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Blank Verse - Beetle on the Butter Plate

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  #1  
Old 09-09-2008, 07:26 PM
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Default Blank Verse - Beetle on the Butter Plate


Iambic pentameter is s'posed to sound like "and ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and FIVE". You'll see that I have a few lines with variation... that's to keep it from sounding mechanical.
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A beetle on the butter plate is stuck,
his matte-black wings made shiny with the grease,
disordered, lifted, winking sullen red,
like inside an eyelid’s curving roof.
His two black legs that sinuously twist—
wrestle-ing the feathers into place—
just spread the deadly smear.
_________________________I know that fight!
Panicked battle-thrashing... panting fear...

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Old 09-10-2008, 05:39 AM
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This is very nice! Good, strong, concrete imagery - just the sort of thing I hunt for. I don't know anything about all these forms and rhythm, so keep that in mind. I just write what I think sounds good. Here, I think the form is mucking this up. I'll explain:

A beetle on the butter plate is stuck,


Great initial line! Evocative, clear image. It sounds right. The language moves quickly with a good rhythm to that last word and stops. Well done.


his matte-black wings made shiny with the grease,

If you drop his and made, the line pops more. Forget the form.

disordered, lifted, winking sullen red,

Consider reversing the order of sullen and winking. Winking makes the red pop more.

like inside an eyelid’s curving roof.

A good image here, but roof throws it off. I think roof is the wrong word. Has the wrong sound. Perhaps you want a more embracing word, a word that wraps with a bit more love, even if it's empty and cold. Try hollow? I know it screws the form. Or palm?


His two black legs that sinuously twist—
wrestle-ing the feathers into place—
just spread the deadly smear.
_________________________I know that fight!
Panicked battle-thrashing... panting fear...

Watch out for the ... I think it weakens a poem, like the text doesn't know what to do. Strive for the finality of a period. I don't get the feathers. On a beetle? This image of the struggle only making things worse is good, but the form it's cast it blurs. Again - I think this should be revised without the container of the technique. Focus on the image and bring that to life. I know you won't have a poem for the illustration of the technique, but you'll have a better poem, I think.

I know that fight! How? This is the crux of the poem, the moment you can use to elevate the beetle beyond itself and make the struggle something to which we can all relate in a more concrete manner. How do you know that fight? Show me. I would like to see how the narrator relates to this beetle's struggle, what memory or current strife is illustrated by its thrashing.

This is a fine illustration of the form, but the language and meaning strains against the bonds. Let it loose.
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  #3  
Old 09-10-2008, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by glberen View Post
This is a fine illustration of the form, but the language and meaning strains against the bonds. Let it loose.
I'm so glad you said that! Ironically, I originally wrote it without the word "his" in lines 2 and 5... I added them in to illustrate iambic pentameter.

Regarding "eyelid's curving roof"... would "hood" sound better? "Roof" sounds like something unyielding, while hood is softer, more enveloping. As for "feathers"... beetles are awfully small, so it's hard to see what their wings are made of. Whatever it wa, it was all mucked up!

Thank you for your critique! I'd kinda gotten stuck with this poem, but I didn't know why! I'll be letting it simmer in my head with your comments for a little while.
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Old 09-11-2008, 01:08 AM
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glberen wrote:
Watch out for the ... I think it weakens a poem, like the text doesn't know what to do. Strive for the finality of a period.

From all your comments on Hoilei's, G, this is the only one a disagree with. The free verse is portraying a struggle and the ellipses (...) highlighlights a) the breathlessness of fighting and b) its continuing battle. The effect is good because it gives the beetle's struggle a life outside what's written on the page. Walk away from the words, you can still 'hear' the fight continuing without you there. Playing with the suffix on 'wrestle-ing' also seemed to add to that effort (as did repetition of 'a' graphs and plosives in that final line).

He's spot on with the concrete imagery, Hoilei. It was a very strong poem.
'his matte-black wings made shiny with the grease' was one of my favourites, although 'shiny'... I don't know. I've read it a couple of times and I can't decide whether I like it or not. It's good for imagery, but just a little too soft a word for the overall meaning behind a struggle. You use 'matte-black', 'grease', 'disordered' 'sullen-red' 'twist,' 'wrestle-ing' - all very powerful images, but 'shiny' just felt a little, I don't know, out of place? Ah, it's just a small niggle.

'hoof' seems a good alternative. the 'c' in curving and 'h' in hoof gives it that almost voiceless repetitive flow to the sentence 'r' in roof' takes that away. But the change isn't only good for that. I have to admit I struggled with 'roof' in a referential sense too. Majority of people reagrds referential material like 'roof' will associate to the most common image known to them (i.e. mention roof, most would automatically go for the 'roof of a house', then the roof of the mouth, eyes etc (I really hate language psychology)) and here I have to admit, even though you'd tried focus our line of thinking with 'eyelid's curving...', I automatically opted for imagery surrounding the 'roof' of a house because that's the most common image to me (you may get a different reaction from say, a dentist, or anyone involved with eye-care, though!). The struggle between ref material then meant that 'curving' was a lost image to me, as I don't associate any curves to house roofs . It was only a moment's trip-up on my part, but enough to make me loose focus on what's being portrayed. I had to re-read the line and think a little deeper. 'Hoof' is clear so even the most referentially-challenged (i.e me) couldn't confuse what's being portrayed.

Good one, H.

Last edited by Jarin; 09-11-2008 at 01:37 AM..
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Old 09-11-2008, 06:16 PM
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Hi Jarin! Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. I notice you like "wrestle-ing". It does add to the meaning of the word, doesn't it? I tend to pronounce words like "dazzling" and "baffling" as three syllables, so when I write them into poetry, I hyphenate. I have one which describes a drunken man's "shuffle-ing, stumble-ing starts and halts". It goes with the subject matter in that case, too.

You're right about the imagery associated with "roof". "Hood" works better. (Not "hoof", though D and F are adjacent on the keyboard! )

Originally Posted by Jarin View Post
'his matte-black wings made shiny with the grease' was one of my favourites, although 'shiny'... I don't know. I've read it a couple of times and I can't decide whether I like it or not.
Hmm... something harder, maybe. "Glinting" or "glinty"? "His matte-black wings obsidian with grease"? I'll toss that in to simmer with the rest!
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Old 09-11-2008, 06:27 PM
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no obsidian!

gosh, no. please don't.
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Old 09-12-2008, 01:02 AM
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Originally Posted by HoiLei View Post
You're right about the imagery associated with "roof". "Hood" works better. (Not "hoof", though D and F are adjacent on the keyboard! )
Lol... For someone with a degree in the stuff, my language skills are really. Hood not hoof, hood not hoof... Wish I could say it was a slip of the fingers, but I think it's just the old eyesight Ban the old, I say...

on the the 'wrestleing' 3 syllable count... lol. For me dazzling and the likes naturally fall to three syallbles, I just loved how the suffis was given emphasis as it gave it that extra - kick.

Obsidian *scrambles round for dictionary and fingers down index 'a, b, c...* Ah... It's a difficult one. 'shiny' is good from a sensory aspect, obsidian may just be a bit too hard to digest when the rest of the poem has such a lovely concrete base to it. I wish i could suggest an alternative here (and I'll certainly have a think over the next few days). But like I said, it's just a small niggle and one others may not be overjoyed with you changing it.

glberen, what do you think?
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Old 09-12-2008, 05:21 AM
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I think she should consider dropping the shiny aspect altogether. shiny isn't a term that contributes to the overall tone of struggle in a positive manner. to have the beetle wing beat against the grease might be better, or flutter, although that's a bit flighty. It's up to HoiLei.
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