poetry critical

online poetry workshop



The Laws of Gravity and Death
Isabelle5

A dead man sits on a fence post,
 1
a stem of fresh grass between his teeth,
 2
as a hearse slowly passes.
 3
 
 
Sauntering down to the graveyard,
 4
he watches with no sense of loss
 5
as his body, somber in suit and tie,
 6
lies open to the sweet-grass breath
 7
that blows from his unplowed field.
 8
 
 
His widow is tear-strained,
 9
a dark bird against bright floral hysteria -
 10
he presses a kiss of intimate energy
 11
against the small of her back,
 12
a familiar shock that makes her
 13
turn around in joyful surprise.
 14
 
 
Behind the veil, a radiant smile,
 15
even as weeping begins again
 16
and the lilies in her hands
 17
shed blossoms like snow.
 18
 
 
Fence posts lean farther year by year -
 19
farmers with grass-bitten grins
 20
blame it on the wind.
 21

1 Sep 09

Rated 10 (8.6) by 4 users.
Active (4): 10
Inactive (10): 1, 1, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

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Comments:

this is pretty much a prose move, and it gets busted out of good prose when the lines have to be arty'd up to match the prettiness of the preceding line. there's no grace in this, and it depends on getting into the plot for it to work at all -- like, 'emoting on the theme' is the final aesthetic, here, and that means the theme has to be sophisticated enough to carry a very short prose piece with odd line-breaks.

if this were a flash-fiction piece, it'd be seen as melodramatic and superficial -- showing no depth of feeling. sticking your story in a poetry space and thinking that we'll have to, thus, read it in an arty and delicate voice is kind of dishonest -- or, at least, naive. you have a talent for saying things, but this isn't poetry. make the fence and the widow dance around the old man in a sarabande and you might make the wording itself do the writing.
 — trashpoodle

ignore poodle.
best way.
 — unknown

I resent the 10 based on the comments.  I have no untruth in this at all.  To say this isn't poetry is to deny many good prose poets.

To me, wording is the poem, I'm not into the dance class you purport poetry to be, I like my poems to have clear, concise and lovely phrasing and a story with emotional links.  I'm happy with this but I really, really hate your officious 10.  It's a slap in the face to me as the writer.
 — Isabelle5

I also know that if I had posted this as Unknown, the 1 would not be there.  It's a nice game played by two people at each end of the rating spectrum, both having nothing to do with the poem and everything to do with the rater.    
 — Isabelle5

I agree, which is why, though no intention to do your poem harm by way of the ratings system, I gave it a 1, to simply negate poodle's meaningless 10.  Once he removes it, or rates honestly, then I will change mine, and crit accordingly.
 — unknown

No, the 1 was in answer to poodle's 10, not your poem, Isabelle.
 — unknown

i read the poems blind and i didn't know who wrote this. but, the creep who gives the 'one's out always knows and never can comment on a poem because she's too stupid to really help the poet -- she doesn't even seem to like poetry at all.

and, as for the ten, if that's all that's on your mind from my comment, then comments are wasted on you.
 — trashpoodle

No, the 10 is only the final insult.  I take your comments to be what you think but they are not helpful because they are subjective only, nothing concrete to say, "If you moved this line over here and changed this..."  It's always about some nebulous thing that can't be forced but you feel the need to say it.  

I guess I could have gone for really clever spelling all over the place, you like that dizziness.  That isn't my voice, though, this is, clear and bright and exactly what I mean to say.
 — Isabelle5

"if this were a flash-fiction piece, it'd be seen as melodramatic and superficial"

that's my answer to 'to me, wording is the poem' -- this is worded like prose -- fact, fact, cliche relationship, fact -- but the prose is ugly because you're forcing the 'what it says' into this poetry pattern -- into the dance, but there's no music in your heart and it's just this kid stomping on the floor and talking about some movie he saw. there's no poetry authenticity in this -- it's just a collection of images patterned into a:b:c:d..., but without the fun of playing a word game.
 — trashpoodle

Actually, Mike, I wonder if you read the poem for content at all.  It's a happy story, it's what I think happens at death, a moment of grief comforted by hope and the idea of the leaning fence posts ties it together to the land, to the graveyard, to the laws of creation...you never comment on the content, did you notice that?
 — Isabelle5

