Searching for Answers (Revised)

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JJWilliamson
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Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by JJWilliamson » Fri Oct 21, 2016 9:39 pm

Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
and he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of ice cream and thought about it,
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled at him.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolley
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”?
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find a way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.

He’s quieter now, and he’s shed
that extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating
, he joked, then lay down
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He wondered why,
until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he sighed.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he said.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.


Original

Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of icecream and thought about it,
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”.
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he managed.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
Last edited by JJWilliamson on Fri Oct 28, 2016 11:34 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by Firebird » Fri Oct 21, 2016 10:28 pm

Very sad poem JJ. It brought back looking after my dad to me, before he passed away. I like the structure of the poem, the impersonal nature of the questions gives added impact.

Some very minor points below:
JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of icecream and thought about it,
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”.
She wasn’t really asking a question. (Do you need this line: I think its clear)
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s. (Is this meant to have some more significance than showing Michael's self-deprecating humour?)

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows. (Very sad at this point)
He never complains about the sores. (Again, not sure if this line is going a little too far)
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he managed.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
A well-written, poignant poem JJ.

Cheers,

Tristan

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by JJWilliamson » Sun Oct 23, 2016 11:57 am

Thanks, Tristan

Yes, it's a sad poem and one I knew I would write some day. I've already written about the deaths of my mother, father and older brother but found this one to be the hardest, possibly because it's still so close. Michael was my oldest sibling and he died, tragically, of liver cancer in June of this year. He was five years my senior and was quite simply always my big brother. The poem is an exact record of some of the questions and answers that flowed between my sister and me. He was in a Newcastle hospital and I couldn't always attend in person. I WAS there for the darts story and others, and the hospice move. It was strange to note how we all focussed on the little things as if to push the greater issues to one side. Strangely enough it added to the gravity of the situation. His last words really were "Who put that light on". His wife told me he slipped away shortly after muttering those words. I have a younger brother and sister left and we get along very nicely, although we are still a bit shell-shocked.

I appreciate the crit' very much because I really did want to see how it was travelling. I'm so close I couldn't be sure if any of the sadness was coming through or if the helplessness we all felt was apparent. This kind of poem is always tricky to crit, mainly because the critter doesn't want to cause offence or pain.
Firebird wrote:Very sad poem JJ. It brought back looking after my dad to me, before he passed away. I like the structure of the poem, the impersonal nature of the questions gives added impact. ...Truly sorry to hear about your dad.

Some very minor points below:
JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of icecream and thought about it,
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”.
She wasn’t really asking a question. (Do you need this line: I think its clear) ...It was in then out, in, out and eventually in because she was going through the motions, like the rest of us. If he was awake he always responded kindly. Let me think on it because you've highlighted an interesting point.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s. (Is this meant to have some more significance than showing Michael's self-deprecating humour?) ...No, not really. It was just an amazing turnaround. One day he hardly moved, the next he was chatting away like a gud'n.

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows. (Very sad at this point)
He never complains about the sores. (Again, not sure if this line is going a little too far) ...Maybe 'aches' would soften the image. He did have red sores but not open ones.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he managed.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
A well-written, poignant poem JJ.

Cheers,

Tristan
Once again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate the effort and concern.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by Firebird » Sun Oct 23, 2016 12:47 pm

JJ, I'm sorry to hear about your brother. It must have been a very difficult period for you and your family. My sincere condolences.

I like this poem and think the emotion/sadness does travel/come through. I suppose the measure of such poems is whether they are sad to those who haven't experienced the loss of a close relative or friend. I believe yours would do this. If it communicates to them, you know that the reader isn't just relating/overlaying their own experiences on the poem, which I realise we all do to a certain extent. For me though it doesn't really matter how good poems like these are, because it the process of writing them that's important - it's cathartic for the poet which is its own reward. I agree, critiquing such poems presents difficulties, as you don't want to hurt the feelings of the writer or in someway devalue what they have written or felt. I posted a poem recently about my daughters MRI, which some were probably weary of critiquing because of the sensitive content. Everything was ok thankfully.

I think your poem is a good one, and I'm not just saying that because of the content, which I suppose is another pitfall of critiquing poems of this type.

