This poem goes places that it shouldn’t have gone

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

This poem goes places that it shouldn’t have gone

Post by penguin » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:35 am

in the beer tent listening to a jazz ensemble
who came on after the jazz dance band
and are suffering by comparison.
I’m figuring out the difference between
flute solos and close harmonies,
thrown together and tightly knit,
being here for themselves or the audience.
I’m with two of my grown-up daughters
and my wife is with the foster kids
watching Maleficent at the cinema.
I’m digging the songs my dad used to sing
and thinking of the time that children thieve
and all the things we’ll never do,
like learn how to jive and lindy hop.
I’m piling up the reasons we shouldn’t adopt.

Flowers are not meant to bloom in winter.
It was different in December
when the dark days served to blinker us
and we fought our little Christmas tree corner.
It was sisters skipping arm in arm
in the absence of a sibling assessment.
It was the country lurching to the right
and a butterfly wish to flap my wings
and make waves in some Latin quarter.
It was feeling that we’d let them down
if we didn’t strive to keep them together.

Now summer shines a bulb in all our faces
and mine has started to crack.
It’s when the social worker asked
if we think we’ll ever harbour resentment.
It’s the sports day when the Downs’ Syndrome
trailed in a very long last and was applauded
all the way up the finishing straight,
while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket,
like refusing to stand for the National Anthem.
It’s the medical when the doctor found
there’s something not quite right with my heart.
Next week they’ll investigate it further.
I felt a little lightening, the hint of a reprieve,
but I guess that it is no more than a murmur.


Original



This poem went places that it shouldn’t have gone
in the beer tent listening to a jazz ensemble
who came on after the jazz dance band
and are suffering by comparison.
I’m figuring out the differences
between flute solos and close harmonies,
between thrown together and tightly knit,
being here for themselves or the audience.
I’m with two of my grown-up daughters
and my wife is with the foster kids
watching Maleficent at the pictures.
I’m digging the songs my dad used to sing
and thinking of the time that children thieve
and all the things we'll never do together,
like learn how to jive and lindy hop.
I’m piling up the reasons we shouldn’t adopt.

Flowers are not meant to bloom in winter.
It was different in December
when the dark days served to blinker us
and we fought our little Christmas tree corner.
It was sisters skipping arm in arm
in the absence of a sibling assessment
because it would only tell them what they knew –
an arrogance that couldn’t go unquestioned.
It was the country lurching to the right
and a butterfly wish to flap my wings
and make waves in some Latin quarter.
It was feeling we'd be letting them down
if we didn’t strive to keep them together.

Now summer shines a bulb in all our faces
and mine has started to crack.
It’s when the social worker asked
if we think we’ll ever harbour resentment.
It’s the sports day as the Downs’ Syndrome
trailed in a very long last and was applauded
all the way up the finishing straight,
while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket,
like refusing to stand for the National Anthem.
It's the medical when the doctor found
there’s something not quite right with my heart.
Next week they’ll investigate it further.
I felt a little lightening, the hint of a reprieve,
but I guess that it is no more than a murmur.
Last edited by penguin on Thu Jul 17, 2014 8:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Elphin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2949
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Elphin » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:46 am

Ray, I have just had one quick read and here are immediate impressions

- it hooked me and moved me
- some great internal rhymes that really propel it along

Would you consider making the first line the last... it felt like the big show came before the build up?
penguin wrote:while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket,
like refusing to stand for the National Anthem
A very impactful line.

I think I will come back to this one

elph

User avatar
Jackie
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:21 am
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Jackie » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:58 pm

This is very moving, I agree. Guilt, so central, is so beautifully understated—as in whether the performers are playing for themselves or for the audience. And the two meanings of murmur. But we believe in the couple's goodwill and feel the tension brought by the fact that they're already fostering, and Down's Syndrome.

I'm not keen on the first four lines' being devoted to scene-setting. We'll pick up this content without them, or maybe with a bit of tweaking.

I enjoyed the hands in the pockets, too. The rhyme at the end of the first stanza made me look for it at the end of the others; perhaps, though, it serves a purpose in highlighting the summary line: I’m piling up the reasons we shouldn’t adopt.

Jackie

Antcliff
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6602
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:35 am
Location: At the end of stanza 3

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Antcliff » Sat Jul 05, 2014 4:36 pm

Your usual high standard, Ray. I will not repeat what others have said. My only constructive thought is that this might be cut....

