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  #1  
Unread 09-15-2021, 11:22 AM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Default Matěj disguised

Rev. 4

The songs of mute Matěj

II. Matěj disguised

I do not speak your language. When I laugh,
you think I smile; when I sob, you think I laugh.

I hide myself in a wig and false eyelashes
to free my secret love, and watch her laugh.

In the ballet of willow branches, I see the wind’s breath.
In the pools of her eyes, I hear ripples laugh.

Behind the chipped facade of a bar weeping
dust stains, who hears each croaking beery laugh?

The river’s rearing horses rage, shake their gray manes.
When will the waters recede, when will we laugh?

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak.
You hear its warning caws, but I see its caustic laugh.

Perched on a rock, I watch the silence echoing
above the abyss, and on the third round, I laugh.


Rev. 3

The songs of mute Matěj

II. Matěj disguised

I do not speak your language. When I laugh,
you think I smile; when I sob, you think I laugh.

I hide myself in a wig and false eyelashes
to free my secret love, and watch her laugh.

In the ballet of willow branches, I see the wind’s breath.
In the pools of her eyes, I hear her laugh.

Behind the chipped facade of a bar weeping
dust stains, who hears my father’s beery laugh?

The river’s rearing horses rage, shake their gray manes.
When will the sun shine, when will we laugh?

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak.
You hear its warning caws, but I see it laugh.

Perched on a rock, I watch the silence echoing
above the abyss, and on the third round, I laugh.

Rev. 2

The songs of mute Matěj

II. Matěj disguised

I do not speak your language. When I laugh,
you think I smile; when I sob, you think I laugh.

I hide myself in a wig and false eyelashes
to free my secret love, and watch her laugh.

In the ballet of the willows, I see the wind’s breath.
In the pools of her eyes, I hear her laugh.

Gray buildings with chipped facades weep
dust stains by worn tables where beer drinkers laugh.

The river rises and sends the dead trees racing.
When will the sun shine, when will we laugh?

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak.
You hear its warning caws, but I see it laugh.

Perched on a rock, I watch the silence echoing
above the abyss, and on the third round, I laugh.

Rev. 1

The songs of mute Matěj

II. Matěj disguised

I do not speak your language. When I laugh,
you think I smile; when I sob, you think I laugh.

I hide myself in a wig and false eyelashes
to free my secret love, and watch her laugh.

In the ballet of willow branches, I see the sound of the wind.
In the pools of her eyes, I can hear her laugh.

The river rises, storm-whipped and swollen with rain.
When will the sun shine, when will we laugh?

Gray buildings with chipped facades weep
dust stains beside beer-drinkers’ croaking laugh.

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak.
You hear its warning caws, but I see it laugh.

Perched on a rock, I watch the silence echoing
above the abyss, and on the third round, I laugh.

Original

The songs of mute Matěj

II. Matěj disguised

I do not speak your language; when I laugh,
you think I smile; when I sob, you think I laugh.

You flash your gadgets and plastic peacock feathers.
My revulsion and embarrassment make me laugh.

I hide myself in a wig and false eyelashes
to free my secret love, and make her laugh.

When the trees gesticulate, I see the sound of the wind;
in the pools of her eyes, I can hear her laugh.

The river rises, storm-whipped and swollen with rain;
when will the sun shine, when will we laugh?

Gray buildings with chipped facades weep
dust stains beside beer-drinkers’ croaking laugh.

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak;
you hear its warning caws, but I see it laugh.

Perched on a rock, I watch the silence echoing
above the abyss, and on the third round, I laugh.


This is the second of two unmetrical ghazals that concern a deaf-mute boy named Matěj (Matthew); they are inspired by a Czech comedy called Pupendo. The first was workshopped here almost ten years ago. For anyone who is interested, I attach it below:



I. He longs for the sea

Willows trail their weeping hair in the river
I have always seen to the other side of the river

Shivering trout jump out at exhausted flies
sending expanding rings swirling downstream on the river

Eels hide and slide under rocks by the weir
poachers leave lines in the white foam all night in the river

Green watermen who turn themselves into twigs
when trapped on land, catch the souls of the drowned in the river

On planks by the bank, I sit and long to see
the rush of the sea, not the grim slowness of this river

The pale cotton sail of the pirate ship
by my bedside sways in wild sea gales, not on the river

The aquarium in my room has fish
that have flashed and spun in the sea sun, not some grey river

Each May the days unfold their origami
the breezes smell of sweet clover, not salt, by the river

Balaton is not, is not at all, the sea
even if it is wide and does not flow like a river

Someday a stray tern will see how I yearn
and carry me laughing to the sea far from the river

Last edited by Martin Rocek; 10-08-2021 at 12:14 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 09-16-2021, 05:42 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Hello.


