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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > Poet's Corner : Critique my Poem > WASH, CUT AND BLOW

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 Posted: Tue Apr 10th, 2007 03:37 pm
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APRIL: WASH, CUT and BLOW


They canter; trot; tossing off winter's trudge with every

Glee-filled step of their heads-held-high morning gait.

Their hair finally unprisoned: hatless, scarfless,

Now can freely bounce and sway to the

Fresh rhythms of Spring - well, a Chicago Spring -

On their race to the morning train.


They seem to dash like little girls at play

These ageless city women with their freshly coiffed hair.

They bloom in abundance - almost overnight -

Along with yellow forsythia and sweet lavender lilacs,

The robin’s rusty breast and the turtle dove’s dawn-cooing

On the bedroom window sill.


In the city's River North, from the sidewalk,

I pass by large tinted windows

Where I see the scissors clip clipping

And the dryers blow blowing and the stylists style styling

And the combs comb combing.


And I thrill!


It is April - well, again a Chicago April.

Spring is looked upon with suspicion here,

Like an Alderman’s promise.


But my eyes smile,

My heart tickles,

My head flutters

And my feet skip - just a bit - perhaps by themselves

With thoughts of the Evening El ride home.


Tomorrow there is a forty per cent chance

Of snow.


note:
"El" (elevated) is the name for The Chicago "Subway"


Oddly enough, after posting this this morning, I heard on the radio about an hour ago, and post from the Chicago weather website tomorrow's weather report:

Wednesday, Apr 11

High: 38 °F RealFeel®: 28 °F
Breezy with a mix of snow and rain with little or no accumulation


Is this art predicting life?

Last edited on Wed Apr 11th, 2007 10:42 pm by in media res

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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2007 12:50 pm
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J Brian Long
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in media res,

After the first read, I was a bit put off by the (what-I-then-viewed-as) overbearing

cheerfulness (the sticky-sweetness) in all but the last strophe of the poem. Some of your

descriptors ("glee-filled", "heads-held-high", "unprisoned", "fresh") combined with a few of

your verb choices ("canter", "bounce", "bloom", "cooing', "tickles", "flutters", "skip") as well

as your references to robins and turtle-doves and little girls dancing prompted my initial

reaction. But when I think of Chicago and poetry, I think of Sandburg (he is one of my

favorite poets), who wrote poems in the same vein-- in fact, I think his poems are read

best and best read when enjoyed on a porch swing in the throes of some April mid-daytime

(and if there be windchimes there, all the better!) So I re-read your poem in that mind-set

and shrugged off my initial misgivings; as a result, I found it rather enjoyable.

 

These words: "canter", "trot", and "gait" are equine in nature (usually). They seem, to me,

disparate in relation to the overall tonsorial and obliquely meteorological themes of the piece.

The botanical and faunal terms near the end of the second strophe don't seem to be

as dislocated since they are merely included and passed over, but there seems to be a

deliberaton to the equine references that begs either elaboration or assimilation as a

method to adhere to a consistency to the theme of the poem.

 

I love what you did with clip-clipping, blow-blowing, style-styling, comb-combing.

 

What you say so well with your closing strophe makes the asides you employ

reminding the reader you are writing about a "Chicago" spring and a "Chicago"

April unnecessary. The poem says it so that you don't necessarily have to (I

think).

 

I enjoyed your poem, in media res, and I admire what comments of yours to poems

and plays I have read. Your advice and responses to me have been particularly helpful.

 

You seem bright and creative. I look forward to reading more of your work.

 

--J Brian Long

 

 

 

 

 

Last edited on Wed Apr 11th, 2007 01:17 pm by J Brian Long

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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2007 01:12 pm
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timmy
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...reminds me of "Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw (w/o the husband and wife, of course)...

I like the giddiness of the rhythm...the '50's language. Almost sounds like an Irving Berlin song....or a young Frank Sinatra singing about "...my kind of town"

you must enjoy your town quite a bit...it shows in this poem....

timmy

(ps: regarding the note you sent about Marcia Masters. I know a woman who interviewed Hilary Masters for her Doctorial thesis :)

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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2007 05:15 pm
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J Brian and timmy

Thank you.

In general, I think timmy hit it right on with the tone: a giddiness to the poem. A male giddiness. I never thought of “the girls in their summer dresses,” but yes, to be distantly/tangentially associated with Irwin Shaw isn’t bad.

