Monday, January 21, 2013

Open Editing #1

So this is my attempt to live out courage in writing. This poem is very much at an in-between stage, I haven't even begun to look at arranging the lines - visually, but feel free to suggest anything. I've changed everything so many times that I really don't know what exactly needs improvement. But I do feel sort of an unfinished, dissatisfaction with it..maybe it just tries too hard..any thoughts??

sing the demons.
        “Sleep close, soft dreams -
the winter moon’s rising,
         a dead air drowns the night.
The time has come for dreaming.

Don’t wait; don’t cling
         to beads and lose
the chance to see ahead.
         Cover the Icons,
put out their lights -
          close the way for them.

With bread and cream at table, smoke and sweat -
          bodies tangled. Lie still while we
and the dead come calling
           to dance along your palm in moonlight;
and sing tomorrow’s song.


  1. Wow! This is beautiful! I think of poetry not in terms of editing, but of freely flowing ideas set to the rhythm of our hearts. There is a peaceful tempo to this poem, with passion interspersed.

    1. Thanks Anonymous! I'm thrilled you liked it! And thanks of responding. Waiting for the first response is always rough.

  2. Hmmm,

    Preliminary impression is that I think you're right; it tries too hard. Maybe it's the way you explicitly describe them as 'the demons' or have them advise you to 'cover the icons,' but it feels a little too on-the-nose to me.

    I'm guessing you're trying to capture the feel of an actual moment temptation, right? In that case, I would pull back a little; make it more ambiguous who is talking and what they're referring to (i.e. 'demons' could be replaced with 'spirits,' 'icons' with 'pictures,' etc.). For instance, I thought the line about 'don't cling to beads' was exactly the right note.

    I do love the imagery here, though; it's effectively haunting and dream-like.

    1. BTanaka,

      Thanks! I really appreciate your criticism..I'm half agreeing on the 'demon' change, but Icons are exactly synonymous with 'pictures' and the idea is to convey that these are images who are present, and if uncovered, able to thwart the magic taking place..If that helps with suggestions.

      I'm not exactly going for a moment of 'temptation' so much as the absorption of a moment, a time like St. Andrew's Eve, or St. John's Eve, when the ability to see the future sort of falls out on the unprotected..If that makes sense.

      I'm definitely going to play with your suggestions though, if I can find another word for the Icons. Thanks so much!

    2. Oops.."Icons AREN'T exactly synonymous with pictures" is what that should say.

  3. Nice... only a little forced I think. I like the second line, it gives the poem layers, but the word demons is a bit forceful (as you've already said) and might be better worded "voices", or something similarly ambiguous, ominous, and ultimately more threatening. (Does that line also demand a closing quotation mark at the end of the poem or am I missing something?)
    On the fourth line I would drop the "'s" at the end of "moon" but aside from that I love that stanza. It feels very Tolkien in rhythm.
    The middle section might do well under similar treatment of pulling back, Icons are essentially windows into heaven, covering them would be closing off their way of approach so maybe from that direction instead, assuming more knowledge on the part of the reader.
    The last stanza I wouldn't change.
    (And congratulations on spelling "lose" right ;))
    -The Neglected Husband

  4. This is where my ignorance of poetic structure really gets me into trouble; free verse is a society with rules I know not. But two things:

    1) You have some lovely images in here, lovely lines. "The winter moon's rising", "don't cling to beads" and "Cover the icons", and "the dead come calling/to dance across your palm in moonlight" are particularly striking.

    2) I'm going to agree with everyone else on the word 'demons'. It immediately makes the reader feel as if what's going on is undiluted evil, instead of letting the creepy side build through the rest of the poem.

    Also, I'm not sure what "bodies tangled" refers to. It sounds sexual, which doesn't quite seem to fit with the other images. But I love the "bread and cream at table" and the whole eerie feel of the thing. :)

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Funny about that line (bodies tangled)..I was thinking of people but not in a sexual way - though I liked the ambiguity of the phrase - I was imagining them tangling as barn-cats do on stormy nights, for comfort and warmth, with all their cat legs and tails entwined (cats are so bendy!). So I pictured a pile of cats sleeping in a hay filled corner, and a couple, or few people - friends, siblings, married (it didn't really matter) tangled as well against the chill and fear of the night.

      What do you think in that context?? Does it come over?

      I generally write free verse, and I know what you mean, the rules are intuitive, I think, and I get them wrong often enough.. You (and everyone else) are dead on with demons, especially as, while I was thinking of them as demonic, I couldn't quite see them as "undiluted evil"..but more as devils seem to be in Russian folk-tales, greedy, wretched and almost fairy-like in amorality, not exactly theologically accurate,eh? :)

      Thanks so much for your comments, they really helped me see what exactly I was going for in the "bodies tangled" sections especially!

    2. Well, I love the image you're thinking of! In this culture, I think "bodies tangled" without further definition is just going to read as sexual, full stop. But you could work with it. "Sleepers tangled"--brainstorming here--seems a tad more ambiguous. "Bodies huddled" or "Bodies huddle, tangled"... again, brainstorming for example's sake, not to tell you what to do, but to suggest possible directions if you want to clarify that image.

