Poetry Feedback – #2

This is the second poem that was submitted for feedback.  A big thank you to Mark Baron for letting me go over his villanelle.

 

I kissed her on her alabaster skin,
Where sun-sent bronze had never staked its claim,
And marveled at the joys I found therein.

She did as well, as evidenced in grin.
And as a blush spread quick throughout her frame,
I kissed her on her alabaster skin.

Her form, less hourglass, more violin,
I stroked, love’s melodies seeking to tame,
And marveled at the joys I found therein.

Though ne’er a great composer have I been,
When played on her, a symphony became;
I kissed her on her alabaster skin.

With every cobbled note I did begin,
An aria of lust from out her came,
I marveled at the joys I found therein.

And then the great crescendo of our sin,
She shuddered, and as dully grew her flame,
I kissed her on her alabaster skin,
And marveled at the joys I found therein.

– Mark Baron

 

As with the previous feedback posted, I’m going to offer up the good points and some suggestions.

The good:

A villanelle is an interesting and uncommon form of poetry.  I’ll admit that I had to look it up on Wikipedia because I had no clue how true to form this poem is.  Mark did an excellent job sticking with the format, which is tricky.   Basically, a villanelle is a very lyrical, structured form of poetry with very specific rules.  Certain lines get repeated several times and the rhyme scheme is very deliberate.  This type of poem is traced back to types of songs they used to sing in the 1700’s.

I like the musical comparisons made.  They’re consistent throughout and very effective, ‘violin’ ‘composer’, ‘symphony’, ‘note’, ‘aria’, and ‘crescendo’.  I think that plays well with the topic and form.  Describing her as a violin is a fun, playful image.

Working within a structured form is really difficult, it’s so rigid that it’s hard to be creative and original.  I think Mark did both, which is really impressive for how structured this form of poetry is.

 

Suggestions:

I’ve actually been puzzling over the best way to ‘show’ my notes on this piece.  With a poem like this  I would prefer to have a physical copy and make my notes on it so the writer can see exactly where/when/what I’m talking about.   That’s not so easy to do in a post, so I’m going to play with this a bit.

First, there were several things I was going to comment on until I looked over the definition of villanelle.

I really dislike seeing repetition of lines in poetry, it seems like a cop out.  Even just changing a phrase a little can make a repetitive theme evolve over the length of the piece.  However, the villanelle is a very structured poem with that repetition built in.

Another pet peeve of mine is when a poem has the first letter of every line capitalized.  It’s a useless gesture that, combined with bad punctuation, makes a poem less readable.  But here, again, the capitalization is part of the villanelle style.

Some of the following suggestions are going to sound nit-picky, I can’t really suggest structural changes because it’s a very specific form so I have to dig a little deeper.  Most of the notes I have written suggest changes, not because there’s anything wrong with a line, but because there might be a way to make the line more powerful.  Also, the more feedback I give the more options he has if he decides to rework the poem.

 

A.  I kissed her on her alabaster skin,                                       #1
B.  Where sun-sent bronze had never staked its claim,      #2
A.  And marveled at the joys I found therein.  

 

A.  She did as well, as evidenced in grin.
B.  And as a blush spread quick throughout her frame,     #3
A.  I kissed her on her alabaster skin.

A.  Her form, less hourglass, more violin,                               #4
B.  I stroked, love’s melodies seeking to tame,                        #5
A.  And marveled at the joys I found therein.

A.  Though ne’er a great composer have I been,
B.  When played on her, a symphony became;
A.  I kissed her on her alabaster skin.

A.  With every cobbled note I did begin,                                   #6
B.  An aria of lust from out her came,
A.  I marveled at the joys I found therein.

A.  And then the great crescendo of our sin,                           #7
B.  She shuddered, and as dully grew her flame,                   #8
A.  I kissed her on her alabaster skin,
A.  And marveled at the joys I found therein.

Key: The A/B to the left illustrates the rhyme scheme, the red and blue lines are the repeating refrains.  Numbers to the right correspond to the notes below.

#1.  The first time I read this poem I really stumbled over this line, and it gets repeated, frequently.  I kept wanting to rewrite it to “I kissed her alabaster skin.”  The second time I read through I realized that it needed the extra syllables to maintain the rhythm of the poem.  So, I get why it’s written that way, and it works in context, but (this is a purely personal opinion) I would like to see it written without the repetition of ‘her’.

#2.  It took me a minute to figure out what was bothering me about this line.  “Claim” can be used in a wide variety of ways but when something has “staked a claim” that brings to mind prospecting, 49ers, and old guys panning for gold.  Maybe I’m just weird, but all of the images and themes of this poem are really, really consistent except for that line.  The word ‘claim’ is fine and keeps to the rhyme scheme but I would rephrase the line without using ‘staked’.

There should also be an apostrophe in “it’s”.

#3.  Two quick thoughts on this line and the following one.  The word “frame” stands out to me.  I’m not sure what I would try and change it to, especially with the rhyme scheme, but when referring to a (presumably) sexy woman’s body it’s not a word I would use.  Unless she’s a bigger girl, see #4.

