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Forums > > Poetry Workshops > > Boot Camp > > Appalachian escape
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Appalachian escape


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 10 19:50:06 EDT 2008    Post subject: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

The doctor says my prescription has changed.
But the new, environment-friendly inhaler
seems weaker against the choking fumes
the nighttime smokestacks vomit into the air.

So with a haphazard bag of overnight clothes,
tennis shoes long overdue for action-
we hop in our old blue Chevy jet
and fly down the 75S tarmac
guided by passing white bread crumbs;
to chase the mountains.

In a half hour’s time,
people speak another language.
Teenagers in patchwork wheels,
cigarettes dangling in the uncased air
sputter at a shiny 1940s Plymouth
drinking at a gas station oasis.

The impatient mountains call us
like children to play tag.
They peep at us in the distance-
then disappear,
and reappear

Rusty tin can silos sit like lighthouses
overseeing a sea of farmland.
Lone homesteads with pearl columns
dot the land,
along with weather worn barns.
Dark wood shanties
unconcerned about a new paint job,
a few holes or rebellious planks-
prepare for a home-cooked dinner
and to sing the sun a country lullaby.

They are soon squashed by a thick wall of green
unyielding in flanking the highway
bubbling with rich and varied textures.
Sumac huddles under Blue Ash, tickling.
Bald Cypress shivers
and tries to steal a Kudzu blanket
from a Bur Oak.

Watching the crowd cavorting,
distracted us enough
to give the mountains the opportunity
to startle us.
They leap out before us and stand-
rock-cut abs and brawny biceps,
promise of an indescribable view atop
jutting bold shoulders.

Up we go,
on a hike which squeezes leg muscles
in a gripping vice and presses on strained lungs.
Wobbling along the incline,
feet claw the dirt and occasionally
slip.
They struggle like bandaged fingers
trying to tie a knot in a silk thread.

The summit is worth the trial.
We touch-
holding hands to remind ourselves
we aren’t dreaming,
to stop each other
from falling off the edge of the world.

And the skyscraper-high air sings
along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath filling us
from the whispers of drooping clouds
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.

With a pocket full of pill-dust
we leave.
The sun sets on this Sunday.

Return to morning carpool chit-chat,
the civic duty of smog fighting.
Concrete paths and smothered people.
I call you to tell you I am late coming home-
again.
The traffic is murder today.
But when I put my phone back
into my purse my hand brushes
against my inhaler
and I smile.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 14 21:56:30 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

This piece is long, I hope it does not drag anywhere. I experimented a little with line breaks and enjambment and I would like feedback on whether or not they work with the piece. Is the imagery consistent? How is the flow? What are the weak spots?
Those are the main questions I have, but everything is helpful. Thank you.
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loisseau
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18 13:02:53 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Rio, there is much to like in this poem of sites and contrasts. If mine, I might linebreak it differently, add a word or to clarify; no real right or wrong here; just my take on how to smooth and pull the reader through the piece and it's ideas. I think the poem isn't long, but reads appropriately for this poetic journey. Here's a recast to compare for ideas as you tune this excellent poem to its potential.

The doctor says my prescription has changed,
yet the new, environment-friendly inhaler
seems weaker against the fumes smokestacks
vomit into the air.

We need to chase mountains, so we hop in our
old blue Chevy, jet and fly down the 75S tarmac,
guided by passing white bread crumbs. The impatient
mountains call us like children to play tag. They peep
at us in the distance, then disappear and reappear.

In a half hour’s time, people speak another
language. Teenagers with cigarettes dangling,
ride patchwork wheels, shiny 1940s Plymouths
drinking at a gas station oasis. Rusty silos sit
like lighthouses overseeing a sea of farmland.

Lone homesteads with pearl columns dot the land,
along with weather worn barns. Dark wood shanties
unconcerned about a new paint job, or a few holes
and rebellious planks, seem ready to prepare
a home-cooked dinner, sing the sun a country lullaby.

They are soon squashed by a thick wall of green
flanking the highway, bubbling with rich and varied
textures. Sumac huddles under Blue Ash, tickling.
Bald Cypress shivers and tries to steal a Kudzu
blanket from a Bur Oak. Watching the crowd cavort

distracts us, gives the mountains the opportunity
to startle us. They leap out before us, stand with
rock-cut abs and brawny biceps, an indescribable
view of jutting bold shoulders we climb on a hike.

The traverse squeezes leg muscles in a gripping
vice, presses on strained lungs. Wobbling along
the incline, feet claw the dirt and occasionally
slip. They struggle like bandaged fingers
trying to tie a knot in a silk thread.

The summit is worth the trial. We touch,
to stop each other from falling off the edge
of the world, to remind ourselves we aren’t
dreaming. The skyscraper-high air sings along

the treetops. Resuscitating breath fills us from
the whispers of drooping clouds. We sit on nature’s
examination table, listen for the diagnosis of
our maladies. With a pocket full of pill-dust,
we leave, for the sun sets on this Sunday.

