1985 - version 2

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ray miller
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1985 - version 2

Post by ray miller » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:01 pm

It was the year our eldest was expected
and emerged on a late August morning
to the cursing of her mother and the miners
being kicked out of their pits. Everyone
must take their turn to be the enemy within.

The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, were soon to be broken.
City streets would overflow with human flotsam;
we’d rediscover the meaning of asylum.

Gorbachev and Reagan were meeting in Geneva
to play stud poker with the future
and in the Roundway Hospital Social Club,
any evening of the week, dominoes tumbled
like the outposts of an evil empire.

We nurses occupied Beech Ward to protest
its closure and piecemeal relocation
to the profitable sector; passed the time debating
the merits of Back to the Future amid the odour
of urine and beds we dared not lie on.

We had so little sleep I almost nodded
when Thatcher claimed there was no such thing
as society - just men and women
and their children, in a house they owned themselves
and a TV that fanned the flames of Brixton.

We discovered we’d made a hole in the heavens;
from there it was one small step to seeing
that space might be a place to dig a trench in;
the defensive is always offensive
to those without their finger on the button.

Glasnost and perestroika pulled the rug
from beneath the feet of unbelievers.
So many Olgas landed upon their backs
and the free world feels the benefits
of zero hours and real time simulation.

There was this schizophrenic patient thought
the water tower harboured listening devices;
when it crumbled the loss was like bereavement.
He no longer spoke to us, only his voices -
how else express his feelings for the notions of the day?

Original

It was the year our eldest was expected
and emerged on a late August morning
as miners were being kicked out of their pits;
her mother was cussing and blinding
as if she’d found the enemy within.

The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, were soon to be broken.
The suicide notes fluttered earthward;
years later they are yet to reach the ground.

Gorbachev and Reagan were meeting in Geneva
to play stud poker with the future
and in the Roundway Hospital Social Club,
any evening of the week, dominoes tumbled
like the outposts of an evil empire.

We nurses occupied Beech Ward to protest
its closure and piecemeal relocation
to the profitable sector; we passed the time debating
the merits of Back to the Future amid the odour
of urine and beds we dared not lie on.

She gave us so little sleep I almost nodded
when Thatcher claimed there’s no such thing
as society - just men and women, family, a house
and a TV that fanned the flames of Brixton,
while flies feasted at an African famine.

We discovered we’d made a hole in the heavens;
from there it was one small step to seeing
that space might be a place to dig a trench in;
the defensive is always offensive
to those without their finger on the button.

Glasnost and perestroika pulled the rug
from beneath the feet of unbelievers.
Every Olga landed upon her back
and the free world feels the benefits
of zero hours and real time simulation.

There was this schizophrenic patient thought
the water tower harboured listening devices;
when it crumbled the loss was like a bereavement.
When I say the personal is political,
I’m not just expressing the notions of the day.
Last edited by ray miller on Fri Mar 06, 2020 12:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

NotQuiteSure
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Re: 1985

Post by NotQuiteSure » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:48 pm

.
Hi ray,
strong start, and entertaining, but seems to lose its way in the final third.

It was the year our eldest was expected
and emerged on a late August morning

- There's a real ambiguity as to whether 'it' (the year) emerges 'on a late August morning' (why the 'and'?)
as miners were being kicked out of their pits;
- 'kicked out' seems a bit tame
her mother was cussing and blinding
as if she’d found the enemy within.

- excellent line.

The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, were soon to be broken.

- the construction seems odd. Shouldn't 'for a century' follow 'brooded'?
The suicide notes fluttered earthward;
years later they are yet to reach the ground.

- like the idea, not sold on the expression.
Either 'they are still falling' or 'they have yet to ... ' ?

- Getting into 'We didn't start the Fire' territory? :)

...
like the outposts of an evil empire.

- don't think you need 'evil' (without it it could
also refer back to the British empire falling).

- By this point I'd like to know where this is set, geographically.
Could the title not be [location], 1985 ?

We nurses occupied Beech Ward to protest
its closure and piecemeal relocation
to the profitable sector; we passed the time debating

- perhaps 'passing' for 'we passed' ?
the merits of Back to the Future amid the odour
of urine and beds we dared not lie on.

- like the juxtaposition.

