Mondays at the Office

A quick one before I go in to dinner, inspired by Miz Quickly’s photo gallery offering:

It’s kind of a wry one that I think we can all relate to, in one way or another. There’s this physical reaction to Mondays that I would love to deconstruct further, but I think the absurdist dream that came out of this photo is the best I can muster for the moment. (And Frank O’Hara is still resonating in me a little bit. I can imagine him going out on his lunch break like this guy.)

Mondays at the Office

You feel like unclipping the phone’s receiver
and taking the helical cord into your mouth, swallowing,
swallowing, ripping the guts out of technology
to take them into your own. Like Cronus’s children:
death will come to you in the shape of a hiccuping bell,
another e-mail, or the goddamn fax machine jamming
again. You are not the only one: Marianne sets fire
to the ficus plant by the door, and James
shreds the photos on his desk one by one, while Yvette
staples, staples, staples, staples. This madness
lives in a cubical comb which you seal off with wax,
individual, but all in this together. What is work,
you think; it’s impossible to hear the answer over this
ringing now passing from your esophagus,
through stomach acid, into an intestinal confusion.
There is paid time off; there are holidays. But really,
what you all need is to be paid to go once per day
outside onto a flat green place, stripping off shirt, tie,
patent leather shoes, spread out and laid upon
underneath a timeless sun. What is mercy, you think,
but the freedom to show off ribcage and collarbone
turned up to that mythological blindness
free from income tax, memoranda, the purgatorial 401K.
Once per day each of you will queue up to go.
James will return glorious in his own sweat, embrace you
half tears, breathe in your ear that it’s your turn.
You will stagger past security, run type-numb fingers
through fountain water, smell the fresh-mowed grass
as you expose yourself in relief. Cough wires, shit wires,
empty yourself of copper. Strike the pose bees must
when the queen says, enough honey, when Cronus says,
split me open, let the passionate gods break free.

Snooze Button

Oh hell, one more, why not. This is a combination prompt for Adele Kenny (who is exhorting readers to write about “dawn”), NaPoWriMo (where the challenge is to write something that you would never say to a boss, loved one, etc.), and We Write Poems (the prompt being to write about your first thought when waking). This happened last week, and it’s a pretty dashed-off version of events, but I just wanted to do one more bit this evening. And with my alarm clock misfortunes this morning, I suppose it’s been on my mind. Ta for now!

Snooze Button

I dreamed I was playing cards with my boss
and my brother, and I called my boss a cheater,
which led to a sudden change in career
for me. And my brother was on my side

(yes he definitely was not allowed to play that
when he did), but it didn’t help much.
Then, it was all a sudden violet light:
dawn beginning to breathe on the window,

nodding the new snowdrops awake. And me,
too, still pissed off at my subconscious.
What good is beauty when you start out
irritated? You close a wound with needle

and thread, not this brand-new-morning crap.
That’s what I would’ve said, anyway:
until there was the broad sight of your back
turned away from me, curled like a boat hull

washed up on my sheets. You sleeping
and me, possessed. Now and then a beam
does reach in to wave away the steam.
The night phantoms give way to a floodplain

poured from caramel, laid out next to me,
a map without boundary or name. That is
something to get behind, a thing to press my
lips against until it stirs to life.

A Warm Day on Titan

This wasn’t at all the poem I set out to write, but there you go. It started with this idea of science and religion, and turned into some thoughts on a Wiki article I stumbled across about the theory of ancient astronauts, and some notes were taken for it on a train ride, and… well, it just went bonkers from there. In workshop, our moderator often writes these rambling musings, so some of that style got in there too, but I wasn’t sure what to do with this one. So I’m just going to pitch it up here unaltered and see what happens.