I return to morning carpool chit-chat, the civic duty
of smog fighting on concrete paths, along with
smothered people. I call to tell you I will be late
coming home-again. The traffic is murder today,
but when I put my phone back into my purse,
my hand brushes against my inhaler, and I smile.

L.
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18 18:17:06 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

loisseau wrote:
Rio, there is much to like in this poem of sites and contrasts. If mine, I might linebreak it differently, add a word or to clarify; no real right or wrong here; just my take on how to smooth and pull the reader through the piece and it's ideas. I think the poem isn't long, but reads appropriately for this poetic journey. Here's a recast to compare for ideas as you tune this excellent poem to its potential.


L.

Thank you very much. I can see spots where my point was not clear. Do you think there are too many contrasts or do they all work together?

The part about the cars at the gas station: my intention was to contrast two opposite cars. One pristine classic out for a Sunday drive and the other one something that looked like the teenagers built it by hand. So, my reference to speaking another language is supposed to incorporate accent and dialect as well as the idea of slowing and enjoying the journey. The cars are a reverence for the journey where the city life is only about the destination.
So after that realization we move to the images along the highway. And they are mixed. Farmland might have something practically resembling an old mansion on it.

I like what you have done with the line breaks, but I have no comprehension of it. I can not see where and when to break mid thought and go to another stanza. And how that works. Perhaps studying what you have done will help.

Thank you so much for the help. I hope I have managed a bucolic piece without being too stereotypical with my picture. Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19 9:28:48 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Rio, I thought that's what you wanted to do, but I didn't see a good way to get to that viewpoint. Instead I had the teenagers driving 1940 Plymouths. In retrospect, I'd leave out shiny. The next contrast is the silos and the weathered houses. Teenagers driving old cars fits in this view, and contrasts with blue Chevy jetting down 74S.

As to the linebreaks, I see each line end as a slight to long pause to be filled with thoughts of the previous line and how it may relate to the next. Sort of a hip flip in a conga line, as the readers works their way through the poem. At the end of each line, there may be a comma, period, or nothing. Period end stops the sentence as an full idea or statement. A comma rests the sentence a bit less than period, and is a continuation of ideas into the next. No punctuation generally asks of the read who, how, why, where, what or when. Judicious use of linebreaks allows the writer to enjamb ideas from one line to the next, provide contrast in unusual ways, and to provide conflicting views or ideas on the subject of the poem. Good linebreaks pull the reader through the poem.

The doctor says my prescription has changed,<-oh how?
yet the new, environment-friendly inhaler<-she has a friendly inhaler
seems weaker against the fumes smokestacks<-in what way?
vomit into the air.<-ugh, throwup or particles into the air.

We need to chase mountains, so we hop in our <-after vomit we "need", hop in our what?
old blue Chevy, jet and fly down the 75S tarmac,<-where?
guided by passing white bread crumbs. The impatient<-not where but how; the impatient-who are they?
mountains call us like children to play tag. They peep<-question answered-they peep-how?
at us in the distance, then disappear and reappear.<-question answered and is quantified.

Stanza break for description of a new landscape different from where the riders came from.

Make any sense?

L.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27 11:55:37 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Hi Rio-

I enjoyed the density of this poem. The detailed narrative is almost scientific, but beautiful.

I was wondering if you could cut out the first stanza of the poem; the second stanza "cuts to the quick" and demands the reader's attention.

I know removing the first stanza takes away some of the poem's unifying elements. But this element needs to be eliminated to reveal a stronger piece.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27 12:05:21 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Oh, I didn't mean to leave you hanging Loisseau, I have pondering this...a lot.

Thanks Scmatsuura, so much. Do you think the first stanza is feeding the reader the point? I have got to say, I wonder about it. The rest of the poem is about an actual trip I took (minus the end) . The first stanza is like my thinking on it. Maybe that is what makes that part weak?
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 28 11:49:34 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Hi Rio-

I think that the first stanza was the "scaffolding" for your poem. It helped shape your concepts and lent support until the poem was completed. The first stanza can be removed since your poem is fully formed.

In comparison to the rest of the poem, the first stanza seems a little forced. The other stanzas are genuine and persuasive.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 9 4:12:43 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Yes, the piece is long. That's not a bad thing. Brevity for its own sake is a stylistic affectation.
That said, a longer poem has a bigger job to do in order to carry the reader along with you.

You've had several very good comments on this piece, and you certainly have some food for thought.
I agree that the first stanza could be removed. I think the idea behind it (which I read to be, the city air is polluted and making the protagonist ill) could be brought into the next stanza by saying "mountain air" or "to breathe in the mountains" or something similar to convey the idea that the mountain goal is to find a place to breathe easier... which could be seen in both literal and figurative terms within the poetic context.

The next stanza is not bad at all... but needs some tuning. I think you might want to experiment with the syntax some. I find some of your punctuation to be problematic. The second line is essentially a parenthetical phrase. Choose the way you want to set it off. Use commas, m-dashes, actual parentheses... whatever... but they work in pairs. Don't use a comma to open the phrase and an m-dash to close it.

