February 17, 2006

Friday Poetry Workshop

For Friday poetry blogging, I am once again posting a poem that I am working on, a poem I would like feedback on. (Well, if blogger cooperates, that is. I’ve had a hard time leaving blogger comments this week. Go clear out your cookies if blogger is giving you attitude. Sometimes that works.)

Please don’t feel you have to know anything about poetry to leave a comment. You can just tell me what parts you like and what parts you don’t like. You can tell me simply, yes or no, keep the poem or cut it in favor of a better poem. You can tell me what you think the poem means. You can tell me if parts of the poem confused you. You don’t have to worry about hurting my feelings – after all, I am deliberately choosing a poem that I think needs work, a poem I am thinking about dropping from the manuscript. And the manuscript is too long so I am going to have to cut some poems eventually.

If you would like the context, the manuscript is all poems about the body, all written from the perspective of one woman. This section of the manuscript is about daydreams.



Mirror: Shivering, I wriggle
out of jeans.

Hair: The tangled smell of woodsmoke
rises against shower steam.

Song: Your dream self lingers
along the curve of my belly.

Words: Fingers crawl
across guitar neck and strings.

Roots: Roasted with oil and garlic,
chewed softly and swallowed.

Brush: Bold wings of colour
spread across canvas.

Neck: The rim where spirit
collides with echo.

Touch: When you brush against me
seeds fall from my skin.

Map: Surfaces of you
I have not yet explored.



halloweenlover said...

Unusual, and I like it.

How about for this one:

Roots: Roasted with oil and garlic,
chewed softly and SAVORED.

I feel like it fits more with the imagery.

I don't particularly like the seeds falling from skin. For some reason, it jarred me out of the poem.

I've never read anything like this, though, I'm intrigued.

trillwing said...

Ooh, I really like the stanza that begins with "roots" and I love the image "seeds fall from my skin." The tangible nature of that is wonderful. Plus it makes me wonder what kind of seeds. . . How big are they? What is their texture? What color? Against what color/texture of skin?

I think the form of the poem works well, its minimalism. However, there are a few images that strike me as a bit overused or vague, especially "surfaces of you I have not yet explored" and "along the curve of my belly." Can you make these more evocative, to make them specific to this woman? What has she noticed about her particular body and her partner's body besides "surfaces" or "curves"? What kind of curves?

I definitely think the poem is worth reworking and including in your collection.

Anonymous said...

I like it.


negativecapability said...

This is my favorite bit:
"The tangled smell of woodsmoke
rises against shower steam." - the combinations of sounds is perfect (to my ears it least - it is what I love about Coleridge - great repetition of sounds without too much overt alliteration).

"your dream self lingers" seems to me the weakest image - I think because "dream self" seems slightly cliche against the rest of the imagery, which is more concrete and visceral. I want to see/feel/hear what "lingers along the curve" of that belly!

By the way, do you have a copy of the writing you read/spoke about at the conference last fall? I've been meaning to ask if I can see it, since I wasn't able to attend. Since out of who knows how many panels ours had to be at the same time.

DaniGirl said...

I will be brave and comment. I've been watching Friday poetry with quiet intimidation. I have a hard time with poetry, and have always assumed it was for bigger brains than mine. But I like this one a lot, and I find the style very accessible.

I agree that the word 'savoured' would be a good substitution for swallowed, and why is it chewed softly? Also, while I love the line "the rim where spirit collides with echo", to me that would be the lips rather than the neck, especially since you have neck above with the guitar neck reference.

Hope these comments aren't overly jejune...

Anonymous said...

I really like the first two stanzas. Not sure why "your dream self" is lingering in third stanza--that would seem to make more sense for a morning shower. I like the idea of music and food that follows, but I don't like the word "swallowed". The "brush" stanza doesn't add anything for me. I like the "neck" stanza a lot. I'm confused by the seeds on her skin (didn't she just take a shower) but I really like the image of it.

Mona Buonanotte said...

I flat-out LOVE the word 'belly'.

I totally got the imagery of the seeds too (BTW, the seeds that fall from my body when touched are like buds of wheat).

The mirror image with the jeans didn't resonate with me, I don't know why. Loved 'shivering' tho.

