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All The Poets Come To Life by flummo

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December 10, 2012
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Hear the ever-wonderful TwilightPoetess read this aloud here!


And now I understand the depths  

to which a woman must sink, must

dig herself into, must push past with hand

and foot, hip and breast. It is not light I seek

but solidness. Not spring air soft against

my cheek, but the scalding touch of lava

forced for so long to be silent and still

now worming through a cracked

and weeping crust. It seeks explosions

because affection must be dramatic.


But the sky will not love it 

as thoroughly as I do.

 

And now I understand the impossible

permanence of night-lit words.

They linger in the valley between my wrist

and fingers; stow themselves in my freckles.

I cannot erase their presence, ignore

their weight -- only hope for a lover

who will burn away your shape.

 

But I understand hope to be a fickle

and most unfortunate friend.

 

And now I understand: your fingers

printing their shadow into my spine meant

you are mine – the wanton gathering

of flesh and vein at the center of body;

you are no more than a moment 


I chose to waste.

I don't usually use a line from a poem as the title, but it somehow feels appropriate for this.

Edited from the original, written in 2006.

12-23-12: Tweaked some more. I think it is ready for critique, so a few questions for any kind souls willing to leave some feedback:

1. I think the first stanza could use some trimming. It is much less grounded than the other stanzas, but I want to keep the mood/tone/attitude that it sets up. So, if you were editing this, what lines/phrases might you cut from the first stanza and why would you cut them?

2. Does the ending provide you with a clear enough indication of why the narrator is so disdaining of hope?

3. Are there any areas where the metaphors felt forced?

4. Does the slight rhyme throughout enhance or detract from the poem as a whole? Any other areas you think I could work in sonic devices without going overboard?

Any other comments are most welcome of course! Thank you in advance. :heart:
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:iconerinm31:
I am always a uncertain when I go to critique poetry and I glad that you have a list of concerns - makes critiquing easier and hopefully, more helpful to you! ;)

1. I think the first stanza could use some trimming. It is much less grounded than the other stanzas, but I want to keep the mood/tone/attitude that it sets up. So, if you were editing this, what lines/phrases might you cut from the first stanza and why would you cut them?

I would drop "It seeks explosions because affection must be dramatic." because I feel it is the weakest, just blatantly says the meaning while the other phrases create interesting pictures, gradually building the mood and meaning.

2. Does the ending provide you with a clear enough indication of why the narrator is so disdaining of hope?

No, but I am not certain that is a bad thing. I think it is better to leave meaning not explicitly given, but rather pieces that the reader must think about and put together, even if their picture is not the same as the author's. Right now I think the poem may be about a woman who through away what she has come to regard as true love in a quest to find excitement and passion.

3. Are there any areas where the metaphors felt forced?

I liked most of them a lot, especially from the first stanza. Only two did not feel right to me: "the valley between my wrist and fingers" just felt like a lengthier way to say "hand" rather than imparting additional layers of mood and meaning. I confess I stumbled a bit over "stow themselves in my freckles" as I was reading. For me, that metaphor drew attention to itself as it creates sort of an odd picture and does not fit the mood of the piece. "stow themselves in my heart" would be much more fitting - cliche, I know... hmm, maybe there is a way to tie in with the earlier volcanic imagery? I'm thinking of the layers of rock and sediment that can be created by lava or destroyed by it...

4. Does the slight rhyme throughout enhance or detract from the poem as a whole? Any other areas you think I could work in sonic devices without going overboard?

I liked it. I did not overtly notice the rhyming, which I think is a good thing as that means that it did not call attention to itself. Maybe you could work in more, but no place cried out to me that it needed it. I felt the poem as a whole had good cadence.

A few more thoughts:

I would change the title. It is hard for me to say exactly why I do not care for it... other than it is not compelling and I would not choose to read the piece based on the title. It doesn't have the nice flow of the poem - even though it works in context - by itself it just feels like I stumbled over part of a list. Off the top of my head, I would much prefer a title like, "Now I Understand"

Finally, the poem grabbed me! I always have a dozen windows open when I am online and as I glanced past this one, those first lines grabbed me and demanded I read the entire work. It has that indefinable essence of word and rhythm and imagery that makes it compelling. All-in-all, great work! :thumbsup:
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
3 out of 5 deviants thought this was fair.

:iconshadowedacolyte:
As requested, my thoughts. Yadda yadda critique is just an opinion yadda yadda I use stars really stingily not trying to be cruel yadda yadda you actually know all this already and I am including the disclaimer, somewhat weirdly, for people not you yadda yadda. *grin* You know that I will focus on the negative, and because you know that I'm not trying to be a big meanie and I know that you know I'm not a big meanie I'll dispense with the feel-good padding.

I think the best form for this crit will be moving through it start to finish, hitting your questions, and then talking about general issues before wrapping up.

Before I begin, though--I think this poem is effective at transmitting the ugly, emotional turmoil that accompanies the struggle to redefine oneself after an event in which one's been 'waste'd by another. I think, though, that it could be a lot more effective.