With a haphazard bag of overnight clothes—
tennis shoes long overdue for action—

I see what you are doing with "jet", "fly", "tarmac"... but I am not sure it is entirely successful. First, on tarmac, the jet rolls... doesn't fly until it's in the air. Maybe "zoom" instead? Something denoting the speed and airworthiness of the fictional jet? The word "down" seems like going downhill, and as you are on the way to the mountains that bothered me. I want to feel you going up.
I like the bread crumbs image, evoking as it does the adventuresome spirit of Hansel and Gretel... a tenuous seeking for goodness.
The last line is awkward in its placement, dangling there after a semicolon. Semicolons are so self-conscious that they should only be used when necessary. Seems a bit affected here, when you could easily avoid it.

What happens if you mix it up?

With tennis shoes long overdue for action
and a haphazard bag of overnight clothes,
we hop in our old blue Chevy jet.
Guided by passing white bread crumbs
we fly the 75S to chase the mountain air.


I think that sort of re-working might be helpful throughout your piece. Just some ideas for you... more to chew on.

In your next stanza I am left wondering what's going on. I know your intention because you've told us, but I don't feel you are getting that across. Feels like trying too hard.
I like the line about another language, but the fueling scene kills your action. We know cars need gas. Just like we know sometimes people have to go to the bathroom, but we don't have to stop to point it out. Here, it isn't clear that these are two other cars being observed. It's like your protagonists are in a Chevy, so the Plymouth must belong to the teens... so it becomes a beater patched up car and the stanza gets confusing. Shiny patchwork? I think you get my drift. Drinking at the gas station oasis is frankly tired imagery that smacks of an attempt to be clever or meaningful. It is out of place with your overall level of poetic sophistication.
I love "cigarettes dangling in the uncased air" but unfortunately it doesn't work in context. You are missing some punctuation at the end of that line, or else you have the cigarettes sputtering rather than the teenagers. Perhaps your intention, but only adds to the confusion.

I think I would (were this my poem) consolidate the best bits with the next stanza... and save the killer cigarette line for another poem later. (Can't wait to read that poem, so I hope you do it.)

Maybe something like:

The impatient mountains call us
like children playing tag.
They peep at us from the distance—
disappear and reappear—
In a half hour’s time,
people speak another language.


Again, I am trying to use your words, your feel, and see what some shuffling does. It can be good to play with your options.

The next stanza with the silos has some potent images, but you are rather heavy handed with the adjectives and clashing metaphors.
You want the silos to be both rusty tin cans and lighthouses. I'd submit that in the context of this piece that is asking too much of silos.
Rather than Rusty tin can silos sit like lighthouses overseeing a sea of farmland. you might consider Rusty silos sit like lighthouses
over a sea of farmland.

Overseeing sea is awkward, so I trimmed it. And the reason that the image of a lighthouse works is that we all know what a lighthouse does. Doesn't have to be made bluntly obvious, let the reader make the connection.

Lone homesteads with pearl columns
dot the land,

That's rather fussy language... and the pearl columns seem an odd choice given the rust, the worn wood, lack of paint, etc. If you are going to point to them so starkly, there should be a reason. Also... if something is "lone" it's the only one. You have plural lone homesteads and that doesn't work so well. What is the picture you are trying to make here? Is there a better way for you to do it?
Again, watch your punctuation. It seems you are saying that the holes or planks prepare for dinner. That line is another parenthetical, and could be left out.
How about this:

Rusty silos sit like lighthouses
over a sea of farmland with weather worn barns.
Dark wood shanties,
unconcerned about new paint,
prepare for home-cooked dinners
and sing a country lullaby to the sun.


You will notice that I pluralized a couple of things to match the number of shanties, and trimmed for flow and clarity. I transposed the final line to end on the strongest word for a more potent image.
Contrast the two versions and see whether you feel it's an improvement.

The next two stanzas, by my read, are suffering from a glut of words which are often working at cross purposes to each other.

They are soon squashed by a thick wall of green
unyielding in flanking the highway
bubbling with rich and varied textures.

What are squashed? Why "squashed"? That's an inelegant choice compared to your other descriptions.
Combined with huddling, tickling, shivering and blanket stealing, there is just too much.

Sumac huddles under Blue Ash, tickling.
Bald Cypress shivers
and tries to steal a Kudzu blanket
from a Bur Oak.

You are anthropomorphizing the trees here, and that feels a bit pretentious, as well as completely takes the actual humans out of the action.
I want to know what's happening in the Chevy. What are they feeling? Why might the trees seem like funny characters?

Watching the crowd cavorting,
What crowd? The anthropomorphized trees? Still not working for me. The alliteration of crowd cavorting also comes across as cutesy.

distracted us enough
to give the mountains the opportunity
to startle us.

This phrasing reads awkwardly to me.

They leap out before us and stand-
rock-cut abs and brawny biceps,
promise of an indescribable view atop
jutting bold shoulders.


