Sunday, September 25, 2011

White Flowers

Seaside

The white flowerheads nodded
In the breeze coming in from the sea
They were agreeing
With the saline air and the chill
And the screams of the gulls above
Pale as the metal-white clouds
As the oppressive overcast ceiling
Stretched out as far as the wrinkling water
Pressing down a hand streaming wan sun
That makes the eyes tear but cannot disturb the sea
And the flowers said yes
Go down to the water’s edge
Find your way past the tumbled rocks and concrete
It does not matter if you cut your feet
On the delicate edges of shell and shattered stone
Because there are no sharks here
There are no sharks
Except the loneliness that fills you
Knifes between your ribs and streams
Through your mouth and your eyes and all of you
Making you empty and invisible and transparent
You are a gull-feather twisting in the wind
You are a stone dropped soundlessly in the deep.

Nocturne

Bouquets of white flowers
Filled my eyes with their light
Their perfume was shy
Impossible to remember
But identifiable from ten paces
More memorable to the back alleys of the mind
The dark places we run
Asleep and terrified and chased
By ghost-eyed children
With mammoth-bone knives
Bleached by sun and time
With white flowers
Braided into the wilds of their hair
A flash of delicate petals and scent
Before the knives descend
And morning breaks open
Spilling brightness into a room
Whose mercy lies in the spaces
Where flowers are not

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I couldn't get the image of white flowers out of my head except by transmuting it into poetry. Two separate poems or one two-part poem?

--

Also: I've decided to publish Tuesday's post on Wednesday. Just testing out a new schedule.

4 comments:

  1. Prepare yourself for a very, very long comment. I'm taking the license to critique your poem. Just try to stop me!

    So. Since I'm in creative writing again I am constantly reminded of literary devices that I knew about but forgot the names. I thought of a few that might improve your poetry in general.

    Your poem has great imagery and a great premise, but there isn't much ear candy, and by that I mean the R's of writing: rhyme, repetition, and rhythm.

    Rhyme has a lot more to it than just words that have the same ending (look, book). Also included in rhyme are sound devices referred to as alliteration, consonance, and assonance.

    Alliteration (I hope you already know this) is the use of repeated vowel or consonant sounds at the beginning of a word in a line. A super good example I found in your poem is:

    "On the delicate edges of shell and shattered stone
    Because there are no sharks here"

    Say it out loud. Listen to the "sh" sound. It adds unity and ear candy to those lines, but it isn't overbearing.

    Consonance is the use of the same consonant sound in a line, but unlike alliteration the sound can be anywhere in a word. Here's an example:

    "Find your way past the tumbled rocks and concrete
    It does not matter if you cut your feet"

    Say it out loud. Think about the "t" sound. It sounds sharp, doesn't it? Consonance is an excellent way not only to make your poem pleasing to the ear, but also to convey imagery.

    Assonance is consonance's cousin, but with a repeated vowel sound. My new favorite example of assonance comes from Sylvia Plath's "Cut":

    "O what a thrill!
    My thumb instead of an onion!"

    It's just brilliant, isn't it? You wouldn't expect it, but "thumb" and "onion" almost rhyme, and they just sound good together. Assonance is generally more difficult to use, but it sounds more interesting to the ear because it's closer to a rhyme than consonance, and the ear and brain LOVE rhymes.

    (cont)

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  2. Rhythm. I won't explain it, because I have enough faith in you that you know what it is, but it's something that many poets overlook. We hit the enter bar will-nilly so the words look right and all that poetic stuff, but where you put line breaks matters. I'm not saying you have to count syllables and write in iambic pentameter, BUT it is important to write in a way that makes rhythmic sense. Take your first four lines of poem I, for example:

    "The white flowerheads nodded in the breeze
    Coming in from the sea
    They were agreeing
    With the saline air and the chill"

    I see two ways to make a little more rhythmic sense. Emphasized syllables are in caps:

    "The white FLOWerheads NODded
    in the BREEZE coming IN from the SEA
    They were aGREEing
    With the SA-LINE air and the CHILL"

    (the dash in "saline" means "add more space between the syllables")

    It's got a little more beat to it, which can give one the impression of the ocean waves if done properly. Here's a second way:

    "The white flowerheads nodded
    in the breeze coming in from the sea
    They were agreeing with the
    saline air and the chill"

    Different kind of beat; less noticeable, but still there. Putting different words at the end and beginning of a line puts different emphasis on them. You can use that to your advantage. If you want your reader to spend more time on a phrase, make it sound like a list denoted by commas, for example:

    "The white flowerheads nodded
    in the breeze
    coming in
    from the sea"

    So that's something to experiment with. On the lines of rhythm, even though it's poetry, it's still a good idea to use a little bit of punctuation unless your style absolutely forbids it. Which some peoples' do, of course. By no means feel forced to use proper punctuation, but a comma in the right place gives the reader a better feel for where you pause and breathe and slow the words down.

    Repetition... eh, you know that.

    Yeah, in short, use some rhyme devices and you'll find a lot more to listen to in your poetry.

    :)

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  3. Those literary devices are giving me flashbacks to freshman English class...though you are a far better teacher. ;)

    Thanks for the advice! Maybe it would help if I read stuff out loud. What do you think?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes! Always read things out loud. Always. ESPECIALLY poetry; poetry was made to be read out loud. It makes so much more sense that way.

    ReplyDelete