I much like the act of imagination this poem enters into, the reconfiguring of the world and the world's language by somebody who cannot understand things in the same way: a def mute boy as a kind of counterpoint to the hearing, languaging world. It is a fine idea and this ghazal, and the first for that matter, are fine poems.

The need for a repetend can crush all life out of a bad ghazal. Happily, this does not happen here -- except a little in the second and third couplet. L4 is a line I stumble upon, it is a rather bland statement, it tells of embarrassment and revulsion, but for me it has neither disgust or revulsion actually in it. I'd rework it, add the emotion into the language.

L6 stumbles because its construction is too similar and too near to l4. What about "until she laughs" instead of "make her laugh", the use of "make [something] laugh" twice with no distance between them in the poem is jarring.

But apart from that I think this poem is clever. It is provocative, or that most fashionable of words "radical", because it allows the reader a too rare gift, a reimagining or external vision of society, rather like the clowns in Shakespeare's plays. Matěj stands out of traditional ways of language, and can reavaluate our world with a clearer and more piercing gaze.

Hope this helps,
Cameron

Last edited by W T Clark; 09-16-2021 at 12:12 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 09-16-2021, 06:36 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
I find the whole feel of this voice to be a beautiful, sad, yet light-hearted sound, almost a sung sound, with silence playing a central part. Thanks for this. I got to read it with my second cup of coffee — my favorite cup.

I notice that the pronouns change frequently which doesn't bother me but I will come back to give it a closer look later.

.
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  #4  
Unread 09-16-2021, 12:00 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I've never been drawn to ghazals. Maybe because couplet poems are not my favorite. The sort of start-stop-lope rhythm conflicts in my brain. I don't know why. As you can see that's not the best of reasons so I think it's an inadequacy. I'm talking about me to let you know that you may want to filter what I say directly into the rubbish bin.


I don't get the shift from "you" to "her" that happens from S2 to S3. I assume there are two people but I'm not sure who the "you" is.


This may be my favorite couplet

Quote:
Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

There are three semi-colons in the first two lines that make it bang out necessary information a little bit like a drill sergeant. Not sure if it's as effective as you want.


I've read "trees gesticulating" before, more than once.


That is all I have. I have enjoyed digging into this one. I would take anything I say/suggest with the awareness I've never pursued the form. I'm pretty certain this is the first time I've commented on one. Overall, I think it works and has some good sounds as well as requires just the right amount of the reader flowing along with the imagery and rhythm.

Best
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  #5  
Unread 09-16-2021, 02:53 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

What I love about this is that because of the title and the first strophe/couplet/bayt I read a confusion of joy and sorrow throughout; this, for me, is what makes the poem beautiful and strange - the ‘message as medium’ constantly evoked and revoked as I read through it, the narrator built from negative space, in a way, as we see the world around them but not ‘them’.

And it does, for me, on a very subjective-reader level, deliver one of the things I love about ghazals, in that each image is both different and linked - a kind of not-surreal, language-structured journey through relationships, feelings and the external world.

In terms of writing, I love S3, with the implicit gaudiness of the external world flashing symbols. I also love S5, with the river rising and the questions (I do like questions in poems, though).

I’m less sure about how S6 follows on from S5 - the two urban landscape images might be a bit too close. And the raven image - which I really, really like, is a long way from the sense of muteness, so we don’t ‘see’ the raven laugh unless we’re really listening to the poem, which we will be in a workshop context, but I’m not sure about outside of that.

I love the ending, the silence held, the narrator placed within the poem - the narrator present, as, I think, might be part of the ghazal tradition.

The first poem is lovely, and I enjoy how it works with the second - it’s good to read it for context, too.

Sarah-Jane
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  #6  
Unread 09-16-2021, 04:51 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Thank you Cameron, Jim, John, and Sarah-Jane for reading and commenting. I normally wait longer to get more comments before replying, but this poem is still a bit raw, and I wanted to try out some revisions in response to your comments.

Cameron,
Thank you for your encouraging words; as you can see, I have taken all your comments to heart and changed the lines in response. What do you think?