I don't find it ugly.  I am a prose poet, nothing shameful about that.  
 — Isabelle5

and you shouldn't be, this is a good piece of writing, that needs proper critique.
 — unknown

i read the poem very much for content, but the over-riding concern for me here in poetry critical is how the poem works as pure poetry. it's not a twelve-step witnessing site, and the content is obvious -- as would be obvious to you if you'd happened on some other crits of mine -- like the one on 'mengele' or 'enigma', where i'm absolutely commenting on the surface content and its failure to have generated a poem.

this is also happening in 'moron', where i'm being bashed but in a lamer way -- where the content is surface and simply used to witness a feeling, but the intended content -- the 'he who isn't good' is only said as such -- there's nothing beyond the author's comments -- we're never let into the subject. and, this poem of yours, if it were a movie, would be the preview of coming attractions -- 'fence posts lean farther, year by year' is pretty writing, and a metaphor, but it's metaphoring on a dozen others in this, and the actual image itself is pretty much cartoon. any emotion has to come from the reader's button being pushed by 'widow'... in fact, you're not  using 'ghost', and that's an important move in itself, and awakes me to thinking this is going to be an arch rhetorical dialog of images. it's not... it's a collection of things you're saying about the poem as you write it: telling us how to read it.
 — trashpoodle

Isabelle, I like your poem.  Will come back and comment properly when I'm not late for work.
 — sybarite

You're welcome to your opinion, I just don't agree.  I'm quite happy with this, every line was thought out and care was taken with the content.  Every single line has shape and depth and color, which is, IN MY OPINION, what a poem is and should be.  Not that I set this up as the pinnacle of writing but if you can show me something non-subjective to be changed, fine.  Otherwise, your opinion is noted.
 — Isabelle5

You have a thing for teeth words don't you? Clamped doesn't work for me, but I'm sure it does for you :P

I would change funereal to funeral (sounds better with floral to me).

The moment between 13/14 is a familiar one to some (remember when I saw my cat in the middle of a road after she died?) But I want another way to say it...

Would she turn around in surprise? I would be afraid to turn around and find nothing. Turning around in surprise seems so matter of fact- I need something to show the jump in your throat/stomach that happens when we experience something like this.

I wonder if "shock" or "spark" might work for "touch" in line 13, to go along with the "energy" of the kiss.

Love the parallel between beginning and end.

cheers.
 — Ananke

She didn't jump, that's the thing.  To her, his touch was comfortable and it settled her right down.  She felt him, she knew he was there and didn't need to see him so there was no shock, only a moment of happy surprise.  When my dead cat came to visit me, I wasn't shocked, only gloriously surprised and when my other dead cat jumped onto my bed and curled against my spine, I was again surprised and happy, not at all frightened.

I like funereal, it defines the flowers for me, as opposed to wedding florals or christening florals.  

Yes, I like teeth!  I have sucked on many a grass stem in my day and it is an image of the farm scene that I like!  
 — Isabelle5

right... but

funeral florals means the same thing as
funereal florals

it just has one less syllable and the sounds flow together better

the "spark" or "shock" thing is just referring to the energy, perhaps I don't mean for it to be shocking to her, just....

A way to describe exactly what you're describing here! When your cat curled up against your spine, it was comforting, you didn't want to turn around to check if she was actually there did you? You were just comforted by the knowledge of her presence.

I like the scene of chewing on grass as well, I just don't like clamped as the way to say it.
 — Ananke

Okay, Anake, made some serious changes based on your comments and how they blended with my knowledge of this moment.  Thank you!
 — Isabelle5

Would it be over the top to change snow to rice?
 — Isabelle5

Hi izzy,
yes.
Bye.
 — unknown

This piece show thoughtful intelligence,  creating breathes of Steven King an Alfred Hitchcock , profound in a clever way,... j.g. smiles
 — goeszon

Thank you.  This is what I wish.
 — Isabelle5

this is awesome-
I could picture the graveyard scene vividly
I especially like the 3rd STROPHE
It took me a second to make the connection in end lines 19-21 to line 1
nICE lee dunn...
 — JKWeb

L9 tear-strained or tear "stained?"  Just checking.  Could be a typo, but it may not be.  L10 seems cryptic and could be avoided altogether for improved flow.  On the whole though, it's got your "signature" voice all over it when that voice chooses not to stray from the feminine element by which you do some of your best writing.  Love this one.  It's written very, very well.  The title could use an upgrade though.  It's a "10" because it's a 9 + some small revisions that are necessary in my opinion.  Beautiful.  :-)
 — starr

the title alone made me smile with acknowledgement -- only one nit, the repetition of 'watching' in the first strophe and 'watch' in the second strophe -- while its ok I'm sure your well worded past can find another way to say this realEYESed look that dares to see, reality -- strophe three gets into some wondrous phrasings 'n imagery -- some will throw kudos, others will castigate cliche's, either way this is a way to say what needs to be said, about the grave and the dead
 — AlchemiA