J. Brian: Thanks for giving it a second chance! As far as the equine words: it was deliberate. Seeing many freshly coiffed women (along with men, but the poem focuses on the women) at a traffic light waiting for it to change to green in any major city with public transportation, along with worrying about missing a morning train and being late for work is as visually close to the starting gate at a horse race image one can get. The feet scratch, their necks crane over people, the eyes and head intently look all around quickly turning from left to right searching for any hole in the “field” that might give them an edge to being first to the turnstile! (This also reminds me of close-up views of Bears’s linebacker Brian Ulracher just before the snap of a football.) And when the light changes (the bell sounds in a horse race) the bouncing and dancing and flashing of the hair in a dash to the entrance is as close to the beauteous rhythmic bounce of expensive, well-coiffed manes at the Kentucky Derby humans are about to get.

I think, from your suggestion, I will change “dance like little girls at play” to “dash like little girls at play” to keep the equine image of a race.

You also give me the idea of changing the line

These ageless city women of April with their freshly coiffed hair.

To something like:

These ageless city women - beauty roses of April - with their freshly coiffed hair.


(Yes, I know it is cheaply sentimental, but a man without sentiment is a man who has never lived a life! I may ditch it if even I can’t take the sentiment in a day or two!)

I think the Chicago asides are necessary. I even added "River North" to make the neighborhood location specific for the beauty parlors. It is a local concept as a qualifying adjective especially regarding weather, road construction and politics - - much like “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown,” that to deny its presence denies the local flavor. This morning at the Deli getting a quart of milk, the proprietor and I said it five times. He is a Pakistani - great guy - and I tried my line about being suspicious of Spring is like believing an Alderman’s promise. He loooooooved it!

I love Sandburg as well. Coincidentally, at present, I am a third of the way through his own compilation of his three-volume biography of Lincoln. Brilliant writing of history.

And the best anti-war poem, hands down is Sandburg’s “Grass.” On the surface it seems like a lament. However, when I read it in performance, I read it as if Grass is an arch villain, co-conspirator in war. Knocks people’s socks off.

Stitting on a porch swing reading Sandburg in April - in Chicago - well, I will wait till May or June! Inch of snow on the ground this morning.

While I am a lover of poetry and a reader and performer of poetry with hundreds committed to memory, writing poetry is not my strength or focus; once in awhile I go through a phase.

timmy: I am a city boy. NYC is even better.

Thanks again to both.

in media res

Last edited on Wed Apr 11th, 2007 05:18 pm by in media res

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 Posted: Wed Apr 11th, 2007 10:49 pm
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J Brian Long
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in media res,

I am glad you were able to find something of use in my commentary on your

poem.

 

I think it is wonderful that you also enjoy Sandburg. I admit that I have experienced

very little of his prose, but am proud to say that I have read every published poem he

has ever written. I have been to visit his home, Connemara (now a national historic site),

and have stood in the very room where he died. When the guide wasn't looking, I reached

out and touched the rim of his hat hanging on a hall tree (that particular experience ended

up inspiring a poem which made it into my book.) While I was there, I purchased a collection

of readings he had recorded, and I listened to it on the return drive. I have to tell you, they

were God-awful. There was this one poem (I think it was Four Preludes On Playthings Of The

Wind), in which he attempted to sound like a crow ("Caw! Caw!")... I realize he must have

intended it to be taken seriously, but the thing just ended up making me laugh until I actually

cried. I rewound that one a few times just to hear him and to start myself laughing all over

again (and I know that probably makes me a bit of a bastard, but, alas, there are some things

we cannot help, it seems).


"Grass" is a good poem, I agree. My personal favorite anti-war poem of his is

"Crimson Changes People"

 

This:

"While I am a lover of poetry and a reader and performer of poetry..."

is very interesting to me. I wonder if I might send something to you that I have sought

to have critiqued from someone who is involved in the performance of poetry. I once knew

a person from whom I could rely on for such indulgences, but we have lost track of one

another over time (he was far more intelligent than I, and I think it was that I simply

couldn't keep pace; there is only so much patience to be given sometimes with someone

who you think will never truly grasp whatever concept it is you are attempting to discuss;

I bored the poor man to the death of our correspondence, I believe, and I have not

heard from him in a long while. Pathetic, I know, but, as mentioned before, there are,

alas, some things we cannot help.)

 

May I send the poem to you (via PM), so that you might tear it to pieces for me?

 

--J Brian Long

 

Last edited on Thu Apr 12th, 2007 11:17 am by J Brian Long

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 Posted: Thu Apr 12th, 2007 12:47 am
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JBrian,

I sent you a PM.

I still think GRASS is better. So much in so little.

I tried to explain the Battle of Ypres to a recently graduated college student one time. He was incredulous...until he went on the web and researched it.

How does one explain any of it?

best,

in media res

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