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Youth

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:33 am
by Perry
Something ineffable in youth
draws me back and evokes
a quiet longing in my soul;
not that I miss mine, no —

it was not ever as it ought
have been, by all accounts,
hard as I tried to be care-free
amidst my griefs and loss.

Some ineffable perfection
in the curves of girls' thighs,
in the head-long rush of boys to their
predestined reckonings,

implies powers no longer mine —
not ever mine, perhaps,
nor theirs now, though it appears so
to hungry mortal eyes

like mine, mesmerized by the sight
of youth's trail vanishing.
Yet if youth could be mine today,
it would be in my way.

I would not trade my life and times
for any still to come,
but in my poems I will last
and I am young.

-end-

I wrote this poem when I was fairly young, but I can still relate to it in my old age.

Re: Youth

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 10:18 am
by barrett
Hello Perry,

Interesting form. Sort of a loose iambic heptameter with the lines split? It gives it quite a stately feel.

Not sure about the repeat of 'ineffable' quite a bold word to have twice in the same poem.

S2L2 - 'by all accounts'. This doesn't seem to fit at all, the language is perhaps too casual in contrast with the rest. Seems like filler to meet the form.

Really like the way the switch to iambic hexameter over the final two lines changes the tone (I suppose the obvious choice would have to been to go for "and be forever young" to meet the preceding form). However, I really dislike the content of the final stanza, way too maudlin for my taste. I'd prefer to see the final stanza cut altogether.

All the best,
barrett

Re: Youth

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 10:41 am
by Perry
Thank you for your thoughts, Barrett.
barrett wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 10:18 am
Interesting form. Sort of a loose iambic heptameter with the lines split? It gives it quite a stately feel.

Not sure about the repeat of 'ineffable' quite a bold word to have twice in the same poem.

The repetition of "ineffable" was intentional, as if I am trying to figure out why youth strikes me that way, so I try one idea and then another idea. But I can see how the repetition of such a word might strike you as wrong.

S2L2 - 'by all accounts'. This doesn't seem to fit at all, the language is perhaps too casual in contrast with the rest. Seems like filler to meet the form.

"By all accounts" just means "in everyone else's opinion" or "according to other people" or "in other people's experiences"; but you are right, it is filler. I'll have to work on that.

Really like the way the switch to iambic hexameter over the final two lines changes the tone (I suppose the obvious choice would have to been to go for "and be forever young" to meet the preceding form). However, I really dislike the content of the final stanza, way too maudlin for my taste. I'd prefer to see the final stanza cut altogether.

I have always thought that the closing stanza was a pithy summary. However, only formalist poets seem to like pithy summaries these days, as they seem to have gone out of style. The original stanza read like this:

I would not trade my life and times
for any still to pass;
but in my poems, I am young,
and I will last.

Perhaps that's a little better. I've never thought that either stanza is maudlin, but I'll think about it.
I wasn't going to post this old poem, but I've run into a dry period and don't have anything new to post. Poetry like this doesn't go over well in this forum. It's too old fashioned.

Re: Youth

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:16 am
by barrett
I can't imagine anyone really has too much of a problem with older styles of poetry do they? I'm sure most will read anything from Catallus to Carol Ann Duffy (I'm sure there must be a better modern poet beginning with C!). But it does say Contemporary Poetry Forum in the banner. I suppose it depends on why you're writing, if you're writing for yourself then all's well and good, but I suppose you might face problems trying to get stuff published in the lit mags with older styles. That's not to say there's not plenty of formal poetry being published today, of course.

Re: Youth

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 8:55 pm
by Perry
barrett wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:16 am
I can't imagine anyone really has too much of a problem with older styles of poetry do they? I'm sure most will read anything from Catallus to Carol Ann Duffy (I'm sure there must be a better modern poet beginning with C!). But it does say Contemporary Poetry Forum in the banner. I suppose it depends on why you're writing, if you're writing for yourself then all's well and good, but I suppose you might face problems trying to get stuff published in the lit mags with older styles. That's not to say there's not plenty of formal poetry being published today, of course.
When I was looking around for a forum to participate in, I found one where the poets wrote like Keats. Their Keats-like poems might have been well written, but they were stuck in a writing style that had already been explored. To be noticed in the world of poetry, you have to contribute something new to the canon -- and I think that's the standard on most forums now. The group here, however, doesn't like anything formalist, or too introspective. This poem is about lost youth -- how tired a subject is that? But everyone has to write about youth at some point. We all age and die.

I sometimes think about what Frost went through to get his poetry published, especially in America, more than a century go. He was a formalist poet, and he breathed fresh air into formal poetry by writing in a more natural diction; but even then free verse and modernism had taken hold, and I think that all the editors could see was his formalism. My view, however, is that formal poetry will never die; it is just too pleasing to the ear. It has complexities that free verse will never have.

So back to this poem, I think that stanzas 4 and 5 have a pleasing complexity. I'm genuinely distressed that you see the ending as maudlin. My education in formalist poetry taught me that hammering down the ending of a poem with a pithy insight is the right thing to do, but I think that standard has changed. Now the reader wants something more profound and less trite.

I have changed stanza two, switching out "by all accounts" for "or could have been":

it was not ever as it ought
have been, or could have been,
hard as I tried to be care-free
amidst my griefs and loss.

I think that's an improvement, though it still comes across as filler. The poem drags a bit in the beginning, which is because of another one of my writing ethics: the feeling that a subject should be approached gently or gradually, with an extended introduction. I start a lot of poems that way.

"amidst my griefs and loss" will turn a lot of people off, but I was a miserable young person, so it was true. These days, men especially feel that they have to come across as masculine in their writing, and "griefs and loss" doesn't convey that. Even women poets are writing in masculine tones these days.

Actually, "a quiet longing in my soul" in the first stanza will put people right off this poem, but those words still have meaning to me because that was what I was feeling at the time -- a quiet longing. The question for me is whether I write what I like even if it is a little old-fashioned, or write for my readers (my readers that I may never have).

Thank you for your interest in the poem!