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Old 03-22-2003, 06:38 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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CRESCENTA VALLEY

We watch the white moon moving through the trees
And pray that there may be ten thousand times
To share again the drowsy, rippling breeze
That jangles through the overhanging chimes.

The reddish glint of Mars has dropped from sight.
Above the hills, remaining in its place,
The blinking of the radio tower light
Seems here the mighty city's only trace.

A final log is crackling orange and blue.
It breathes from time to time a gust of sparks
That lights the terrace. Hidden from our view
Far up the road, a stray coyote barks.

The evening nurtures tenderness unplanned,
The gentle, playful pressure of your hand.
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Old 03-22-2003, 03:11 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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A tender moment captured through description. The first quatrain and the final couplet work best, suggesting both the sweetness and the brevity of such moments: "And pray that there may be..." as if something unspoken says there won't.

I wish there were more suggested in the two middle quatrains, which are devoted to well conveyed but not exceptional or gripping details. I keep looking for some connection between the scene and the situation of the couple, but not finding it.

This poem makes me wonder if poems suffer when the poet is looking at two things at once--"outer and inner weather"--but not really superimposing one on the other so that they become part of the same double exposure.
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Old 03-22-2003, 04:10 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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I think my reaction is somewhat similar to Rhina's. This is a perfectly competent - more than competent - poem, but ultimately unexceptional because it is all on one level. I prefer more complexity, another layer of meaning, more twists to poems to make them truly successful.

If the poem essentially works on one level, then the language has to be magnificent in a manner which underlines the premise of the poem - and the language becomes a second level (I think of some of Tim's spare gems). The language here doesn't do that - you don't look up and say, "Wow!" - and that makes it a good poem, but not an outstanding poem. (Excuse the wine catalog language.)

Michael Cantor
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Old 03-23-2003, 07:59 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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My reaction is the reverse of Rhina's and Michael's. I find the closing couplet rather pat and predictable. By contrast I think the second and third couplets with their images of fire and airplane warning light, all that visual imagery which culminates in the coyote's howl, to be altogether fresh--worthy of another Southern Californian, Tim Steele.
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Old 03-24-2003, 07:25 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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I like the descriptive passages very much. What I would have preferred is a closing couplet that uses those descriptions to some purpose, turns them around somehow, or enlarges upon them with an unexpected "aha"! That's the surprise Michael is looking for, and it's missing, which is why you find the couplet too pat, Tim. We're not in disagreement; we're pointing out the same thing from different ends.
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Old 03-27-2003, 10:16 PM
Bruce McBirney Bruce McBirney is offline
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Michael Cantor suggested over on the "Bake-Off Completed" thread that each of the participants re-open the threads on their own poems. As I said there a few minutes ago, I'll do that in the hopes it will break the ice and the other participants will say something about their own poems. Among other things I'd love to hear Catherine tell how she came across that painting, and how she hit on the decision that it could best be described in accentual verse; Alicia describe whether "Aftershocks" had its seed in an actual earthquake, and if so, how long it took that experience to coalesce into the poem; and Michael let us know how he'll top last year's mouth-watering villanelle about villanelles (and gourmet cooking) that ran in The Lyric and this year's outstanding sonnet about writing sonnets--perhaps a sestina on sestina-writing?

As I said elsewhere, I was honored and delighted that Tim included my quiet "tone poem" in company with so many remarkable, multi-layered sonnets. It was fun, too, to see the comments and critique by three poets whose work I admire, Rhina, Tim and Michael.

Rhina and Michael, I agree that this poem lacks an element that one would expect of a sonnet--a second level that resolves itself at the end in a turn or twist (or a "bite in the ass" as Michael said in his sonnet). Still, for this poem, I'm good-naturedly unrepentant. For better or worse, this was an attempt to write something in the spirit, though not the form, of some of my own favorite poems in the Shih Ching (Book of Songs). No clever meaning or startling diction; no "inner weather" beyond what shows clearly on the surface. Just the simplicity of a small part of life...what can be seen and heard at a particular moment.

Not very sonnet-like, I admit. And as reflected by the comments, the challenge in finding a few simple notes is to maintain interest. (Darn those ancients with a 2,500-year head start on us! How did they do that?)

Rhina and Michael, your comments were both perceptive and appreciated, and I'll keep them in mind the next time out.

Tim, I'm twice grateful for your good words--first, because of who they're from and, second, because of your kind reference to Tim Steele, whose work I very much admire. I wrote poems, many of them in rhyme and meter, for twenty-some years out of college, despite constant assurances that there was to be no more meter, and certainly no more rhyme, now or ever. In the mid-90's the L.A. Times ran a big write-up on Tim Steele, and I was shocked to learn that anyone living in L.A. (or anywhere else) was using meter and rhyme and getting away with it. Later I had the good fortune to meet him at a reading he gave the Times/UCLA book festival. He graciously looked at a few of my poems, and later dropped me a note with some kind words. (Some of them on the descriptions in this sonnet!) This was pretty much the first encouragement I'd received in those 20-odd years for writing anything in meter and rhyme, and it was greatly appreciated.

Tim, as I've said elsewhere, I equally value your encouragement this week. 'Glad I stumbled on to Eratosphere last year!

'Hope to hear from everyone else!
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Old 03-27-2003, 10:38 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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Bruce -

Thanks for the nice words. I can't do a sestina on sestinas because some guy named Dana Gioia beat me to it - My Confessional Sestina - and it's a goodie (he read it at a Powow reading a while back, and that was even goodier). It's in The Gods of Winter, but apparently not available written out anywhere on the net (I googled). Here's the first and last stanzas:

Let me confess. I'm sick of these sestinas
written by youngsters in poetry workshops
for the delectation of their fellow students
and then published in little magazines
that no one reads, not even the contributors
who at least in this omission show some taste.

Perhaps there is an afterlife where all contributors
have two workshops, a tasteful little magazine and sexy students who worshipfully memorize their every sestina.


(I did do a fairly crappy sonnet on sestinas, and I'll pm that to you.)

Michael

[This message has been edited by Michael Cantor (edited March 27, 2003).]
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Old 03-28-2003, 02:49 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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I've just had the pleasure of reading two excellent sonnets by Bruce, and have no doubt at all that he's right at home among the outstanding sonneteers who participated in this Bake-Off.
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Old 03-29-2003, 08:37 PM
Catherine Tufariello Catherine Tufariello is offline
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I was interested to see the mentions of Tim Steele in this thread because, when I read Bruce's poem, I too was immediately reminded of Steele's poems. The quiet, meditative tone, the unostentacious precision and care of the language, and the love of the real, physical world (and of the one to whom the poem is addressed) that come through here are all reminiscent of his work.

I agree with those who have noted that the couplet seems flat in comparison with the rest. Reading the poem again, I find myself wondering if it wants to be a longer poem in quatrains rather than a sonnet. Perhaps the poem needs more space to develop the significance of the opening scene and the relationship between the lovers. Just a thought. The first twelve lines seem about perfect as they are.
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Old 03-30-2003, 11:55 AM
Bruce McBirney Bruce McBirney is offline
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Catherine, thanks for the kind words.

The consensus is that the poem needs something more, especially at the end, to be fully realized. I like your suggestion that the best way to bring it in for a landing might be to dispense with the sonnet form, and replace the concluding couplet with one or more quatrains. I'll give that some thought!
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