The anthropomorphizing of the mountains does not serve the poem. I honestly wanted to stop reading the poem at this point. It was starting to feel like Disney animation. Rock-cut abs and brawny biceps and jutting bold shoulders? We are talking about mountains here? That is more fitting of a romance novel. As a reader I feel absolutely bludgeoned by the metaphor.
What is it you are trying to say? What image do you want the reader to be left with? What indescribable view should be coming to mind based on those descriptions?

Remember this is a poem about people, and people are reading it and they want to identify with the people in the poem. If there is something about the masculine presence of the mountains that is important to the mood or story or experience, you should find a way to express it through the eyes or experience of the protagonist.
My judgment is that this poem would be improved by the elimination or vigorous editing of those two stanzas.

The next stanza begins with going up. That works. However, there is no real transition between driving and hiking, and the driving toward your escape seems an important part of the piece. It was somewhat jolting to have it shift abruptly to something else.
The squeezing of leg muscles in a gripping vice is again pushing the edge of too much. A gripping vice is not really a fresh metaphor.
I like the strained lungs, that helps carry your original theme from the poem's beginning which focused on breath and air.
Clawing feet does not work for me. And the syntax of that line is awkward. The feet are not wobbling so much as the people are wobbling. Bandaged fingers trying to tie a knot is an evocative image, but it feels out of place here. Fingers for feet is too close. There is another way to talk about the struggle for the summit. Bandaged fingers and silk thread sounds like you were looking more for a clever turn of phrase than for something that would really drive your poem thematically.

The next stanzas move back into the real beauty of your poem.

The summit is worth the trial.
We touch-
holding hands to remind ourselves
we aren’t dreaming,
to stop each other
from falling off the edge of the world.


This is very nice. Small nits only... I would adjust the verb tenses for stronger, more present language. Like this:
The summit is worth the trial.
We touch-
we hold hands to remind ourselves
this is no dream,
to stop us from falling
off the edge of the world.


And the skyscraper-high air sings
along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath fills us
(changed from filling to agree with sings)
like the whispers of clouds ("from" makes for odd syntax... lose the awkward adjective here for flow)
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.


I like listening for the diagnosis of our maladies. That works. As does the next short stanza, though I might consider editing out the word "this".

The last stanza needs to be re-worked if you omit the first stanza.
My preference would be for you to end the poem where the day ends, looking ahead to the inevitable, but savoring the moment.
Maybe something like this as a rearrangement of the last three stanzas:

Tomorrow we return
to morning carpool chit-chat,
the civic duty of smog fighting,
concrete paths and smothered people.

In this moment
skyscraper-high air sings along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath fills us
with the whispers of clouds
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.

With a pocket full of pill-dust
we leave.
The sun sets on this Sunday.


In all, there is a lot of potential for this poem. I would like to see you give your blue pencil a workout on this and bring it back her for review.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 20 9:25:37 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Thank you very much RZS, I am completely stunned and humbled by the time and energy you devoted to my poem. Embarassed You are amazing.

I will respond to all your points individually, even though there are many parts which I feel need to sink in and require a lot more thought.


RZS wrote:
Yes, the piece is long. That's not a bad thing. Brevity for its own sake is a stylistic affectation.
That said, a longer poem has a bigger job to do in order to carry the reader along with you.

You've had several very good comments on this piece, and you certainly have some food for thought.
I agree that the first stanza could be removed. I think the idea behind it (which I read to be, the city air is polluted and making the protagonist ill) could be brought into the next stanza by saying "mountain air" or "to breathe in the mountains" or something similar to convey the idea that the mountain goal is to find a place to breathe easier... which could be seen in both literal and figurative terms within the poetic context.

I am slowly starting to feel that the approach of the first stanza is to telling. Unfortunately bordering on telling in an almost juvenile way. However, I am worried that I am stuck on it and can not see another way to introduce the narrative. The only thing is provides is the rushed feeling for the next stanza, which I do not want to loose. This main point is what has so far prevented me from coming back with a rewrite.

RZS wrote:

The next stanza is not bad at all... but needs some tuning. I think you might want to experiment with the syntax some. I find some of your punctuation to be problematic. The second line is essentially a parenthetical phrase. Choose the way you want to set it off. Use commas, m-dashes, actual parentheses... whatever... but they work in pairs. Don't use a comma to open the phrase and an m-dash to close it.

With a haphazard bag of overnight clothes—
tennis shoes long overdue for action—

Thank you. Punctuation is a little tough. I see how this works now.
RZS wrote:

I see what you are doing with "jet", "fly", "tarmac"... but I am not sure it is entirely successful. First, on tarmac, the jet rolls... doesn't fly until it's in the air. Maybe "zoom" instead? Something denoting the speed and airworthiness of the fictional jet?

Yes, this one is hard. Your point did not even occur to me. It is a common expression to say someone is "flying" down the highway. Even though an actual jet does accumulate speed, it is true that it doesn't get off the ground and because we sue that word when it does, I can see the confusion. That is frustrating. I will have to think about it. Thank you for suggestion of zoom. I want to think some more on this.

