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Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Friday, April 18, 2008

Poetry For The Ages


Hello. I decided to pursue my dream and be a poet, and I'm posting a poem I wrote. I think it has the potential to be published in a literary journal. I'd appreciate some feedback. What do you think, really? Be honest.

"Scatology"

The dinner from the night before
Was dammed up in his gut.
It pressed against the flume
And so he ran into the room
That had the temple of Charybdis,
Bolted to the floor.
He dropped his pants
And turned about,
Then settled down
Upon the porcelain throne;
Relaxing the retention,
Opening the sluice,
Deflating to allow the exodus
.

36 Comments:

Blogger berty said...

Sorry, but this poem needs a more rigid metric scaffold. Try something along the lines of an iambic pentameter.

Now as to the subject...

I loved the allusion to Charybdis, but my protagonist would have had to "pass" Scylla and engage both nereids.

For apple pie w/o cheese is like a kiss w/o a squeeze!

btw - The title also creates a bit of a caca-phony of ages. Perhaps something along the lines of an Augean or Olympian labour of Heracles... also the mixture of modern 'dinners', 'bolts', 'pants', 'sluices' w/ancient concepts grates upon this reader's sensibilities. Certainly Zeus would object to the allusion that his bolts were responsible for affixing the location of Charybdis' temple.

...and the very last line might be more than vaguely anti-semitic.

Now I'm sure there's much, much more wrong with this poem... but I've been told that my critical judgement might be somewhat questionable amongst the contemporary chattering classes.

8:26 AM  
Blogger berty said...

Oh, poetry for THESE Ages. I get it, now.

If you'd like, I can submit it for a National Book Critics Circle Award?

8:30 AM  
Blogger berty said...

After all, Troy Jollimore received their award last year, and this is today's featured poem at his site...

Mowing

Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.—classic Zen poem from the Zenrin Kushu


I’m no Buddhist, but I know enough of lawns
to say the grass grows by itself even
when I’m not sitting quietly. Take now,
for example: I’m in a terrible mood, full
of so much desire and April cruelty
I could wash away the four noble truths,
and, almost as I mow, the new growth
pushes against my chloroplasted shoes.
Even as a child visiting Virginia,
I gazed down picnic-perfect battlefields
and guessed that before the last cannonballs
burst and the last dying soldiers cried
their mothers’ names into the air, the grass
was already swarming back up the bloody hills,
as it now goes about its green business
with entrepreneurial zeal, cracking sidewalks
and dishevelling my brick patio.
And when my daughter swings in our back yard,
crying, “Watch me, Daddy! Look how high!”
I look up from the mower as she launches
into the leafy arms of the trees, the whole
swingset heaving, then swoops back down again,
her bare feet riffling over the blades,
grass I scattered with my own two fists,
and I know—sitting, standing, quiet or not—
that as she grows there’s nothing I can do.


Richard Newman

8:41 AM  
Blogger John said...

"Sorry, but this poem needs a more rigid metric scaffold. Try something along the lines of an iambic pentameter."

Hmm. I think free verse is more conducive to the unrestrained subject matter than blank is; but that's a subjective call dependent on the rigidity of continence.

"Now as to the subject...

I loved the allusion to Charybdis, but my protagonist would have had to 'pass' Scylla and engage both nereids."

I think its implied that he did, it's just that some things--especially in this context-- are best left unsaid.

"For apple pie w/o cheese is like a kiss w/o a squeeze!"

You've got my attention. Keep talkin.'

"btw - The title also creates a bit of a caca-phony of ages."

Exactly. Thematic consistency is important, top-to-bottom (no pun intended).

"Perhaps something along the lines of an Augean or Olympian labour of Heracles..."

That's in Part II, when the protagonist flushes.

"...also the mixture of modern 'dinners', 'bolts', 'pants','sluices' w/ancient concepts grates upon this reader's sensibilities."

Ah, success!

"Certainly Zeus would object to the allusion that his bolts were responsible for affixing the location of Charybdis' temple."

Don't blame me. Blame Hephaestos.

"...and the very last line might be more than vaguely anti-semitic."

Only to the hyper-sensitive. It's in lower case.

"Now I'm sure there's much, much more wrong with this poem... but I've been told that my critical judgement might be somewhat questionable amongst the contemporary chattering classes."

No one here but us elitists. Out with it.

"Oh, poetry for THESE Ages. I get it, now."

Finally.

"If you'd like, I can submit it for a National Book Critics Circle Award?"