A Warm Day on Titan

I was reading about the theory of ancient astronauts:
how our human ingenuity was not enough for fire-making,
or Great Pyramids, or the invention of gods– and so some
figures must have descended like Prometheus, all light,
to prick us in the consciousness. And maybe an old priest
came up from Thebes, climbed to meet the travelers

who told him (like I-AM to Moses) how Venus, the traveler
star of the evening, was sulfuric, molten, any astronauts
foolish enough to land killed instantly. Then from the priest
spread an idea of Hell along the red Nile and beyond, making
its miserable rounds. I don’t know if I believe it. If the light
switches off, and I’m only left with terror, maybe. Some

familiar bell is rung. But here’s what I wonder: would some
other extraterrestrials have first granted them that traveler’s
spirit? When faced with the impossible, do they make light
of it, say, “it’ll be a cold day on Venus,” forgetting astronauts
crushed to death before them? Here’s the point I’m making:
there is a place for the scientist, and a place for the priest,

and I don’t think you can do without either. In Babylon, “priest”
meant “king”; it follows that the analytical mind rules in some
inverted place. And we’re abandoned in between, making
do with half-stories, half-logic. We’re the worst sort of travelers:
Orphean, necks twisted. We could be the ancient astronauts
to someone else, explaining the truths and mechanics of light

with mythology. (The Eagle Nebula’s Virgin and her light-
year Child; Orion buckling a blue-white belt.) We’re high priests
of the full circle. But I’m telling you this, not some astronaut,
because I’m on a train feeling earthbound, seeking some
capacity for kinship. This is the curse of everyday travelers:
to always be dissatisfied, the drab surroundings making

you wish for some magic. Leaving Secaucus, we’re making
slow time past graffiti levees, brown marshes decaying light.
Can you blame me for dreaming? And my fellow travelers
stare unsatisfied out the windows, too, each one a priest
given the chance. Me, I’d preach the moon called Titan (some
ancient giant), orbiting Saturn, where (according to astronauts)

oceans of ethane boil cold. I’d get there uncertain, priest
making science out of legend-names, traveler carving religion
from light. Some astronaut! But being what we are– I could do
no less.

the refinery: marian veverka

The afternoon is wide open, and despite ungodly winds out in the city today, there is sun and beauty and warmth. I am feeling, for the first time in a while, that I have several constructive things to do that I actually want to do and share, and the time/energy to do them. First and foremost of these is to do another (gasp!) Refinery post, so I don’t forget about doing it for the week. And, to re-iterate what Margo said on her blog: pretend I don’t have a list to work through, and send me stuff still, please! For now, we have:

The Golden Trees” by Marian Veverka

My favorite poems of Marian’s are the ones which are sweeping and elegant; she does better long-form and formal poetry than many other poets I’ve seen on the blogosphere. (Not to say her other work, an example of which has appeared at Curio, is lacking; I just prefer the lengthier, structured poems.) What I’ve seen of her work often touches upon the natural and the personal at the same time, so this poem should not come as a surprise:

Along the roadside’s graveled edge
A row of poplars lift their limbs and spread
Their roots to where secret water hides
In the shallow pools of dried stream-beds.

A thirsty summer, hot and dry
With sudden storms that made green leaves fly
From nervous branches, all shaken down
Beneath the scorching sun in an empty sky.

Today, as the heat-stricken hours fade
Each tree now casts its golden shade
water trickles through the once dried stream
Clouds arrive, but few will stay.

I stand, immersed in the golden glow
Beneath the poplars’ royal row
Through long winter nights I’ll return in dreams
While the poplars sleep in their robes of snow.