RZS wrote:

The word "down" seems like going downhill, and as you are on the way to the mountains that bothered me. I want to feel you going up.
I like the bread crumbs image, evoking as it does the adventuresome spirit of Hansel and Gretel... a tenuous seeking for goodness.
Ugh! This is the same thing as the "flying" part, isn't it?
In this part of the Midwest, there is an extremely prevalent colloquial expression. (I guess it would be categorized as that Embarassed ) Talking about direction is always done with "up" and "down" in place of "north" and "south". So I was trying to say "heading south" while incorporating the location. It is ordinary speech I entwined in here. I was hoping to keep the background of location, and unfortunately add a word like "down south" changes the meaning. Since "down" takes the place of "south" both words together mean an emphasis which is not appropriate. It is usually used when someone is living there or already there and the emphasis usually refers to how different things are. That might be something I could use in this poem, but carefully.
I never saw this as conflicting with the mountains since it is sequential, and just the beginning of the journey. Maybe there is a way to emphasize that the mountains are still several hours away at this point ( since they are not even visible yet.

RZS wrote:

The last line is awkward in its placement, dangling there after a semicolon. Semicolons are so self-conscious that they should only be used when necessary. Seems a bit affected here, when you could easily avoid it.

What happens if you mix it up?

With tennis shoes long overdue for action
and a haphazard bag of overnight clothes,
we hop in our old blue Chevy jet.
Guided by passing white bread crumbs
we fly the 75S to chase the mountain air.


I think that sort of re-working might be helpful throughout your piece. Just some ideas for you... more to chew on.

I like this, however, there is one thing which is lost and that is you have gotten specific about the mountain air. As I had that already in the first stanza, I was happy I could be more broad here. The mountains really are a supernatural character. I don't want to start off by limiting them. I'm no longer sure that the air part needs to be emphasized as much as it originally was.
RZS wrote:

In your next stanza I am left wondering what's going on. I know your intention because you've told us, but I don't feel you are getting that across. Feels like trying too hard.
Perhaps that is because anyone who has traveled in this way can understand this without it being brought to their attention. And yet, the point was to put a spotlight on it. I am mostly worried that it seems that it is here that you gathered the assumptions about the characters of the story which appear later in this critique: that this is more about the people than the environment.
RZS wrote:

I like the line about another language, but the fueling scene kills your action. We know cars need gas. Just like we know sometimes people have to go to the bathroom, but we don't have to stop to point it out. Here, it isn't clear that these are two other cars being observed. It's like your protagonists are in a Chevy, so the Plymouth must belong to the teens... so it becomes a beater patched up car and the stanza gets confusing. Shiny patchwork? I think you get my drift.
I wish I did. I've read it a few times and don't see it yet. I think you might be saying I packed too many images into this, but I'm not sure.
This might be the place to recognize that you seem to be making the point of looking for what the protagonist is "doing" often in this poem, when my intention was more what he was "experiencing". I had hoped that the reader experiences it as well. There is no point of direct interaction with the environment, but that it affects by purely being. That is a spiritual aspect which I do not want to loose, even though I understand your reasons for arguing for the former.
RZS wrote:

Drinking at the gas station oasis is frankly tired imagery that smacks of an attempt to be clever or meaningful. It is out of place with your overall level of poetic sophistication.
I love "cigarettes dangling in the uncased air" but unfortunately it doesn't work in context. You are missing some punctuation at the end of that line, or else you have the cigarettes sputtering rather than the teenagers. Perhaps your intention, but only adds to the confusion.
No. Not my intention. LOL. I can agree with the first part of your analysis. I think this stanza really lost its meaning and I do not think I adequately explained it before.
So I am going to try again. If a person is traveling, they are often focused on the destination. They try to get there as fast as possible and pay little attention to the expereinces en route. But when there is a need to stop, you are hanging in limbo and in this case, forced to observe the surroundings. It is a forced slowing down from the city lifestyle and perspective. This concept is rather necessary or one can not embrace the mountains later on. The choice of the gas station is not only because it is the only necessary stop, and that it is really all that exists on the side of the highway, but also here I wanted to include the locals. What types of people live in this environment? From my perspective, the environment is the main character of this and the people described here are the environment of the poem.

RZS wrote:

I think I would (were this my poem) consolidate the best bits with the next stanza... and save the killer cigarette line for another poem later. (Can't wait to read that poem, so I hope you do it.)

Maybe something like:

The impatient mountains call us
like children playing tag.
They peep at us from the distance—
disappear and reappear—
In a half hour’s time,
people speak another language.


Again, I am trying to use your words, your feel, and see what some shuffling does. It can be good to play with your options.

Here again, I like what you have done and thank you. I think one of the things which is causing me problems is thinking of things in terms of order. These stanzas were separated to give more time to pass. This should not be a quick journey and the mountains should not appear at all right away.
RZS wrote:

The next stanza with the silos has some potent images, but you are rather heavy handed with the adjectives and clashing metaphors.
You want the silos to be both rusty tin cans and lighthouses. I'd submit that in the context of this piece that is asking too much of silos.
Rather than Rusty tin can silos sit like lighthouses overseeing a sea of farmland. you might consider Rusty silos sit like lighthouses
over a sea of farmland.