Tough crowd. Perhaps this does call for blank verse...

9:14 AM  
Blogger John said...

Berty, that's a beautiful poem.

Back to the drawing board...

9:24 AM  
Blogger berty said...

Hmm. I think free verse is more conducive to the unrestrained subject matter than blank is; but that's a subjective call dependent on the rigidity of continence.

The rigidity of continence may also be heavily influenced by both the subject's diet and/or author's regular use or abuse of prescription laxatives.

I think its implied that he did, it's just that some things--especially in this context-- are best left unsaid.

"..."

You've got my attention. Keep talkin.'

"..."

Exactly. Thematic consistency is important, top-to-bottom (no pun intended).

Plimsoll to keelson? Starboard to larboard? Bowsprite to transom? Fore to aft? Midships to gunwale? Centerboard to crows nest? And I thought you'd argue hard for thematic inconsistency...

That's in Part II, when the protagonist flushes..

Don't do that, go for the angst poetry equivalent of the Emmy... or at least its' People's Choice Award knock-off. You're on a roll with a HOT STEAMING PILE of POSTMODERN SUBJECT MATTER here! So, Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop! Don't... stop. Don't stop! DON'T STOP!!!

Ah, success!

Not yet. No one's plagiarized it yet! Besides, the dew's barely gilding the lily, here. Now hop to it, start talking dirty to me again...

Don't blame me. Blame Hephaestos.

Why, didn't he use the nickle-plated nuts on those adamantine bolts like Zeus told him too? I'd send Kratos and Bias to watch him install those things next time... or at least have an inspector sign-off on his work.

Only to the hyper-sensitive. It's in lower case.

Well then tie my spring line to a niggerhead and tell me some more!

No one here but us elitists. Out with it.

Fine, it sux, dude!

Finally.

Not quite.

Tough crowd. Perhaps this does call for blank verse...

If Dryden and Pope could rhyme it, why can't you? Slacker!

True wit is nature to advantage dress’d;
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.
--Pope

11:54 AM  
Blogger nanc said...

dear lawd, john!

we don't want to know about when you go to to the loo! you could just sing it to us:

loo

loo

skip to the loo!

um, berty-girl?

are you out looking for a sugardaddy? again?

bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha!

*8]

12:50 PM  
Blogger Phelonius said...

I am not going to submit poetry. Even when I try to write good poems they qualify as terrible. In fact, some people tell me that my prose is not far behind that......

3:38 PM  
Blogger berty said...

nanc,

Aren't we all?

And don't worry john, if I were a gold digger I would have cashed in long ago... ;)

3:47 PM  
Blogger John said...

"The rigidity of continence may also be heavily influenced by both the subject's diet and/or author's regular use or abuse of prescription laxatives."

Indeed, which may call for a dactyl or two, but I don't want to constipate the poem's fluidity.

"Plimsoll to keelson? Starboard to larboard? Bowsprite to transom? Fore to aft? Midships to gunwale? Centerboard to crows nest? And I thought you'd argue hard for thematic inconsistency..."

Don't forget galley to poop deck.

RE Part II, "The Flushing":

"Don't do that, go for the angst poetry equivalent of the Emmy... or at least its' People's Choice Award knock-off."

Television toilet-humor is not only too crass for my elevated tastes (thank you very much), but is the target of what is actually a veiled, cultural polemic that means to ennoble the public discourse.

Using Charybdis as a metaphor for the flushing toilet in Part II while waiting to see if any detritus will come back up after the whirlpool subsides would evoke the wily Odysseus perched in the tree doing same. It would add dignity, and be conducive to that cause, don't you think?

Likewise using the metaphor of Heracles cleaning the stables. Linking by metaphor the motions and apparatus of a mechanical behavior dictated by mindless biology (i.e. defecation) with the mindful values of heroism and ingenuity (as exemplified by Heracles in his battle against mountains of manure) can be beneficial to a culture which has excrementous mountains of its own piling up and no one seems to have the ingenuity or heroism required to flush it.

"You're on a roll with a HOT STEAMING PILE of POSTMODERN SUBJECT MATTER here!"

You're a perceptive young woman, but consider the poetic intent of having that matter properly submerged in cold water, not to douse and temper it like glowing iron, but to drown it.

The poem "Scatology" is, in fact (well, not really, but...) a metaphorical statement on an increasingly immature, potty-mouthed culture which has obviously been arrested at the infantile anal stage of development (as diagrammed by Freud), and shrewdly uses the bathroom setting and subject of defecation as a weapon of fire to fight that fire.