It’s rare that the issues I pull out of a poem are balanced carefully between form, style, and theme, but I think this is a case where I find on each, so that’s how I’m going to tackle it:
– Let’s talk about form first. This is very close to/counts as a ruba’i poem, with AABA rhyme scheme stanzas and (usually, in English) an iambic tetra/pentameter rhythm. What I would tweak from a form perspective, because it’s usually the easiest thing to fix in formal verse, is the consistency. There are some playful takes on the scheme with near-rhymes, and the rhythm is flexed at various points. But I think the issue I have with these two aspects is that the experimentation itself doesn’t feel certain. When I read the first stanza, rhyming edge, spread, beds, I think, okay, this will be a poem of not-quite-rhymes. But then I see dry, fly, sky, and I second-guess myself. Then, I notice that hides connects the first stanza to the second as a near-rhyme; and then that link is not repeated from the second to the third; and then the B line in the third and fourth stanzas near-rhyme. Similarly, the syllable count in each line varies a little bit too much for me to tell if it’s supposed to be a particular metre or not. Some tweaking would be good, I think, to make it more clear what the poem is doing: it doesn’t have to be rigid and uniform, but when you bend the parameters of a received form like this, keep it going!
– Now, style. This has a very Frost-y feel to it, in my opinion; Frost used a lot of ruba’i structure, and often had those nature-meditation moments in his poetry. But I would like to see more metaphor, more risks taken in the presentation of the imagery. A caveat: I think that it depends on how you want to approach the theme. If you’re going for a very straightforward snapshot, the literal might be preferable, but as I’ll get to in a moment, I think Marian is digging deeper, especially with that last stanza. There are several words in here that could use some alteration, which might in turn help with the consistency of the metre. Some of these veer close to cliché: scorching sun, for example. (I’m a fan of folk songs that use this phrase, but I think we can do better in modern poetry.) Or shallow pools: what about teaspoon pools or withered pools or something? The words poplar, tree, and golden come up again and again; find synonyms and other characteristics to describe in the subject! You don’t need to be overly florid to find more interesting ways to describe an image. Remember that part of the charm in poetry is to put together two words that haven’t been put together before (or at least, enough).
And as for theme, which might be the hardest nugget to crack, I find myself wondering how personal the poem is trying to be. Most of the piece is a meditation on the appearance of the poplars, but we have all these value words describing the trees and their surroundings that gives it a specifically anti-haiku quality. And then this “I” appearing in the last stanza: we have a poem that shows the polarity between an object and its observer. What I’d like to see is more deepness to this “I”, because once she is introduced, it immediately adds another layer to the poem that isn’t nearly as thick as the rest. The “I” could appear earlier, or the descriptions of nature could even more specifically imply an observer. (A hot summer is impersonal; a thirsty summer, like we have here, requires a presence to give the season personality; an oppressive summer does the same, but adds a relationship between the speaker and the object.) Aside from the relationship needing some intensity, I’m also a little uncertain what the speaker is trying to get across: it seems to be a reflection on the beauty of these trees enduring through the change of seasons and into memory, but I’m not sure. It could use a bit more expansion, perhaps!

OK, enough critique. Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum:
– There are some subtle sound things happening that I like here, some alliteration and internal rhyme (stricken and trickle is a great pair) mixing with just some wonderfully-chosen words (which balance out the examples I was picking out earlier). Probably secret water and royal row sound the most lyrical to me. I don’t think it would be hard to extend that feeling through more of the poem without losing the meter and rhyme that gives it so much of its structure. And I love that sentence Clouds arrive, but few will stay. I might suggest tweaking it a little bit, but it has an elegant simplicity that I think sums up the whole poem.
– Keying off that, the theme is one of those tried-and-true ones I like to talk about. There are countless poems about the transience of nature still being beautiful, probably because it echoes the knowledge of our own mortality. The trap with this theme is risking a hackneyed approach to the theme. I don’t think this one falls into that trap, but only because it hasn’t deepened its own voice enough. If Marian goes back to edit this, and does develop that theme, I would say be careful not to get too clichéd with it: take risks, approach the concept in a way that is rarely explored. That may require lengthening the poem or messing with its structure a little bit, either for space reasons or to create a point using the sound of the poem itself.
– And of course, the challenge of doing a form at all is often to be commended. I used to consider myself a pretty stolid New Formalist, looking for the potential of a sonnet in every prompt, but have, in recent years, headed away from that. It’s always a pleasure to see a received form executed well, without fanfare: this is not as long as Omar Khayyam, nor is it one of those bite-sized forms full of repetition like the kyrielle. It has meat and an idea, I just think that it needs to trust itself more within the confines of its structure to clarify what it wants to say.

