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  #1  
Unread 02-17-2021, 10:57 AM
Bill Marsh Bill Marsh is offline
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Default Pacemaker

Pacemaker

I passed out in a cafe. My heart paused
for seconds as a way of exploring how
it feels to die. The doctors knew the cause
and put a clock in my chest to say; Beat now.
Beat now. So my heart becomes the slave of time?
It was never happy when told what to do;
it was stubbornly unruly in its prime.

I just played at dying. I would never see it through.

But its too late now. I am young again with all
the snarly spirit I got from getting old
the first time. So Heart, please accept somehow
you are no longer free to orbit or to stall.
Dear Heart, at long last, do as you are told:
Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now...
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  #2  
Unread 02-17-2021, 12:31 PM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Bill,

Welcome to your first poem on the Sphere!

I like this very much and the final couplet is fantastic, with the last line replicating a heartbeat:
buh-boom, buh-boom buh-boom, buh-boom, buh-boom. Marvellous.

I think it would be even better if more of the meter was smoothed into IP, something along these lines:

I passed out in a cafe. My heart paused
for seconds as a way of knowing how
it feels to die. The doctors found the cause
and put a clock in my chest to say; Beat now.
Beat now. So my heart becomes the slave of time?
It wasn't happy when told what to do -
was stubbornly unruly in its prime.

"I played at death; I'd never see it through."

Its too late now. I'm young again with all
the (blank blank) mood I got from getting old
the first time. So Heart, please accept somehow
you are no longer free to (blank) or stall.
Dear Heart, at long last, do as you are told:
Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now...

Just a few suggestions. I hope some of that might help you to revise it.

Jayne
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  #3  
Unread 02-19-2021, 01:14 PM
Bill Marsh Bill Marsh is offline
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Thank you for your kind and perceptive comments and the work you put into looking at my poem.

I take the general thrust of your comments is that the poem would be more forceful if the IP were tightened up. 52 of the 70 feet are iambic. I kept the meter looser because I like the more conversational tone it produced. But I have rescanned and will revisit all those decisions. Thank you.

"Just" in line is redundant (as the word almost always is) but it is colloquial: "I didn't mean to break it. I was just reaching for a cookie." Since it is my heart making excuses for itself, I wanted it to sound like a child.

God it is sweet to be able to talk shop!
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  #4  
Unread 02-19-2021, 01:53 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi Bill,

I am so sorry, as I read this when you posted it and did enjoy reading it, then became sidetracked.

For what it is worth, I think the first four lines place-make perfectly, setting the context for the poem. The line-breaks work perfectly, too.

I also enjoy the young-old play and the 'snarly spirit''.

And you're in a kind of paradoxical situation, maybe, using IP to both replicate the regularity of the necessary heartbeat whilst (perhaps) wanting to invoke the simultaneous human need for irregularity - for rebellion and alternatives to regular/homogenous.

For me in L13, there's a capitulation to the body, and also to machine. I wonder if the narrator is addressing the heart, in L13, or the pacemaker - the clock?

And I wonder if they need to exhort the heart to beat regularly or instead accept that they will - they do, because they are now governed by time (and the clock). I wonder if acceptance - 'I know you'll do as you are told' might be more logical (and sad) than the narrator's current exhortations - asking the heart to do as they are told.

Sarah-Jane
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  #5  
Unread 02-19-2021, 02:43 PM
Yves S L Yves S L is offline
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Hello Bill Marsh,

I think a better phrase than "so my heart becomes a slave of time?" could be find. For me the phrase feels like filler in the way that it does not quite connect with the content around it, mostly because the heart is not so much a slave of time in the abstract (the heart is already like all else inherently rhythmic/cylic, though free to vary somewhat within rhythms/cycles), but a slave of the time/rhythm kept by a machine, where the idea of freedom/constraint reaches an articulation in the metaphor-image of the pacemaker as a slavish time-keeper: I feel the original phrase is just a vague pointing towards the themes of freedom and constraint, and something more precise could be found.

I also wonder about these two lines: "It wasn't happy when told what to do -/was stubbornly unruly in its prime. " The way I see it, there are two targets that are hit in these two lines: (1) the idea of an unruly prime, (2) general stubborness, and I wonder if those ideas could not both be hit in one line, thereby giving another line to articulate, vary, or contrast the themes of freedom/constraint and youth/old-age.

I also wonder about this line:"you are no longer free to orbit or to stall." The verb "orbit" does not seem to go with "stall" to me. Is there are nothing verb that gives two syllables with the needed stress pattern?

Yeah!
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  #6  
Unread 02-20-2021, 06:34 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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This poem is right. there. Raw, real, yet ornamented as all formal poetry is. I like it much not just for subject matter but it shows form need not fight feeling.

I encourage you to go for 70 out of 70 - there is no reason conversational tone cannot be kept and perfect meter too. Misc. take/toss/transform ideas...

[I passed out in a cafe. My heart paused
for seconds as a way of exploring how]

...was just having a discussion about monosyllables and their impact. The first line has potential, much realized already, to use monosyllables to increase tension and urgency.

Caution: As is, it's hard to scan. As a general rule, do you think it might be best if the opening was spot on, since variation needs something clear to vary from?

Going the monosyllable route though, I think "in a" could be replaced going all-in on spondees. For that urgency. If so, then it's clear the line is designed that way and to be set aside (with purpose) as the meter goes. Then begin with spot on meter and maybe vary a little later -? What do you think?

