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  1. When a long time has passed and
    a night falls when you can’t sleep,
    when you find yourself thinking of me,
    of all those memories which flood
    your mind like a chaos, sharp and dizzy.
    when you want to resume smoking
    the cigarette you quit long ago,
    when you want to open the folder
    of old photos, one you didn’t dare
    open in a very long time, afraid it might
    turn gone days real and alive,
    when you crave to hear the old song,
    when you are afraid to close your eyes,
    when you find yourself crawling on the floor
    fighting the urge to smoke, longing to hold
    back, making impossible efforts to let go,
    when you know what you wish will never
    be, the years took away all the
    odds for you to be with me.
    when a long time has passed
    and you want to catch the next flight
    to the old town where we lived
    to walk down the old narrow streets
    looking for our old cafe, finding
    some new one instead.
    when you find red eyes staring at you
    from the broken mirror pieces,
    when you look at the hard lines
    in your palms, wonder why they
    did what they did,
    when you find yourself putting on shoes
    to go out and finally get a cigarette,
    when you stop yourself at the
    threshold of the door, remembering
    why you had quit it in the first place.

    When a long time has passed, and
    all this happens, do what you want to do,
    get that cigarette even, if it keeps you
    from searching for me.
    I’ll be far out of your reach, deep into the
    artificial world which by then I’d have
    created from the scratch to save myself
    from those who love me.
    -hp

    https://serendipityandsoliloquy.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/when-a-long-time-has-passed/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi hp,

      We often make comments here, but they are merely personal reactions rather than attempts at criticism from a particular theory of poetry, although you can be pretty sure that we all have our own notion of what makes a poem (in this case a letter-poem) different from, say, a letter.

      In my view, there’s a story behind your words, and part of the pleasure in reading them is following the clues and the questions they raise. For example, the cigarettes and why she quit. Or is the addict a man? After all, that person did smash a mirror. Any one might do that, of course, but impulsive violence is so often seen as a male trait. On the other hand, the “red eyes staring at you / from the broken mirror pieces” are no doubt the result of crying, and while male violence and rage could die out like that the fact that the crying seems to happen right after, or possibly before, the mirror incident makes it likely that all the details happened concurrently. In that regard the “hard lines / in your palms” is a puzzle. Was the speaker imagining that her left-behind lover saw the palm lines as signs of a bad outcome–reading the future in one’s hand? Or was she referring to old scars, indicating that such violence had happened before and more than once. (Certainly the speaker is a woman, a rather fearful one I should think–needing to be “far out of reach”) Perhaps it doesn’t matter really, but the implied connection between addictive love, which seems to be the point here, and cigarettes makes me wonder if the person addressed is not a woman, for it seems more common for alcohol to be the source of conflict and danger in a relationship and a reason for leaving a man. Does it matter to you as an author? Perhaps not. And maybe I am missing other clues, like “our old cafe” in their home town (?) where presumably they had met a long time ago; and the reason for quitting smoking “a long time ago”; and the image of the person “crawling on the floor / fighting the urge to smoke”; and the fact that there seems to have been a very lengthy separation, or maybe not a deep relationship at all, for

      the years took away all the
      odds for you to be with me.

      Finally, about the letter as a poem: I am assuming that the unusual line breaks are meant to mimic the emotion of the speaker, which actually seems to be sadness rather than fear or relief. Also the repetition of “when” and the long sentences without capitalization at the beginning reveal a strong emotion. As do the piling up of imagined details (how could she know what was going on in the mind and heart of the other?), and the sad “artificial world” image at the end.

      Please excuse my overlong commentary. It’s just that I like stories and poems that raise questions and make me think. When the two forms appear as one, there is a pleasant challenge to sort things out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not too proud here (yet), but I did try to follow that guy’s directions 🙂

    GOING TO THE DEVIL

               Letter of Resignation 
               From a Disagreeable Scene
    

    Sir:

    I’ve had it.
    I am utterly undone,
    Trashed, deleted, played out.
    All the feelings are gone,

    So lost, as I am now, so
    Sad that some have forgot–
    Not to scrape–but to bow
    When facing each other.

    In these heated disputes
    They think to recover
    A lost right, or refute
    The lessons well learned

    In homes, classrooms, church:
    (1) Dignity is not earned.
    It’s just there, no research
    Needed. And (2) No guns, no show
    Of pride or street activity
    Can create what’s already theirs.
    It’s just there.
    But here

    In the busy violent city
    On TV screens and phones
    Talk of the good gets lost
    In nightmarish scenes,

    And at what irredeemable cost
    To all of our shared dreams.

