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Unread 06-10-2021, 09:05 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ohio
Posts: 462
Default Tied to the Government Vat

Something for Nothing

A student loan policy change is at hand.
Repayment relinquished, up to ten grand.
Five brothers dissect the new guidance on debt
and calculate how much each brother will get.

bbbbAiden repaid his loan two years ago.
bbbbWill he get money? The answer is no.

bbbbBrayden paid everything, the whole enchilada.
bbbbHe worked all through school, and thus will get nada.

bbbbHayden’s a fry cook, working the grill.
bbbbHis loan’s for a car so his payment is nil.

bbbbJayden, an Army vet and a war hero,
bbbbdidn’t do college. His payment is zero.

bbbbSam, with his many loans, faces a struggle.
bbbbTen grand will lessen the debts he must juggle.

As people begin to accept this fine offer,
less money flows into the government’s coffer.
The Feds must now ponder till they come across
a new source of funding to make up the loss.

They look in the Treasury. Nothing is there.
Then in the Denver Mint. Only thin air.
They open the Lock Box, with bangs and a thump.
Just souvenir coins with the likeness of Trump.

They assemble the best minds, the fertile, the fecund,
and hatch a grand strategy in half a second.
The easiest way to collect a few billion --
just borrow more funds in the names of our children.

A grave fiscal crisis avoided, averted.
More fans of big spending adroitly converted.
The Feds crow that they served up turkey with stuffing.
The takers are pleased they got something for nothing.

Change in last line: "all boast" replaced by "are pleased"


Tied to the Government Vat

The learned now urge
bbbthat we make college free.
This profligate splurge
bbbseems quixotic to me.

The nation is broke
bbband our future’s in hock.
The debt is our yoke
bbband our Sisyphus Rock.

The schools would be stoked,
bbbif this came to fruition.
We all would be soaked
bbbby the hike in tuition.

We’d toss funds away
bbbto help Josh “find himself.”
He'd drive Uber for pay,
bbbhis degree on the shelf.

It hardly seems fair
bbbwhen we stop to acknowledge
two-thirds of Americans
bbbdon’t go to college.

Stand tall. Show your pride.
bbbDon’t subsist, lying flat,
your umbilical tied
bbbto the government vat.

I scraped till my debt
bbbwas no longer in play.
Our leaders should let
bbbpeople pay their own way.

Last edited by Mark Stone; 06-19-2021 at 09:22 AM. Reason: Changed "then drive Uber" to "He'd drive Uber"
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Unread 06-11-2021, 06:17 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is online now
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: York
Posts: 175

Hi Mark,

I don't have much sympathy for the sentiment here (unless I'm missing some subtle irony) so I'll stick to the poetry.

I'm not sure what a government vat is. Value Added Tax? Is a vat a good thing?

S1 L4. Quixotic is a great word and fits the metre well

S3 and S4. I think I get what they are saying but I think they could be tightened up. eg I'm not qyite sure what "stoked" means in S3L1. And the "hike" in L4 is a hike in tuition fees rather than tuition itself. In S4 are you saying that Josh is now working for Uber for a living and his degree has been wasted? It doesn't quite say that though. eg I'm not clear who is working for Uber, Josh or us?

S5 makes a tidy argument.


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Unread 06-11-2021, 11:54 AM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ohio
Posts: 462


Yes, I think my political views are in the minority on this website. So when I post a political poem here, I am not looking for affirmation or concurrence, or political debate, but am hoping for comments on the poem itself. Thus, I appreciate your many questions and comments on the poem.

By "vat," I mean the dictionary definition, which is "a large tank or tub used to hold liquid, especially in industry." By "government vat," I mean a vat that is filled with government funds.

Glad you like "quixotic."

By "stoked", I mean the dictionary definition of "excited or euphoric." The Internet says that the word was coined by surfers in North America in the 1960s. This, of course, brings to mind several songs by The Beach Boys.

In the U.S., we say "tuition" instead of tuition fees. So "hike in tuition" just means hike in tuition fees.

Yes, in S4 I am saying that Josh is now working for Uber for a living and his degree has been wasted. I see your point, since the "we" could apply to both the tossing and the driving. Does my fix work?

I'm pleased that you find the S5 argument tidy.

Cheers, Mark
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Unread 06-11-2021, 12:15 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is online now
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 15,371

Only 14% of Americans are in public school. Is it unfair that the government pays for it?

I don't think that it's possible to separate the views expressed in the poem from the merit of the poem qua poetry. A poem that makes stupid and mean-spirited arguments cannot be a "good poem" even if the meter and rhyme are skillfully handled.
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Unread 06-11-2021, 01:58 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ohio
Posts: 462


I could answer the 14 percent question, and could respond to the "stupid" and "mean-spirited" claims, but then we'd start arguing back and forth, and then other people would weigh in, and there would be more arguing back and forth. In the end, a lot of time would be spent, and I don't feel anyone's opinion would be changed.

