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Old 08-25-2018, 11:28 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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I like Edward's suggestion about breaking up the nursery rhyme.

I'd go back to "Walls" for "Its walls". Otherwise, I think you've revised effectively.
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Old 08-25-2018, 01:39 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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I like this, Andrew. Especially the successive images in the last two stanzas. The shifting position of the rhyme is interesting. And that last image is wonderful. I'm slightly put off by it not ending in a pat rhyme, however. Might be a case of me not letting go of the edge of the pool.

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Old 08-25-2018, 01:45 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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The revisions are good. You evoke the hallucinatory effect very well indeed. And the images are dramatic.

Now that I understand what the meter is supposed to be, I’ll share my thoughts about it. I don’t, first of all, think the metrical rockiness serves the poem as well as it could. It doesn’t need to echo the hallucination. I believe that people like to latch on to patterns, whether in music, poetry, painting, sculpture, dance and other art forms. So I think it’s good to establish the metrical pattern right off the bat.

The rhythm in most of the poem is pretty clear. S1 seems to me the main culprit.

Because 4343 is a far more common stanza structure than 3434, I suggest that you start the reader off on the right foot unambiguously. To be specific, lines 1 and 2 are each a bit vague. They can be heard as either trochaic tetrameter or trimeter with anapestic beginnings.


IN a / SHUTT ered / ROOM a / BOY
HEARS the / NEAR by / BREATH ing / SEA

or trimeter:

in a SHUTT / ered ROOM / a BOY
hears the NEAR / by BREATH / ing SEA

L3 is clearly trimeter (His mother towels his brow). Good.

Then L4 is pentameter.

reciting verses from the nursery

So I suggest tweaking the first two lines and L4 to make them clearly 3434. Then the reader knows what will happen metrically in the rest of the poem.

In S4 Lines 1-2 the meter is slightly iffy.

He stares, the room withers.
can be dimeter or trimeter, depending on how many syllables you give to “room.”

Same with the next line:
Its walls curl, the wainscot blisters.
It hinges on how many syllables you give to “walls,” so can be either trimeter or tetrameter.

I like Edward’s idea of staggering the nursery rhyme.

I especially like how the poem intensifies the surreal and hallucinatory imagery until, in the last two stanzas, it boarders on nightmarish.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 08-25-2018 at 01:48 PM.
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:37 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Location: Lazio, Italy
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Many thanks, all. Great critiques, much appreciated. Revised version posted.

Ed(ward), I love the suggestion of breaking up the nursery rhyme stanzas with the narrative. That works wonderfully and I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me. Then again, that’s what feedback is for, so thank you.

Aaron, I’m going to stay with “Its walls,” I think, to avoid the slight tontoism of leaving out the article there. Glad you like the revisions.

Rick, yes, the final rhyme: I was fond of ending by repeating the -oon sound and then adding on the extra unaccented syllable, to give a feeling of lack of closure. I’m please you enjoy the images.

Martin, thanks for taking time to give the excellent detailed crit. I’ve followed your advice for S1, which I think is pretty clearly 3-4-3-4 now. The spots you point out later (“walls” and “room”) to me are decisively accented, reading the poem with natural speech stress. I think there’s enough rough edges in the poem’s meter, substitutions etc., to steer clear of the more regular iambic beat that would make those words ambiguously stressed. In any case, I want the rough feel, though I do agree with you that it’s better to have S1 start out on a steadier foot.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:56 AM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Hi Andrew, I'm afraid you over-revised L1 and the last three lines. "In a shuttered room" is terrific! "Closed indoors" is weak. Likewise, I much prefer these lines over your revision:

In her body's translucence,
he sees a doubloon-moon
aglow in the brackish bones of a schooner.

I like "her body" and "he sees" and "aglow" - they conjure her wonderfully; "skin" and "shows" and "inside" weaken the image and flatten the ending.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:15 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Location: Connecticut, USA
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Even though the first line is now clearly trimeter, I actually like the original first line better. It’s good that you are trying to get the meter of the first stanza to indicate the general meter of the rest, but I think you’re sacrificing a better line for the sake of it.

An alternative, if you keep “shuttered” might be

Shuttered indoors, a boy


Shut up indoors, a boy

Just suggestions for you to keep or ignore.

Alternatively, the poem need not have a regular stanza form.

Like Mary, I also still like “body” and “aglow” in the final stanza. And “he sees” is more active of the boy than “shows,” which is something the body (or skin) manifests in the boy’s mind, but it’s a more indirect way of depicting it.
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Old 08-26-2018, 05:44 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Location: Boston, MA
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I am just beginning to get my arms around this darkly sweet poem. I am enthralled with the scenario of a feverish young boy being comforted by his mother with nursery rhymes as he wallows in the throes of a fever. The images have a surreal movement to them: the fever casts a gauzy pall over the sensory images of the breathing ocean, the bowlful of sunlight, the disjointed nursery rhymes (the nursery rhymes have an eerie effect to me. They harken back to the days when they were written with decidedly different meanings than they have today).

The ending, though powerful, is a bit obscure to me. Is this the moment of death? (A golden bowl of sunlight/brims the table late at night implies that perhaps the boy is near death.)

Also, I think it sounds better not to full stop in S2L3 at “stares." A comma hesitates but keeps it going in a way that L4 flows.

I like "shuttered room", too.

Beautiful, delicate, moody work Andrew.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 08-26-2018 at 06:42 PM.
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Old 08-27-2018, 10:32 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Location: Lazio, Italy
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I’m back to “In a shuttered room” to start and the original ending. Thanks Mary and Martin for pushing me there. I like them better too.

Jim, so good to see your take on this, I really appreciate it. Nursery rhymes really do have an eerie feel, don’t they? The poem is based on my actual experience; my mother sang the rhymes to me when I was delirously feverish and hallucinatory. It always brought be back. I remembered this years later when I was with a friend having a bad acid trip, the simple rhymes actually helped him from a suicidal precipice. Powerful stuff, Mother Goose. The image at the end is a vision of death, or better mortality, but whose death or mortality is left open. I like your idea of the comma instead of the period after “stares,” and have implemented it.
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Old 08-29-2018, 04:15 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Location: England
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Hey Andrew,

I hope it's not too late to bring this back up, especially as I don't have much to add but general praise for its haunting, feverish qualities.

I know it could be set in the present, but I got a distinctly Victorian feel from it. At the end, with 'doubloon' and 'schooner' I couldn't help but picture the infant, bed-ridden Robert Louis Stevenson getting a hallucinatory glimmer of a story he might go on to write.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:42 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Location: Lazio, Italy
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Thanks for sharing that association, Mark. In the period of my life when I had delirious fevers like the one in the poem, I was obsessed with those illustrations of Alice in Wonderland, of which the one of Alice with the long neck really freaked me out. As the Caterpillar smoking the hookah put it:

"Who are you?" said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I — I hardly know, Sir, at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then."

"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar, sternly. "Explain yourself!"

"I ca'n't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir," said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."

"I don't see," said the Caterpillar.

"I'm afraid I ca'n't put it more clearly," Alice replied, very politely, "For I ca'n't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing."

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