...
and a TV that fanned the flames of Brixton,

- maybe cut 'a'?
while flies feasted at an African famine.
- not sure this works that well, stretching the
notion of society to the 'global'. And what about
Toxteth and Peckham?

- The next two verses don't seem specific enough, and the final two lines of the last verse don't deliver a strong ending.
If the 'personal is political' where is the personal in the final three verses?
What I want to know (from the piece) is why is N telling this story? (Not to mention, what is the eldest doing now, or her mother)


Regards, Not



.

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Re: 1985

Post by Firebird » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:51 pm

Hi Ray,

Read this a few times now, and agree with most of what Not said. I think you need more to link these stanzas together than the year. Maybe if there was of a personal narrative continuing through right to the end it might help, rather than it pretty much finishing in stanza 5. The final three stanzas do seem a bit too abstract. I think you need to finish with something more personal to draw it all together. I don’t think ‘personal is political’ does this.

Some specific points below.

Cheers,

Tristan

Some
ray miller wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:01 pm
It was the year our eldest was expected
and emerged on a late August morning (Do you need both these lines?)
as miners were being kicked out of their pits;
her mother was cussing and blinding
as if she’d found the enemy within. (Who is this enemy inside? Her child, the miners or what was evicting them both? I suspect what was evicting them, but not sure this really works)

The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, were soon to be broken.
The suicide notes fluttered earthward; (I don’t think I understand what this suicide note is meant to be)
years later they are yet to reach the ground.

Gorbachev and Reagan were meeting in Geneva
to play stud poker with the future
and in the Roundway Hospital Social Club,
any evening of the week, dominoes tumbled
like the outposts of an evil empire.

We nurses occupied Beech Ward to protest
its closure and piecemeal relocation
to the profitable sector; we passed the time debating
the merits of Back to the Future amid the odour
of urine and beds we dared not lie on. (Nice two lines)

She gave us so little sleep I almost nodded
when Thatcher claimed there’s no such thing
as society - just men and women, family, a house
and a TV that fanned the flames of Brixton,
while flies feasted at an African famine. (I like this line, but not sure it works as an ending to this stanza. It seems tacked on)

We discovered we’d made a hole in the heavens;
from there it was one small step to seeing
that space might be a place to dig a trench in;
the defensive is always offensive
to those without their finger on the button. (the logic doesn’t work for me here. Most of us don’t have our fingers on th button, but defensive doesn’t have to be offensive, does it? Maybe I’m missing something)

Glasnost and perestroika pulled the rug
from beneath the feet of unbelievers.
Every Olga landed upon her back
and the free world feels the benefits (Did every Olga land on their back? I know it’s a joke landing on their Bach’s rather than their feet, but I don’t think it’s a funny one, or in the slightest bit true. It’s a stereotype. Or are you being ironic here? The rest of the stanza doesn’t sound like you are)
of zero hours and real time simulation.

There was this schizophrenic patient thought
the water tower harboured listening devices; (the phrasing of these two line doesn’t easily make sense to me.)
when it crumbled the loss was like a bereavement.
When I say the personal is political,
I’m not just expressing the notions of the day.(I think it could do with a stronger ending. More of a personal perspective would help to links all these stanzas to together - something more than the year)

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Re: 1985

Post by Perry » Thu Mar 05, 2020 11:26 pm

There are a lot of events referenced in this poem that I am not familiar with, so I read it as simply a historical piece which, literally, is meant to recount the events of a particular year. (Ah, to be 35 again.)

I like the tone and cadence of the language. In that respect, I don't find any awkward spots. I also like the dry wit.

You are one of those poets who doesn't "put on the style" -- i.e., you don't use stylistic gimmicks in your writing, and I want to praise that. You endeavor to be clear, and I admire that.

