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  #1  
Unread 06-30-2021, 03:54 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Default A Bagatelle for Brokenness

A Bagatelle for Brokenness


A burst of laughter coasts into an echo past
the tinny bells and rattling glass
of Joe's, my corner liquor store, the last
and first of every day.
Arroyo streets are dry of human traffic now,
are dry of humans anyway,
and through abandoned cars a gust
of night is torn into a howl.

A local-paper tumbleweed is spinning past
some soggy bags of broken glass;
and crumpled icon and iconoclast
who only yesterday
were vital news, are only what they are right now,
were only human anyway.
There is a lull between each gust,
an aching, long-imploding howl.

The neon flickers in an eerie, friendly cast.
It satisfies as painted glass
and Joe's becomes an abbey. Thus recast
before the sabbath day,
it harbors broken souls who live just for The Now,
if that is living, anyway.
A slowing bus exhales a gust
of night, a wheeze if not a howl.

Below the streets, the subway-howl,
suppressed, still shudders with The Lost,
the lost-to-day-lives anyway.
Above, in what the edges of the light allow,
a gutter-flood unwinds itself around and past
a trashcan lid on which, alas!
a nurse off graveyard shift is balanced, last
to leave the street-lit day.

Inside that cone of day,
her body's bright, but where her arms have passed
outside the light, they also pass
from sight and seem cut off. Her tied-up smock hangs past
her spandex contours like a towel.
She's Aphrodite, though dismissed,
regarded cheaply anyway,
and broken as she was on Milos anyhow.

She turns, and dreadlocks tumble past where eyes allow,
where modest eyes do anyway,
and cups one hand against her breast.
She wavers in the city's scowl,
its night so like its day,
but stills her rocking hips, composed at last,
on trash-can lid that has to pass
for scallop-shell: The Birth of Venus, fading fast.

Can brokenness be beautiful, can beauty last?
Mosaic light, like broken glass
says beauty lives in brokenness, like vast
and scattered shards of day
in stars. But never let me reckon, "Night, be Thou
my day!" since Joe's, in its own way,
maintain a light for those who've passed,
and calms the city's growl.

A burst of laughter floats into the echoes past
the angel wings and tinkling glass
of Joe's, my corner coffee shop, the last
and first of every day.
As stars dissolve from human sight yet stay somehow,
the broken go about their way,
with beauty -- reconciled at last
among the stars, at least for now.

Last edited by Daniel Kemper; 07-06-2021 at 04:24 PM. Reason: fixed copy-paste mistake. (ack!) S7L6 from "does in a way" to "in its own way" (trying it out)
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  #2  
Unread 07-01-2021, 02:48 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi Daniel,

Good to see you again; this is an interesting one.

For now I'll just mention that the structure of stanzas varies. Is that right? Is it intended to convey brokenness?

Back at some stage :-)

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #3  
Unread 07-02-2021, 07:33 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Hi Daniel

This feels very powerful, with strong images and some stunning syncopated rhymes. The key line seems to be “Can brokenness be beautiful?” and using mosaics, stained glass, and Venus de Milo. is a striking way of showing that it can.

It may be that I lead a sheltered life but I don’t get the nurse dancing on a trash can lid. Is this a kind of pole-dancing thing for titillation purposes? Or am I way off the mark here? (But I do get the Botticelli reference.)

The line I liked least was S2L2 “where modest eyes do anyway,”which seemed like an insincere apology of some kind.

This really drew me in and has me wondering. I’ll come back to it.

Joe
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  #4  
Unread 07-03-2021, 02:24 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
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Hello, Daniel,

This is quite ambitious. This is a nonce form, right? You did give yourself a challenge, and, good effort with the execution. Still, I find there’s a noticeable struggle with the form. Some of this problem stems from instances of curious to problematic word and/or image choices. And a general solution I’d give for that is to relax/simplify the language—make it more rational/conversational as opposed to forcing clever-sounding constructs which are not always sensible.

For instance, right from the opening, you have “A burst of laughter coasts into an echo past / the tinny bells and rattling glass / …” And here, ‘coasts’ just sounds off in the context. Why not simplify and make it more sensible with a better word choice--something along the lines of “A burst of laughter fades into an echo past / the tinny bells and rattling glass …”—which is more easily understood. And this could be a starting point for your revision—in other words, go through the poem and do something similar in the many spots where sense suffers somewhat.

After that, you might be in a better position to see how the poem as a whole, especially the stanzas, cohere individually and in their current sequence toward providing a plausible narrative arc. From this follow-up revision, you might even find that some re-ordering of stanzas, etc., might be called for.