If people think less of the poem because they believe it makes stupid and mean-spirited arguments, I'm OK with that. The goal of the poem is not to change the minds of people who strongly hold the opposite view, since I think that is impossible, or at least unlikely.

I really wrote the poem out of frustration with the current level of federal spending, and with the idea of the government paying off student debt with money we don't have. I think the intended audience is people who agree with the sentiment of the poem.

While I would like to have comments on the poem from everyone, I respect that there are probably many who share your view that the substance cannot be separated from the means of expression.

Best, Mark
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Unread 06-11-2021, 02:18 PM
Simon Hunt Simon Hunt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Monterey, CA USA
Posts: 2,210


I hate this poem, really hate it. Way more than a lot of worse poems. I've been walking past it warily, like a turd on the sidewalk, for a few days now, but I'll pay you the respect of telling you why I hate it.

I hate it politically. It's totally wrong-headed from my perspective. What's more, it does that stupid move of looking at one thing in isolation and shakes its maga cap at the crazy libtards, without ever looking at a big picture. Ever hear of the defense budget, say?

I hate it pedagogically. It really seems to think all education is either direct job training or pointless self-finding. As a 30+ year educator, this is deeply offensive to me. I may end up driving uber, who knows? Is my education then worthless? Fuck that.

I hate it poetically. In part because its sentiments are so ugly to me--but, also, for reasons related to my pointless education--I find it lacking in wit, freshness of sound, etc. Moreover, there's no hike in tuition here, just a reassignment of debt. And the central metaphor of an umbilical cord tied to a vat makes no sense.

So, I'm not your target audience, ha. Good luck with it. I'm sure we'll find common ground somewhere else.
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Unread 06-11-2021, 03:20 PM
RCL's Avatar
RCL RCL is offline
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 5,907

Mark, I must echo the negatives others have noted. I've appreciated your other posts to my work and to others, but this is too much--though not anywhere near as excessive as your slavish ode to that bastard Trump.

Last edited by RCL; 06-11-2021 at 03:34 PM.
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Unread 06-11-2021, 04:52 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 4,042

Hi Mark,

I'd say this is a basically a political argument presented in metre and rhyme. There's nothing I can see that it gains from being presented in this way though. So I wonder: what is your goal in presenting your argument in verse?

If you were to find a way to make it funny, or clever, or have it to include something by the way of interesting and unexpected imagery or metaphor, I'd likely find find something to enjoy. In it's current state, I find it flat and "telly" and prosey.

I guess if your reader finds themselves nodding along in agreement, they might enjoy the poem for that reason. But I think they'd probably get the same amount of enjoyment if they were reading it written in prose as a Facebook post.

As a poem it has a strange mixture of registers. So, for example, "The debt is our yoke" and "The schools would be stoked" seem to be sentences from different eras. A more consistent voice would improve the poem, I think. Though for me, that on it's own isn't going be enough.

Sorry, I don't have anything more positive to say. Writing good political poetry is hard. Incidentally, I also don't agree with the poem's political standpoint, but that's not why it's doing very little for me.



Last edited by Matt Q; 06-11-2021 at 04:58 PM.
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Unread 06-11-2021, 07:48 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ohio
Posts: 462


I am completely in favor of a college education, and I appreciate the work of the professors who provide it. My problem is with having the U.S Government (USG) pay more for it than it's paying now, since we're operating in the red.

The website says the USG has a national debt of over $28,000,000,000,000. In addition, the USG has 52.72 trillion in unfunded future Medicare benefits and 37.60 trillion in unfunded future Social Security benefits (per a 04-07-2020 article on Hmm, looks like I've fallen into making arguments. However, I can see how S5 could be seen as the N not valuing education. I will think about how this stanza might be changed.

Regarding defense spending, I spent 33 years working for the Department of Defense, and I am in total agreement that defense spending should be scrutinized very carefully. However, I don't wish to write a poem that addresses every problem we have. I don't think I could make it interesting. I prefer to work on one subject at a time.


I'm sorry the poem does not work for you. Regarding the Trump poem, I don't know if it is "excessive," but I will admit to "effusive." I got so tired of reading the countless anti-Trump poems, I thought there should be a poem that reflects my views (and those of tens of millions of others).


Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. I agree, to a large extent, that the poem is flat, telly and prosey. I still enjoy the poem, but I will give serious thought as to how it might be improved, since your concern is quite valid.

Best, Mark
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Unread 06-11-2021, 09:17 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Plum Island, MA; Santa Fe, NM
Posts: 10,790

I'll ignore the politics and stick to poetry.

This is an awful poem. You said so yourself - "flat, telly, and prosey" - and that's an understatement. The only thing this demonstrates is that it's possible to stick to all the rules of rhyme and meter and still produce a truly bad piece of work. I really can't suggest anything to improve it - best to pretend you never posted it, and focus on something else.

Last edited by Michael Cantor; 06-12-2021 at 07:15 AM.
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