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Unread 01-04-2021, 11:11 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Coleman, I don't like the ending the way it is now. I think it might be more fun to show the son blossoming into an exact likeness of the father, and the father enjoying that similarity, but then end something like

But then he turned his arrogance and scorn
on me! Far better he were never born.

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Unread 01-04-2021, 12:01 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Location: California
Posts: 1,126

Hi Coleman,

I think you have done a good job at steadily pruning the self-awareness. One thing I'm a little wobbly on, though, is the use of the word "opposite".

I'm thinking you mean something more like "mirror" or maybe even "complement"? As an archaism though, it feels like 'opposite' might already have that alt. def. Unsure.
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Unread 01-04-2021, 01:32 PM
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Katie Hoerth Katie Hoerth is offline
Join Date: May 2011
Location: Beaumont, Texas
Posts: 589

Hi Coleman!
I like your revision of this poem very much. The ending is MUCH better, sonically and thematically, though I must say, I like Susan's suggested ending too.
"Engrafted life" is particularly inspired. The sniped and shaped refers in the poem to the son's soul, so it doesn't feel as violent (though maybe still a little). I'd push you to perhaps be more specific with "bad fruit." Why is the fruit "bad?"

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Unread 01-05-2021, 05:23 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Bryn Athyn, PA
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Another revision posted.

Susan, thanks for your thoughts on the ending. I’m still working on an alternate version that goes in the direction you suggest. Last four lines of that currently:

He blossomed and I watched my own pride swell
Within a youth in whom my luster shone.
But, oh, he split and burst and spattered scorn
On me! Such fruit were better left unborn.

It needs work still, and I haven’t decided yet which direction I want to go, but I’m indebted to you for the suggestion. Thanks!

Daniel, thanks for your thoughts and questions about “opposite.” I primarily wanted the idea of n being so utterly blind to his faults that he thinks his mirror image is his opposite. But I did also want a secondary sense in which an opposite IS a reflection. In the current revision I’m trying out “aberration”. I’m also considering “my nemesis” - I think that would work better than “my opposite” for a number of reasons.

Katie, great to meet you on here! I’m still relatively new to the Sphere (joined in October) and I’m grateful to have found this community. Thanks for your kind words about the revision, and thanks for pressing me on “bad fruit”; it’s now “false fruit,” hopefully conveying a sense of being cheated and also ironically echoing “waxen fruits.” I like Susan’s ending too — I’m blessed with a number of possible directions I could take this poem. Deciding which one to take is the tricky part.

Last edited by Coleman Glenn; 01-05-2021 at 05:37 AM.
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Unread 01-05-2021, 09:43 AM
S.R. Little Stone's Avatar
S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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Location: Staunton, VA
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Hi Coleman,

Thanks for sharing your work. I agree with some of the previous comments about feeling unsure of "waxen fruits" and the violence of the pruning imagery. I like the theme you've chosen of Shakespeare's sonnets backfiring and fueling the vanity and self-obsession of the fair youth. You would have to do a complete overhaul, but I wonder if you could introduce more contemporary themes & imagery to make this poem more obviously relevant to readers. For example, could you somehow indicate that the fair youth is disappointed in his son's ability to take quality selfies or generate a following on social media? Maybe the fair youth brags about how many followers Shakespeare gained by writing about him. I think there are a lot of ways you could satirize our current self-obsession with the fair youth as a cultural lens.

-Little Stone
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Unread 01-06-2021, 09:09 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: York
Posts: 90

Hi Coleman

This is very neat.

I like the way you undermine our faith in the narrator. The very first line where Shakespeare is addressed with the over-familiar and incorrect “Bill” makes me think of double-glazing salesman who betrays the fact that he knows nothing about you when he calls you by a diminutive that no-one else uses. Similarly, the “et cetera” line 3 which on first reading felt wrong, I now see as further evidence of the narrator’s laziness.

“Engrafted” is good and “false" fruit, better than “bad”. I wondered whether you might have “strange fruit” or “queer fruit” But Strange Fruit recalls the Billie Holiday song, and that’s not the connotation you’re after. It would be nice to resurrect the older meaning of “queer” but again in your poem it would probably mislead.

In the last line I like “aberration” too. I thought you might continue the horticultural analogy with words like “hybrid” “throwback”, “sport”, but aberration has other advantages.

I know you have deliberately expunged any self awareness on behalf of the Narrator. But I did like that aspect of the original. And it tells a more satisfying story that way. I suppose I’m a sucker for a happy ending. Ok not happy but one that admits of redemption.

Perhaps you could re-insert it in the final line with the Narrator's epiphany that his son is rather too much like him and the possibility that “left unborn” might also mean the Narrator. You’d then need to modify L12 as well eg

Where my long hoped-for likeness should have grown:
Engorged with glory, bitter, seeping scorn —
So much like me and better left unborn.
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Unread 01-06-2021, 12:02 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
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Location: Bryn Athyn, PA
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I told myself that I wouldn’t post a million drafts this time around, and yet here we are with draft 5.

Little Stone, nice to meet you on here! I’ve fiddled with alternatives to “waxen fruits,” but I still like it as an indicator of the narrator’s lack of attention, and for the unsettling way it objectifies a living thing. I also think the violence of the pruning is integral to the narrator’s character - I’m reflecting not only on vanity, but also on the way that seeing one’s children exclusively as extensions / reflections of oneself inevitably leads to violence against them. Thanks for your suggestions about a more modernized version - I don’t think I’ll go that direction with this one, but Shakespeare has plenty more sonnets to satirize!