Then, she’s blushing but the next line is kissing her white skin.  If the repetitions weren’t so rigid I would suggest something a little sly, like “I kissed her on her once alabaster skin.”

#4.  I laughed a little at this line.  I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say, but it kind of sounds to me like this woman has a little extra cushion.  Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  Oh, she’s curvy but she’s no hourglass.  If that’s what you’re going for than you have my kudos for a clever line but if you aren’t than I would keep ‘violin’ and lose the ‘less hourglass’.

Also, the punctuation for this stanza has me a little confused.  I was going to suggest changes but anything I moved around changed the reading drastically.

#5.  If you’re stroking it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to tame the melody.  Inflame, maybe?  I also wanted to remove the comma but that seems awkward too.  Maybe “I stroked love’s melodies, seeking to tame (or inflame)”?

#6. Kind of like “staked a claim”, “cobbled” brings up weird connotations for me.  There are a lot of different ways to tweak the line that would avoid that.  I actually misread this line the first time as “gobbled”, so I was picturing his head between her legs.  If silly/sexy were the goal you could go that route but it doesn’t really fit the themes either.

#7.  I really like “crescendo” here, it fits with the musical theme, but “sin” stands out to me.  I mean, it works (and it rhymes) but everything else in the poem is kind of playful and sexy, “sin” seems like a downer in comparison.  It does give a bit of depth though, like this isn’t as playful and lighthearted as it was before, maybe it’s even a little dangerous, so if that’s what you’re going for you could leave it as is.

#8.  “Dully grew” is awkward to me.  I understand it, but something growing dully is almost… I don’t know, oxymoronic?  And “dull” is the word the sticks to me, does a flame dull?

Not sure if you noticed or not but a lot of those comments were directed at the rhyming B lines.  Probably most of that has to do with trying to fit something into a rigid rhyme scheme and having to alter words to fit the pattern.  I almost commented on the “symphony became” line too (how does a symphony become?).  Again, it’s the rhyme scheme that complicates the wording.

This is a really fun, sexy poem that made the most of a very formulaic type of poetry.  It reads almost like a song, which is where this style came from.  I could very easily see this set to music and played at an SCA event.  Add in some glasses of mead and you’ve got a party.

Another big thank you to Mark Baron for submitting this fun, interesting piece and letting me go over it here.  A villanelle is certainly a unique form that Mark demonstrated very successfully.

Hopefully there are some interesting notes here that spark some thoughts and motivate some poets to do their own constructive criticisms.  As I said before, I think constructive criticism is the driving force behind writers improving their skills.  That feedback doesn’t have to be public like this which is why I’m so thankful to the two poets who volunteered their work.

Advertisements

One thought on “Poetry Feedback – #2

  1. First off, thank you so much for doing this, Johnny. If there is one thing that I can’t stress enough to other writers, it’s the value and power of a good critique. I actually wrote a pair of blog posts a while back on this very subject – for those interested, they are under the “On Writing” portion of my site. Like I said there, a person who critiques your work should not be looked as like a butcher tearing apart your meaty verse with mirthless abandon. They are instead the surgeon, trying to help you get better at what you do. So, let me delve into Dr. Johnny Id’s critique! 🙂
    #1. An excellent suggestion. You correctly surmised that the extra her was in there in order to keep faith with the iambic pentameter dictated by the poem’s style, but perhaps changing the second her to something else would work better. I will have to gnaw on that one a bit and see what I come up with.
    #2. Another excellent suggestion. Perhaps, “Where sun-sent bronze was never given claim”?
    #3. I used the word frame for a number of reasons – one, it definitely fit the rhyme scheme. Two, I wanted to continue the imagery of her as a musical instrument, whose forms are built of frames. And three…see number four. As to the last, I actually like the change – but alas, rigidity is one of the absolute demands of the villanelle. Other forms let you play with the wording a bit during the repetitions, but it is adherence that makes the form. Otherwise, this is a fantastic suggestion and I love it.
    #4. I applaud you, sir. Your powers of observation are amazing – yes, the girl in question, the inspiration for this piece, was a bit on the heavier side. Still amazingly sexy, curvy, and wild. But definitely more violin. 😉
    #5. I like inflame…I’ll have to monkey with the meter though and see if I can make it work.
    #6. So here is where I admit that I didn’t choose every word in this poem. It was written as part of a poetry challenge, and the requirement of the challenge was to use three words, chosen at random by a generator. It came up with alabaster, symphony, and cobbled. I did the best I could with it! 😉
    #7. Again, your insight is amazing. Sin was *definitely* deliberate. Said curvy girl that I was wooing at the time was very, very spiritual, in the good ole’ Southern Baptist tradition. And relations before marriage? For shame! And yet, the thought of it, of the sinfulness, completely turned her crank. Go figure. 😉
    #8. You are completely right. And on reading that, I realize that “dimmer” would work SO much better here. “She shuddered, and as dimmer waned her flame” accomplished the same thing without losing meter or being oxymoronic.
    Again, thank you Johnny! I hope my comments here lend a bit more insight into the process!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s