Over all, I think this is a good poem. I haven't tried to figure out every line, though.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

ray miller
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Re: 1985 - version 2

Post by ray miller » Fri Mar 06, 2020 1:58 pm

Thanks for the comments. I've made amendments.
Before Enoch Powell made his Rivers of Blood speech he was renowned for his Water towers speech which augured the closure of asylums and Care in the Community. "Brooded with such immense solidity" and "expressing the notions of the day" are excerpts from that speech. The speech was made early 60s but mid 80s is when the ideas came to fruition.
In the context of the American empire the defensive is always offensive, the reference is to Reagan's Star Wars project.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: 1985 - version 2

Post by David » Fri Mar 06, 2020 6:39 pm

Always a pleasure to walk a mile - or a few hundred yards, at least - in your shoes, Ray.
ray miller wrote:
Fri Mar 06, 2020 1:58 pm
Before Enoch Powell made his Rivers of Blood speech he was renowned for his Water towers speech which augured the closure of asylums and Care in the Community.
I did not know that. And would he have been a vaguely local MP for you or your family? The "notions of the day" sounds, now I know its provenance, very like himself.

Personally I think the inter-meshing of the political and personal works well. I confess, I don't understand the Olgas line.

But this line - "we’d rediscover the meaning of asylum" - is particularly good. As is the final one.

Cheers

David

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Re: 1985 - version 2

Post by NotQuiteSure » Sat Mar 07, 2020 5:19 pm

.
Hi ray,
it's an improvement, but those last three verses still seem problematic. Less than before, granted.
For me it's the 'ozone layer' verse that's weakest (would you lose much by cutting it?)

S1 - comma after 'mother'?
Everyone takes their turn as the enemy within ?

S2.
The water towers which had brooded
with such immense solidity, for a century
and more, would soon be broken:
and city streets overflow with human flotsam.
We would rediscover the meaning of asylum.
(Thanks for the Powell explanation. Helps a lot).

S3.
Gorbachev and Reagan met in Geneva
to play No-Limit Hold 'Em with the future
and in the Roundway Hospital Social Club,
any evening of the week, dominoes tumbled
like the outposts of an evil empire.
(I know 'evil' is there for the Soviet reference, but it seems weak)

S4. Could do with better punctuation, I think. (At least have a comma after 'Ward' ?)

S5. - Lot of 'ands'

S7. - Not sure about 'unbelievers'. Seems to me you've two possible groups who had the rug pulled, those who doubted the process, and those who remained convinced by their ideology. Given the 'Olgas' line, perhaps its the 'true believers' who had the rug pulled/suffered most?

S8.
how else express his feelings for the notions of the day?
Feels like it's missing a 'could he' after 'else'.

Would 'notions of the day' make a better title? (The 'day' in the last line would then return on to 'a late August morning' ... Just a thought.
You could then start
1985, the year our eldest ... ?)


Regards, Not


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Re: 1985 - version 2

Post by Firebird » Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:59 pm

Hi Ray,

It has improved and the Powell reference helped put things in context; however, the poem does depend on what I would say is a fairly obscure bit of history now. And even knowing this, the poem doesn’t add up to enough for me to really like it that much; however, you do have David in your corner, so this may just be me.

ray miller wrote:
Fri Mar 06, 2020 1:58 pm
In the context of the American empire the defensive is always offensive, the reference is to Reagan's Star Wars project.
‘the defensive is always offensive
to those without their finger on the button.’

Yes, but the specific context is ‘those without there finger on the button’ which I don’t thinks works fully.

And I also think the Olga line as I read it is verging on being a little offensive. ’So many Olgas landed upon their backs’ I think is meant to mean ’landed upon her feet’ because they were able to make their way in the ’free world’ by shagging. Or maybe I’m misinterpreting it?

Cheers,

Tristan

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Re: 1985 - version 2

Post by ray miller » Sun Mar 08, 2020 11:24 am

Thanks, fellas. I think it's a good poem. Wouldn't want to change much else.
David - By 1985 I was living in Wiltshire. Enoch Powell was originally an MP in Wolverhampton. At some point he became an MP in Northern Ireland, I think. So not local to me.
As for the Olgas line, the gist is that many Eastern European women were sexually exploited by those in the West. I wouldn't blame the victims.
Not - I think the "ozone" stanza is fine. What else can I say.
The unbelievers refers to Communists, the non-religious.
I like the suggestion of Notions of the Day as a title. Maybe.
Tristan - I don't think the poem does depend on an obscure bit of history. The Powell stuff is one aspect amongst many and not that obscure really.
The goal of the Star Wars project was to achieve American dominance in space. I don't really understand your objection.
I do say in the Olgas stanza that it's the Free World feels the benefits...
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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