Joe, sounds like we’re on the same wavelength on this one: I really wanted “strange fruit” for that line, but the Billie Holiday resonance is way too strong and completely out of place in this poem, so I had to settle for “bad fruit” and then “false fruit.” “Queer fruit” would be even more misleading. And, in one of my many not-posted drafts, I had, “Too much like me, and better never born” as the final line. I agree that draft 4 lacks a satisfying conclusion, and I’m still reaching for it. My main options as I see it are a.) self-realization on the part of the narrator (I like your suggestion here), b.) total blindness on the part of the narrator but clear similarities seen by the reader, or c.) recognition of similarities by the narrator, but rejecting the son when the son turns against him (Susan’s suggestion). I’ve been going down the b. path; I don’t think draft 4 was doing quite enough to make it obvious that the very qualities the narrator despised were his own qualities. I think draft 5 makes that clearer, hopefully making the last line a little snappier and more satisfying. But I might have to let this one sit for a while before I can tell which direction to take it.
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Unread 01-06-2021, 02:26 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Coleman, I really like draft 5 (far from my initial impressions).
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Unread 01-10-2021, 12:17 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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In what this poem sets out to do, it's destined to be a minor poem and doesn't strive for more. That's not a critique, just a comment (there's nothing wrong with minor poems). And, in relation to what it sets out to do, this poem is quite successful, I'd say. I like how you set up high-falutin quasi-Shakespearian language in L1-L3, only to puncture it amusingly with L4. I like the use of an extended metaphor, borrowing Shakespeare's own technique and turning it against him. I like the lack of detail about the boy and what went wrong with him; this too is appropriately Shakespearian. And the final couplet packs a punch: L13 is richly elevated in its language, L14 appropriately and disarmingly simple and punchy.

As someone who once wrote his fair share of (mostly unsuccessful) sonnets taking umbrage at Willy's unhelpful prodding to reproduce, I really appreciated this one. Nice job.
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Unread 01-16-2021, 03:49 PM
Lawrence Rhu Lawrence Rhu is offline
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Default The Fair Youth’s Complaint

This poem is a hoot, and I have enjoyed it since first reading it a week or so ago. Shakespeare’s “breeding sonnets” have long been an interest of mine, so I appreciate this sonnet’s play upon their themes and imagery. For example, “their pressures to impress my seal / On waxen fruits that fruit eternally” nicely conveys these particular sonnets’ lobbying for the addressee to perform his role in creating himself an heir. The image of a signet and a seal goes back to Aristotle’s ideas about human reproduction, where the former stands for “forma” and the latter for “materia.” It was a commonplace, and I’ve encountered it in Tasso’s poetics, where he uses it to discuss literary form. Though I don’t recall encountering it in Shakespeare, it must be there somewhere. “[W]axen fruits” threw me at first, though I came to think that “waxen” could mean “mature, grown-up”—like the way the moon waxes. Suggestions of the moon, if they are arguably in play, could further imply that the “fruit” is a young woman who has reached puberty and could conceive a child under the usual Elizabethan circumstances (NB Published in 1609,The Sonnets were a Jacobean publication, but they were probably mostly composed during the “sonnet boom” of the 1590s). But construing these words in this way makes the figures become nearly all tenor and no ground. Such developments may amount to an exciting flight, but they may also entail losing touch with the world below and the people in it. As far as “[fruiting] eternally” goes, the “breeding sonnets” come to a close after Sonnet 17, when the couplet of Sonnet 18 asserts the so-called “eternizing conceit”: the power of poetry to outlive an individual’s mortal condition. In 12’s couplet, there is no such claim. In fact, its “nothing” absolutely asserts the opposite: “And nothing ‘gainst time’s scythe can make defence / Save breed to brave him, when he takes thee hence.” In 15, the couplet is on the brink of such a claim: “And all in war with time for love of you / As he takes from you, I engraft you new.” The couplet in 18, which goes furthest, abandons “breeding,” as a compensation for mortality, and replaces it with poetry: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Still, it is also confining this sonnet’s, and poetry’s, immortality to humanity’s lifespan, which may not amount to eternity. It just amounts to the limits of our being alive to keep track of time.

“Et cetera, so forth,” is redundant, but perhaps that’s your point.

“With features fairly fine” may not do the work you want it to if the reader remembers the Elizabethan meaning of “fair,” which is “definitely above average,” not “fair to middling.”

The horticultural imagery derives from the relevant sonnets, but it may also be helpful to remember its use in Shakespeare’s romances, where legitimacy of potential offspring is crucial. Fathers resist marriages between royalty and (apparent) commoners, and there is real fear of “false fruit.” In The Winter’s Tale, for example, Prince Florizel is planning to marry the castaway Perdita (also a princess, but who knew?) without his father’s permission. When she first appears on stage as a speaking character, she expresses contempt for gillyvors (gillyflowers or pinks) by summoning their colloquial name, “nature’s bastards.” Legitimacy was a serious consideration, especially among royalty and aristocrats. Nobody knows for sure who the young gentleman was, but when we hear Shakespeare groveling in the dedication of Venus and Adonis to the Earl of Northampton (1593, when the theaters were closed due to plague and there were no ticket sales), we hear the voice of dependency and need, which may also be in play in the “breeding sonnets” and beyond, e.g., 29 (‘When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes”), among others.
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