Line-by-line

Title--It's weirdly capitalized. I can see why you would use this line as a title, as it's easily the strongest in the piece. However, I'm not sure that it really encapsulates the majority of the poem's theme of de- and re-construction of self as much as the notion of struggling forward (which is certainly part of the reconstruction, but not all of it).

S1--Starting with 'and' is immediately unsettling as a reader, and here I'm not sure if it's the right kind of unsettling. It strongly evokes the sense of a missing opening stanza. The opening line as a result is confusing as a result, and it lacks any grounding concrete image, so right away the reader is at a loss. You might be intending this, to throw the reader off, but if you are I think it's too much.

I don't think I like "must" in L2-3. There are other options than fighting your way back from the edge, although they aren't pleasant ones. The only productive path is forward and uphill, but it's certainly not the only path. I do like "sink" and "dig"--they rescue the whole image from the vagueness of "depths" (mud? pit? put something real in the opening line). The body parts listed as they are give a strong sense of squirming forward bit by bit, which is excellent--the strongest image in the piece.

"It is not light I seek" is a bit poemy and archaic, and is weaker for opening with the negation rather than the truth. Both "light" and "solidness" are abstraction here, which also weakens this image. I do (I think) understand the image, and what you're emphasizing by including it, but I think there's a better way. "I want solid ground/not a lit path" is a rough rewrite.

"spring air soft against" has lovely sonics, but I tripped over it on the first few reads--the combination of multiple literal denotations (both "spring" and "air" could be verbs or nouns, and "spring" here is an adjective) and the enjambment make it clunky to read (though, again, pretty to say). Reordering to "soft, spring air" neatly solves the problem, although it interrupts the sound flow somewhat. I'd probably solve it with parentheses "spring air (soft against/my cheek) but" but that is very obviously a stylistic mark of my own writing style (and not exactly a great fix, either).

Structurally, you've got a problem with the "solidness" and the "lava" pair of images. You have a parallel structure "not A, but B; not C, but D", but A and B are 1 word long, C is 6 words, and D is 21 (and spread across 4 lines). Because of the structure repeat, on the first few reads my brain was assuming that we were off the lava metaphor for the "worming" bit and that we were back to a woman's body.

And that lava metaphor isn't the strongest, either--magma isn't really ever "silent" or "still", and "scalding" is underwhelming for what actually happens when lava touches flesh (simply axing "scalding" and leaving "touch of lava" is actually, to me, MORE graphic). "worming", while it fits with the imagery at the start of the stanza, seems slow and placid compared to the action of lava--but that's a quibble (if the image's structural problems were fixed, it could probably stay). L6 doesn't add anything to the image and can be cut--it adds to the backstory, though, so if you want to retain that aspect it needs to be in the poem somewhere else.

I am not sure what "It" in L9 is--the lava? The crust? The woman? Lava is the best contender, but lava doesn't "seek" anything because it's not a force with anima, and if the lava has become the speaker that connection hasn't been made clear (last I could tell, the speaker was seeking the lava's touch, not being the lava). I might replace "explosions" with "eruptions". "must" in L10 is okay, because of the line's sarcasm. The contrast between "affection" and "dramatic" is a good one, and I like the punchy stanza's end.

S2--Again, I still don't know what "it" is, and "the sky" is a jarring image, because it doesn't have a previous mention (although it recalls, confusingly, "spring air"). Since I'm operating on the assumption that "it" is "touch of lava", I have no idea why the sky would ever love it. I do know why the speaker does, and I like "thoroughly" to describe that love--but if this whole stanza disappeared, I don't think the poem would lose anything.

S3--"impossible/permanence" is an abstraction you are too good to leave alone. Something about invisible ink, perhaps, or indelible markers or even tattoos might improve that. I love "night-lit words"--it's a fresh way of saying "pillow talk" that sticks the landing on this poem's tone perfectly. "in the valley between my wrist and fingers" led to me literally looking at my hand and muttering aloud "...my palm?" Somehow I don't think that's the response you wanted there. "linger" is a good word, and the buried rhyme with "fingers" is solid, but the image as a whole is underwhelming and "wrist" strays a bit too close to emo cutting themes for this poem. I am intensely ambivalent about the "freckles" addition--it works well as a storage place for words that stick with you, but it seems like such a silly word that is tonally inappropriate.

L5-7 are heartbreaking in the immediate and depressing in the consideration. I want the speaker to be able to escape her past without needing someone else to help her. "ignore their weight" might be too much, or in need of a fresher word than "weight" (it's certainly an appropriate description, but "weight" has become cliche). "burn away your shape" is a strong contender for second-best-image. Retain it when editing.

S4--"But I understand hope to be a" --> "But hope is a". Unless you'd like to keep the structure repetition and stick with "And now I understand hope is a". That's a lot of close-together repetition. I might consider removing that (admittedly awkward) phrase in all but one case (I mean the "And now I understand").

S5--"your fingers printing their shadow into my spine" is the other contender for second-best line. I'm not wildly enthused about "shadow"--if you revise S3's "permanence" into a concrete image, you might be able to replace "shadow" with a callback to that image.