Overseeing sea is awkward, so I trimmed it. And the reason that the image of a lighthouse works is that we all know what a lighthouse does. Doesn't have to be made bluntly obvious, let the reader make the connection..
Oh, I totally agree about giving too much with the "sea of farmland".
However your dislike of "rusty tin can" is disappointing. I had them doing double duty. Although now you have me wondering if that makes both ideas weak.
The "rusty tin can was intended to contrast the nest part.

RZS wrote:

Lone homesteads with pearl columns
dot the land,

That's rather fussy language... and the pearl columns seem an odd choice given the rust, the worn wood, lack of paint, etc. If you are going to point to them so starkly, there should be a reason. Also... if something is "lone" it's the only one. You have plural lone homesteads and that doesn't work so well. What is the picture you are trying to make here? Is there a better way for you to do it?

Actually, this picture is important! The silos and barns are rusty, but the homes are not. This is something I noticed during my journey and it was so fitting to incorporate here, to me. The homesteads I saw by the silos sat like pristine palaces (at a distance at least) beautiful and well kept. It was an emphasis on the importance of home life. And again also doing double duty as it is quickly followed by contrasting the large plantation homes with the shacks. I suppose I need to make choices about which messages are important. That "wealth" more than beauty is in the eye of the beholder or apparent seclusion may not be really the case as there is the family and hearth.
RZS wrote:

Again, watch your punctuation. It seems you are saying that the holes or planks prepare for dinner. That line is another parenthetical, and could be left out.
How about this:

Rusty silos sit like lighthouses
over a sea of farmland with weather worn barns.
Dark wood shanties,
unconcerned about new paint,
prepare for home-cooked dinners
and sing a country lullaby to the sun.


You will notice that I pluralized a couple of things to match the number of shanties, and trimmed for flow and clarity. I transposed the final line to end on the strongest word for a more potent image.
Contrast the two versions and see whether you feel it's an improvement.

Thank you. I will have to focus on it, because I think my punctuation skills are weak. I am not completely sure of what you are trying to show me. I will probably ask more about this.

RZS wrote:
The next two stanzas, by my read, are suffering from a glut of words which are often working at cross purposes to each other.

They are soon squashed by a thick wall of green
unyielding in flanking the highway
bubbling with rich and varied textures.

What are squashed? Why "squashed"? That's an inelegant choice compared to your other descriptions.
Combined with huddling, tickling, shivering and blanket stealing, there is just too much.

LOL. Squashed. Hahaha. Fairly inelegant I'll agree. I'm really not at all attached to that. And I think perhaps it almost mocks the power I intended. Laughing
RZS wrote:

Sumac huddles under Blue Ash, tickling.
Bald Cypress shivers
and tries to steal a Kudzu blanket
from a Bur Oak.

You are anthropomorphizing the trees here, and that feels a bit pretentious, as well as completely takes the actual humans out of the action.
I want to know what's happening in the Chevy. What are they feeling? Why might the trees seem like funny characters?

Well ok now I have a major problem! The humans have barely been in it since the beginning and the environment is the important thing here. It doesn't matter what is going on in the Chevy at all.
However, I always was concerned that his part was over the top. It needs to blend in a little more, or build perhaps. Ugh. I don't know.
RZS wrote:

Watching the crowd cavorting,
What crowd? The anthropomorphized trees? Still not working for me. The alliteration of crowd cavorting also comes across as cutesy.

distracted us enough
to give the mountains the opportunity
to startle us.

This phrasing reads awkwardly to me.
You know this whole part of the poem is centering on the viewpoint of it being another world. The inhabitants are things of nature.
It is (please forgive, these examples are all I can think of at the moment) like a "down the rabbit hole" or "over the rainbow" experience. I do not mean that in a juvenile way, but the implication of it being a mystical unearthly place is what I was seeking. And that carries on into the descriptions of the mountain as the kind of king of the land.
RZS wrote:

They leap out before us and stand-
rock-cut abs and brawny biceps,
promise of an indescribable view atop
jutting bold shoulders.


The anthropomorphizing of the mountains does not serve the poem. I honestly wanted to stop reading the poem at this point. It was starting to feel like Disney animation. Rock-cut abs and brawny biceps and jutting bold shoulders? We are talking about mountains here? That is more fitting of a romance novel. As a reader I feel absolutely bludgeoned by the metaphor.
What is it you are trying to say? What image do you want the reader to be left with? What indescribable view should be coming to mind based on those descriptions?

Well, at least we got a little of the fantasy type world out of that I think! Hahaha. I'm sorry you felt bludgeoned by the metaphor. And yet, the mountains are the whole point of the poem. They are supposed to be a bit bludgeoning in their presence.
What is it? It is the strength and power of nature. It is what those who live away from nature forget in their daily lives. It is surrendering trivial worries and laying in the arms of God.

