Thursday, July 21, 2011

String of Beads; repost for Meeting the Bar: Crit Friday at dVerse

This is a repost of  an older poem that was originally written for the January Challenge at Facial Expressions Poetry Circle on Facebook. It also was a OneShotWednesday selection at OneStopPoetry. I think I am far enough in time from it to benefit from a good critique, as I had numerous problems writing it, as I always do with sonnets. Looking forward to some honest appraisal of what works here and what doesn't. And welcome to everyone from  dVerse Poet's Pub Crit Friday hosted by Luke Prater.

String of Beads

A circle’s string of beads decks out a hook
beside a broken wishbone on a nail,
a mouse’s skull within a warded nook,
all relics hidden from the cyclone’s tail

and given me to make a summer song.
Sharp shadows thrown by arbitrary light
convinced my heart that time had right or wrong,
unlike the void that opened with the night;

that will could make things speak that had no tongue
and days be numbered in a wheel of sense
with grace, like beads so innocently strung
beside the broken bones for recompense—

     but now I draw a breath in quick dismay
     to find the sickly smell of sweet decay.

January, 2011

Meeting the Bar:Crit Friday is an open platform for honing the tools of the writer's craft through constructive criticism in a protected community environment. Be sure to stop by and read Luke's ground rules before linking up, here at dVerse


  1. First of all, I'd like to say I love your sonnet and the imagery is haunting & vivid for me. I'm someone who is still learning about metre (it generally gives me a migraine) but I'm guessing this isn't iambic? Indeed there is a mixture (I think)of some iambic, some Trochee (see, I know something! lol) and this line: 'that will could make things speak that had no tongue' ..I kind of stumbled over, but that is probably me. I'm not nearly as confident at this as I'd like to be. Thank you for giving the poem to us for critique, I enjoyed having a go (although I'm scared!) :)

  2. Thanks Louise--I'm very sure the meter is at fault in some way--iambic pentameter is just like pulling teeth for me, though I seem to do okay with some other forms of iambic. Even when I diagram it out, as I did here when writing, I never feel that I've got it right. I think the line you refer to is also a bit awkward, because "will" is used as a noun here(i.e., my will), not a verb, and one goes into the read not grasping it.

    Daydreamertoo--thanks for reading.

    I'll be around with comments tomorrow.

  3. ok, i am not form or meter guy, just saying...i find a beat and run with it...where you lose me with this one is "right or wrong" because to me it gets a little rhymes with the two lines above and one below with the internal rhyme which messes with my mental flow a the imagery, love the piece, that is the one line i might tweek.

    (ducks out the back)


  4. Joy the iambic pentameter is spot-on. Not a flaw in it. And you avoid cliche just beautifully. Many very original lines; you really have nailed the English Shakespearean sonnet here. Nailing it is not just getting it right technically but making a decent poem of it that flows effortlessly and seems completely unfettered by the considerable strictures of such a form. You also employ some wonderful internal rhyme, in particular that line Brian mentioned ('right' of L7 rhyming with end-words of the lines either side).

    It was in the old days customary to write sonnets as on block of fourteen lines, as here, and later poets began breaking them up (optionally) into three quatrains and a couplet (for me this makes more sense as it emphasises the rhyme-scheme and it easier to read, but it's purely a taste thing). However, even in the old days, the couplet was usually indented. Why? because with it came the Volta, which I see you've got there very strongly. Bravo... this is excellent. I'm trying my hardest to find something to crit.. hehe

  5. Thanks, Luke. You know how sonnets give me fits, and praise from you on one is praise indeed. Good to hear the meter is correct, because I drew up an anal form sheet with the stress syllables written across the top, "da-DUM da-DUM," etc and broke each line down, bolding the stresses as I wrote. It almost took more time to remove all that formatting from the final than it did to write the damn thing.:P

    I've broken it up as you suggested into quatrains and indented the final couplet, and it looks and reads much better to me. Thanks for taking a look at it.

    Don't need to duck, Brian--I put this one up because I was ready to have it dissected--and you were gentle. ;_)

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  7. As I find out in other workshop sites the metre of a poem can be in the ear of the beholder so it has to be read aloud and so an English and American ear may disagree. As you more then likely know the art of iambic writing is to agree the substitution rules of what feet to change. I can hear a number of subs in several lines but I'm not clear on what basis. The two I follow are

    Lewis Turco Subsitute Rules p39

    I or spoondee
    I or anapest
    I or trochee
    I only
    I or amphibrach

    two substitutes allowed per foot

    Strict classical substitution

    1 I or trochee or spondee or 1 pyrric/
    2 I or trochee or spondee 2 spoondee or 2 pyrric/
    3 I or trochee or spondee 3 spondee or 3 pyrric/
    4 I or trochee or spondee 4 spondee or 4 pyrric/
    5 I or spondee or 5 spondee

    pyrric/spondee not a subtitute but two iambs
    never more then two subs per line

    This may tease out metre issues for you but read aloud I had no problem with its beat and found that the poem was not shoehorned into the form

  8. Joy, I know nothing of metre, but I know how something sounds when read out loud. This is beautiful and smooth, also free of cliches. I do not like cliches.


  9. @Jon I would never say pyrrhics or spondees should substituted for iambs; spondees maybe once in a whole sonnet if and only of it's the only word that works (even Shakespeare did this). pyrrhics are generally regarded as a non-foot really to be avoided in my experience. Spondees yes are quite effective as a substitute, they are written in intentionally esp at beginning or ends of lines for emphasis (See Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night - BRAVE MEN/OLD MEN etc)

  10. oops I meant

    I would never say pyrrhics or *trochees* should substituted for iambs; *trochees* maybe once in a whole sonnet

  11. I like your idea here, and really like the choice of charms for spell casting

    I can not write a traditional sonnet, and won't try to critique your form. (looks fine to me, though) Will say that the sentence structure combined with stanza break made me lose the train. ( shadows...convinced...that time...that will...and days) I was thrown off by the parenthetical "unlike the void" and wanted the following phrase to modify that. Probably my fault as an inattentive reader, but you might want to be aware of the possibility.

    Sorry I can't be of more help

  12. ( off subject) just noticed "Deeper Well" in your sidebar. One of my favorites. Been an Olney fan a long, long time.

  13. @barbara: yes, I understand exactly where you're coming from. The flow is very strictly regulated by the meter and the sonnet rhyme scheme, and it's extremely hard to have the same ease of transition from thought to thought as free verse, or even other forms like terza rima or villanelle. It's my least favorite form because of that, and I don't feel fluent in it, seldom write it. That said, a few readings help with sonnets--I always read them at least three times to get the meanings, because they are to me, extremely convoluted.

    Glad you liked the sidebar lyric. That song when sung never fails to make my hairs stand on end.

    @John and Luke: You guys go for it. ;-)

    John, yes, I have noticed the difference between the UK stresses and the US ones--it's interesting to me to read UK poets for that reason--I feel like you are closer to an older rhythm buried in the language, even when writing with a totally modern context and theme, than we are, and it gives things a little extra layer of richness sometimes. Perhaps you feel something similar if opposite about us.

  14. I agree with Luke, darn him for again robbing me of something useful to say. :) 'Warded nook' made my poetic day. It is a gorgeous sonnet.

  15. You see, beware of 'experts' - where two are gathered so four opinions will be heard! It's in part my layout in that the numbers refer to say the 2nd and 3rd foot can be respectively a pyrric/spondee. I work on the basis, as long as the poem is consistent to whatever set of rules the poet wants and the reader enjoys it, raspberry to the expert!


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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