Good luck with this!

Cheers,
…Alex
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  #5  
Unread 07-06-2021, 04:23 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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All--

Clearly I'm back to some work with Symphonic Form/Meta-formal verse. Alas, the old work and commentary are now cleared from this board via pruning, so new orientations must be done. Here's the basic structure of these heterometrical stanzas.

The octect: ABACDCad (ignoring line length for now)
1. Repeat octet three times so reader/hearer can acquire the pattern.
2. Then, to make each of the next four octets, do two transformations/changes.
a. Take second quatrain of the octet and move it to be the first.
b. Reverse the line order of that quatrain you just moved. Adding a space for clarity:

So, S1-3 ABAC DCad
--> first change --> DCad ABAC --> second change --> daCD ABAC.
S4 daCD ABAC
--> first change --> ABAC DCad --> second change --> CABA DCad
S5 CABA DCad
--> first change --> DCad CABA --> second change --> ABAC DCad
S6 ABAC DCad
--> Now we have returned to the first stanza pattern.

3. Then in S7, resolve the off-rhyme of L7 to perfect rhyme. So,

S7 ABAC DCAd

4. Then for the final reconciliation, reconcile L8 to perfect rhyme with D.

S8 ABAC DCAD

One additional flourish: The off-rhyme used for "a" rotated through each short vowel: [ust], [ost], [ist], [est], [AST]. Not necessary, for reader's/hearer's left brain to track the minutiae; it does create the instinct for approaching resolution in S7.

###
Hey Fliss!

Much of this is structure is intended to convey brokenness, but not just brokenness, but in the end... is it really broken?

###
Howdy Joe! Maybe it's your liquor store/coffee shop?


Thank you so much for your feedback and observations. [The key line] YES!! [Venus de Milo / Aphrodite de Milos]. [nurse dancing on a trash can lid.] Perhaps the original framing is too distant and/or not strong enough. There are three stanzas detailing the nurse. Intro, broken-Aphrodite, and Venus' birth. In the first of these, she's balancing on the lid in the middle of a big puddle/flooded guttern. [Pole dancing -- I think my reputation for bawdiness might have influenced interpretation. [Botticelli] - YAY!! I was hoping to show with her turn, that it's just a turn of perspective sometimes to see the perfection remaining in imperfection.

[“where modest eyes do anyway,”] Fair enough. I was feeling a little ironic about the phrase. Will mull.

Let me drop off a few other things in my mind (and potentially only there ). I do have addressing Keats' "Truth is Beauty, Beauty Truth," in mind, perhaps with Harold Bloom-like anxiety. I am explicitly trying to avoid the facile post-modern spin of bad is good or all is good with my explicity rejection of Milton's Satan's, "Evil be thou my Good," via the rejection of "Night be Thou my day."

###
Hello Alex!

What an honor! Thank you for having a look at my bagatelle. It's even more ambitious than you might have imagined!! Calling this a nonce form isn't wrong, exactly, but as you will have seen from some of the notes above, there's an awful lot more going on. In a sense, all concertos, symphonies, bagatelles, etc are nonce forms as far as music goes. Yet more than nonce because there's a commonality for how these forms are created -- a form for creating forms, if you will (hence, meta-formal).

[curious to problematic word choices] I'm interested in knowing more examples. They seem natural to me (though that's certainly not sufficient by itself). Coasts vs fades: I get the point you are making. I feel a little anxious about changing. More examples will help me out. Here I'm after consistent blowing imagery, but maybe I lose more than I gain. [clever-sounding constructs which are not always sensible.] As I say, examples will help. They feel natural at the time. I'll give them a go in a separate version to see what they sound like.

Some gestures might require the reader/hearer a second go round to get the full feel. For example, to ensure the reader gleans it's two views of one nurse and that "Joe's" is both liquor store and coffee shop, or the "angel wings" being a re-mention of the bells on the door a la "Every time a bell rings an angel gets his/her wings. The circularity of the metrical structure should strongly hint at those re-cast images though.
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  #6  
Unread 07-06-2021, 11:58 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Daniel,

I guess you need a crystallizing image, but I don't like the one you've got, sorry. On the other hand, I think the rest of the poem does great work, and it looks like quite a bit of work and imagination, reviewing a fairly traditional topic - my favorite line: "if that is living, anyway." It's all a bit Batman-y to my eye but lifted by art and craft much as the early movies in the Batman franchise are, anyway. I don't feel startled by your vision but I do feel challenged, which I think great art does, FWIW.
I think you want maintains, near the end?