RZS wrote:

Remember this is a poem about people, and people are reading it and they want to identify with the people in the poem.
It is, and it isn't about people. It is about people and their relationship to nature. I suppose if you are a person who is very connected to nature you might recognize and relate, and if not, as the poet, I am asking you to try by telling a story of someone not connected with it on a daily basis being absorbed and healed by it.

RZS wrote:

If there is something about the masculine presence of the mountains that is important to the mood or story or experience, you should find a way to express it through the eyes or experience of the protagonist.

This may be a matter of semantics but I want to make it clear that the mountain is not male or female. The descriptions are intended to be of physical might and gender is not really there for me. As you said, we are speaking about a mountain. I am not delving into whether or not many people of various religions see God as having gender, but the mountain does represent God and a mystical communion.

RZS wrote:
My judgment is that this poem would be improved by the elimination or vigorous editing of those two stanzas.

The next stanza begins with going up. That works. However, there is no real transition between driving and hiking, and the driving toward your escape seems an important part of the piece. It was somewhat jolting to have it shift abruptly to something else.
The squeezing of leg muscles in a gripping vice is again pushing the edge of too much. A gripping vice is not really a fresh metaphor.

LOL. I'm sorry it seems that I I am not recognizing images overused here. That is upsetting and embarrassing.
It is the point here for me and not the description. I am not attached to this description at all. The point is to use the leg muscles which are weak from lack of strenuous use. And so it should have its spiritual meaning here. This person has not done a lot of walking as they live near the plushness of the city where transportation is so relied upon. And so they are also have not done this type of soul searching in a while either, spiritual muscles are strained as well.
RZS wrote:

I like the strained lungs, that helps carry your original theme from the poem's beginning which focused on breath and air.

Yes, I'm not sure what to do about the "air" theme. Breathing seems to me like an important clue that this poem is about spirituality.

RZS wrote:

Clawing feet does not work for me. And the syntax of that line is awkward. The feet are not wobbling so much as the people are wobbling.
All right. I can see the issue with the word "clawing" again, it is the intent that this journey is difficult, almost out of reach and the focus on the feet of course is symbolic.
RZS wrote:

Bandaged fingers trying to tie a knot is an evocative image, but it feels out of place here. Fingers for feet is too close. There is another way to talk about the struggle for the summit. Bandaged fingers and silk thread sounds like you were looking more for a clever turn of phrase than for something that would really drive your poem thematically.

Well I do not think I was trying to be clever at all. I remember struggling with this line. I was grappling for a description and opted to go outside the type of descriptions I had been using.....I believe out of frustration. It doesn't even make sense, and I'm pretty depressed that even I can not remember what it was I was trying to say! There was a point there...somewhere... Embarassed
RZS wrote:

The next stanzas move back into the real beauty of your poem.

The summit is worth the trial.
We touch-
holding hands to remind ourselves
we aren’t dreaming,
to stop each other
from falling off the edge of the world.


This is very nice. Small nits only... I would adjust the verb tenses for stronger, more present language. Like this:
The summit is worth the trial.
We touch-
we hold hands to remind ourselves
this is no dream,
to stop us from falling
off the edge of the world.

Works for me!!! Thank you!! Smile
RZS wrote:

And the skyscraper-high air sings
along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath fills us
(changed from filling to agree with sings)
like the whispers of clouds ("from" makes for odd syntax... lose the awkward adjective here for flow)
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.


I like listening for the diagnosis of our maladies. That works. As does the next short stanza, though I might consider editing out the word "this".
RZS wrote:

The last stanza needs to be re-worked if you omit the first stanza.
My preference would be for you to end the poem where the day ends, looking ahead to the inevitable, but savoring the moment.
Maybe something like this as a rearrangement of the last three stanzas:

Tomorrow we return
to morning carpool chit-chat,
the civic duty of smog fighting,
concrete paths and smothered people.

In this moment
skyscraper-high air sings along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath fills us
with the whispers of clouds
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.

With a pocket full of pill-dust
we leave.
The sun sets on this Sunday.


In all, there is a lot of potential for this poem. I would like to see you give your blue pencil a workout on this and bring it back her for review.

I don't know. I think the last stanza should probably be cut. It's a bit telling like the first one is. Perhaps even movie like.
Possibly even preachy with a "don't forget about this in your daily life" kind of attitude. I am starting to believe it brings the poem down. You mentioned a few times where you thought I was trying to be "clever" and I it was usually not my intent, but it probably was here. Embarassed Rolling Eyes I think this whole stanza probably needs to go and end the poem on the sun setting on Sunday. Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 4 9:02:40 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Finally, I have a first rewrite. Thank you so very much for being patient with me. This process has not been fast nor easy.
Although I tried to use all your helpful instruction, I can say that I am aware that this version is neglectful of Loi's second set of critiques. I will return to them in the next rewrite.

