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  #1  
Unread 04-24-2021, 07:37 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Default Little Cantata from Emmanuel Baptist Church

Little Cantata from Emmanuel Baptist Church, James Island

The night comes fast for drunken men;
the sun comes slow for me.
I am not saying that I'm one
of them, but I can see
the liquor stores and strip-tease clubs
where chapels used to be.
I saw the preachers outside churches
here, but now I see

the creatures outside certain clubs
where dancers bump and grind.
Aw Jesus, pluck out both my eyes.
I'm ready. I'm resigned.

But if we'd met before tonight,
then every night He'd find
I'd plucked them out with rum 'cause I
was blind drunk, I was blind.

We drunks declare through such bad breath
and over shots we pound;
that whiskey's good, but it's not just
the troubles that we've drowned,
but where we're led-to when we're drunk
and who we're drunk around.
And me, I've been in Babylon
and Rome, but now I'm found

adrift in Charleston. But all
who wander are not lost;
the wretched wade, the wanton swim,
through vice they can't exhaust.
Was I a wanderer, was I
a wretch? Was there a cost
I'd have to pay? Was I confused?
Concerned? I once was. Lost?

Perhaps, "at large". The times were good,
but lost, how could that be?
Not all the lost will wander though.
The church, the club, the preacher
man: what really moved? A man's
a man's a man-- and he
will crave what each man craves; yet each
is not a wretch; like me,

if I were wretched, even then
so what? That's what I craved
and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The ladies, drinks-- I waved
my hand. They'd gather round and we
would all be saints who'd staved
off fear and dread another night.
It was my hand that saved

me from, and on, that lonesome road
and having once turned round
drank on and turned no more my head--
until that hand had found
another glass or skirt to raise
and then of course, I drowned
my self in bar- and pillow- talk
What's better than the sound

of those? What's better than
the sound of whispers meeting
what you want to hear? What hand
does not applaud or greet
that voice, by grasping for the place
which promises completed
bliss --for those who love to crave.
How can I say how sweet ?

And anyone I'd locked eyes with,
I'd conjure up her face
and make her into nothing that
my hand could not replace.
Aw Jesus cut off my right hand.
I'm ready. I can't face
the ways we please and fool ourselves
with such amazing grace.


By my own hand? I have to laugh
was that adultery?
But if a look became eye-sex;
it's strange, but now I see
that it's the same. Is that not why
it's done? What highs you find,
you take, but if I were denied,
the rage I'd feel was blind.

And so I gulped the lusty life.
With careless drool I downed
it all. I wanted everything
not soon, but now. I'm founder
of the school of self,
I'd boast.
I left no line uncrossed,
no sin untried. The sum of all
my wants-- I once was. Lost?

Perhaps that *is* the word for it.
But anger ran as free
as lust. The wretched twin-desires
immersed a wretch like me;
though one drives out and one pulls in,
they're equally craved, craved
and yoked. As much as eye-sex is
still sex, a thing that, saved

with coddled savor lives inside,
caressed and turned around
and stroked; so anger is a kind
of murder, not the sound
and righteous indignation nor
a teaching taunt, effete
and tuned, that I'd pretend in better
company. How sweet

the lust or hate indifferent to,
or aimed right at, the place
of real humanity and soul.
And yet Amazing, Grace-ful
hints of true divinity
remained, though I'd as well
have been in Rome or Babylon
or at the gates of hell.

Then suddenly the night was done
with me, but now I see
that Folly Road, it had to run
down here, and I was blind
to where it went, though never one
to care. But now I'm found
in this, a different Charleston
not where I once was lost.

But let me stop, a wretch like me,
and hear this choir raise...
a hymn? A what? A place that saved
its fun for now? A place
that sang as one? But why? The sound
had turned me round to face
its source. I thought, "Who cares how sweet?
I've got amazing grace, the grace

I've made. I've saved and pleased
myself. I've got Amazing Grace
right now." But unappeased,
my heart made me admit how sweet
the moment was. It eased
inside, "You couldn't love the sound
like this," it gently teased,
"unless you weren't that saved."