This is a very sexy poem, jo(e)!

Friday Mom said...

[Note to self: Wait to read Jo(e)'s poetry until you are in the privacy of your own home....not at work! Whew!]

Colleen said...

"Words: Fingers crawl
across guitar neck and strings."

For some reason, this stanza struck me the hardest.

I agree about the map stanza being too cliche. I understand that you want a 'final destination' of sorts at the end of the poem. Maybe Bed? or Shoe? The dock, rather than the map you are led by?

Masterfraud said...

I'll admit that I am scared shitless of poetry. My best friend is a poet, and it's how I learned I'll never know anyone at all. But I had to pipe in and tell you that I loved this poem. Please don't drop it.

Yankee T said...

OK, here's a comment from a poetry ignoramus: I'm with the others that 'savored' works better than swallowed. I also might like "chewed slowly" rather than "softly"....but I love the poem. I think it's sexy and sensual and warm. Don't dump it.

ArticulateDad said...

I have to disagree a bit with Trillwing. I'd say it's too minimalistic. It's a very nice seed... but it's not plumped out enough. I think it would work better if each introductory word (mirror, hair, song, words) were to take on fuller form.

Why is she looking at the mirror? What time of day is it? Why does she undress? Who is smelling her hair? Who is singing the song? or hearing it?

Sure you can keep some mysteries... but if you give us too little, we're just unwitting eavesdroppers to an inside joke, gaining nothing but a bit of unsated voyeurism from the experience.

There's definitely enough to work with there, though. So I wouldn't throw it out.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I hate to start out with a direct suggestion, but how about this

rather than:

Map: Surfaces of you
I have not yet explored.


Map: Surfaces of your body
I have yet to explore.

Unless you do not want to use the word body int he poem.

I like the idea of framing the last line in a postive rather than negative mood.

I have company and can't do this right now, but I'll come back to it.

I agree it is a little minimalist--you may or may not be able to make it work successfully--remember, relaly only you can tell if you've been successful at YOUR goal for the poem--but the poem may have its own goal.

PS Dante called

Bad Alice said...

I don't think it is too minimalist. I always like fewer words, not more, and this has a rhythm that I would not like weighted with more description.

I like the seeds falling from skin--very fertile.

The brush stanza was the one I liked least. It seemed to lack the sensual/tactile, body-based qualities of the other stanzas.

This is lovely, sensual, and evocative.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Touch: When you brush against me
seeds fall from my skin.

I love that line--not sure any explanation is needed--it's very evocative as is. Puzzling perhaps, but in a good way (just my opinion, of course).

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I have to go awahile--hope to get back to this. XOX

Bardiac said...


I too LOVE the image of the tangled smell of woodsmoke rising. There's something so evocative about the smell of woodsmoke, and how smoke stays in hair, and then the shower steam.

I'm probably a horrificly bad literalist or something, but the mirror gave me undressing, the hair a shower... and song seems to hit at the intimacy of body against body, but doesn't quite go there enough? I guess I'm still feeling like the speaker's giving a shower image, with the curve of my belly, but not willing to go there fully? And all bellies seem to have curves these days, alas. I guess I almost want soap on the belly or something with the lingering of touch?

Because I'd been strongly drawn to the shower idea, the guitar thing didn't work so well for me, and crawling fingers sound creeping rather than appealing, somehow? Maybe it's the "crawl" sound for me?

I like savored in the roots stanza, along with others.

I wonder about re-ordering the bits, but again, I'm probably such a bad literalist. Anyways, you can toss this :) I think roots, words, song, early/first, then mirror, neck (I really like thinking of the neck as a boundary space, a rim, and the collision of spirit and echo is really evocative for me), brush (that image, bold wings of color... wow! change spread to flash or something? wings are always spread?), hair and touch, then map. Or maybe leave map off and end with touch, which seems so rich in sexual implications, yet teasing. Or map first of all, with the implication that the poem is going to party be that exploration?

Maybe I'm sort of thinking in blazon kinds of terms?

Thanks for sharing this with us. It's so cool to read poetry in progress and think about how poets work on getting imagery and words and sounds across.

