is the kind of guy who would keep calling you “Suzy” even if you’d politely told him a dozen times you prefer to go by “Susan.” “Pruning” is an intentionally negative image. I’ve ramped up the odiousness in the revision. (For now I’ve tried to modernize / colloquialize some of the other language rather than letting go of “spiel”; if it still doesn’t work, though, I’ll look for a substitute.)

Hi Andrew, nice to meet you on here! Thanks for your critique. I do want to know how the poem reads for people who don’t have the procreation sonnets fresh in their mind, so thanks for sharing your impressions. The waxen fruit receiving a seal is an intentional mixing of metaphors - I want to have that sense that something is off in how the speaker thinks of his offspring, and also maybe that he hasn’t actually read the sonnets very carefully (hence the “et cetera, you know the spiel”). Maybe that’s a bridge too far. In 5-8, I was trying to establish that the speaker’s sole goal in having a child is to reflect his own image (which is a theme that comes up frequently in the sonnets - your beauty will die, so have a son to carry on your image). I’ve made that more explicit now. As to pruning, I think of this as punishing a child for unwanted qualities - again, an intentionally unpleasant image. I’ve revised “manicured” to hopefully make the connection there. I confess to being a little surprised by your suggestion that the metaphor is lost in the closing couplet - I had hoped that “engorged,” “secreting,” and “core” would elicit images of fruit (and there’s a born/borne pun in the last word); in any case, that’s also explicit now because of the shift away from self-awareness in the ending.

Sarah-Jane, it’s a pleasure to have you chime in here! I really like the image/poem you posted and I’m sorry I haven’t managed to comment on it. Thanks for your lucid reading of this poem - I’m glad you followed its logic and found it enjoyable to read. The “waxen” fruit was primarily to emphasize their moldable character, but I like your insight about paleness and poison. I’ve incorporated your suggestions around a trimming image rather than “manicured.” And thanks for your suggestion about the title - with the new one I’ve leaned in to foreshadowing the dark turn, but still not sure about it. I’m still pondering your insight about the three strands in the poem (although with the new ending I’ve lost the “skin”) - really helpful for me to think about. Thank you!

Julie, you’re right, of course - I’ve ditched the narrator’s self-awareness, and I’ll leave it to the reader to connect the dots. This is not the first time a single suggestion from you has opened my eyes to a necessary shift in a poem - many thanks.
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  #10  
Unread 01-04-2021, 09:15 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Draft 3 posted, with even less self-awareness.
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