    So, Sir, I hereby resign.
    I refuse to participate,
    Won’t sign on or log in
    Where words turn to hate.

    No , sorry, it’s too late,
    I’m out. You win.

    *

    (No, wait, hold on, listen.
    Of course there’s Sin, but
    Look: Its door-minder kin,
    Weak, distracted, thin–

    Can’t quite keep a dream out
    Which keeps wandering in.)

    …………………

    The final part, in parentheses, is meant to be in italics, but I could figure out to transfer it that way. Also, I first wrote “we” instead of “they” in stanza #3. Now I’m not sure which fits the feeling that got me started on the challenge. Finally im puzzled : cant figure out what happed to imagery and poetic diction. Preoccupied with the form perhaps. Or just in a hurry. Or . . I’d still prefer to write a letter to those little birds outside my window, or to the flowers arranged inside. Didn’t happen (yet).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I prefer “they” at first glance. Writing “we” when one means “they” is an old trick of unconscious condescension; I think your instinct to say “they” was more honest in the end.

      That dream that keeps wandering in… I think it’s in the heart of every natural American. What haven’t we yet given for it? Our greatest President, a whole civilization, bothers’ blood, endless charitable giving, endless words, endless efforts, endless forgiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “To Bertha Rochester”

    Is there a warning in your name,
    the harsh, insistent syllable
    that leads and is fast followed by
    the rumble of the rest-

    intimating, what,
    some sealed off, seething energy
    that pulses through our tale
    and through, perhaps, its heroine?

    She was uneasy, discontent
    before you tore the veil
    and subsequently ripped
    herself away.

    Surely there is meaning here.
    And Jane could flame with fire
    akin to your lit torch:
    that facing down of Mrs. Reed
    (uncanny child with ageless eyes),
    that night, with him, when jasmine poured
    its scent, her naked soul stepped forth.

    Yet Jane would bring herself to poise,
    (still water calm, soft measured voice),
    while far from frozen in that house,
    you festered, fevered, clawed, and raved.

    At any rate,
    she would not wed until
    you burnt the place
    and yourself
    out.

    Were you the shadow of our Jane,
    our sister Charlotte’s shrieking,
    or else an image of the time,
    “revenge of the repressed”?

    Madwoman in the attic,
    I hear your tread again.
    I feel it in the shifting boards
    above the curtained bed.
    I flick a finger to the left
    and turn another page.
    Beyond all distillation,
    I’m somehow glad you’ve stayed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, fantastic. Really. Well done. Balance without juggling. Measured feeling and thought. Some really limpid moments. You’ve carefully built the building – the sameness – and then cut the windows – the distinctions.

      The only thing I wonder about is “Or else an image of the time/revenge of the repressed.” Not that I disapprove of the sentiment, but the presentation may be a bit on the nose? Your presentation of the Jane’s shadow idea was approached more through immediate description than propositional statement.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks! I wrote this one specifically for you to like, so I’m happy to know it succeeded in that aim. 🙂 Actually, it was a continuation of our earlier conversation about Jane Eyre. I had wanted to flesh out my idea about Bertha more, and this was a fun medium for doing so.

        Those two line are definitely on the nose. It was actually intentional and a bit of a risk– it makes the poem feel “off” of a sudden. . . showing that it’s to this kind of flat, cliched abstraction that the gentle ruminating above can lead (and I can feel my reader slightly worried it will end here). . . before sweeping back in to the close up of the immediate experience of reading, emphasizing Bertha’s continued aliveness as an imaginative product “beyond distillation”. Actually, I was pleased to discover during a recent viewing of Jane Eyre that my penchant for analysis hadn’t killed the story for me in any way.

        Does this help?

        Like

        • I really liked the “continued aliveness” part. I think every book-lover will feel that. And in its shadow, the explicit lines about repression do take their place. I don’t really have any criticism to offer here. I enjoyed re-reading it.

          Does the poem feel to you as if it’s slightly influenced by Albert? 🙂

          Like

          • Thank you!

