Exercise#1: Poetry at the crossroads

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Exercise#1: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Sun Nov 10, 2013 10:53 pm

Some things are particularly rich as a source of symbolism or metaphor -- a crossroads is one such thing. Think about all the features that a crossroads can have:

- a place where routes meet
- or people or speeding taxis
- roads crossing, paths crossing, a railway crossing a river
- several motorways meeting in a spasm of ramps and grades
- a place somebody/something comes to -- willing, or not, or on the way to somewhere else
- a quiet place, or a restless place
- suicides, criminals and vampires get buried there
- a busy place, or a remote place
- one of the routes may follow a border, and then the crossroads is a border-crossing
- possibly with a twee little Welcome to Wherever sign
- possibly with a mechanised infantry division
- in the wilderness, or in the city
- buildings at crossroads can face one-another in complex ways
- a cemetery opposite a maternity hospital opposite a park opposite the tax office
- and you can be "just around the corner"
- the two roads can be equal, and allow easy interchange
- or one can sneer at the other, possibly from atop a bridge
- or the two things crossing may have trouble relating to one-another at all
- like a 100 kilovolt power-line crossing the fairy-road

And I am sure you can think up more for yourself. Maybe there is a real crossroads from your life that is special to you? Maybe there was a purely metaphorical one with choice to be made?

Take a crossroad in any, all, or none of the above ways, put it in a poem, and see if you can make it play a role above mere scenery.
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Mon Nov 11, 2013 6:45 pm

Seth has kindly started a thread on crossroads-related music.
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by Antcliff » Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:03 pm

Crossroads

You can't turn back,
time's track is one way,
always leads to the three:

hell,
or purgatory,
or heaven.

But they're not marked.
Nobody returns to say.
And you can't wait--

robbers,
gaunt ghosts,
dancing demons

all linger, knowing that here
is the easy meet
of the easy meat,

the ditherers,
the still pathless,
the lost in indecision.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:40 pm

Embarrassingly I am finding this much harder than I expected.

I've got about five lines, and an idea, but the subject matter keeps spiralling away from the point...

Seth, since you have three roads and three destinations you probably need three mystical guardians to misguide people: http://xkcd.com/246/

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Toads (exercise)

Post by k-j » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:40 am

"You take and split the bean, and cut the wart so as to get some blood, and then you put the blood on one piece of the bean and take and dig a hole and bury it 'bout midnight at the crossroads in the dark of the moon, and then you burn up the rest of the bean. You see that piece that's got the blood on it will keep drawing and drawing, trying to fetch the other piece to it, and so that helps the blood to draw the wart, and pretty soon off she comes."

- Huck, in "Tom Sawyer"
I wasn't sure what kind of bean to use:
my favourites are fava, but their season
seems to be about two weeks.
The baked kind are messy with the juice
and I couldn't afford any mistakes.
A soybean would be treason,
so I plumped for P. coccineus
(available from all fine legume purveyors).

I took and split the bean (or rather the pod),
felt the fine interior down, and a pang
of sympathy. Then I took a paring knife
and cut the wart so as to get some blood,
which was a new kind of grief
somewhat longer than a parasang.
I wonder if Huck Finn knew how long it was,
probably not having read Herodotus.

Finding a real crossroads is no mean feat
in suburban America. There are four-ways,
but they're of two kinds: one, patrolled
by neighborhood-watchmen packing heat,
and two, cornered by buyers of gold,
payday-lending laundromats, and the haze
from the Dodge Schlongs and Chevy Silverados,
[s]Power Wagons and Inferno Prolongados[/s]of drag queens and dime bag desperadoes.

So I had to go a long way in a shitty car.
I dug a hole with my bare hands in the desert and
having reopened the wound and resmeared
the pod (and previously having found a bar
to drink in while I grew a [s]heavy[/s] Jesus beard)
let the bean fall from my [s]unsteady[/s]trembling hand.
In the end it took no time at all to bury it,
but I felt, and still feel, like Judas Iscariot.
[s]and I felt that way as I tossed the other half
into the microwave in my motel room
and watched the sparks cavort and dissipate.
In the lobby I celebrated with the staff.
The wart withered and fell away about eight
months later. That is, eight months too late.[/s]Well, it's America's fault for having so many roads,
or it's my fault for associating with toads.
Last edited by k-j on Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
fine words butter no parsnips

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Re: Toads (exercise)

Post by brianedwards » Wed Nov 13, 2013 5:38 am

Much enjoyed k-j. I felt it lost its way somewhat in S4 (could the last two stanzas be condensed into one?), and I'm curious as to why you changed the rhyme scheme in S5, but enjoyed nonetheless. Not sure why it was "eight months too late", but that invites some pondering beyond the poem, which is always welcome. Inspired idea for a poem.

B.

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Re: Toads (exercise)

Post by k-j » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:35 am

brianedwards wrote:I'm curious as to why you changed the rhyme scheme in S5
Because I was pissed by then? Good catch. Really the last two stanzas aren't up to scratch but I've had my fun and will let it be.

Maybe return to the idea at a later date.
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by Jackie » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:39 pm

With such big ideas guiding me it's hard to earth myself to write.

Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken brings me back to the concrete.

Jackie

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by David2 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 7:41 pm

No choice, not really, so
not truly a crossroads:
there is only forward -
perhaps a little trifling
with dates and eta's,
but it's merely coyness,

here upon the heights,
brim-full with
potential energy,
before the headlong fall
down that narrow way
into an unquiet world.

This breached Golgotha
will be your Bethlehem.

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by Antcliff » Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:54 pm

K-J,
despite the title and the months reference that brings in some part of the story, I wonder if the last stanza could be axed? I like it closing with the Judas Iscariot reference.