The hands a wretch like me
abused, now somehow on my face,
felt tears. I once was lost,
and fine with pain, yet dreaded Grace
and Truth; but now I'm found,
and hand-eye-mind all interlace
in bawling. I was blind
and numb to each prevenient trace
within, but now I see...

Amazing grace

how sweet

the sound

that saved

a wretch


like me

I once was lost

but now I'm found

was blind

but now I see.

Last edited by Daniel Kemper; 05-06-2021 at 05:39 PM. Reason: multiple typos and formatting dings
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  #2  
Unread 04-24-2021, 03:34 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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Let me be nice. It’s too long. It’s too derivative. Wreched? <es>?

Dan, not your best.
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  #3  
Unread 04-24-2021, 04:37 PM
Yves S L Yves S L is online now
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I thought better of it!

Last edited by Yves S L; 04-25-2021 at 04:45 AM.
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  #4  
Unread 04-24-2021, 05:35 PM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Are you using asterisks instead of italics because you aren't aware that you can do italics here? This isn't Facebook where such formatting is denied us.
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  #5  
Unread 04-25-2021, 02:38 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hey Daniel,

I was kind of with this for about the first three stanzas. Yes, it felt old-fashioned both in its metre and its content (the evils of drink, the vices of the modern world, Christian redemption) but forgiveably, deliberately so, perhaps, like sincere pastiche. The forward motion of the ballad-type form gave it a good metrical thrust. I was anticipating a colourful narrative of some sort, detailing the speaker's fall and redemption: flashbacks, character, incident, a dramatic turning point. Instead, for me, the poem loses it at around stanza 4 and doesn't really recover, for two main reasons.

1. Rather than a vivid narrative the poem's details becomes vague and general and the overuse of questions from the speaker gets confusing and incredibly tiresome. You reference the Ancient Mariner but I feel cheated out of a good tale.

2. The metre falls apart. Each individual line might still conform to its respective iambic tet or trimeter but the use of enjambment becomes very random in places so that the caesuras seem to be everywhere and anywhere. There's a jerky effect where rhymes don't land and the music often disappears. You might justify this with reference to 'form matching content' and say something about the speaker's emotional state but the effect is simply that the poem gets painful to read.

Couple more things..

I notice you've hidden the words to "Amazing Grace" at the ends of alternate lines in the final four stanzas. I'm not convinced the effort of this word game is worth it. Stanzas like this feel baggy and awkward and no sudden "aha" moment when you spot the trick of reading the ends of alternate lines backwards changes that.

Quote:
Then suddenly the night was done
with me, but now I see
that Folly Road, it had to run
down here, and I was blind
to where it went, though never one
to care. But now I'm found
in this, a different Charleston
not where I once was lost.

But let me stop, a wretch like me,
and hear this choir raise...
a hymn? A what? A place that saved
its fun for now? A place
that sang as one? But why? The sound
had turned me round to face
its source. I thought, "Who cares how sweet?
I've got amazing grace, the grace

Finally, I understood what "eye sex" was, and googling it I see it's an actual phrase, but its clinical tone sounds comical to me, like something from a sub-Cronenberg Sci-Fi B-Movie.



*I think S8L1 is a beat short.
* I wondered the same as Allen about the typos and Roger about the asterisks.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 04-27-2021 at 12:31 AM.
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Unread 04-25-2021, 04:25 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Hello Daniel

Like Mark, I was enjoying this for the first few stanzas. And I do like the repeated references to “Amazing grace” and the way they fall out in the finale. But I did get lost and confused along the way.