A few bits and bobs:
– Some of the enjambment isn’t working for me, particularly and spread / their roots.
– This is a goofy idea, but I would suggest using Monet as inspiration, maybe even wholly considering this an ekphrastic poem. Changing the title to something reflecting Monet (who did painting after painting of poplars) would add a layer of allusion (is the speaker standing in a museum? is the speaker Monet?) and at least remove one instance of each of golden and trees
– …because really, some of that repetition does drag me down.
– If I had to pick one stanza to follow its lead, I’d choose the first one. It’s the most solid, followed by the fourth one.
– Previously, I talked about the use/overuse of adjective + noun pairings, and how variety is good. This could use some variety in the length of descriptive phrases: we have a wall of one adjective + one noun in the middle of the poem.

Marian, I hope this was useful to you, and I hope that you’ll share any revised version of the poem with us! And for all the non-Marians out there (it sounds like I’m picking favorites in some kind of Christian philosophy debate, doesn’t it?), here is a prompt based on the poem to whet your appetites:

Write a poem in a traditional received form (sonnet, sestina, rime royal, whatever) that is at least fourteen lines. Focus on your relationship with a particular object in nature and how it sums up a larger opinion/feeling about Nature with a capital N. Include the words “secret”, “arrive”, and “sudden”. Use only the senses of sight and touch for your descriptions.

Cheers! See you all for the next one…

Three Lunes in a Hanging Garden

I’ve been playing a lot of this board game 7 Wonders lately, with the premise being inspired by the wonders of the ancient world. Babylon has always been my favorite, even though it might be mythical: it was the only one that required constant intervention to still be wondrous, with living pieces of its mechanism, it was built not because of religion or a show of power or utilitarian uses, but because of love, and it just has the greatest name. The Hanging Gardens: how cool is that? I would love to write a series of poems, or at least a long-ish one, on the mythology behind it.

They stand at an interesting nexus, too. I think of water, gardens, Babylon, and a noble woman when I think of them, and all the combinations: water and Babylon (which makes me think of the Flood), water and a noble woman (which makes me think of Ophelia), gardens and Babylon (which makes me think of the dawn of agriculture), gardens and a noble woman (which is a mythic trope you find again and again in literature), etc. I thought about trying to work a lot of that into this piece, but it is intended to be short form, so… not so much.

DVerse is asking for short form pieces. I’ve also been into the Imagists lately (by which I mean this weekend), so Ezra Pound (for all his faults) and WCW have been on the mind. I haven’t really done much with the lune, the 5/3/5 “American haiku” that has been bandied about from time to time, so here’s three of them on the vine. Kept very passive and Imagist, I think. There’s some little sound device treats mixed in as well, but I think the deeper narrative stuff will have to wait for another, longer poem.

Three Lunes in a Hanging Garden

Tea roses hung from
the terrace
drip a slow, red braid.
Screws turn the rainfall
whenever
darkness is named shade.
Fire on the roof and
a flood dream
make a decent trade.

A Bend in the Sound

I know I owe you guys a Refinery post and a Curio post. My schedule is fairly clear this evening (though I am forcing the Fellow to watch Twin Peaks, because honestly, how could I not?, so maybe that will take time), and I am hoping that I can get that done at least. Goodness knows the absolute last thing I’ll want to do is brave the elements, with wind chill reaching negative numbers. Ugh.

