Thursday, March 29, 2007

Final Versions?

Below are two poems that have suffered multiple rejections, now transformed by the comments other writers posted here to help me. Having implemented most of the suggestions, I went back and changed them to my liking.

Given the general unimportance of poetry, and my endless fussing with an art that has such a small following, I feel like apologizing for putting the reader through this--if indeed, there are any readers left. I promise my next post will be scintillating, titillating and positively addictive. Let's put this poetry thing aside for now, though I remain grateful for all the comments--while knowing I shall carry my silly poetic perfectionism to my grave.

Chico Creek

(For my late quadriplegic student, Jill)

Standing on the footbridge
beneath the huge black oaks
I thought of how trees
grow gigantic by a river,
though I never knew oaks
could bear so much water.

Water is what I remember.
Peering down, my eyes
were forced to choose between
the rounded bottom stones
trailing green algae
and the surface
twisting like Saran wrap.
One can’t see both--
just as self-pity
makes laughter impossible.


Something is missing,
something important:
not your wallet or keys
or the knowledge of whether
the burner was left on
or the fan left running
near your dog's silken paws,
but as if the slightest amperage
had been siphoned from your body
without your notice.

I don’t know when
or how you were diminished
but your head no longer fits
the bronze helmet of the colossus
you thought you were.

Revised per your comments,



  1. I like both poems CE. As for what you might do - if you wanted to tinker with them...

    "Chico Creek" has a strong sense of place. I think you might consider cutting the couplet at the end. I don't think those lines are necessary.

    As for "Diminished," I liked it as is. I will say that "but as if the slightest amperage" gave me pause. I had to go back and reread. But, I'm not sure I would change it.

    Good pieces.

  2. Thanks, Sam--although you didn't jump on them as an editor! ;-) I love the couplet in the first poem but no one seems to understand the relation to the rest: I associate self-pity with looking deep at the algae-strewn rocks and laughter with the surface of the water. A stretch, at best, I suppose, but I was quite happy with it as an unconscious leap.

  3. I like Diminished very much, but unsure about the rather brutal imagery of a dog getting his paws whacked off. I'm a wuss, I suppose.

    Chico Creek is great, but the last two lines jump out of 'show' into 'tell', plus they abruptly change the feel. I see why they are there, yet they are why the poem doesn't work for me. Hrm. I wonder if there is some way to make that link without jarring the reader. Or maybe you want to jar the reader. More hmming.

  4. Hi CE,

    I like both poems. But, as you might figure, I have some nits for you.

    On Chico Creek, the first line is too writerly. Something like, "I should have thought of this" would make it draw the reader in more, make it more human-oriented and less poet-oriented, and play off the envoy better. Cut the line "a metaphor, I suppose." Now, I know you need the final couplet, but the problem there is that you did not develop the ideas of self-pity and laughter. Nothing extravagant is needed for this, just plant the seeds. The Saran wrap is twisting, but is it chuckling too? If so, put that in. Like that.

    Diminished should not be second person, but first person. How cool would this be, if you could make the poem arrive at this point?:

    Something is missing--
    I don't know when
    or how I diminished. (//)

    [but] My head no longer fits
    the bronze helmet
    of the colossus
    I thought I was.

    Then you would need to change the title, something to do with the colossus, because that thought comes out of nowhere. Now that I think of it, maybe "Colossus" could be the title.


  5. I'd lose the first sentence of Chico Creek. And I agree with cutting the metaphor observation as well.

  6. Such great advice! And, through the miracle of the net I can revise the poems on the same date/page as the comments they engendered.

    So if anyone wants to come back and see how they have improved my art, my changes should demonstrate my gratefulness. And so good to see Russ and Valerie here!

  7. Hi CE,

    These are looking gooood.

    What about taking "just as" out, to just say, new sentence, "Self-pity makes laughter impossible."?

  8. I can't believe you have so little faith in your own voice, your own art, that you submit yourself to this process. Uh, that's not what being a poet is about.
    Write what YOU think is good, the expression of YOUR soul, unchanged, unedited, uncoerced, and let the chips fall where they may.

  9. p.s. In my unlearned opinion we're all "bipolar," all have mood swings, deep periods of highs and lows; exhilaration and depression, triumph and anguish. It's called being a human being!

  10. ULA--thanks for stopping by. As an editor and teacher I have helped improve the poetry of others until they were not only successful in magazines but had books published. So I do not see any harm in inviting comment on two poems I thought good but editors had rejected--it's easy to fall in love with your own voice and miss the defects. You can't write poetry by committee, of course, but another pair of eyes and ears can often help when you're stuck.

    As for being bipolar, in your "downs" don't you doubt your own art and voice? If you don't, the adjective should hardly be applied. Everyone has mood swings but not everyone has been convinced he's Jesus, and been arrested, institutionalized, and all the rest--like I have. ;-) I'm not bragging or fishing for sympathy--but you really ought to read up on the disease before you make it common to all--it is not.


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