Oddly, the song that was in my head while reading it was not "Amazing grace" but the Gavin Bryars & Tom Waits tape loop of a homeless man singing “Jesus’ blood never failed me yet”
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  #7  
Unread 04-25-2021, 05:43 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is online now
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Hello Daniel.
For me, the poems you have posted recently are quite comparable to large lagoons. There are vast amounts of swampy water that I must wade through, heavy with metre being used skillfully but not very innovatively or unordinarily, and large boggy quicksands of content, which, though they are of an interest in themselves, never manage to ever make the topic idiosyncratically personal to yourself, and therefore read as a little derrivative, mannered, old-fashioned, and boring. And yet, there are patches of firmer land where I do find interesting — at times clever — things said and done, and I stand on these more admirable stanzas and I look around and think: I don't exactly want more of these, not really, I just want less of the bog that lies around them.
You are very strong with rhyme, especially through the manner in which you combine enjambment and repetition to break phrases at different points, and there are passages here which are (as others have said) both promising and skillful in themselves. But I kinda want to start reciting:
Less is more;
and
Make it new(er)


Hope this helps.
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  #8  
Unread 04-25-2021, 09:05 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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I don't mind "old-fashioned". I'm extremely old-fashioned in the ways that will always count: marriage, babies, men and women, and no prejudice against anyone. The wheel is old fashioned, yet it will be here for eons and eons and eons no matter what happens with mag-lev. For one thing, the wheel needs no electricity and a Neanderthal can make good ones once some have been glimpsed. Not everything that you've done that's long is too long. That tango one has some genuine sinews and insights about the bulk of humanity. I said "Sheesh" to it because it was basically very good -- maybe a bit odd to some ubernew eyes and ears, yet solid in a great many ways that have nothing to do with changeable opinion.

But this! "Eye sex" is good--once or twice. Only. I don't think any adult on earth has escaped that. Not one, never. So, everyone is a damned sinner in the heart?? No. "Eye sex" need not be a deal breaker. A powerful friendship maybe.

It's what you do, who you engender, what lives are wrecked and thrown off track that matters. Civilization (including hetero-marriage) is the time proven way to handle that, most particularly when children are involved. Period. Been there, done that, both ways. I know. No one can confuse me with crap.

How about making it "older", by which I mean tighter, swifter (Homer was praised for his speed, his swiftness), shorter, upgrading the language. Prune.
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Unread 04-25-2021, 09:56 AM
Yves S L Yves S L is online now
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Hello Daniel,

I am going to try for a third time to say something constructive. Jesus spoke in parables which communicated a large amount of ethical information fluidly within scenarios of causes and effects showing how the inner nature manifests outwardly and how the inner nature is as the cause of the outward expression, and then then outward expressions are judged relative to the effects in people's lives they cause. Different people interpret the stories in different ways relative to numerous variables.

Passages like the following in contrast are to me a bit awkward:

I have to laugh
was that adultery?
But if a look became eye-sex;
it's strange, but now I see
that it's the same. Is that not why
it's done? What highs you find,
you take, but if I were denied,
the rage I'd feel was blind.


The problem I have with it is that if a child in Sunday school were to give a similar looping around the point interpretation then okay, but as it is presented to be a grown man who is coming to some kind of revelations of his life and of how text might be interpreted, then it all just a bit too tedious for me.

Cause and effect, cause and effect is discovered by observation of how events connect, and if there is no information gathered by observation than we get logic loops that do not go anywhere, and interpretations of Biblical passages that do not connect to life.

Now the technique I think is meant to show something like introspection, self-awareness, some kind of mental/emotional journey, but similar to the poem where the narrator seems to be discovering for the first time some things about how women communicate, it is like the narrator is wrestling for the very first time with how passages might be interpreted, but the analysis is very entry-level so does not justify the neverending pondering of all the questions and logical analysis. It is a bit like if someone did not get a joke, and then looped around not getting the joke:

But if the chicken crossed the road,
Was that his only motivation?
Perhaps there was some greater goal,
Some striving that needed fullfilment?
The other side is not sufficient cause
Enough to risk the speeding cars.


What is the connection between the spiritual and the physical?

Last edited by Yves S L; 04-25-2021 at 10:04 AM.
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  #10  
Unread 04-25-2021, 10:12 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hi Daniel. More of the same (in the way of critical comment) from me, I'm afraid, as I'm taking what appears to be the party line: starts nicely - like a good country song - but the enjambment at the end of S3 takes us into a more abstract and less immediate world.

I would like to see you cling to the pace and the feeling of the first three stanzas, and follow those to a more satisfactory conclusion.

Cheers

David
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