I do not like the digression of the italicized voice--"you are mine" and "you are no more than a moment/I chose to waste" are strong, but their bluntness contrasts poorly with the metaphor of "wanton gathering". I like "wanton" being included, but that bit sounded more like the speaker than the speakee. "center of body" is a bit awkward, too--it looks like it's missing an article even though I assume that's intentional. I might split this bit out, make it clear that it's not the same voice.

S6--Solid ending. Cold, clear, efficient.

Your Questions

1. I think the first stanza could use some trimming. It is much less grounded than the other stanzas, but I want to keep the mood/tone/attitude that it sets up. So, if you were editing this, what lines/phrases might you cut from the first stanza and why would you cut them?

I've addressed most of that above. Keep the title image, slim down the lava one, clear up some of the excess non-image wording.

2. Does the ending provide you with a clear enough indication of why the narrator is so disdaining of hope?

The ending isn't explicit, if that's what you mean. It seems like a really rough breakup, but I could see it as well as a rape. I don't think even a regretted one-night-stand would provoke such strong emotions. There are shades of physical abuse, too, but nothing definite. I'm not sure it needs to be more clear, but if you want it to be so, you'll need to do some work in that direction.

3. Are there any areas where the metaphors felt forced?

Almost everywhere. And they got a bit lost in themselves, too, which made it hard to sort out when we were returning to the speaker as a person.

4. Does the slight rhyme throughout enhance or detract from the poem as a whole? Any other areas you think I could work in sonic devices without going overboard?

I don't think it does either. Probably slightly enhance. Without sonic devices, this could move to be really image-heavy prose, and tweaking a bit to keep some assonance, weak rhyme, and alliteration in at least every other line would keep you firmly on the poetry side. I don't think it's the area of greatest concern, though.

Issues

Typography: why oh why the breaks between lines? It hurts my eyes and is odd and I don't like it. Also, in an otherwise clear piece, italics seem like a very cheap way of trying to get the shifting voice across at the very end. You can do it without them without sacrificing anything.

Metaphors: This piece suffers from an unclear delineation between when metaphors begin, end, and mix with reality. I'm not suggesting that some ambiguity and/or mixing is inherently bad, but in this case the result is pretty murky. Excising abstractions from the metaphors will strengthen them all and make the lines more clear.

Conclusion

It seems like it needs a lot of work. The emotion gets across for sure, but you seem interested in conveying more than just that. Obviously you can get it done, though. Good luck.
What do you think?
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8 out of 8 deviants thought this was fair.

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:iconmreid973:
mreid973 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013
What did you do with this? Did you edit it? Use it as the fade-to-end-credits to an indie film monologue? Inquiring minds and all that.
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2013  Hobbyist Writer

Since you asked so creatively :)

 

therearewordsforthis.tumblr.co…

 

I'm still tinkering with it. But I think this direction is more grounded.

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:iconmreid973:
mreid973 Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013
My favorite one is the second stanza: flows well with imagery that works. I think the first stanza would be just as strong, if not stronger, minus lines 3 and 6. That "impossible permanence" is apparent in the images from the other lines. And "cannot be erased" is redundant. Last stanza: I would avoid end rhyme and italics here. While the shadows/spine line is pretty, I would prefer more fire imagery for sake of cohesion. I still like it, and I can also see why you aren't completely satisfied with it yet. Hope some of the above is helpful.
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for your thoughts. :) Here is the revised version, if you'd like a peek: liliwrites.deviantart.com/art/…
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:iconmreid973:
mreid973 Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013
*Syntax Woes: EDIT: "What did you do with this? Did you edit it? Use it as the fade-to-credits monologue to an indie film? Inquiring minds and all that."
Reply
:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013   General Artist
This is really really powerful Lili!
2. The perspective is really building and well done. :clap: I love the way it ends. It's quite powerful and well structured.
1..
"And now I understand the depths

to which a woman must sink, must

dig herself into, must push Perhaps a stronger word that push? past with hand

and foot, hip and breast. It is not light I seek

but solidness.
Not spring air soft against

my cheek, but the scalding touch of lava

forced for so long to be silent and still

now worming through a cracked

and weeping crust. It seeks explosions

because affection must be dramatic."

If you really want to cut lines, those are what I'd suggest. Even though I love the way it sets up.
I might also combine "woman must sink, must

dig herself into, must push"
in some way.

3. Nope. :la: They're clever and well placed.

4. The slight rhyme isn't overdone in my opinion. Adds an almost ragged heart beat rhythm to the piece.

Nicely done! :love:
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thanks for your feedback! :love: I actually have a revised draft of this I need to post. :lol:
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:iconastrikos:
Astrikos Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013   General Artist
:la: That's awesome! I can't wait to see it in my inbox. :eager: :la:
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:iconlaurotica:
laurotica Featured By Owner Jan 8, 2013   Writer
I quite liked following along as =TwilightPoetess did her reading; it gave it such a raw impact. Though I can't call myself a poetry expert, I liked the emotion and feeling put into this. This is the last thing I'll read before going to bed, and I'm glad to end the day on this note :thumbsup:
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:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! :heart:
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