"The dinner from the night before (that) was dammed up in his gut" represents the accumulated cultural garbage that the protagonist had been spoonfed day in, day out until he was finally overcome by an overpowering need for an evicting catharsis (we all have our limits, despite varying degrees of individual voracity).

The societal filth had permeated his very being and had to be flushed out of his system in order for him to feed his renewed mind and soul with the finer arts of the birds and the bees (and don't you think that the rather sudden endangered species status of many birds and the reported disappearance of entire colonies of bees might be a sign that our attentions and priorities are out of whack?).

I'm disappointed that you missed all that.

"So, Don't. Stop. Don't. Stop! Don't... stop. Don't stop! DON'T STOP!!!"

Stop it. You're turning me on (ironically, I guess).

"Ah, success!"

"Not yet. No one's plagiarized it yet! Besides, the dew's barely gilding the lily, here. Now hop to it, start talking dirty to me again..."

Okay. Speaking of dew gilding the lily (if ya know what I mean)...

"Don't blame me. Blame Hephaestos."

"Why, didn't he use the nickle-plated nuts on those adamantine bolts like Zeus told him too?"

He wanted to, but he got distracted because Ares was screwing his own bronze-plated nuts on his wife Aphrodite.

"I'd send Kratos and Bias to watch him install those things next time... or at least have an inspector sign-off on his work."

Poor Hephaestos. They work that poor god to the bone. He should form a labor union to get more coffeee breaks and vacation time.

Unfortunately, it'd be a one-man union, because he's the only god up there who does any real work.

"Well then tie my spring line to a niggerhead and tell me some more!"

You know, you're really beginning to find the chinks in my armor (quality has suffered with all the outsourcing of manufacturing).

"Fine, it sux, dude!"

Bummer.

"I get it now."

"Finally."

"Not quite."

Keep working on it. I think you're getting close to getting exactly what you need.

"Tough crowd. Perhaps this does call for blank verse..."

"If Dryden and Pope could rhyme it, why can't you? Slacker!"

RHYMING blank verse?

What do you want, a sonnet?

"True wit is nature to advantage dress’d;
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d." --Pope

Right.

Witlessness can't find the words and arrange them in a way so as to clearly--and pleasantly--transmit what the speaker knows he wants to say.

No, wait, I mean:

The witless are at a loss of words when trying to get a point across that they wordlessly comprehend.

I mean:

The witless know what they want to say, but can't find the right words and their aesthetic arrangement to say it.

No, better yet...

Aw, fergit it.

12:59 AM  
Blogger John said...

"I am not going to submit poetry. Even when I try to write good poems they qualify as terrible."

Don't worry about it. Terribleness is de rigeur for this forum.

1:02 AM  
Blogger John said...

dear lawd, john!"

Just "John" will suffice. But thank you for the honorific title.

"we don't want to know about when you go to to the loo! you could just sing it to us:

loo

loo

skip to the loo!"

That's a little too blithe for a brooding soul like me.

How about:

"Riders on the storm..."

"um, berty-girl?

are you out looking for a sugardaddy? again?

bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha!"

Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Whoa, waitasec...

1:03 AM  
Blogger John said...

"nanc,

Aren't we all?"

M-hm. Just as I suspected all along. I'm onto you (that's ALL of you), oh yes.

"And don't worry john, if I were a gold digger I would have cashed in long ago... ;)"

I believe it. I'm sure you've had your fair share of high rollers courting you.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Seems I was out of it today. I come back and find a whole discussion going on.

Your poem, John, is humorous in its subject, but I couldn't figure out the rhythm. I do think it is quite funny.

Oh, I read down to some of the comments...

"Hmm. I think free verse is more conducive to the unrestrained subject matter than blank is; but that's a subjective call dependent on the rigidity of continence."

I must admit there is something to be said for free flowing verse...oh I mean..what did I mean??

I am not much of a poet, but I am married to a poet who likes to program computers. Sometimes things like this come out of his head, too. At any rate, I am a bit spoilt by the quality that comes out of his head.

Phelonius: "I am not going to submit poetry. Even when I try to write good poems they qualify as terrible. In fact, some people tell me that my prose is not far behind that......"

Now, how are we supposed to know how good or bad you are if we can't see them.

BTW. James..you actually aren't too bad on the prose. I can recall reading a couple good stories from you.

1:36 AM  
Blogger John said...