The roads to hell are paved by those
who sacrifice and save and I’m wavering in faith.

That puts the last two stanzas together in getting to the contrasting seasons quickly....and the line about roads to hell seems a bit over the top to me. I mean are they more paved by such people than they are by those who don't sacrifice and save? And the "wavering" seems implicit in the whole.

The National Anthem analogy is striking. But then so is the whole.

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:38 pm

Thanks all.
Elphin. The opening line was originally the title, but I can see the value in placing it at the end. Maybe.
Jackie - have to start somewhere, set a scene somewhere. Do you mean 4 lines is too long? The Down's child isn't ours, by the way. We've got the Fatal Alcohol.
Seth - yeah, you're right about those 2 lines. Consider them gone.

User avatar
Jackie
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:21 am
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Jackie » Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:43 am

I've re-read it a few more times, Ray, and I guess it's the first line that doesn't work for me. I like your ending, though—wouldn't put it there. I can see it as the title, or some form of it. The idea of "Adopting At Our Age" comes across clearly already at the end of verse 1.
My only constructive thought is that this might be cut....
The roads to hell are paved by those
who sacrifice and save and I’m wavering in faith.
I agree with Seth here.

Really like the tone of this.

Jackie

Ros
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 7971
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:53 pm
antispam: no
Location: this hill-shadowed city/of razors and knives.
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Ros » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:21 am

Very moving. I'm not so keen on it starting by the poem discussing itself. I feel you could set the scene with the jazz and then move straight on to l5.

I'm puzzling a little over your emotions on

while I kept my hands firmly in my pocket,

- did you feel the others were being patronising?

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:15 pm

Thanks, Ros. So that's a few not happy with the opening line. Hmm.
Patronising is not exactly the right word, but in that area. I may well feel a lot of emotion at the scene I described. But I certainly don't want to be part of the blubfests, which have prevailed since Princess Diana died, so it seems. The Paralympics, for instance. There seems to me to be a strong element of self-congratulation. Look at how inclusive we are!

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13716
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by David » Tue Jul 08, 2014 12:46 pm

Hi Ray, you know (I think!) that I'm a big fan of your fostering poems, and this has many of the virtues of the best of those, but I think it's also a bit flabbier than the best ones. I could actually do without the first eight lines, never mind the first four, and a lot of V2 is (to my ear) not adding much either. V3 is where the poem is, for me. Whether you could graft the best / most essential thoughts of the first two on to that, I don't know.

V3 is pretty stellar, though.

Cheers

David

User avatar
bodkin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 3182
Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 9:51 pm
antispam: no
Location: Two inches behind my eyes just above the bridge of my nose.

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by bodkin » Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:53 pm

Hi,

I can't claim to understand the context/emotion of everything because it's experiences I haven't had, but this really is very good and even after one quick read I'm finding a lot in it.

Maybe I agree with David about the first 8 lines... They are nice, but they are scene-setting not the meat of the subject and thus possibly a distraction. If you could find a way, could you keep a shorter description of the Jazz but relate it immediately to something from the main subject matter? Some connection of Jazz instruments behaving differently and children's behaviour?

Or even distribute the description of the Jazz throughout and each time juxtapose it with something it connects to: your Dad's songs vs. Jazz solos, children's behaviour vs. improvisation, Jazz rhythms vs. heart rhythms?

All-in-all a powerful read and I am slightly awestruck!

Off to read it again now.

Ian
http://www.ianbadcoe.uk/

Elphin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2949
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Elphin » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:07 am

Ray

Returning to this as I do think it is very powerful. I see others have recommended removing the jazz section -- I actually though it was the right scene setter. It served to put the narrator in a contemplative mood and also I was taking something from the fact it was jazz --- maybe its just my limited appreciation of jazz but it was saying something about families being like jazz, all of these discordant notes put together to make a coherent whole. Or is that pseuds corner?

Anyway, I do agree there is a level of flabbiness when you stray from the theme. If its any help, I thought these could go with little loss.