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

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by k-j » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:23 pm

Antcliff wrote:K-J,
despite the title and the months reference that brings in some part of the story, I wonder if the last stanza could be axed? I like it closing with the Judas Iscariot reference.

Seth
Yeah maybe, but I'd want to keep the last two lines - maybe put them at the start.
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by k-j » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:28 pm

D2 - enjoyed. Good choice of crossroads (or not). Could maybe fill out lines 8 and 9 a bit, that's really one line stretched over two at the moment. And not sure how much the closing couplet adds, or whether the sudden biblical moment is needed. "Headlong" too easy maybe? "Unquiet" not sure about, usually that's applied to graves, which I suppose is the point here too - Beckett's famous "we give birth astride a grave" (or did he just popularise it?) Anyway thinking about "unquiet", it's fine.
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:45 pm

Hi Seth,

I like this bit especially:
robbers,
gaunt ghosts,
dancing demons
I may steal that as an opening line some time :-)

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:52 pm

k-j

I particularly like this one. Not sure why, I think it is mostly that it all just fits together so aptly... the the parts contributing to a whole.

I see what Seth means about the Judas line, but I see what you mean about the final couplet also. I would also be tempted to move them to the start...

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:55 pm

Hi David,

I think I see you picking up on the astronomy theme that k-j was playing with a few days ago?

And also mixing in some messianic themes. Very clever all-in-all, was it the dinosaurs, should we be worried?

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by bodkin » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:00 pm

title?

upon the blasted heath flaps plastic sheeting
the two roads and myself climb up from town
past piles of yellow pipe with weather sleeting
in every crack and nook a sideways storm
and I'm here in my duffel coat with soup
for Uncle Bob whose Maglite guards the site
from behind the paper in his plywood booth
against whatever evil haunts the night

or threatens to fall drunken in the ditch
so up this dreadful night I'm sent by mother
to bring relief to Robert in the gloam
be glad to find him as this night's a bitch
but I cannot seem to find my Ma's old brother
or even (from all four directions) find my own way home
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by Magpie Jane » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:26 pm

What's been posted here so far, is awfully impressive. And delightfully bewildering. Of course, a crossroads poem should always/preferably/at least to some extent be bewildering, ey?

Ian, when I read yours, the title Edgelands came to my mind (or something like that).

Me too, I'm trying to stitch a crossroadsome pome.

Jane
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by ljordan » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:52 pm

Off the Curb

Of the parts that forgetting
hides with her old gingham dress
is the look she once recalled
he made in Charleston, at the bell,
when the wick flickered.

It’s the flutter of her skirt
when hanging onto the trolley
that stands out now,
in spite of the warm August day,
in spite of the radio’s song.

Of those parts that go
back together, it’s the ones
that occur when boarding
the wrong bus

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by Magpie Jane » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:59 pm

Postcard from a bewildered traveller

Adventure is no fortune for the fickle-hearted.
Choices must be made at every crossroads.
Doors are never only open or closed.
There's a kind of music whose route of entry
goes through the eye, or through a hidden flap.
Options no one had the backbone to imagine,
exact their mileage with every step.
Move on, citizen.

*
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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by ljordan » Thu Nov 14, 2013 12:03 am

Ian, Wonderful piece in spite of its lack of title. The form is nicely executed though I wonder at its use with the content. For my ear, it comes off self-referential. May not be bad. The last line, flying in the face of the formal, does put a bit of theater in it.

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by brianedwards » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:24 am

ljordan wrote:Off the Curb

Of the parts that forgetting
hides with her old gingham dress
is the look she once recalled
he made in Charleston, at the bell,
when the wick flickered.

It’s the flutter of her skirt
when hanging onto the trolley
that stands out now,
in spite of the warm August day,
in spite of the radio’s song.

Of those parts that go
back together, it’s the ones
that occur when boarding
the wrong bus
S1 and 2 are beautiful Larry, but 3 feels incomplete. Is the title in the same key as the poem?
Really love that opening.

B.

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by David2 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:57 am

brianedwards wrote:S1 and 2 are beautiful Larry, but 3 feels incomplete. Is the title in the same key as the poem?
Really love that opening.
I agree with Brian here, Larry. The opening sentence meanders along in quite a convoluted manner, but it's still lovely. I felt a warm breeze, lightly freighted with the scent of magnolia.

Cheers

David

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by David2 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:01 am

Jane, your traveller sounds both bewildered and harried, as though he's being browbeaten along the road. You've caught that nicely, but lines 4-5 are my favourites.

Cheers

David

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by David2 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:04 am

Terrific sense of menace in your first eight lines, Ian, which I think (sadly) is somewhat dissipated in the final six. That first section is great, though.

Cheers

David

P.S. This exercise, after a slow start, seems to be turning out a treat.

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Re: Poetry at the crossroads

Post by David2 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:24 am

k-j wrote:And not sure how much the closing couplet adds, or whether the sudden biblical moment is needed.
Me neither, but Golgotha means (I think) "place of the skull", which I thought was quite fun in the context.

"[H]ere upon the heights" is Wordsworth, of course - don't you just love that casually tossed off "of course"? - from the Intimations of Immortality (although I see it should really be "height"), which sort of seems appropriate.
bodkin wrote:I think I see you picking up on the astronomy theme that k-j was playing with a few days ago?

And also mixing in some messianic themes. Very clever all-in-all, was it the dinosaurs, should we be worried?
I was aware of neither astronomy nor dinosaurs, so I'm going back to read it again in the light of those! I'm rather pleased I've conveyed those themes subliminally somehow. Veritably, I am a cosmos.

Messianic, though, definitely, perhaps the way that modern parents (I include myself) tend almost to worship their offspring. We seem to make a lot of offerings, anyway.

Cheers both

David

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