I am at work right now, writing poetry. This is a normal and everyday thing when I have downtime, and it doesn’t really impact my job. But, lately I’ve been getting very disenchanted with things around here, which (for a reason I won’t get into) was cemented yesterday. I’ve set a number of plans in motion to go with, and in a few months we’ll see how bad things get with the job. The other thing is, at the Winter Getaway this weekend and at the monthly writer-artists’ salon last night, I had occasion to talk to a number of people about life: bottom line, what good is a little bit more financial security and schedule regularity if you’re miserable? I would rather work three part-time jobs at odd hours and enjoy them, with writing in the free spaces, than struggle through the workday. Especially last night, when I was discussing all the non-text storytelling ideas I’ve had in the arts realm, and receiving enthusiastic support from the group, I felt that urge. So we’ll see how that develops, I suppose.

Swapped chapbooks with another poet, Tara, last night, since we’ve promising to do that for months. And one of the other attendees (who is an author I grew up reading and admiring and get tongue-tied around) took a peek at my book, and said, “These are really good!” Chuffed to bits, I was. That got me thinking about the weekend all over again, and thinking about how to make more room for the creative in 2013. So: there is a weekly workshop by Douglas Goetsch (who I met at the Getaway, and who was way cool), starting next Monday. It is, for me, a pretty penny; but it could be worth the expense? I would rather wait until I have some cash saved up, but I’m not sure if there will be another workshop in the near future which I can attend. Also, it’s five minutes from my apartment, so that’s a nice touch. What do you guys think?

And at last, a poem. Donna‘s prompt to write about a place (but focus on the people) was filed in the back of my head all last week, and I finally finished this beast of a thing about it. Most of you are aware that this name of mine is a pen name, but you might not know that it is an old family name, and there is an island in North Carolina from the same ancestral roots. (The first section is the gospel truth.) I’ve thought about visiting, though I could’ve written more stanzas about how I expect it would be rather different from anything in my experience, and actually I might not get along with the people there. But there is something indescribable about the connection of family, and name, and language, that meshes with the vision of the sea and the land at war like that. It’s a concrete little pebble buried deep inside that isn’t going anywhere.

A Bend in the Sound

1.
My professor says she was enchanted by this
postage stamp of an island, down the Carolina coast
where Back Sound squares its shoulders
against the loom of a hurricane. She says,
it’s the vowels.
The way a long ah will be half-swallowed,
caught under the tongue with pious humility,
while the flimsy ih is given a light shriek,
the long ee of the seashore
and the storm at night.
I’m writing a book on it, she says, and I feel
misplaced pride when I tell her half a lie, saying,
yes, I know, that is my island.

2.
The body is a museum with a hundred wings
devoted to every genetic stitch: and I’d like to think
there is a fingerbone or narrow bile duct
that I could say, here is the part I share with you,
great-grandmother, counting back growth rings,
finding a name and three lines of a story.
I cling to that when the water
rises. And some well-gardened ancestor
split into pieces, one of them carried southward
thanks to longshore drift, to this place
I have never been.
He planted our name in the reeds and marl,
unfurled it to wave in a stranger salt breeze.
Sometimes, a ghost comes to each of us
to whisper heirloom ideas when we do not
expect it. Then, we must decide
which histories matter to us the most.

3.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
who gets up before dawn to smear white paint
across the prow of a splintered boat, dragging
patchwork nets to the beach and stumbling
when the wind kicks down the dune.
I remember reading that we are all related,
if you count back far enough:
aunts and uncles, terribly removed.
But blood-iron is magnetic too, twitching direction
towards its kin. If I stood among the marram grass
watched the lanterns wink on the choppy sound,
I would lean forward, heartfirst.
Somewhere, I have a cousin
with the same right iris, the same tender rib.
She is smoking a cigarette and reading Elijah;
she is cutting up cucumbers for a midday snack;
we put consonants at the ends of our names.

4.
Cape Lookout could be gone in a hundred years.
No predictions: but that wildcat water gets crazy,
drinks deep in the summer.
Then, the dock piles and the church doors
and the stacked creels and the power lines
will know oceanic mercy. I dream of rock people
eroded, resigned, carrying on floating.
But I worry about how maps change at that bend
in the sound. Who will share my named body
when the storms split the living room walls?
At sunset, the wind threatens
an orange light speaking exodus, watermark
change, things that are inescapable.
The only glimmer in my dream is that the past,
having happened, is inescapable, too.