I took a lot of time to think about the intention of the various pieces. I did end up agreeing about the gas station and cut that part. AS for the anthropomorphizing in the second half, I do have a question. If this part is integral to the piece, should I incorporate some anthropomorphizing earlier on?
I tried to clarify my intent with the trees. I saw them as the people of a village crowding around the road which leads to the palace center. I think the way I have done it is still weak, but I added it to put a place mark on the intent for now.
The beginning and ending stanzas have been cut.


With tennis shoes long overdue for action
and a haphazard bag of overnight clothes,
we hop in our old blue Chevy jet.
Guided by passing white bread crumbs;
we zip down the 75S tarmac to chase the mountains.

In a half hour’s time, people speak another language.
The mountains call us like children to play tag.
They peep at us in the distance-
then disappear, and reappear-

Rusty silos sit like lighthouses over a sea of farmland.
Lonely homesteads with pearl columns dot the land,
along with weather worn barns.
Dark wood shanties; unconcerned about a new paint job,
or a few holes in rebellious planks,
prepare for a home-cooked dinner
and to sing a country lullaby to the sun.

They are soon suppressed by a thick wall of green
flanking the highway, bubbling with varied textures.
Sumac huddles under Blue Ash, tickling.
Bald Cypress shivers and tries to steal a Kudzu blanket
from a Bur Oak.
We march past these inhabitants of the land kingdom,
toward the palace at the center.

Watching the trees distracted us enough
to give the mountains the opportunity to startle us.
They leap out before us and stand-
rock-cut abs and brawny biceps,
promise of an indescribable view atop
jutting bold shoulders.

We go on a hike which squeezes leg muscles
in a gripping vice and presses on strained lungs.
Wobbling along the incline feet claw the dirt
and occasionally slip.

The summit is worth the trial. We touch,
holding hands to remind ourselves
this isn’t a dream, to stop each other
from falling off the edge of the world.

The skyscraper-high air sings along the treetops.
Resuscitating breath fills us from
the whispers of drooping clouds
as we sit on nature’s examination table
and listen for the diagnosis
of our maladies.

With a pocket full of pill-dust we leave.
The sun sets on this Sunday.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10 15:53:18 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

This rewrite's wonderfully formed. I wouldn't change anything.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10 23:05:48 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

The rewrite draws me in more than the original but without the first/last stanzas it feels like a travelogue. Those stanzas give motive and struggle and without them the real heart of the poem in S7 gets lost. As scmatsuura put it, they’re the scaffolding. Without them, you did need the rewritten final stza, but it lacks the voice of the rest of the poem and left me feeling dropped. I’d try an aggressive rewrite of those earlier two and put them back in—find the narrator’s truths in them and loose the preaching in the last stza

Some nits. S3L1. Do you mean sea of farmland? Actually, do you need to pound on that metaphor? Maybe:
Rusty silos like lighthouses over homesteads
lonely with pearl columns and weather worn barns.
S4. The scientist in me. Capping the plant names was jarring. S6L1, change which to that or maybe rewrite.

Its looking good.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11 6:24:51 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

spectre_chasm wrote:
The rewrite draws me in more than the original but without the first/last stanzas it feels like a travelogue.
Would you please explain this to me in detail? I do not know what this means.

spectre_chasm wrote:

Those stanzas give motive and struggle and without them the real heart of the poem in S7 gets lost. As scmatsuura put it, they’re the scaffolding. Without them, you did need the rewritten final stza, but it lacks the voice of the rest of the poem and left me feeling dropped. I’d try an aggressive rewrite of those earlier two and put them back in—find the narrator’s truths in them and loose the preaching in the last stza

Some nits. S3L1. Do you mean sea of farmland? Actually, do you need to pound on that metaphor? Maybe:
Rusty silos like lighthouses over homesteads
It is not my intention to pound on the metaphor. However, this suggestion distorts the purpose for me. I do not want to change the focus to the homesteads on this line.

spectre_chasm wrote:

lonely with pearl columns and weather worn barns.
S4. The scientist in me. Capping the plant names was jarring. S6L1, change which to that or maybe rewrite.


I can see that. Both of those are excellent suggestions. Thank you!
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 11 14:08:51 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

interesting question Rio--about what draws me in--I guess its an intuitive thing, either getting pulled along with a poem or not right off the bat. Analytically, maybe its because the story doesn't shift between S1 and S2 in the rewrite, which demands less of the reader. Or maybe because its an "easier" stanza. S1 in the rewrite reads well, its cadence seems just right. S1 in the original less so--in part a personal thing because I have a hard time with mouthful words (environment friendly inhaler).

About the second part of that comment--it feeling like a travelogue. In the original I was more able to understand what was important to the narrator. I liked the echoing of the ineffective inhaler with "nature's examining table". I liked how the "exam" such as it were was effective in a melancholy way. The personal imagery in the old stanzas lets me see the narrator as a person. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with loosing the narrator, just makes a different poem for me.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13 7:04:16 EDT 2008    Post subject: Re: Appalachian escape Reply with quote

Thank you all so much. My first experience in boot camp has been every bit the challenge I had hoped for. I truly appreciate all your expertise. Humbly, thank you again.
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