The Penitent

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Ravallion
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The Penitent

Post by Ravallion » Mon Sep 10, 2018 10:57 pm

Off Joppa, a gale siezed us
in its churn. Each man cried
to his own god, employed
the implements of his worship:

The rattle of bone dice,
Terta Cotta figurines,
the letting of blood.

Water from the blowhole
fell like a tepid rain.
The great unblinking eye,
the lateral roll, its jaw
hinged and I was his.

Scaffolding of vertebrae
and ribs became my chapel.
I could hear blood course
through veins. The pounding,
massive heart was like
the hammer of a god.

When it surfaced I trudged
the barnacled tongue
to suck gill-slit blowfish
wedged in the baleen.

After three days in the bowels
of Sheol, disgorged,
I am all-foured in obeisance.

I lift mine eyes unto the Lord,
and in this glorious whiteness,
I would give my soul,
the measure of my days

for a middling quaff of Dewar's
and a fished-up cigarette.

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Perry
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Re: The Penitent

Post by Perry » Tue Sep 11, 2018 1:16 am

I don't understand every part of this poem. It seems to start with a gale and then transforms into a battle with a whale. I am guessing that this poem echoes some biblical story that I am not familiar with. (I am neither Christian nor Jewish.) Might this have something to do with Jonah? Whatever it means, I love the dignified and cadenced tone of the language.

I don't like "mine", and I don't understand the last two lines, where the narrator is suddenly in modern times thirsting for a glass of Dewars.

I'm looking forward to finding out what this poem is all about.

Let me take this opportunity to say again that I love that the members of this forum are writing normal, comprehensible poetry, and not the experimental gibberish I am seeing in so many magazines.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Binz
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Re: The Penitent

Post by Binz » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:44 am

I got this on 1 level, but feel it has another level I'm missing. Reading it on that 1 level it works better without the last 2 lines. If I got the other level/meaning then I assume they would fit right in. That may be more a reflection of my skill at reading/interpreting rather than the poem itself so I will be interested in the views of the more experienced members here.

Should that be 'terra cotta', not terta?

Scaffolding is so associated with building works for me that it clashed with the image of a church. Perhaps a more lofty word would be better, I'd suggest arches but that feels a bit obvious.

I think S4 could be made more dramatic by contracting it. Something along the lines of:
In a vaulted chapel of vertebrae and rib,
walls pulsing with blood,
I felt his heart pound; a god's hammer.

cheers

B
If you want to fly, you must first spread your wings.

1lankest
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Re: The Penitent

Post by 1lankest » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:53 am

Enjoyed.

The letting of blood, being a verb, isn’t an implement of worship. Pedantic perhaps but I tripped on it.

Fell like tepid rain.....drop the ‘a’ surely.

Like the reference to Thor.

I’d end on obeisance, personally.

Last stanzas seem tacked on and superfluous.

Good stuff!

L

NotQuiteSure
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Re: The Penitent

Post by NotQuiteSure » Tue Sep 11, 2018 12:12 pm

Hi Ravallion,
I'm taking pretty much the same issues
with this as mac, so apologies for the
repetition.

Off Joppa, a gale [seized] us
in its churn. Each man cried
to his own god, employed
the implements of his worship:

- could you not switch 'implements'
for rituals (which would keep the
Aztec blood letting)?

The rattle of bone dice,
Terta Cotta figurines,
the letting of blood.


Water from the blowhole
fell like a tepid rain.

- do you need 'fell like'?
The great unblinking eye,
the lateral roll, its jaw

- Any way to avoid the
repetition of 'the'?
hinged and I was his.
- not sure about 'hinged'
(though I could see 'unhinged'
working ... possibly).

Scaffolding of vertebrae
and ribs became my chapel.

- maybe,
'a chapel of ribs' ?
I could hear blood course
- do you need 'course through veins',
it's a bit dull, and it's implied anyway.
through veins. The pounding,
- pounding is slightly weak, I think.
massive heart was like
the hammer of a god.


When it surfaced I trudged
the barnacled tongue
to suck gill-slit blowfish
wedged in the baleen
.
- don't know what 'gill-silt'
is, but I like the verse.

After three days in the bowels
of Sheol, disgorged,
I am all-foured in obeisance
.
- 'all-foured' seems a bit weak
to me'.
As mac said, I'd be tempted to stop
here. Then I googled 'Joppa'.
(is that the joke? In which case
perhaps a different title migh help.)
Even so, I don't think the final two
verses are as strong as the rest.


Regards, Not.

.

David
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Re: The Penitent

Post by David » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:23 pm

A good shaggy dog poem, but perhaps a little too shaggy. Or, to put it another way, it's a good finish, but it felt like a long way to walk - or swim - for it.

You did build the details up very well, though.

Cheers

David

Macavity
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Re: The Penitent

Post by Macavity » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:55 pm

I haven't commented yet NQS :D

Actually Rav. I do agree with Luke on where the poem could end, finding - unlike David - the end something of a deflator. Sometimes the poem's intent has more life...I enjoyed all the biblical stuff, the crisis need to turn to worship, the whale. A bonus to read about Sheol.

cheers

Mac

Ravallion
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Re: The Penitent

Post by Ravallion » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:57 am

Thank you very much guys. In another incarnation there is a different ending.

I found it difficult to sustain the pace.
My goal was to NOT retell the well known story.

Im im agreement with all the suggestions and will apply them before I send this out.

You guys definitely don't disappoint

ray miller
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Re: The Penitent

Post by ray miller » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:33 am

Hello Ravallion. I enjoyed the poem, thought you could end it at obeisance. It is seized, not siezed, and I think you mean terracotta.
Maybe "its blowhole" would be better.
"its jaw unhinged", perhaps.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

NotQuiteSure
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Re: The Penitent

Post by NotQuiteSure » Wed Sep 12, 2018 12:29 pm

Mea Culpa.

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