5.
If you stand at the mouth of the inlet
that digs into the southernmost cape, you can
see the barrier shoals, the ocean just beyond.
Hollowed-out vowels and old, old stories
bob in the slosh like big-bellied pottery,
laughing their mouths up just once
before they tip, fill, and hide from view.

The Refinery: barbara young

I got super excited today because I forgot it was January: I thought, for a moment, that the date was 11/12/13. (And yes, I know everyone in the rest of the world reverses the date; pardon my Americana.) Numerically interesting dates, ages, and the like always tickle me a bit, so when I remembered that it was actually 1/12/13, I was kind of disappointed. But then I remembered that it was a Saturday, and a fine morning, and I had many exceptional things to do. One of which is: this post! As mentioned before, if people are interested in having a poem critiqued, please comment/email me and I will pop it into the box. (The box is far from full right now, so I hope you’ll send things in!) Today, though, we have the honor of introducing:

When She Was Venus” by Barbara Young

Barbara is one of the first people I met in the Internet poetry sphere, way back during the 2009 April poetry challenge at Poetic Asides. Her poetry immediately stood out for its unique range of voices and her penchant for finding these images that have a dreamlike specificity. Check out her poem 24, nominated for a Pushcart prize, for (what I think is) one of the best examples of her work. And then, we’re going to pick apart what she sent (which, by the way, I’m grateful she trusts me enough to handle):

When She Was Venus

Thoughts reside inside other thoughts. Sometimes.
And memories, in memories. Both set up house in women.
Nesting dolls, hollowed from souvenirs, or ivory. One day,
the woman was in the next room between doing one unremarkable
thing and the next, when an old movie began to sing to her. “Speak low,”
sang the television in the den, “when you speak love” and
she was on a beach between a bonfire and the moon,
barefoot in the cooling sand, a dancer, a dancer.
A dancer with her back to the partner who lifted
her just as a wave lifts foam; or a fire, its light. How
could she have forgotten that? She smiled. And later
that day, suddenly, smiled again. And the next.

As I did before, I’ll do three things I thought didn’t work, three things that did, and some assorted things afterward. Whether you (or Barbara) choose to take them to heart is up to you (and her)!

Here goes:
– I think the theme could be more clearly stated, since I can tell there’s something under the surface, but as a reader, I keep feeling I’m not quite getting it. The immediate thought I had seeing that nesting dolls line was that the goddess of love is a concept that is embodied by a woman in a given time and place, which is a beautiful take on the subject: but then the “thoughts” and “memories” reference threw me off (is it them that are embodied, not Venus?), and the sudden transitions between sections (embodiment – old movie – dancing on a beach) left me wondering if I was missing another point entirely. It’s okay to be mysterious and cryptic in your poem, I do it all the time, but if the particular idea doesn’t across to the reader, the poem won’t stick in their brain. It’s good to have someone read through a piece and tell you what they thought it was about (but not what it “means”), and then reconsider both the themes you had in mind and how they are stated.
– Related to that is the notion of how to get the themes to be more fully expressed; for this particular poem, I would like to see more exposition. I really wanted to see that nesting dolls idea expanded, and the sudden transition was a bit jarring. Then, I wanted to know more about the old movie, and we were tugged sideways again. All three segments are essential to the full body of the poem, moving from thoughtful to miraculous to fantasy in (what I took to be) the idea of “being Venus”, and they could benefit from another line or two each, to more strongly develop their connection to the theme and to ease the transitions. As a result, the structure might have to change a bit: if I were to set up the skeleton of the poem, I would probably do it in couplets or tercets, with fewer periods to separate the thoughts. (That’s how I usually write, though, and you should punctuate as you want.) Ask questions about the stories you tell: what is the significance of “sometimes”? why did that old movie trigger that memory/fantasy? which one was it, and why should she have not forgotten? And the answers to all of these should tie back, once again, to the theme.
– One thing I always look for in a poem is specificity, which this poem has several opportunities to take advantage of. “Nesting dolls” and “ivory” are good, but then I want to know which thoughts and memories, which old movie was on the television, what kind of dance the woman was doing, what unremarkable thing she was doing, etc. You don’t have to get into fine detail with every single noun and verb in the poem, but keeping them all rather general trades vibrancy for universality very unevenly. I like that the TV “sang”: in addition to the context that I wanted to see above, was it Grace Kelly with the volume down? I like the beach moment: was it Pensacola in February? Details also are a good place to sneak in cryptic bits without making the whole poem do the job of veiling carefully the ideas.