I like this story and the image it paints and especially the connection between start and finish. I have to say though that the first line, although it helps make the read easier, might lend itself to a little more mystery. I might like to wonder after the first stanza where this is going and learn with the following stanzas, perhaps, that this fellow is indeed in betwixt worlds. Is there a way you can capture the idea of a dead man without coming right out and saying it?  I'd like to be left wondering if he can actually taste the grass... "a stem of fresh grass dead between his teeth"...
I like L5 as it gives us a glimpse into his state of being with "no sense of loss" and it might be nice to recapture that sentiment in her once she realizes he is there with her still.
One little nit for L18 -  I don't visualize blossoms shedding easily - for me anyway, dropping petals feels truer to a plant's loss of vigor. But I like the sound of blossoms better.
Overall - nicely captured sentiment.
 — Cocoa

I agree with goeszon about the Hitchcockian aspects of this.  For some reason, as I read it, I pictured the images in black and white.  This is an excellent and creative write.
 — PaulS

Tear strained...it takes a lot of energy to grieve.  Line 10 is the difference between the brightness of flowers and the black of the woman and her sadness.  It's a necessary line.  PaulS, yes, black and white except for splashes of color.  Think of Schindler's List where the only color was that lovely little girl with the red coat.

Alchemia, that's a good catch!  I'll take care of that immediately!  

Thank you all so much for seeing what I was seeing.  This is my favorite kind of death experience, when death taps and says, "I'm right here."
 — Isabelle5

This poem is intended to be included in the book I'm working on, based on my "Dreams of Wishes and Rags" poem.  I have the beginning and ending all figured out, just have to do the middle!
 — Isabelle5

You fucking cowardly creep with multiple accounts, you couldn't stand that my poem was doing well, could you?  
 — Isabelle5

Truer words were never spoken Isabelle.
 — PaulS

Thanks, Paul.  
 — Isabelle5

yeah we've gotta see that the one-gunner guy is jealous somehow of the kudo's -- it's the attitude of someone who can't see beyond their fixed fury 'n shame, that the real Power of the writing game is the love of words that dance and play, of saying those things we've got to say in a different way, in the deep transformation of our hearts on fire seared by ancient deep desire, swelled by the aching of loves lament that leaves both time and space so bent -- he'll never get that experience with selfish snipes and arrogant ignorance, no, but we'll continue to write and rewrite 'cause that's the direction Love leads us -- we keep writing 'cause the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself; so too, the reader reads to teach himself, to understand himself, to find in each other, ourselves, sister 'n brother --
a writer writes and never stops writing and rewrites and writes again and again ...  and we never stop writing, except to Dream, perhaps to reach for that Star in that Star crowded Sky, and bring that Star to the end of our Pen, and write like plasma all over again ... nice changes Is-a-Belle
 — AlchemiA

Thanks, Alchemia.  I think my burning brand response was visceral for a change!  It is the words not the rates, but oh, glory, I do like it when I am #1 now and then!
 — Isabelle5

Ah yes, nice poem. It is really, really good.
 — unknown

ignore the 1's isabelle. i get them all the time, except when i psot as unknown. it is not about you as a poet, it is about small people trying to get a rise out of you. would you like a 1?  ;-)
 — raskolniikov

well, yeah it's the numbers game -- manipulation is inherent with numbers 'cause their so slippery -- it's the same in Economies after all, the rise and fall -- however, the goal is bent toward chastising the Poet for their opinions in the poem or on the forums or something like that -- in another time we'd of been burnt at the stake for the words we make
 — AlchemiA

If my poems stay at number 1 too long, I check the "omit from top rating" box so that they won't be subjected to the normal barrage of 1's.
 — Ananke

Wonderful imagery Isabelle.  L15-18 are my favorites.  
 — sybarite

i like to read stories.  though i would try to omit a few words in this, like
"a" dead man
"a" stem
"a" hearse
(there are more that i don't need to list, and it is suitable in storyland, but it's possible, i think, to tighten even the loosest, lightest prose work).
another one that struck me: 'is' tear strained.

you've made clear, seasonal, emotional images in this, but the passion seems a bit lost somewhere.  the last few lines are an absolute delight to read again and again.
 — jenakajoffer

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