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Unread 09-23-2022, 07:11 PM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Centennial, Colorado
Posts: 541
Default The Committee

The Committee

We were certain
that truth in matters of State
would most resemble a tree.

All of us knew
it was a tree we approached,
leaves shimmering in the distance.

A majestic,
efficient shape achieved by reaching
out to all directions at once.

We saw the storm
approaching like closed fists
threatening argument and indecision.

The rains came and
the shining leaves fell into
dry pages deconstructing on the ground.

All that remains
are piles and piles of testimony
lying everywhere, attached to nothing.

There are rooms filled
with stacks of paper standards
simply restating our preferences

and unable
to stand when the winds came,
our precious roots posturing in air.
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Unread 09-24-2022, 07:59 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 3,665

Stopping by briefly to say I like the tenor of this. Though I was somewhat distracted by the tercets and some of the line breaks.

I'm not sure if this is a political poem. If it is, I like it less.
I haven't much time at the moment and haven't said enough to give this the attention it deserves, so I'll come back when time allows.

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Unread 09-27-2022, 08:24 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: North Carolina
Posts: 5,572

Bill, I think the theme you're building here--although I have to admit I'm not certain I know what that is--is probably worthwhile. Beyond that there isn't much to say, only questions to ask. Why did they know "truth in matters of State" would resemble a tree? What are the truths? In S2 who is all of us? In S4 I can't envision a storm "approaching like closed fists." Storms are big and blowing and rain everywhere. They're the opposite of closed fists. Are the leaves paper or do they fall on paper? Does someone put the leaves in the rooms? I'll stop there because the final stanza baffles me. I'm sure there are more questions.

I'm sorry it that is too much. I'm not a jerk, or I should say I'm not being a jerk here. What we have here makes little sense and is empty of feeling or language that can cause the reader to become attached to the poem. All I can detect is confusion. I'm assuming others are having similar responses and are waiting for some sucker like me to say it. But maybe not. Someone may come along and argue with my points and if that's so it's up to you to accept which you believe.

My positive point is this reads like solid notes and an outline of a poem that will develop the more you work on it. Fill in some blanks, ask yourself some questions, etc.

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Unread 09-28-2022, 04:39 PM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Centennial, Colorado
Posts: 541


The poem, for now, is as political as another government committee formed to find the 'truth'. If I got any more specific then the politics would have quickly become overwhelming. I could have entitled it "The Commission" which I thought of and which might have been more accurate. Thanks for stopping by to comment. I appreciate your input.


You and I have been around here for awhile. Of course you're not a jerk. I know better than to think that. You are right to call me concerning the flawed metaphors: the storm as fists, the leaves as paper. Major revision still remains there. But the identity of the "We" and the "our" seems much less confusing to me as a reader. They are the committee members and seem consistent throughout. The poem has been revised since the last time I presented it here. I will present another revision but it probably won't be soon. Thanks John, your comments are helpful.

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Unread 09-28-2022, 06:25 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 4,493

Hi Bill,

I remember reading an earlier version of this. I'm reading this as a disillusionment of an idealism about state/government. It's tempting to read it as referring to some specific political event (Trump, say, and the committees and testimony currently happening around that), but I read it as being more general than that.

I think the subject matter is challenging to write well about and for the most part, I think you do a good job of not drifting too far into abstraction or becoming overly "telly". I particularly like the opening three stanzas, which introduce the tree metaphor and set the tone.

In S4, I wonder about the storm being likened to "closed fists", plural. I guess I could see cumulonimbus storm clouds as containing many fist shapes. Or perhaps an entire cloud looking like a fist. For some reason, it I think might work better for me a "a closed fist". Maybe just because the storm is singular. But I guess it depends on if you want the threat to be singular or multiple, maybe you want the storm to be the populace (hence many fists) or the populist demagogue (a single fist) -- or something else entirely.

In S5, I wasn't quite clear what it means for the leaves to "fall into dry pages". I think because in context "fall into" sounds a bit like "fall and turn into" -- so that at first I thought that once the wet leaves have fallen they become dry pages. Though read straight, I think, it says the wet leaves fall in amongst the dry pages of a book, and then I imagine the leaves becoming pressed and dried out and ornamental like pressed flowers.

I also wondered about "deconstructing". First, I'm not clear whether it's the the pages that are deconstructing or the leaves. It reads like its the pages, but it might make more sense that its the leaves. Also, I don't know what pages or leaves "deconstructing" looks like, how a page/leaf would achieve that, so I can't visualise it. I'm not really sure what it would mean, in concrete terms. I guess I thought of decomposing and/or self-destructing, which is why I wondered if it was meant to be the leaves rather than the pages. Maybe there's a verb that has a clearer image to it than "deconstructing"? And if you do want it to be the leaves that deconstruct, a comma after "ground" would do that.

I like what I take to be a double read on "lying" in S6.

S7 is the stanza I like least, which does seem rather flat and "telly". I'd say some sort of image or wordplay would be beneficial here. Unless by "standards" you mean a military or ceremonial flags? That possibility did occur to me.

In the S8, I wonder about the last line. I don't quite follow the metaphor. I get that truth is a tree. Are the committee members also trees, so that they have roots? Their roots are in the air because the wind has blown them over? Or are the roots not the roots of committee, but the roots of the tree of truth? It does read to me more like the former to me, though I guess it could be the latter, which makes more sense in terms of the metaphor. The tree of truth has been uprooted, perhaps?

Also tense-wise, the transition from S7-8 seemed like it might be off, do we switch from present to past here? "There are rooms filled with stacks of paper standards [that are] unable to stand when the winds came".



Last edited by Matt Q; 09-30-2022 at 05:26 AM.
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Unread 10-02-2022, 03:27 AM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Centennial, Colorado
Posts: 541


Thanks for spending time with this. What you say has given me some different approaches to consider.

The problems you mention coming after the 3rd stanza arise possibly because I got lazy, or maybe moved too hurriedly past my central metaphor "truth as a tree", and leaves as records or pages. But I still believe I can save this piece without becoming to "politically" specific which I feel would be a mistake. Also the storm as presented seems a failure of the imagination on my part.

Thanks Matt, you have helped, as have all the others who stopped and commented.

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