            Yes, I definitely think I was channeling something of Albert as I wrote! It wasn’t exactly intentional, but I didn’t resist it either. It’s partly because he devised the challenge, so his poetic ethos was naturally in my mind as I considered it, and also he’s a good example of an epistolary style in poetry in general, I think. Hope you don’t mind, Albert!

            Liked by 2 people

    • Original idea for a poem, Leah! It opened up for me an appreciation of the way minor characters can enrich not just a plot but a theme too.

      I’ve been enjoying that novel for years. The second time through, i wanted to know more about Charlotte. Her family too.* So naturally I zeroed in on “Charlotte’s shrieking” and the next two lines. To see that stanza through the character of Bertha Rochester was helpful. In fact I had completely forgotten about Mrs. Rochester as a real person, a Bertha instead of a problem. Also the first part of your poem, in addition to drawing us deeper into the story itself (“some sealed off, seething energy” for example, or “you festered, fevered, clawed, and raved”), does a good job of teaching the value of reading carefully, paying attention to small details, even names and their sounds, but also to thematic connections among characters.

      I was struck by your use of the possessive form “our” to characterize the heroine and “our sister” for the author. It caused me to think about the novel differently from before.

      Question about another pronoun, “herself”: did you think of writing “her self”? Or is the subject of “ripped” meant to be Jane?

      Aside from what’s referred to above, other favorite parts are “still water calm” and

      the harsh, insistent syllable
      that leads and is fast followed by
      the rumble of the rest-

      Fine work!

      I learned much that impressed me, and some things that were distressing. Later I found a novel called “Becoming Jane Eyre” by Sheila Kohler”– imagining what was happening in the family while Charlotte was writing the story (father’s last days, Branwell’s furies, Anne’s illness, the sisters’ struggle for independence ) You might look for it in the library some day. I found it fascinating.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you for the careful reading, kind comments, and book recommendation! It sounds like something I would love to read. The Brontes are fascinating to me, and “Jane Eyre” is of course a favorite novel. 🙂 I went through a period a few years ago where I read several biographies of them, whatever I could find at the library, but none of them stand out in particular in my memory. An imaginative biographical novel definitely seems like a more engaging way to scratch the Bronte itch, lol.

          I am sorry it took me so long to reply to this comment. It is because I told myself I must look up grammar rules for herself vs her self so as to reply intelligently. . . and then I got distracted and lost track of how much time passed. This challenge was a pleasure!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Leah, I messed up. Rereading my comment and the poem, I see now that my two questions were confusing. I should have ended the second one with “she” instead of “Jane.” But even that doesn’t help, does it–because she and Jane are the same. Come to think of it, I think I shouldn’t have raised those questions at all. You were right to get distracted.

            I used to teach Latin. I liked the puzzle aspect. But sometimes I get distracted too–by that very interest, and it can get in the way, as it did in my focusing on that small issue.

            And yes, I often think of poems as letters. It probably has to do with how I got started. I had been teaching in high school for eight years, and one day a student said, “Mr. Salsich, if you’re so smart [we were discussing a poem], how come you don’t write things like this?” I thought about that all day, then at night wrote my first poem, addressed to her. I never showed to her, or to anyone. But I still have it, for it is a reminder that there is a personal element in art as well as a set of standards. I had discovered that I could get over my fear of embarrassment (how should I presume to compete with the poems in books?) by keeping things simple. Letter writing had always been easy for me ever since my mom made us write thank you notes to aunties and grandmothers who sent us gifts at Christmas. So it was an easy transition to think of letters as poems, or poems as letters. Communiques from the soul, sort of. Later I tried writing for one or another of those persons living in my head. But that’s another story.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. This one took me a while to ease into. Still, a real pleasure when I found my subject.


    Dear Autumn, I write you
    from the North, whence you pressing
    to circumnavigate surely come.

    Blinding was the green of spring
    and there were blue blossoms and pink
    like babies’ delicate toys.

    Early summer whirled
    the flowers were red and purple.
    Sunsets stretched and rained red.

    Summer spread her gay green skirts
    and sat down. Her blue mantle
    and foggy breath rippled around her.

    I write to tell you that
    something subtly summons you.
    Your banners go up.

    Susans are yellow;
    grasses extend fantastic spider legs;
    I saw two red maple leaves.

    Who will you come as?
    One year, you were a lady
    with gold skirts, scarlet-hemmed,

    your thundery heartbeat
    scattered bursts of birds
    before your mile-high chest.

