Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top


Thread Tools Display Modes
Unread 10-24-2016, 12:43 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,634
Default Thirteen


My buddy Jake’s bar mitzvah was all right.
His parents own this chain of health boutiques,
so at the party there were all these freaks:
women with faces pulled up high and tight,
hair so blond it almost looked pure white,
and this one yoga teacher with her cheeks
like dynamite in tights was giving peeks
at her brand new boob job by the pool all night.
Jake said she told him since he was a man
he could touch—and he leaned in close, and felt
her breath all thick with beer against his skin.
Up in the game room, I didn’t know a thing.
I heard about it later as he held
the locker door with a clenched and shaking hand.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 12:44 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
Join Date: May 2007
Location: New York, NY
Posts: 4,634

The colloquial tone seduced me instantly, and my passionate affair with this poem lasted all the way through the two turns (after lines 8 and 11) and final image. It is remarkable that the author so effortlessly fits the speaker’s story into such a demanding a rhyme scheme (abba/abba). After so virtuosic a display, one can only be certain that the shift to off-rhymes in the sestet (cde/edc/) is purposeful—the lack of chime in the final three lines brings us back to a far less sexually exciting reality and lands us in surprising shifts of setting (game room, middle school).
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 01:14 AM
Simon Hunt Simon Hunt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Monterey, CA USA
Posts: 2,282

Extra points for topicality since the real-life yoga teacher 's trial only recently resolved in her acquittal? I agree that this is very skillful in its story-telling and its handling of structure and rhyme. The cheeks/dynamite/tights image seemed perhaps a tad oblique for this speaker to me, though, and how about a dash in place of the comma at the end of line 5?
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 07:27 AM
Catherine Chandler's Avatar
Catherine Chandler Catherine Chandler is offline
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Canada and Uruguay
Posts: 5,846
Blog Entries: 33

Call me a political junkie, but that locker line (14) immediately brought to mind the current US election discourse . All the health "freaks" are women, with six lines dedicated to the one who is basically (and literally) asking for it!

I agree with the DG that the colloquial tone works in the context, but I disagree with him/her that the Petrarchan rhyme scheme is overly demanding, and that the poet showed virtuosity in using it.

An interesting vignette, but for me, it's a one-read.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 07:36 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
Lariat Emeritus
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Fargo ND, USA
Posts: 13,816

I find the Petrarchan octave nigh impossible, but otherwise, what Cathy said.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 07:44 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: New York
Posts: 15,945

As far as the demands of the form are concerned, they are considerably reduced by the poet's decision not to rhyme (in any meaningful way) the last six lines. It may have been purposeful and thematically justified, but it does make the writing less demanding to pull off.

The sonnet seems to be all about tone and trying to capture the voice of the young speaker, but for me it would have been nice if the captured voice had been called upon to do a bit more work. I'm left with a so-what feeling at the end of this.

As far as the tone and voice are concerned, the last two lines strike me as a departure from the diction and register of the preceding lines.

But on the whole, it all reads smoothly and satisfies as a one-read, to use Catherine's term.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 08:59 AM
Claudia Gary's Avatar
Claudia Gary Claudia Gary is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Northern Virginia, USA
Posts: 1,113

I agree with Cathy that the petrarchan form isn't all that difficult. Or maybe it's just a matter of practice. (Do we poets get points for years spent in the game?)

As for Roger's comment about the sestet, to me it seems to be rhymed with deliberate variations, rather than unrhynmed. Such would correspond well to the layer of complication and conflict now added to the bar mitzvah boy's life. The poem has a moving conclusion, although I agree with Cathy that it's a "one-read."
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 11:41 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: San Diego, CA, USA
Posts: 7,694

Ripped-from-the-headlines poems always make me a bit suspicious about exploitation and sensationalism. Not that I'm poised to scold--just that I'm a little harder to win over, and am looking for either an overt or subtle message or agenda. By presenting the "clenched and shaking hand" of the thirteen-year-old who seems simultaneously braggadocious and troubled, I think the poem succeeds in not being too preachy. (Then again, maybe I'd like it to be a little more preachy on this topic.)

I thought the sestet's imperfect and distant rhymes (abccba puts those a rhymes pretty far apart) helped convey the sense of something-not-quite-right-beneath-the-surface.

Actually, the octave contains more quibbles for me than others had with the sestet. Would a narrator this young and admittedly clueless about sexual undercurrents know or care that this woman was a yoga teacher, and would he characterize her as "with cheeks / like dynamite in tights"? And was the woman wearing tights at the party, or is that part of the cheek-dynamite metaphor? Both possibilities seem odd to me.

The anticlimactic misdirection of "touch...leaned in close...felt" followed by "breath" is interesting.

Still thinking about this one.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 03:34 PM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: NY, USA
Posts: 4,596

Technically well done, but doesn't really hold my interest, and I'm not really convinced by the voice--which is central to making this work.
Reply With Quote
Unread 10-24-2016, 06:33 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Iowa City, IA, USA
Posts: 9,663

For me this is mainly effective. Things fall apart--and so do people if they are victims of drunken sexual predators. The reminder that the boys are only thirteen says volumes about the sexual curiosity/uneasiness of Jake and the devastating effect the woman has on him. I'm guessing that the "tights" are some kind of yoga pants that fit as tightly as tights. The tightly rhymed octave gives way to an exploded sestet with rhymes that no longer rhyme, which I thought was an effective way to mirror Jake's shaking hands. I do think that the meter gets a bit ambiguous in L10, but the colloquial voice allows a certain leeway in the meter.

Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right

Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 8,280
Total Threads: 21,425
Total Posts: 268,786
There are 311 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right

Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online