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Unread 02-21-2021, 05:56 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 8,955

Bill, I like the poem, and I don't mind some loose iambics (though I don't care for your occasional hexameters, as in L9 and L12, which I think are draggy). Where I do think you could improve most is that last line. Nobody needs a whole line of "Beat now" to get the message. It occurred to me that you could use the first eight syllables for some other content and end with just a colon and then "Beat now" or even "Beat. Now." Speaking of punctuation, in L4 your semicolon should be a colon. And in L11, you need a comma in "So, Heart," because you are addressing your heart as if it were a person.

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Unread 02-22-2021, 03:33 AM
conny conny is offline
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: UK
Posts: 1,843

if you came looking for fans of pentameter, you came to
the right place.

its a great idea for a poem. never seen one like it before,
which is always a good sign. but, telling rather than showing
can be a bit of a drag on the tone taken to the subject/scene-
any subject. and the opening is a tell, not a show. instead of

i passed out in a cafe, my heart paused,

a show would be, in IP, something like

unconscious on the cafe floor, i paused
for seconds as my heart explored just how
it feels to die,

i'm not saying that's how it should be, but its illustrative of
a maybe smoother opening. some telling is fine obviously,
but usually a big tell puts distance between the reader and the

exploring in L.2 puts a stress on the 9th syllable of that 2nd line,
as exPLoring is pretty hard to say with its first syllable bearing
more stress than the second one. that's the reason the line reads
clunky. explored, above, puts the stress at position 8. That's
kinda how IP works. variations are fine, but 4th foot variation
is a bit of a high wire act and can often stick out like a sore thumb.

the final repetend i like a lot.

.................................................. ..........................

Originally Posted by Bill Marsh View Post

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 it’s 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...

Last edited by conny; 02-22-2021 at 03:35 AM.
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Unread 02-22-2021, 11:48 AM
Max Goodman Max Goodman is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
Posts: 1,937

Strong work, Bill. I encourage you to push it a bit farther.

The first line works well, getting right to the point and drawing me in. The second line, though, includes a lot of filler, much weaker than what the poem has led me to want and expect.

Exploring how it feels to die

is the next thought, but I have to read more than half of the line to get to it.

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Unread 02-22-2021, 12:20 PM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 5,350

I agree with Jayne about L9.

Otherwise I would change little, maybe, maybe, maybe "snarly", maybe not.
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Unread 03-02-2021, 04:39 PM
Lawrence Rhu Lawrence Rhu is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2020
Location: Columbia, SC
Posts: 11
Default Pacemaker

Dear Bill,

I am glad your heart attack had such a good outcome. A few years ago, a pacemaker happily resolved a similar episode for me. Subsequently, that device has given me a whole new life, and both the event and its resolution also moved me to write a few poems. When my heart failed, I was already old enough to steadily court mortality’s muse, but the pacemaker transformed my elegiac tones into hymns of praise—not without irony, of course, in either register. So, I am grateful to read your poem and glad to wish you well wherever it leads.

My main response came early in reading this sonnet: the idea that anyone’s heart would pause so purposefully, “as a way of exploring how / it feels to die,” made me wonder. It makes the heart sound so intentional, like an empiricist, but the results of the experiment that the heart is allegedly conducting will be conveyed to its host. The speaker has acquired some knowledge of “how / it feels to die.”

“The heart has reasons which reason knows nothing of,” says Pascal, which may be his way of saying the heart is not a rationalist in any sense of that word. I’d add that, in extremis, it is not an empiricist either. As you probably know, in the first English sonnet sequence during the 1590s “sonnet boom,” the muse advises the struggling sonneteer--not without irony, of course--to “[look] in your heart and write”. There, it seems to me, the speaker in “Pacemaker” is both young and old, embracing both dimensions of the self (and others too). I hope he will continue to write what he has it at heart to say.
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Unread 03-02-2021, 07:14 PM
Golias Golias is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Location: Lewisburg, PA, USA
Posts: 1,510

Bill, I am coming in late so I won't try to nitpick, but I want to assure you I think this is becoming a very good poem on a tremendously engrossing subject.

Wiley (Golias)
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Unread 03-02-2021, 09:13 PM
Bill Marsh Bill Marsh is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Toronto, Canada
Posts: 38

I went around and around on the Beat-nows. The repetition is not to deliver the message, it is to deliver the monotony.
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