Probably, the first line and these
penguin wrote:The roads to hell are paved by those
who sacrifice and save and I’m wavering in faith.
penguin wrote:I’m with two of my grown-up daughters
and my wife is with the foster kids
watching Maleficent at the pictures.
penguin wrote:It was the country lurching to the right
and a butterfly wish to flap my wings
and make waves in some Latin quarter.
hope that helps -- I wouldn't lose too much as this is very much a human interest poem so it needs detail.

elph

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age - revised

Post by penguin » Thu Jul 10, 2014 5:28 pm

Thanks David, Ian, Derek. Appreciate the comments.
Yeah, on reflection I see it's a fairly lengthy preamble. Still, there's relevance in it and I wouldn't want to shorten it apart perhaps the first 4 lines could be pared.


"Returning to this as I do think it is very powerful. I see others have recommended removing the jazz section -- I actually though it was the right scene setter. It served to put the narrator in a contemplative mood and also I was taking something from the fact it was jazz --- maybe its just my limited appreciation of jazz but it was saying something about families being like jazz, all of these discordant notes put together to make a coherent whole. Or is that pseuds corner?"

That's about right, Derek. I've removed or altered a few bits, the roads to hell lines are gone. I'm not sure about the rest, at the moment it all seems necessary. We are adopting these kids, by the way, barring something unexpected.

User avatar
Jackie
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:21 am
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Jackie » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:22 am

. . .at the moment it all seems necessary. We are adopting these kids, by the way, barring something unexpected.
I suspect the link between these two sentences is telling, Ray. I wonder whether you'd say that the main reason you wrote this was to develop another poem to publish, or whether it was to learn and record what you thought at this stage in the adoption process. If it's the latter, I hope workshopping it has helped you solidify your thoughts.

Wishing all the best for these children,

Jackie

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:45 am

Jackie wrote:
. . .at the moment it all seems necessary. We are adopting these kids, by the way, barring something unexpected.
I suspect the link between these two sentences is telling, Ray. I wonder whether you'd say that the main reason you wrote this was to develop another poem to publish, or whether it was to learn and record what you thought at this stage in the adoption process. If it's the latter, I hope workshopping it has helped you solidify your thoughts.

Wishing all the best for these children,

Jackie
Jackie, the main reason I wrote it, I think, is because of the afternoon in the beer tent listening to jazz. That was the catalyst. The writing is cathartic, and illuminating to some extent. I'm forever trying to explain my self to myself. I suppose most of us are. The interesting thing about workshopping such poems, is noticing what people pick up on and what they don't, in the, er, moral sphere.
I'm mercenary, in that I'll use situations as opportunities to develop poems. So far, I've not tried to get any of the poems about fostering published. Not sure I ever will.

User avatar
Jackie
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:21 am
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Jackie » Mon Jul 14, 2014 3:21 pm

Is a catalyst a reason? Hmm. . . (thinking) . . . :|

Arian
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2718
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:41 am
antispam: no
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

Re: Adopting At Our Age - revised

Post by Arian » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:19 pm

penguin wrote:there's relevance in it and I wouldn't want to shorten it.
I suppose it depends whether you're writing it for yourself, or for other readers. Both are a valid reason to write.

Me, I do think the recursive aspect of the beginning tends to weaken the piece. There's no need for it, and it only serves to highlight the fact that the rest of it, which is always good, and at times amazingly so, is (as all poems are) an artifice, a construction. I'm with the others - eliminate that self-referential bit and the remainder has much more of a sense of immediacy, an outpouring, less calculated.

Whatever, it's an outstanding piece, free-flowing, from the heart and - at times - beautifully expressed.

My highlight is:

Now summer shines a bulb in all our faces

but there are other close contenders.

Cheers
peter

Arian
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2718
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:41 am
antispam: no
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Arian » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:24 pm

P.S.....Couldn't help thinking the title's a bit ungainly for something so smooth. Couldn't you choose something a little more incidental? Something with a bit of subtlety?
Cheers
p

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:02 am

Jackie - no, a catalyst isn't really a reason. There's so many reasons, though!
Peter - thanks.
"Me, I do think the recursive aspect of the beginning tends to weaken the piece. There's no need for it, and it only serves to highlight the fact that the rest of it, which is always good, and at times amazingly so, is (as all poems are) an artifice, a construction. I'm with the others - eliminate that self-referential bit and the remainder has much more of a sense of immediacy, an outpouring, less calculated."

I'm not sure about that. If the poem was born in the manner/ circumstances I describe then shouldn't it render what follows as less of an artifice? On the other hand, I can see how something more immediate might work. As for the title, I don't like it, I'd prefer the opening line as the title. But I felt that I needed something to flag up what was at issue. Perhaps I don't.

