Monday, July 30, 2007

Talking to other poems

The following poem was entered by a friend, Nancy Gerth,, into a Mother’s Day poetry contest. She wrote the following comment when she sent it to me:
"I know, I know, my poetry isn't what they are looking for. But I used it for a writing prompt."


Earth’s early heart.
Seeded by a billion and a half old
Splintered stars
Slips mothers one by one
From out beneath the mantle;
Spews them up the self-same pipe
We all must ride to heaven.

Diamondiferous, on blue ground,
Their hidden loose charm
A jubilee of patience
For all the earth to wash away.
‘Til grow, phosphoring in shadow,

Round, radiant gazes,
Gold-bezeled all with hair;
Trans-parents with fair
Clarity and fire.
By pressure harded, heat intensed,
Yet glowing with soft brilliance,

That forgives their cradlings,
Overblue and hard edged,
(Each sees hers the first one offered Mary);
That smooths and lights our way
With dust ground from sharded stars.
-- Nancy Gerth

What follows is my (unsolicited) critique of this poem. Really, a dialog between me, the poem, and the author. I wrote:

“I confess, this is not the kind of poetry I like to write, or read. In truth, it is an exceedingly difficult form to succeed in, at least in my narrowly bounded world. Thus my delay in reading and responding. Please forgive.

“Here's what I think:

“Lots of wonderful word play. I sure hope I'm not the only one that gets it and likes it (but I fear it's outside most peoples' boxes).

“Poem structure: complex superimposition, which, honestly, I doubt most will comprehend.

“Abstract. I couldn't really find a narrative, so it's hard to walk away holding onto anything more than ephemeral image-feelings. The poem's superimposition structure causes or amplifies that. And in general, superimposition is a hard mode to work in. I'm not even sure this is the right place to be trying something like that. [I'm sure *that* makes you feel good. Not.]

“First stanza: I'm not sure I understand it, but it's the best stanza *by far*, ending with a very powerful image of ascent/death/birth.

“Last 2 lines of 2nd stanza: "Til grow" clashes with the tense/movement of the rest of the stanza. I know you want the clash, but I don't think it works. Piss-assed me.

“I don't get what "that forgives their cradlings" refers to.

“Last stanza doesn't wrap it, even tho I know you like the "lights our way With dust ground from sharded stars" image. It doesn't clarify enough into a big bang. In my opinion, it's the momentary clarities that make this kind of form really powerful. But without those clarities that emerge from the relative chaos, abstract poems fall flat, at least on my ears. Actually, I'd try putting the first stanza last. THAT can stand as a closer, for sure. Then do a bit of touch up, if needed, to make it all work.

“But remember, I like diamonds because they're geologically and chemically interesting, not because they're valuable, and as for moms, they are all-too-human in my little mind. So this subject is going to be a hard-sell to me from the get-go.”

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