    I felt you coming, electric
    a month away. This time is
    different. Browning.

    Like the edge of slow
    burning yellow parchment: an invitation
    laid on a summer fire.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a treat, what delight! So glad to see your poem. Those last four stanzas are perfect– the specificity of the images, the confidence and clarity of the language used to describe them. I feel enriched and now anticipatory of autumn myself.

      The earlier stanzas are also good, but I read them more as a gentle preamble, a setting of tone leading up to the autumnal finale. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • To Alana: I agree with Leah about the last four stanzas. And that the final image–it’s special : surprising because so simple, fitting, and accurate (poetry as basic, lasting, and outside-of or beyond- time writing (parchment); campfires, inspiring shared personal stories, fantasies, deep talk (poems); August as a “slow / burning.” Great finish!

        Your comment about easing into the poem is interesting. I think you did just that, and allowed us to experience, or at least anticipate, the seasonal change that way.

        Well, I could talk about almost every line, but I prefer just to keep reading them. They reveal. They hold up.

        One phrase I got distracted by was “foggy breath.” I assume it’s a visual image, but as there’s more than one sense involved (I think) the effect is mixed, and maybe a little conflicting.

        Another was “baby’s …. toys.” I kept wanting to read it as ” a baby’s…” Or as “babies’ ” And what about “Baby’s”? (OK, that’s enough; stop it!) My problem probably.

        This poem ought to be shared. It is timely, yet so … perennial.

        Like

        • Well spotted, Albert. I think I’ve fixed those issues. Thanks for your comments.

          I’m in my hermit’s shell these days but I appreciate this unusual and revealing challenge you cooked up for us. It was a pleasure to work through.

          Like

  5. Mary,
    you saw him die.
    How did you bear it!
    sword pain piercing your heart—
    Did you want to die with him, for him?
    Ah, how quickly tainted is even a mother’s love
    to will what God wills not.

    Did you know it would end like this?
    Did the angel tell you, or ancient prophecy,
    or he himself, perhaps,
    or that small whisper in a mother’s body that knows
    her child’s days are numbered.

    But unlike Rachel, unlike Bathsheba, unlike me,
    your son walked this earth again.
    He lived.
    Again you held him, just the way, perhaps,
    you held him when you fled to Egypt,
    too frightened, too relieved
    to grieve for us,
    while Rachel cannot be comforted
    and I put my palm-sized baby in the freezer
    til the ground is warm enough to bury him.

    Did he spare a word or two for you,
    for the woman whose womb built his body?
    What would a son say to his mother
    after dying before her very eyes?
    I’d like to know.

    Whatever words or time he gave you,
    it wasn’t for long. He left,
    this time for good, though not in death.
    He promised a helper, promised faith,
    as though there was something better
    than holding your dead son alive again.

    You believed him.
    You who saw him dead,
    you who saw him buried,
    you who know this grief,
    Mary, dare I take your hope, your Son,
    and call them mine?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. It is a delicate topic. I am open to discussion on the poem, though. Be gentle with the feelings behind the poem, but feel free to offer poetic criticism and analysis on the execution of the topic.

        Like

    • Alena, you’ve attempted something very difficult here, artistically speaking.

      Raw experience and feeling is the paint, with its various colors. Creating an imitation of that experience in words is the portrait.

      When we’re looking at a poem informed by pain, we’re asking, “How far along has this come, in the process of transformation from raw experience to artful portrait?”

      One indication of that process is coherent thought, and I think you have that here in abundance. The thoughts and questions brought up by this experience, the comparisons one draws and the allusions or associations one makes, those belong to art. They’re affecting, thoughtful, and original to you.

      So you have a sketch or outline of art here, at the very least. I was particularly affected by the final lines:

      “Mary, dare I take your hope, your Son,
      and call them mine?”

      Another thing we look for is the measure of effect. A tragic artist guides the effect of the work on the reader, provoking “pity and fear” through a view of human experience. So in finished work there’s this artful care taken for effect. Some representations of pain are cathartic, which has a good effect on the reader, even if he’s bawling his eyes out. Unless it achieves that cathartic effect, art that communicates pain can weigh on the reader. This is why I said you’ve attempted something difficult

      What I’m seeing in your poem is a very direct attack on the bitter facts, (straight to “you saw him die”) which doesn’t lend itself to effect. It’s more than the reader is ready to take in at the first line or two of a poem, without any introduction or preparation or context.