"Your poem, John, is humorous in its subject, but I couldn't figure out the rhythm. I do think it is quite funny."

You're not shitting me, are ya Kell?

6:10 AM  
Blogger nanc said...

my husband says that's a very sh*tty poem...

*;]

6:33 AM  
Blogger John said...

No argument there, but I'm pleased to point out that after devoting an entire post to a poem about defecation, the word "shit" finally appeared after 14 comments (initiated by me, and censored by you), which proves not only how unneccessary vulgarity is to communicate anything except vulgarity for vulgarity's sake (except when used in a humorous context as I used it with Kelly), but also the erudition, good character, and simple decency of the contributing guests that come here, and I'm happy about that.

...and is (among other things) what separates the right wing blogs from the left-wing ones.

I'm far from a Boy Scout or paragon of virtue myself, and can have--and have used-- the fluency of a sailor, but nevertheless I appreciate the basic respect all of you have for the English language, your innate but evident senses of decency, and your mature senses of humor which can nevertheless appreciate a little sauciness from time to time (even when I push the envelope and pour it on thick).

Thanks for coming.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

With apologies to Alexander Pope above and Dr. Sigmund Freud's conclusions relative to comedy (abstract, "Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious", 1905)...

The pleasure in jokes arises from an economy in expenditure (by the listener) upon inhibition, the pleasure in the comic from an economy in expenditure upon ideation (upon cathexis) and the pleasure in humor from an economy in expenditure upon feeling.

It seems that the reason most post-moderns can no longer write is that in doing so they measure and minimize their own conscious psychic and cathetic expenditures.

In other words, their writing is not only "economically" written with a minimal conscious psychic and cathetic investment by authors, but also for an audience that idealizes the same minimal expenditures...

May all hack writers burn in Grub Street's Heck, and be spooned regularly by Phil, Prince of Insufficient Light!

Energy (in) = Energy (out)!!!

Therefore, very little pleasure can be obtained from works written on New Grub Street... as the writers there all hate us... and we seldom, anymore, write for ourselves.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Therefore, it must also be with tongue in cheek that John proclaims for his post-modern poem a caption under "Poetry For The Ages", as it is most certainly a monster trapped (fortunately) in this, our post-modern age.

And if not, may I one day turn fireman and burn all F.I.G.s... (and not merely my own)!

May we always write for ourselves and NEVER for others. For only by doing so will there ever be poetry suitable for the ages... ;-)

11:41 AM  
Blogger Z said...

"blank verse"
Ya, I think it ought to stay blank!! :-)

1:16 PM  
Blogger Z said...

i love the photo, by the way. Ever tried photography, John? !!!

1:35 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

<"No argument there, but I'm pleased to point out that after devoting an entire post to a poem about defecation, the word "sh**" finally appeared after 14 comments (initiated by me, and censored by you), which proves not only how unneccessary vulgarity is to communicate anything except vulgarity for vulgarity's sake (except when used in a humorous context as I used it with Kelly), but also the erudition, good character, and simple decency of the contributing guests that come here, and I'm happy about that."

I am glad to see that Nanc had the decency to edit your choice of words. Honestly, I didn't know how to respond to your question.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Next! Steps down...

2:51 PM  
Blogger Alice Gorable said...

Meow!

2:57 PM  
Blogger nanc said...

john - it's like i always say, for every foul word one can use - there are easily five hundred other equally effective nonfoul words!

that was the first time i've heard my husband say that word in quite a few years and he was laughing when he said it! i'm pretty sure it left a bad taste in his mouth - pardon the pun...

8:53 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Nanc, I quite agree.

9:04 PM  
Blogger John said...

FJ said:

"It seems that the reason most post-moderns can no longer write is that in doing so they measure and minimize their own conscious psychic and cathetic expenditures.

In other words, their writing is not only 'economically' written with a minimal conscious psychic and cathetic investment by authors, but also for an audience that idealizes the same minimal expenditures..."

Are you suggesting, FJ,that despite claims to free-spirited open-mindedness, the post-modernists are actually uptight, to a neurotic degree?

Say it ain't so!

"May we always write for ourselves and NEVER for others. For only by doing so will there ever be poetry suitable for the ages... ;-)"

Yeah, but look what happened to Gissing's Reardon in *New Grub Street*:

For all his integrity, he died a failure in ill health and his wife ended up marrying the rival who made his mark writing for others.