Beanie Baby said...

I like this.

My only solid comment actually is the first two stanzas--when I read them aloud I heard an almost-rhyme between "steam" and "jeans," and I found it set up an expectation for the rest of the poem which wasn't met when it didn't rhyme.

Can I ask, are the first words of each stanza meant to be a concrete object or something seen that then evokes the memory or daydream in the rest of the stanza?

I like the structure, I like the idea of it, I like the images; but I think it could be reworked to make it hit harder. Some of the words or phrases could be punched up a bit--instead of wings spreading, could they soar? Fly? For the dream self lingering--could a verb be chosen that builds on the dream self--haunts? But even that....

I guess for me, the sounds are there--the repetitive sibillance, for instance--but somehow the language isn't. This might be just my personal taste, but the stuff I really love normally twists language so hard it comes close to breaking. Like this one from Anne Carson (whose book happens to be here on my desk):

"Everything loathsome is the mind,
which God screws into body with a lascivious thrust."

Which is not only a strong image, but an unexpected one.

You have some of it--seeds falling from skin, spirit collides with echo--but I think there could be more. If you wanted there to be.

Sfrajett said...

I like Song, Touch, and Map best because you didn't leave any articles out. When you leave articles out it seems stilted on the page. When you don't it's really nice and unaffected. Of course, that's just when I read it. it might be different when it is read aloud. Hope this is useful. I like the images, especially the seeds.

Dr.K said...

I agree that "seeds fall from my skin" is odd and evocative--I like it, but I don't get that reference. I don't have to. "Swallowed" works best for me, better han "savored." "Belly" is perfect--how much nicer and more sensuous is that word than "stomach." This is a terrific poem.

juniper68 said...

the "neck" line (ha! neckline! get it?) is just right.

also, I've posted two poems at my place - neither mine (maybe ONE DAY i'll be brave enough for that.....)


jo(e) said...

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. It's really helpful to hear all this. One of these Fridays I'll post a revision of the poem. You've all convinced me to keep working on it.

Rana said...

I hope I'm not too late to comment.

The parts that basically worked for me: Hair (perfect, beautiful, lots of parallelism, and the tangling seems to tie all parts together); Touch (it's strange, but it appeals to me); Roots (though I agree about maybe changing to "savored"); Neck (it puzzles me a bit, but in a good way - when I first read it, I was thinking of the neck of a bottle, shared).

I like the _idea_ of Map, but it seems a bit derivative at this point.

I like the image of fingers crawling across the guitar and strings (and the speaker? and her lover?) but I don't feel like this has much to do with _words_ - but rather music and touch.

Song and brush don't do much for me, though I like the idea of the curving belly, and I wonder if, if you replaced "canvas" with "cloth" you might be able to have the "wings" of color suggest not only paint but hair (linking with "brush")

I guess what seems in tension is that sometimes the body is the focus, and sometimes it's simply a means to some other end, and the parts where it's the focus it works best for me.

I really, really like Hair. Just wanted to say that again. :)

Rana said...

Okay, now I've read everyone else's comments too, and I have an additional comment -- I was reading this as a list of discrete moments that make the poem's subject enjoy and appreciate her body, but it seems like other people were seeing these as links in a chain of events. Perhaps you could find a way to suggest which way you were leaning?

jo(e) said...

Rana: Not too late at all. Your feedback is very helpful.

I think when I wrote this I was thinking of the stanzas as unconnected moments, but now I can see how they could be a chronological narrative and I might play around with that ... I think it could work.

I think too the images that involve the woman's body seem to be much stronger than the visual images -- where she is just watching something -- so I think I will keep that in mind too as I revise.

(I am using my own comments to make notes to myself.)

Axis of Peter said...

I'm way late here, too.

First, I really like it.

Second, I liked many of the comments that suggested avoiding cliche. My friend Bardiac has some great reactions; I found myself going "unh huh" as I was reading the response.

I'll be the sole person to stick up for "roots" being "swallowed"; I like the earthiness of the image and the sound, the flip side of the seeds falling from the body, language of incorporation rather than dissemination (dis-ova-nation to echo a recent Bardiacism?). I think these stanzas work great in tandem.