I don't like to stand on the sidelines and throw stones-- to easy to forget how hard this stuff is. So what do you think about, "The whole cafe went dark. My heart had paused"

By the way, the enjambment with "paused" is sweet! Just right and a great turn for an opening. You pause the reader with the speaker's pause, and draw the reader into the next line. Sweet.

The "of" in L2 was a distracting bump for me.

it feels to die. The doctors knew the cause

--perfect IP, perfect timing. For my taste an off-rhyme that shouldn't be hard to fix isn't conversational; it's grating.

and put a clock in my chest to say; Beat now.

These times (~15-20 years) are very forgiving of anapestic substitution. "in my chest". "inside my chest: Beat now." -? One opportunity jumps out at me on this line. You could go all wobbly IP before this point, then when the pacemaker is put in, go perfect IP to match the pacemaker's rhythm. --That does come with the final line very nicely already though.

Beat now. So my heart becomes the slave of time?
["Beat now. My heart's become a slave of time?"] --example that the IP would be perfect without losing conversational tone.

It was never happy when told what to do;
-->My ear falters here way more than the line. I get a little lost in the monosyllables after happy. I tend to want to scan almost all monosyllables as stressed feet, which ain't so. Personal defect.

it was stubbornly unruly in its prime.

I just played at dying. I would never see it through.

But its too late now. I am young again with all
the snarly spirit I got from getting old
the first time. So Heart, please accept somehow
you are no longer free to orbit or to stall.
Dear Heart, at long last, do as you are told:
Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now. Beat now...

I like the inner conflict, conversation, and resolution. I get "slave of time" and orbit or stall out of flight seemed perfectly fit to the falling with which you opened.

Hope this is useful. Take/toss/transform.
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  #7  
Unread 02-20-2021, 09:06 AM
Bill Marsh Bill Marsh is offline
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Jane - thank you!
Even with a pacemaker, there are lots of ways the heart can act up. so the last lines are addressed to heart to exhort it to behave.

I think your comments suggest the meter in the poem is looser in parts to contrast with the hyper-meter of the last line. I didn't think of it that way when I wrote it, but it fits.

Yves, thank you!
I am and will think about your comments. I can't say they resonated with me, but that just makes them more interesting. They were certainly detailed and precise and come from a careful reading. So thank you again.

Daniel, thank you!
It is really interesting that you and Jayne are such conservative metricists - and delightful! I did do corrective scanning of the poem when I wrote it, but I never took it as goal to have a sonnet of 70 iambs. My goal was more that there be no substitutions without justification.
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  #8  
Unread 02-20-2021, 10:34 AM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Bill,

Ooo, I do like being called a "conservative metricist"; thank you for that

I'll try to live up to the description by adding that lines 4 & 5 could become IP quite easily, with something like:

and put a clock in me to say: Beat now.
Beat now. My heart becomes the slave of time?


L4's "in my chest'' isn't strictly necessary, as everyone knows where a pacemaker is inserted, plus "in me" deals with the extraneous syllable if you choose to go for perfect IP, and L5 doesn't need ''So".

Daniel said:
"By the way, the enjambment with "paused" is sweet! Just right and a great turn for an opening. You pause the reader with the speaker's pause, and draw the reader into the next line. Sweet."

I hadn't noticed that, explicitly, but I totally agree.

Jayne
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  #9  
Unread 02-20-2021, 01:53 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi again Bill!

Hey, for 70/70 I'm being expressive, not necessarily dogmatic-- but that's the zone from which the variations should come, IMO. I really like variations with a purpose. I just really want to say that conversational tone doesn't force us to toss handfuls of iambs aside.

If done right, variations probably the highest achievement, I think. Witness that I advocated for the potential use of a spondee's. That said, I think the tidal wave of free verse has unconsciously re-set our norms. We, I think, want to be considered as professionals, as artists-- but what musician would say, "Well, 50-something notes out of 70..." I'd say "Do it right," isn't conservative; just literal.

Boy that looks a lot more harsh when I read the text than I really meant for it to come out. (facepalm)

Still, you know, if it's IP, it's IP, not by simple or super majority. I would say I'm conservative on variations, though-- got to be really clear on what counts as a true purpose for altering the meter or going meta-textual for a moment.

But there's so, so much to play with! A character whispering one or two words to another written in a few pyric feet, a shout written in a spondee, a woman's voice with trochees or ending lines with an amphibrach (to get the "feminine ending"), or groundswells striking a beach written in double iambs, then the authors mediations between them in iambs, or in your poem if all the variations preceded the pacemaker, and the iambs were perfect after that-- that would be really cool, or mentioning an imperfection in a person's face with an imperfect rhyme (a la Hawthorne's "The Birth Mark"), or alternating meter while describing a car careening on the ice (as it goes right, one meter, then left, another) and on and on and on.

Hear endeth the rant. Thanks for bearing with me.
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  #10  
Unread 02-20-2021, 03:41 PM
Bill Marsh Bill Marsh is offline
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Wow! I never in my whole life thought I would run into anyone who is passionately interested in iambic pentameter! I now I have found two - at least.

So Jayne and Daniel, if you are interested in carrying this discussion on in another forum, I am game. My view is that IP is as varied as the poets, and that the ways of Browning or Swinburne are as legit as Pope. Also, I don't think that from the percentage of proper iambs in a sonnet is any indication of quality, though it does say something about style.
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