Cheers,

Tristan

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by JJWilliamson » Sun Oct 23, 2016 4:47 pm

Thanks, Tristan, for the nod. You never know when you're hitting the mark. Appreciated.
Firebird wrote:JJ, I'm sorry to hear about your brother. It must have been a very difficult period for you and your family. My sincere condolences. ...Thanks again.

I like this poem and think the emotion/sadness does travel/come through. I suppose the measure of such poems is whether they are sad to those who haven't experienced the loss of a close relative or friend. ...That's pretty much it.

the process of writing them that's important - it's cathartic for the poet which is its own reward. ...You're right there. I did feel like I'd got something off my chest. I've noticed that before. I wrote a song about my first brother, 42 years ago, and still remember the tune and lyrics, even though I can't remember the last time I sang it.

I agree, critiquing such poems presents difficulties, as you don't want to hurt the feelings of the writer or in someway devalue what they have written or felt. I posted a poem recently about my daughters MRI, which some were probably weary of critiquing because of the sensitive content. Everything was ok thankfully. ...Delighted to hear it. I know that feeling.

I think your poem is a good one, and I'm not just saying that because of the content, which I suppose is another pitfall of critiquing poems of this type. ...Much appreciated.

Cheers,

Tristan
Thanks for getting back to me.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by Luce » Sun Oct 23, 2016 5:53 pm

Hey JJ,

I think I posted twice on this thread but my posts are not showing up. Just doing this test to see what is what.

I'm so sorry to hear about the recent loss of your brother. I've experienced a number of family losses and know how it feels.

Yes, critiquing a poem of this type is hard.

To answer your question about the sadness coming through, it does come through. But, I'm afraid that it comes through mainly as prose. I think the length of the line you've chosen for the poem muffles the sonics. I think using shorter line may be best here.

Love

Luce
Last edited by Luce on Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by Grace » Sun Oct 23, 2016 7:43 pm

Hi JJ,

Thanks for sharing this poem. It reminded me of the long hours we spent in the hospital when my brother was dying from cancer years ago. I liked the story, the poignancy of this good man dying bravely and well. The structure helps anchor the pain of it so that it is still a good read even though the story is so sad.
I liked the ending. It must have been a great comfort to hear those last words.

I put in a couple of ideas for you to consider but the poem is very strong without them.

JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much.......................(No, not now; he doesn't do much) Use now because "this time" is repeated.)
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain........................ (and he never complains? But implies a contrast to rallying on and off.)
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?..........................................(if you wanted to strengthen the unity of the question/answer you could try, "Has Michael eaten today?" or "Has he eaten today?"
He looked at the broth and a bowl ................................for repetition.)
of icecream and thought about it, ...................................( considered instead of thought about it would echo the next line's whisper or vice versa.)
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”.
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.......................(This was an important window into the life of the Michael before his last illness.)

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost ...................................(He's quieter now, and he's lost--the seems is extra.)
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said...........................(This stanza is a gentle way of telling us the sad end is almost here--helpful for me.)

What news of Michael?...............................................(What news of Michael today? Adding today would emphasize that for the questioner life has continued on while for Michael
Who put that light on? Was all he managed..........................................there was not a chance to live this particular "today."
This time he couldn’t find his way back.

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by JJWilliamson » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:25 am

Thanks for the kind words, Luce

I'm pleased the sadness is coming through. I'd hoped for a quiet, accepting sadness rather than an overwhelming torrent of grief, so your comments are very helpful.
Luce wrote:Hey JJ,

I think I posted twice on this thread but my posts are not showing up. Just doing this test to see what is what.

I'm so sorry to hear about the recent loss of your brother. I've experienced a number of family losses and know how it feels. ...Sorry to read of your losses.

Yes, critiquing a poem of this type is hard.

To answer your question about the sadness coming through, it does come through. But, I'm afraid that it comes through mainly as prose. I think the length of the line you've chosen for the poem muffles the sonics. I think using shorter line may be best here. ...I wondered if the casual tones would make it a bit prosey, and hoped the refrain and other devices would mark it out as poetry. I'm considering accentual verse, because it's close to that already and a few tweaks would push it in that direction. I've rejected accentual-syllabic verse (metered) on the grounds that it might feel too forced, but I might try blank verse to see how it runs. BV is metered but the lack of rhyme helps to disguise the meter, especially if I enjamb many of the lines at the same time. Good! You've got me thinking. Thanks.