Update: I'd likely change the title it this were mine. It feels a bit studiedly offhand, which honestly makes me think of my undergrad days, and I think you have better titles you can find (for instance, I prefer the poem's moment of mentioning that concept, it feels truer and simpler to me). Simple generally is my esthetics.


Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-07-2021 at 12:08 AM. Reason: title
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Unread 07-10-2021, 09:43 PM
Alex Pepple Alex Pepple is offline
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Hello, Daniel,

Perhaps, it all sound already natural to you, as you indicate, and so, you can't come up with any simpler constructs. That might indeed be true, so let me restate it as: try to make things more conversational and as much as possible less pedantic. This can be achieved by using less of the words you wouldn't be using in a conversational setting, and helped out further by striving for more immediacy and less circuitousness. After all, your poem is really a narrative--where some conversational flow is useful--albeit, enhanced by lyricism here and there. And since you're asking for more examples, I'll attempt to recast the first two stanzas into what I think is more relaxed, and conversational--it's just to illustrate better what I'm talking about--and take what you like from that:

A burst of laughter coasts shifts into an echo past
the tinny bells and rattling glass
of Joe's, my corner liquor store, the last
and first of every day.
Arroyo streets are dry of human traffic now,
are dry of humans anyway,
and through abandoned cars a gust
of night is torn into disfigures to a howl.

A local-paper’s tumbleweed is spinning past
some soggy bags of broken glass[;].
and The crumpled icon and iconoclast
who only yesterday
were vital news, are only what they are right now[,]:
were only they were just human anyway.
There is a lull between each gust, From lull to lull intrudes a gust
an aching[,] with long-imploding howl.
. . . .

Good luck with this!

Cheers,
..Alex
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Unread 07-11-2021, 05:09 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Golly, Daniel. I thought this was ambitious, and that was before I read your master-plan. (Started reading it - I didn't quite finish it, but I read enough to get a measure of the scale of the ambition.)

Oddly enough (I would say) it comes out pretty well, despite the looming danger, in a case like this, of being over-programmatic. Some striking images - yes to the Venus - and I thought the final stanza was both touching and vaguely redemptive.

An impressive achievement, if - if I may so - a rather rambling one. But I like a good ramble.

Cheers

David
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Unread 07-11-2021, 08:36 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is online now
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Hey Daniel,

I know what John means when he says the poem is a bit Batman-y: the world of Gotham being the cartoonish end point, maybe, of a certain American aesthetic involving neon and trash cans and newspapers blowing like tumbleweed down deserted city streets. There's a lot of imagery here that has become over familiar through American pulp and film noir, Edward Hopper, the beats and Bukowski and on through Warhol's street kids and the Velvets or early Tom Waits albums even. The central question "can brokenness be beautiful?" is a very familiar one as is the linking of the downtrodden to the saintly or divine: Kerouac always insisted "beat" was short for beatitude, after all. I wonder if bluntly stating the question in the poem might be overkill.

The central image of the nurse balancing on a trashcan lid transfigured into Botticelli's Venus is striking but also seems very contrived so that it comes across, to me, as a little campy. I also don't really relate to the central question in relation to this image. If the nurse is an ordinary woman at the end of a long shift caught in the rain, then it is her humanity and the human sympathy she provokes that renders her presence beautiful/significant/soulful. Turning her into Venus doesn't do much for me or seem necessary. Perhaps as a single image or metaphor but nearly three stanzas on the idea gives it a significance that I'm not sure it merits.

None of this is to say that I didn't quite enjoy this one, just as I enjoy all those things I cite above (apart from Bukowski, though maybe I've just read the wrong things). I like this more than some of your others because the speaker's philosophising intrudes less here and the images and rhymes are allowed to do the work, which they do effectively.

So. While I can't quite take the poem as seriously as the speaker/poet seems to, I'm glad the poem does take itself seriously. I do admire your ambition and your craft. I hope that all makes sense and doesn't come across as damning with faint praise.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 07-12-2021 at 07:28 AM. Reason: New thoughts
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  #10  
Unread 07-12-2021, 05:29 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark McDonnell View Post
I know what John means when he says the poem is a bit Batman-y: the world of Gotham being the cartoonish end point, maybe, of a certain American aesthetic involving neon and trash cans and newspapers blowing like tumbleweed down deserted city streets.
Yes, that's a very good call by John, and I agree too. I don't think it detracts from the poem, though, but that's just because of my affection - from a safe distance - for the imagined world of Gotham. Works well for the poem, I think.

David
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