User avatar
Jackie
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1289
Joined: Sun Jun 30, 2013 1:21 am
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Jackie » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:17 pm

If the poem was born in the manner/ circumstances I describe
. . .

To me, this returns to my earlier question about why you were writing the poem. IMHO, I can see including the beginning you have now, if the poem was written to work through personal issues for yourself. However, we give poems we write for publication new constructs, don't we? Where they begin and end and what they encompass usually have more to do with poetics than with events or places where they were born. Unless that's just the way it works for me. . .

Jackie

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:48 pm

Jackie wrote:
If the poem was born in the manner/ circumstances I describe
. . .

To me, this returns to my earlier question about why you were writing the poem. IMHO, I can see including the beginning you have now, if the poem was written to work through personal issues for yourself. However, we give poems we write for publication new constructs, don't we? Where they begin and end and what they encompass usually have more to do with poetics than with events or places where they were born. Unless that's just the way it works for me. . .

Jackie
Jackie , it may be that in a few months time, I'll revisit this poem and think, yeah, they were right all along about the opening. It happens like that sometimes. At the moment, though, the preamble feels integral because I'm thinking about our family and "normal" families in terms of jazz bands, the thrown together and the tightly knit, those here for themselves and those here for the audience and it felt important to hold on to that.

Elphin
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2949
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:10 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Elphin » Tue Jul 15, 2014 2:59 pm

I think the jazz references are central to the poem....have I said that already?

elph

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13716
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by David » Tue Jul 15, 2014 5:28 pm

Elphin wrote:I think the jazz references are central to the poem....have I said that already?
OK, that made me read the first section again, with (perhaps) greater care. I think I'm starting to get it now, but I'm not sure there's enough contrast between a jazz ensemble and a jazz dance band for the comparison to work.
penguin wrote:being here for themselves or the audience
And that I just don't follow at all.

But overall I am getting there! Slowly warming to the jazz opening.

Ros
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 7971
Joined: Sun Dec 07, 2008 4:53 pm
antispam: no
Location: this hill-shadowed city/of razors and knives.
Contact:

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Ros » Tue Jul 15, 2014 6:09 pm

I like the jazz opening, just not the poem bit. So if it were mine (forgive me, Ray) I'd have something like:

The beer tent, and a jazz ensemble
who came on after the jazz dance band
and are suffering by comparison.
I’m figuring out the differences
between flute solos and close harmonies,
between thrown together and tightly knit,
being here for themselves or the audience.
I’m digging the songs my dad used to sing
and thinking of the time that children thieve
and all the things we'll never do together,
like learn how to jive and lindy hop.
I’m piling up the reasons we shouldn’t adopt.

The poem feels as if you're working through your thoughts and emotions, and it's all the stronger for that.

Ros
Rosencrantz: What are you playing at? Guildenstern: Words. Words. They're all we have to go on.
___________________________
Antiphon - www.antiphon.org.uk

Arian
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 2718
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 8:41 am
antispam: no
Location: Hertfordshire, UK

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by Arian » Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:04 pm

penguin wrote:... If the poem was born in the manner/ circumstances I describe then shouldn't it render what follows as less of an artifice?
Yes, possibly true. I'm not sure an ought translates to an is, in the world of poetry. People rarely read a piece and adjust their reaction in the light of an analytical dissection, they just react. At least I do. I suppose I'm just reporting how it feels to me, and my gut feel is that the beginning makes the piece seem artificial. But...one reader, one opinion. It means very little. As I say, it's a strong piece, whatever.

Cheers
Peter

penguin
Persistent Poster
Persistent Poster
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Feb 27, 2010 1:17 pm

Re: Adopting At Our Age

Post by penguin » Wed Jul 16, 2014 3:11 pm

Elphin wrote:I think the jazz references are central to the poem....have I said that already?

elph
Thanks, Elphin. You did say that already, for which I am very grateful.

David - on the day the difference between the ensemble and the dance band was obvious. The ensemble looked like it had been thrown together in haste, there were frequent solos, self-indulgent, individualistic. The dance band was the opposite. They were there for the audience. I did a little research after, hoping to find this was invariably the case. It isn't, but what the hell.

Ros - I'm rather attached to the opening line at the moment, but give it time, I may hate it.

Peter. Thanks again. Yeah, it's a very subjective business.

Post Reply