Jim,
Thank you as well; I have tried to make the pronouns a bit less jumbled. I knew who was who, but I needed to make sure the reader did too. Thank you!

John,
Thank you for your helpful comments, even if this isn't your cuppa. I've removed almost all of my semi-colons--I have a weakness for them--and tried to make clear that "she" is Matěj's secret love, whereas "you" is the world at large. I have also removed the gesticulating trees. What do you think?

Sarah-Jane,
Thank you as well; I hope you like the rewrite of S3 and don't mind that it has moved later; I wanted the disguise to come earlier. The two urban shers are meant to contrast--decaying community vs gentrification/urban renewal.

Again, thanks all; do you think the revisions are improvements, or mistakes?
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Unread 09-16-2021, 07:55 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I think this is much improved. Moving

Quote:
They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?
was a great decision. (Maybe it was a suggestion? I haven't read the other comments.) The opening now feels like the rest of the poem, and I feel much better now that "gesticulate" is gone.

Best
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  #8  
Unread 09-17-2021, 03:12 AM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

I like the change on a word level, and I think it's nice that this sher is now placed further away from the wig. It changes the sense of the poem, away from a reading of social commentary and towards a love poem, peopled by humans.

I understand about the juxtaposition of your two urban images, but just as the moving away of the wig from the peacock feathers has somehow enhanced those images - making the reader work to join the two ideas together, I still think it might be worth considering moving the images away from each other. I can see that it makes narrative sense if you're talking about gentrification and hinting at loss - the loss of industrial past and some of the camaraderie/humanity that this contained - but I still wonder if this would come across better if they were separated. It might not c work of course, but I'll still suggest, just in case - because of this form, which doesn't always embrace narrative, and because sometimes, I think, when we read, we read images as jewels, almost - and here you've got two blue ones next to each other that might stand out better if you had some velvet between them. I apologise if that is a bit unclear - I have to race off to work now but wanted to respond just in case I'm busy later and the moment is lost.

Sarah-Jane
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Unread 09-17-2021, 05:31 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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I like the revision as much as everybody else. You've certainly improved the poem, and in ways that though not predicted, do enrich the ghazal.

Have you considered replacing l8 with l6? Then, instead of having the more clichéd rising storm-wracked river vs. the positive sun, which seems to me a cultural cliché Matěj would be outside of, you would have a more impressionistic couplet linked by water. On that couplet, isn't "swollen with rain" a little too average a sentiment? Can you find something more inventive? "sick with rain", or "bruised with rain" to better align with "storm-whipped"?
On l5-6, you would obviously need a new l6 if the old one were to replace l8. I do like "ballet of branches", though seeing the sound of the wind is a little familiar. I think you get away with it, though.

I do believe that the urban images should be held a little apart. This is just one permutation I thought of:
Gray buildings with chipped facades weep
dust stains beside beer-drinkers’ croaking laugh.

A solitary raven opens its sharp strong beak.
You hear its warning caws, but I see it laugh.

Glass and steel towers coffin shinily dressed people
and no one, not even you, can hear them laugh.

They flash their gadgets and plastic peacock feathers,
a prancing Danse Macabre—should I cry or laugh?

I don't exactly see the poem as a narrative; it is more impressionistic, and I believe Matěj should be impressionistic, that seems to me one of his great strengths.

Hope this helps.
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Unread 09-17-2021, 07:57 AM
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Seree Zohar Seree Zohar is offline
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Hi Martin,

Nice to see you over this way! Overall this one grabs my attention. But I think it needs a bit of a trim.

Sher3: the format “the…of…” x3 in one sher is whelming. Consider a drastic compaction+ introduction of the conditional, to L1, eg: When willow branches ballet, I see the wind’s sound. That would entirely erase the problem since the “of…the” form in L2 would no longer be repetitive. I really like the images here.

Sher4: swollen with rain – is rather blasé, no? If that river’s rising, then it can’t be anything but swelling. Find something fresh n new there.

Sher5: I really like this sher but would suggest a fine honing: beer-drinkers’ croaking + the singular ‘laugh’ – is awkward. Is there a reason it can't be “beside a beer drinker’s …”

6 is excellent. The comparison is astute, spot on.

The penult sher: by now I'd really love to see some kind of connection between shers rather than each being self-contained and beginning to sound like a list, something to alter the tempo, and wonder if this one isn't a good place for that: eg: Then a solitary…..beak / and you….laugh.

Overall the rev is much improved. Enjoyed!
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