Love

Luce
All the best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by ray miller » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:45 am

Yeah, hard to criticise such poems. For me, you'd have a better poem without the repetition of, or variations on, the phrases below. I can see why you'd do it, I just found it a bit unsubtle.

He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by JJWilliamson » Mon Oct 24, 2016 10:55 am

Thank you, Grace, for the thoughtful critique. It's very much appreciated.
Grace wrote:Hi JJ,

Thanks for sharing this poem. It reminded me of the long hours we spent in the hospital when my brother was dying from cancer years ago. ...I also watched my dad go through the same thing, exactly. I'm sorry to read of your experience but gratified it felt real to you. Thanks for letting me know.

I liked the story, the poignancy of this good man dying bravely and well. The structure helps anchor the pain of it so that it is still a good read even though the story is so sad. ...Thank you very much.
I liked the ending.

It must have been a great comfort to hear those last words. ...They were interesting last words. People seeing a light when they approach death is a common story, which actually has some basis in fact, biologically speaking. People with near-death experiences talk of a light and a pleasant detachment before they come back.

I put in a couple of ideas for you to consider but the poem is very strong without them. ...Thanks

JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much.......................(No, not now; he doesn't do much) Use now because "this time" is repeated.) ...It's a deliberate repetition but I'll definitely look again if it looks like an oversight. I do that all the time. :)
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain........................ (and he never complains? But implies a contrast to rallying on and off.) ...Good catch. I'll change it to 'and'.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?..........................................(if you wanted to strengthen the unity of the question/answer you could try, "Has Michael eaten today?" or "Has he eaten today?" ...Yes, it's a possibility. I'm using 'today' to mark the different days and the progression.
He looked at the broth and a bowl ................................for repetition.)
of icecream and thought about it, ...................................( considered instead of thought about it would echo the next line's whisper or vice versa.) ...I might just do that. I wanted a casual, realistic feel but it could be condensed without too much trouble.
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”.
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.......................(This was an important window into the life of the Michael before his last illness.)

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost ...................................(He's quieter now, and he's lost--the seems is extra.) ...Agreed. Consider it changed.
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said...........................(This stanza is a gentle way of telling us the sad end is almost here--helpful for me.)

What news of Michael?...............................................(What news of Michael today? Adding today would emphasize that for the questioner life has continued on while for Michael ...Not a bad point. It was supposed to hint that the questioner already knew the answer.
Who put that light on? Was all he managed..........................................there was not a chance to live this particular "today."
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
Some thoughtful and helpful comments, Grace. Appreciated.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by Macavity » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:28 pm

hi JJ

Connects with my experience. Very little I would change. The tone was right in my view. Not overstated. The 'prison' of the repetitions/questions reflect the sense of helplessness and inevitability.



JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of icecream and thought about it,
[s]then[/s] declined with a smile, a whisper.............................though perhaps you want to emphasize a pause as if the consideration was real
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”?..................................a question being asked (on the surface)
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about the darts match he should have lost,.........................particular match
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.................................loved that line
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he managed.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
all the best

mac

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by bodkin » Tue Oct 25, 2016 8:57 pm

Hi JJ,

I (enjoyed can't be the right word...) appreciated this.

The sadness certainly does come through, as does the focus on the day-to-day.

Some of the character of the man also comes across, which is important.

For me this felt a little like a longer, more extended villanelle, because each time you returned to your repeating themes (of not complaining and having trouble coming back) it was in a slightly different light.

I don't think I have any nits or suggestions. There's obviously things that could be different, and you're already thinking along some possible lines. However, for me, I wouldn't be disappointed if you kept it as is. It seems to be working well enough for the subject matter and it is possible that the slightly prosey nature of it makes the text "ordinary" and thus forms a good backdrop for the subject matter (where the explicit statements are all quite ordinary, but the overall situation far from it...)

Sorry about your brother, but glad you've been able to write about it. An old friend of mine died suddenly earlier in the year, and I suspect it will be years before I'm ready to write about that one... not so much because of any trauma, but because one needs to somehow ingest the whole of it before one can write, and he was a hugely larger than life character...