And to balance that:
– As I mentioned above, if I was right about what I believe to be the theme, I found it utterly charming: this notion of a woman taking on the persona of Venus, using this very particular arrangement of images and moments. I felt like I was opening a tiny chocolate box, with carefully selected things placed just so: the nesting dolls, the rooms in the house, the old movie, the beach under the moonlight. (Also, I am a sucker for the post/modernist mythological stuff.) There is great potential in the topic, much more than only one poem could capture; so I say, why limit oneself in any given poem? You won’t exhaust the topic, so you might as well blossom as much as it can without getting overly weighty.
– There is a dreaminess to the poem that gives it a great mood, from which one can infer a lot about the character of the woman, in only a few short lines: this is the hallmark of a good character sketch. My impression is that she’s a homebody (retired dancer, perhaps?) who is sometimes unhappy with her lot (her marriage? her accomplishments?) and needs sometimes to retreat into those memories and fantasies of her youth to know that she has done more/been more/is more than she might think. And I might have completely misread Barbara’s intention, but a poem like this changes shape for different readers, resonates in different ways. The mood/tone of a poem does not need to be spelled out: if you are writing a sad poem, never use the word “sad”, but say “tears”, “silence”, “huddled under the covers with the lights out”. The word “wistful” doesn’t appear here, and that’s the word I’d choose to describe it; instead, we have numerous other things to draw from.
– The personification, metaphor, and simile in this were well done. Respectively, this would be the old TV singing, the nesting dolls, and the wave/fire comparisons near the end. I like when poets handle all three of these poetic toolbox essentials with grace, deftly and easily, intertwining them without missing a beat. The dancer being lifted by a partner she can’t see like the foam on a wave is probably my favorite. And also, it makes for a subtle mythological allusion to Venus herself (from the foam), which might have been intentional, might have not. Similes are hard to pull off, but when done well, they kick hard.

Other thoughts summoned up by another reading (the fifth, I think):
– The ending is superb, in my opinion…
– …except I think it could be structured differently. But that’s probably tied in to wanting to see a few breaks in the poetic flow.
– I keep coming back to the transition from TV to beach, because it really is jarring to me. The first transition isn’t as surprising, but the mid-sentence turn really throws me.
– That repetition of “a dancer” is hypnotic, like falling into a memory, or perhaps taking on an aspect of the goddess. I thought this was a smart move.
– I did think the opening line could use some tweaking. Whether by introducing the woman (with a simple pronoun: “thoughts reside inside her thoughts” or something) or making “sometimes” part of the initial sentence to avoid choppiness… it doesn’t grip the way the end does.

I hope that this critique has not been too harsh! Barbara, if you’re reading: please have a look at these suggestions and let us know if you intend to take any/some/all of them. (I suggest letting us know by posting an updated draft.) And for everyone else, focus more on getting some word-specificity and more visible connections between images/themes, standing on that as a foundation to set the tone of your poem, create a unique palette of beauty, and further strengthen the communication of your idea. (You are welcome to share too.) Once again, the doors are open for you to submit something of your own, and I will pick it apart like a bit of twine. Til next time…!