I wonder if that influenced Ayn Rand any. Her protagonist in *Atlas Shrugged* was named Hank Reardon, and his--and especially *The Fountainhead's* protagonist Howard Roark--seem similiar to Gissing's Reardon (by the integrity towards their respective art and contempt for "popular opinion", except that they get redeemed and triumph at the end, but not before Roark likewise lses his love interest to his crowd-pleasing rival, who marries her).

Z said:

"i love the photo, by the way. Ever tried photography, John? !!!"

Thanks Z--but I didn't take it.

Nice old picture of Paris on your home page, btw.

What do you mean by "try photography?"

If you mean have I spent entire days trekking across places taking pictures that I would end up framing and hanging and filling entire picture albums with, yeah.

But in that case, who isn't?

Maybe I'll post a few here.

Kelly said:

"I am glad to see that Nanc had the decency to edit your choice of words. Honestly, I didn't know how to respond to your question."

I was just kidding Kelly, but I'm not going to censor myself so as not to offend anyone, capice?

FJ said:

"'Next!' Steps down..."

That soapbox has your name on it. Come again.

Alce said:

"Meow!"

Meow. :) That's a cute tabby, Alice, yours? And is the pose in the pic what he/or she did after reading the poem?

Nanc said:

"john - it's like i always say, for every foul word one can use - there are easily five hundred other equally effective nonfoul words!"

Agreed, but don't comedian George Carlin's seven words have their legitimate place in the English lexicon, and animate dialects and effectively tone conversation in ways polite language cannot?

Aren't their times when saying certain words you don't usually hear in boardrooms or church or other formal settings apropos?

Would the language--and society-- be better or worse off if everyone stopped swearing?

Would humanity be diminished, or a step closer to perfection?

George Carlin had an interesting (and explicit) comedy routine where he discusses some of that. He says there's nothing wrong with highly-charged words in and of themselves, but that it depends upon the conntexts they're used in, and the intent of the speaker.

He says "They're just words" (which I disagree with; they're a lot more than "just" words).

8:44 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

"I was just kidding Kelly, but I'm not going to censor myself so as not to offend anyone, capice?"

I wasn't offended...I just didn't know how to respond to it. I had no idea what your meaning was. I was trying to figure out if you were upset that I had said I couldn't get the rythm of your poem or if you were just trying to make a joke (that I didn't get) or what you were trying to say to me. But I see that you really wanted that word to show up some how. The humor was lost on me...ok?

But I agreed with Nanc.

btw...I don't watch George Carlin and I don't think he is funny.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Make up your mind John, do you want to write poetry for the ages, or poetry for THIS age? If you want to make a buck, then by all means, write for this age. But if you want to be read two hundred years in the future... then perhaps you should be willing to sacrifice a little silver for a shot at immortality.

10:55 AM  
Blogger John said...

Don't forget Door #3: Despite years of scribbling, neither silver nor immortality. I suspect there's a lot of people out there like that (even though I can't give you an example because I never heard of them, and never will).

I do believe, however, that--in a moral universe, anyway (I saw *Expelled* last night--check it out) hard work and/or real talent gets rewarded/recognized, sooner or later.

But...necessarily?

11:20 AM  
Blogger nanc said...

go for immortality, john - ala farmer's comment.

we saw "expelled" also on its opening day - i did a review here - i'd appreciate your take on my take - you may leave it here or there if you'd like.

*8]

6:33 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

(even though I can't give you an example because I never heard of them, and never will)

the ancient writers didn't work... they were born into money and some invested that leisure profitably for the betterment of humanity.

Nietzsche did NOT make a living from his writing. He was fortunate enough to get a disability-pension and lived off it. He wrote for a man 100 years in the future (me).

Euripides wrote for one man. Socrates. There was no one else in Athens who's opinion mattered to him.

Dante wrote for Beatrice. Petrarch for Laura. Every crazed Quixote needs his Dulcinea.

...and you must love her with all your heart and soul.

Don't expect her to go out and prostitute herself for you. Love her. Truly love her. And write... for Sophy.

And until it's uniquely worthy of her, burn you offerings so that she might read them and inspire you to attain a higher level.

6:41 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

...and if you should become barren yourself, do what you can to aid those who are still pregnant of mind, and help them to deliver.

That's my approach,for what its' worth.

6:44 AM  
Blogger John said...

It's worth plenty. And you have an uncanny knack for getting to the quintessence of the matter. Thank you.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

My pleasure.

11:03 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

ps - In fact, it's so much of a pleasure, you'll probably have to say, "Uncle!" to get me to leave. ;-)

2:16 PM  

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