Best wishes,

Ian
http://www.ianbadcoe.uk/

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Re: Searching for Answers

Post by JJWilliamson » Wed Oct 26, 2016 6:48 am

ray miller wrote:Yeah, hard to criticise such poems. For me, you'd have a better poem without the repetition of, or variations on, the phrases below. I can see why you'd do it, I just found it a bit unsubtle.

Apologies, Ray,

We must have cross-posted. It's a difficult one. He never complained about a thing and still enjoyed being part of the company. His resilience was remarkable, yet we could see him struggling, just that little bit more, on a daily basis, then out of the blue he'd perk up.

He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back. ...I'll mull it over but instinctively I think they should stay. Nothing is set, though.

Best

JJ
Macavity wrote:
Thanks, Mac

hi JJ

Connects with my experience. Very little I would change. The tone was right in my view. Not overstated. The 'prison' of the repetitions/questions reflect the sense of helplessness and inevitability. ...You've described exactly what I was going for. Thanks very much for that. It helps enormously.



JJWilliamson wrote:Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
but he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of icecream and thought about it,
[s]then[/s] declined with a smile, a whisper.............................though perhaps you want to emphasize a pause as if the consideration was real ...I think you're right on both counts. I'm not 100% sure about dropping 'then' but I can see where you're coming from. I'm wondering if the preceding comma and 'then' are doing the same job.
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled back.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolly
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”?..................................a question being asked (on the surface) ...I Hummed and Harred over the question mark. Won't harm to include it.
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find his way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about the darts match he should have lost,.........................particular match. ...It was in one of two pubs by the docks but I can't remember which one. I think it was The Railway. There was also a pub called The Dock not so far away.
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.

He seems quieter now, and he’s lost
the extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating,
he joked, then lay back
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He asked why
the move until he saw the garden and view.................................loved that line
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he said.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he managed.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.
all the best

mac

Appreciate the reply and am especially grateful that you told me it made a connection.

Best

JJ
bodkin wrote:
Thanks, Ian, for the marvellous visit and critique. Appreciated.

Hi JJ,

I (enjoyed can't be the right word...) appreciated this. ...I know exactly what you mean.

The sadness certainly does come through, as does the focus on the day-to-day. ...Thanks for that. Needed to know.

Some of the character of the man also comes across, which is important. ...Ah, good! I was hoping that would be the case.

For me this felt a little like a longer, more extended villanelle, because each time you returned to your repeating themes (of not complaining and having trouble coming back) it was in a slightly different light. ...It's interesting to read that because there was a kind of structure to everything, even down to the coffee breaks. We always came back to that one inextricable fact: He was fading, struggling and doing his best to keep afloat.

I don't think I have any nits or suggestions. There's obviously things that could be different, and you're already thinking along some possible lines. However, for me, I wouldn't be disappointed if you kept it as is. It seems to be working well enough for the subject matter and it is possible that the slightly prosey nature of it makes the text "ordinary" and thus forms a good backdrop for the subject matter (where the explicit statements are all quite ordinary, but the overall situation far from it...) ...Well put. The ordinariness was indeed extraordinary. I've started a tentative revision, but nothing drastic. I'm looking to tighten some of the rhythms, finding four stresses in most lines with the occasional five cropping up. I might look towards keeping the four stress, accentual verse set up and simply tolerate the lines of pentameter. It's not far from being metered but I don't want strict meter to trip me up. It was never my intention to write iambically but I often slip into that rhythm whether I want it or not. :)

Sorry about your brother, but glad you've been able to write about it. An old friend of mine died suddenly earlier in the year, and I suspect it will be years before I'm ready to write about that one... not so much because of any trauma, but because one needs to somehow ingest the whole of it before one can write, and he was a hugely larger than life character... ...Thanks for that and I'm very sorry to read about the loss of your friend. It took me 32 years to write about my dad's death so I do understand. I workshopped it here, actually. I described the gruesome side of cancer (runs in the family) but didn't feel the need to approach the subject from the same pov when it came to Michael. I was shocked at the way sickness brought my invincible dad down and I was angry with the cancer. There was a difference that I can't really define. Suffice it to say that Michael's position, as a sibling, was different. I thought he'd always be there and was suddenly brought down to earth with one phone call. You'll write that poem when you're ready. I wrote a song about my older brother (3 years my senior) when I was sixteen. The first verse ran,

"Forget the son, remember the clown,
the day frowned when a young man died.
By a children's slide a young boy cried;
this story's hard to tell".