      Or you could just leave it and take the inference. After all, your husband liked the last stanza unchanged. :)

    3. He did, but I don't know that he thought anything sexual of the 'bodies tangled" line, so he may change his mind..hmmm..Good thoughts.

  5. WOW. This moment--I'm familiar with it somehow, though I don't remember a particular instance. Something I can remember, though, is the moment my fingers trace over the tarot packs in the bookstore. The inner dialogue goes something like, "Should I? I wouldn't use them. Just for the pictures. And if I did use them, I wouldn't believe them. It'd just be for fun, for pretend. No! That's what they want."

    This is undoubtedly a lullaby, which is great. Meant to lull the listener, the reader, into a false sense of security, to lose the hold on the beads.

    I've been advised to only us past tenses unless absolutely necessary. "The winter moon rises" vs. "The winter moon's rising" makes me feel the immediacy of this passing moment. "It is rising" could go on for a while. "It rises" gives me a sense of an increasing pace and matches the following line.

    Right. Demons they are, but they wouldn't want to reveal themselves right away. Spirits, voices, shades . . . you'll find the right one.

    I think the distinction of icons is necessary. Pictures aren't the same thing at all. Maybe you could use a pseudonym for icons. Like, "the holy eyes in their gilded frames" or something like that? (I tend toward wordiness, you'll probably find something more succinct.) You might go into detail about how the demons want the listener to cover them. Turn them away so they can't see? Cast a shawl over them? You've got "put out the lights," which is just right.

    "Sweat-bodies tangled" did sound sexual, a really nice image, but I have a feeling that's not what you meant. "Sweat-bodies sheet-tangled" maybe? I picture fitful sleepers.

    I encourage you to push the rhythm toward even more of a lullaby. Highlight with repetition and doubling words. For instance, consider how "and the dead come calling, lolling" or something similar would sound. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But I think it might make it feel even more prim and sinister.

    Sorry for taking so long to reply, I hope putting this out there wasn't too nerve-wracking for you! You needn't be nervous, anyway. From where you are as a poet, you can only get stronger.

  6. Thanks Christie~

    Oh, tarot cards..I got asked to do a reading recently, I haven't touched them in years, but there is always that tiny tug, isn't there..

    I was actually going to title it something along the 'lullaby' line, but I didn't want to force the image if it wasn't there..I like your thoughts on tense..a lot. I'm leaning toward 'Windows' capitalized, for Icons..thoughts? But images of the process might be helpful..

    See above for thoughts on 'bodies tangled'..but for added ambiguity, I'm getting uncertain leanings toward the semi-sexual undertones, as a desire to know the faithfulness or lack-thereof of a lover seems like such a pull toward divination..still an undertone to the non-sexual, cat-like tangle of limbs..but, what do you think??

    Definitely going to play with the lullaby rhythm..and thanks! These are getting easier all the time! And really forcing me to edit-to-a-deadline..You and Jenna can expect some rougher, less blog-ready poems this week, I'm almost done with them. :)

  7. If you use Windows for Icons, I think it would benefit from a descriptive adjective. Something to distinguish it from ordinary windows. For someone who isn't familiar with you or our beliefs, the capitalized Window may not be clear (uh, no pun intended!).

    "tangling as barn-cats do on stormy nights"

    I think you might have your image here. So far, you have no metaphors or similes. One powerful one like the above, strategically placed, will really impact.

    Consider "sweat-bodies tangled like barn cats," or what you will.

    What I'm getting from the phrase as is: that the bread and cream are, at this moment, on the table, so that the bodies-tangled is something present as well, I assume in the sleepers. Perhaps I read that wrong. Could the demons be suggesting to the listener to leave bread and cream on the table, as a sort of divination? If the line read: "Place bread and cream on table, see smoke and sweat-bodies. . ." then it might be made more clear that these objects are not yet realities and are supposed to be in tension with the window-icons and their lights. Then the sexual undertones of "sweat-bodies tangled" would make more sense.

    As I hope I am. Question me if I'm not clear on any of the above. ^-^

    1. I'm not sure I care much about clarity regarding Icons - I feel like the idea of blocking sight, even if the further meaning - blocking the sight of the Saints, is missed, would still be sufficient, and windows would at least indicate the hidden-ness of the night's work..

      The bread and cream are on the table, but no less an offering, they welcome in the voices, and the dead, but I like, like, LIKE the idea of making the bodies future, as something to be seen, I have to think about were to go from here fro a bit, I think.

  8. I realize as I'm reading over my above comment that I use the word "clear" an awful lot. Clarity isn't a necessity for a strong poem, but in this instance, I think you want the reader to have an idea of what is going on, am I right?

    1. Clarity isn't necessary, but I don't want to completely obscure, but I do, I think want to put out somethings of the tangled mind within the moment..sort of hazy and dreamlike.

      Sorry I took so long to come back! The flu pretty much wiped me out completely. :p