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Old 10-23-2016, 11:43 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Thirteen


Thirteen

My buddy Jake’s bar mitzvah was all right.
His parents own this chain of health boutiques,
so at the party there were all these freaks:
women with faces pulled up high and tight,
hair so blond it almost looked pure white,
and this one yoga teacher with her cheeks
like dynamite in tights was giving peeks
at her brand new boob job by the pool all night.
Jake said she told him since he was a man
he could touch—and he leaned in close, and felt
her breath all thick with beer against his skin.
Up in the game room, I didn’t know a thing.
I heard about it later as he held
the locker door with a clenched and shaking hand.
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Old 10-23-2016, 11:44 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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The colloquial tone seduced me instantly, and my passionate affair with this poem lasted all the way through the two turns (after lines 8 and 11) and final image. It is remarkable that the author so effortlessly fits the speaker’s story into such a demanding a rhyme scheme (abba/abba). After so virtuosic a display, one can only be certain that the shift to off-rhymes in the sestet (cde/edc/) is purposeful—the lack of chime in the final three lines brings us back to a far less sexually exciting reality and lands us in surprising shifts of setting (game room, middle school).
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Old 10-24-2016, 12:14 AM
Simon Hunt Simon Hunt is offline
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Extra points for topicality since the real-life yoga teacher 's trial only recently resolved in her acquittal? I agree that this is very skillful in its story-telling and its handling of structure and rhyme. The cheeks/dynamite/tights image seemed perhaps a tad oblique for this speaker to me, though, and how about a dash in place of the comma at the end of line 5?
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Old 10-24-2016, 06:27 AM
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Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
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Call me a political junkie, but that locker line (14) immediately brought to mind the current US election discourse . All the health "freaks" are women, with six lines dedicated to the one who is basically (and literally) asking for it!

I agree with the DG that the colloquial tone works in the context, but I disagree with him/her that the Petrarchan rhyme scheme is overly demanding, and that the poet showed virtuosity in using it.

An interesting vignette, but for me, it's a one-read.
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Old 10-24-2016, 06:36 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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I find the Petrarchan octave nigh impossible, but otherwise, what Cathy said.
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Old 10-24-2016, 06:44 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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As far as the demands of the form are concerned, they are considerably reduced by the poet's decision not to rhyme (in any meaningful way) the last six lines. It may have been purposeful and thematically justified, but it does make the writing less demanding to pull off.

The sonnet seems to be all about tone and trying to capture the voice of the young speaker, but for me it would have been nice if the captured voice had been called upon to do a bit more work. I'm left with a so-what feeling at the end of this.

As far as the tone and voice are concerned, the last two lines strike me as a departure from the diction and register of the preceding lines.

But on the whole, it all reads smoothly and satisfies as a one-read, to use Catherine's term.
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Old 10-24-2016, 07:59 AM
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Claudia Gary Claudia Gary is offline
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I agree with Cathy that the petrarchan form isn't all that difficult. Or maybe it's just a matter of practice. (Do we poets get points for years spent in the game?)

As for Roger's comment about the sestet, to me it seems to be rhymed with deliberate variations, rather than unrhynmed. Such would correspond well to the layer of complication and conflict now added to the bar mitzvah boy's life. The poem has a moving conclusion, although I agree with Cathy that it's a "one-read."
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Old 10-24-2016, 10:41 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Ripped-from-the-headlines poems always make me a bit suspicious about exploitation and sensationalism. Not that I'm poised to scold--just that I'm a little harder to win over, and am looking for either an overt or subtle message or agenda. By presenting the "clenched and shaking hand" of the thirteen-year-old who seems simultaneously braggadocious and troubled, I think the poem succeeds in not being too preachy. (Then again, maybe I'd like it to be a little more preachy on this topic.)

I thought the sestet's imperfect and distant rhymes (abccba puts those a rhymes pretty far apart) helped convey the sense of something-not-quite-right-beneath-the-surface.

Actually, the octave contains more quibbles for me than others had with the sestet. Would a narrator this young and admittedly clueless about sexual undercurrents know or care that this woman was a yoga teacher, and would he characterize her as "with cheeks / like dynamite in tights"? And was the woman wearing tights at the party, or is that part of the cheek-dynamite metaphor? Both possibilities seem odd to me.

The anticlimactic misdirection of "touch...leaned in close...felt" followed by "breath" is interesting.

Still thinking about this one.
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Old 10-24-2016, 02:34 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Technically well done, but doesn't really hold my interest, and I'm not really convinced by the voice--which is central to making this work.
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Old 10-24-2016, 05:33 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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For me this is mainly effective. Things fall apart--and so do people if they are victims of drunken sexual predators. The reminder that the boys are only thirteen says volumes about the sexual curiosity/uneasiness of Jake and the devastating effect the woman has on him. I'm guessing that the "tights" are some kind of yoga pants that fit as tightly as tights. The tightly rhymed octave gives way to an exploded sestet with rhymes that no longer rhyme, which I thought was an effective way to mirror Jake's shaking hands. I do think that the meter gets a bit ambiguous in L10, but the colloquial voice allows a certain leeway in the meter.

Susan
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