I still remember the tune but haven't sung it for an age. Depressing, actually. :)

The point is, and one you're almost certainly well aware of, you will come round to face that loss for what it is and will find some context, some personal connection, from which to write.

Best wishes,

Ian

Once again, thank you very much for the crit and comments.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by Macavity » Thu Oct 27, 2016 5:30 pm

perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.
I feel the lines breaks are more natural there JJ

best

mac

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by Luce » Fri Oct 28, 2016 1:01 am

JJ

Small nit. Ice cream needs a space.

Luce
"She acts like summer, walks like rain." - Train

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by JJWilliamson » Fri Oct 28, 2016 11:21 am

Thanks, Mac

I was trying to tighten the rhythms when I added an extra couple of lines about the venue,
by giving each line roughly the same weight. When I changed back to the original I kept
the revised line breaks. Your observation is spot on. Consider it changed.

Best

JJ
Macavity wrote:
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.
I feel the lines breaks are more natural there JJ

best

mac
Luce wrote:JJ

Small nit. Ice cream needs a space.

Luce
I knew that. :D

JJ

PS good catch.

J
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by ton321 » Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:47 am

Any news of Michael today?
No, not this time; he doesn’t do much
because of the morphine. He rallies, on and off,
and he never complains of thirst or pain.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Has he eaten anything?
He looked at the broth and a bowl
of ice cream and thought about it,
then declined with a smile, a whisper
and subtle shake of the head.

What did he say?
Very little but the nurse smiled at him.
She put the unused dinner tray on a trolley
and said, “Not hungry today, Michael”?
She wasn’t really asking a question.
He doesn’t say much and never complains.
This time he’s struggling to find a way back.

Any news of Michael today?
Yes! They gave him a steroid and he
perked up like his old self. He told a story
about a darts match he should have lost,
but won by accidentally hitting two double 14’s.

He’s quieter now, and he’s shed
that extra weight he was talking about.
He spoke of the irony. All I had to do
was stop eating, he joked, then lay down
to rest his head on the heaped pillows.
He never complains about the sores.
This time he’s finding it hard to come back.

Any news of Michael today?
They’ve increased the morphine and moved
him to the hospice ward. He wondered why,
until he saw the garden and view.
The decor’s nice and the telly’s better.
The football’s on tonight, he sighed.

What news of Michael?
Who put that light on? Was all he said.
This time he couldn’t find his way back.

Sad poem, enjoyed the way you threaded it together with the word back, a mantra to focus on through the pain.
Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Robert Graves

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by bodkin » Mon Oct 31, 2016 9:35 am

Just saying that it's still working for me in the revised form, you didn't break anything...

Ian
http://www.ianbadcoe.uk/

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by JJWilliamson » Tue Nov 01, 2016 12:03 pm

Thanks, Ton, for the comments. Very much appreciated.

Best

JJ

Thanks for getting back to me, Ian. Yes, just a few tentative revisions to tighten things up a bit.
I stopped myself from going for an all out metrical beat, deciding to let the natural rhythms
dominate. It's still stress based but not obsessively so.

Really pleased you dropped back in because those tweaks can be a little unnerving. Appreciated.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by David » Wed Nov 02, 2016 6:52 pm

Very good, JJ. I like it as it is.

The repetition of lines can be annoying sometimes, but not here. Not at all. I thought they were very effective.

Cheers (and condolences, of course)

David

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by JJWilliamson » Wed Nov 02, 2016 8:47 pm

Thanks a lot, David

I think I'll settle for this version because it's a fair reflection of the events as my eyes and ears remembered them.

Thanks for the condolences. He was one in a million.

Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by ton321 » Sun Nov 06, 2016 3:39 am

Hi JJ,

I like the way you structured your poem, with a question.
Cheers, Tony.
Counting the beats,
Counting the slow heart beats,
The bleeding to death of time in slow heart beats,
Wakeful they lie.

Robert Graves

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Re: Searching for Answers (Revised)

Post by JJWilliamson » Sun Nov 06, 2016 1:25 pm

Thanks again, Tony

Good to know you returned to this poem.

Best

JJ
ton321 wrote:Hi JJ,

I like the way you structured your poem, with a question.
Cheers, Tony.
Long time a child and still a child

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