      And I’m seeing a neglect of form, which is a partaking of the experience rather than an artful imitation of it. (Kind of like how we don’t want to eat or shower or keep up with our schedules when we’re heartbroken.)

      So this poem, I think, has only partly become art; it is still partly the raw cries of a heart breaking on the impervious stone of circumstance.

      One doesn’t criticize the cries of a heart breaking on the stone of circumstance, which is why I’ve been slow to respond to this. Because on the one hand, where should you post this kind of thing if not here? So it’s welcome here. But on the other hand, if my analysis is wanted, I do think that if you put it away for a while, you may be able to create a greater tragic effect with it later, with some distance.

      Having written this now is invaluable as a piece of journaling, and as a sketch for later work. And I hope it helped you to grieve well. Later on, you will have the paint and the sketch when you want it.

      In the meantime, you’ve shared your heart, your faith, and your thought with us, as such – and we’re grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Alana.

        I once wrote a poem that I tried week after week, month after month to revise, and I could never quite make it have the emotional effect that I wanted it to have. I recently came back to it, after over four years since first draft and perhaps two years since last revisions, and finally had some clarity. The poem was about a partially made up experience with not even the emotional weight that this one has. So I can easily imagine it taking time to refine this into what it could be.

        Your comment leads me to a question: do you think there is no place in art for raw experience? Your comment seems to imply that there is not, and that raw experience will not have the necessary effect on a reader. You say that the neglect of form is partaking in the experience rather than imitating it. I chose not to use a form on purpose; I felt it was the best way to say the poem. The notion that raw experience does not belong in a poem is a new idea to me–probably it’s unpopular among today’s “self-expression” movement in poetry.

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        • Hi, Alena. Thanks for these questions, as I think they provoke interesting thoughts and important discussions.
          It’s true that I don’t think raw experience has a place in art. But sometimes something might seem raw, if the artist has done a good imitation of rawness. (Like an actor doing a tear-jerking performance of some tragic soliloquy onstage – there’s a ton of preparation behind what feels like a spontaneous outpouring of anguish.) The point is that art needs to be artful. You might almost say artificial. That’s due to its basic nature as “stylized imitation.”

          I think you could argue that free verse would make a good imitation of rawness. And yes, it would. For me, the problem with free verse is that it is not a good imitation of speech. (And I define poetry as the artful imitation of speech.) Or rather, free verse is so good an imitation of ordinary speech that it ceases to be an imitation at all, and is simply speech. There isn’t enough “artistic distance” (my term) between the original and the imitation for it to be really art.

          I’ll send you a free copy of my editorial on this subject, that explains my views more expansively, but I hope this provides a good start. In the meantime, here’s a suggestion. Go back and read one of your favorite sad poems that’s written formally, or perhaps sing or listen to a sad song. And just pay attention to how much the sympathetic and dolorous effect is forwarded by the musicality of the speech or singing (as opposed to merely the sad content of the words.)

          My point here is that poetry is such an unusual art-form, because language is its material. So language is what you have to use to create the beauty of the artwork, but language has a dual nature. Sound and idea; physical and rational.

          The way it sounds, looks, feels in the mouth – this is used to enchant the senses. That’s the physical beauty. And the content: the ideas and images it creates in the mind -.these are used to enchant the intellect. That’s the conceptual beauty.

          The marriage of these two effects of physical and conceptual beauty is at the heart of poetry; and if you subtract one of these effects, you have a subtracted poem – or just generalized literature broken into lines, perhaps. So for instance, if you put your poem above into sentences instead of lines, would it still be a poem? Is it definitely and entirely poetic, internally; or more by virtue of an external organization?

          The point of form, by the way, is not that it’s more organized (though it is.) The point of form is that you have recurring sounds that are similar to one another, and they recur in rhythms that are imitations of natural rhythms. A heart-beat, the waves of the sea, footsteps, gust of wind, buzzing of bees, birdsong, etc. The effects these sounds have on us seem to be built into human nature, inasmuch as the world was created for us, and we for the world.

          The idea of free verse is that we could have the beauty of significance without the beauty of speech-music. My idea is, why would we want to subtract an entire half of what a poem is? Just to prove we can?

          And I’ve written in free verse at times. But these ideas represent my seeking of poetic wholeness or fulness…

          Liked by 1 person

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