Is first strophe necessary?

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Is first strophe necessary?

Post  dennis20 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:54 pm

Any thoughts appreciated.  I wondered if I am funneling the reader unnecessarily.

Elegy for a Valley

I walk among the relics
of a forlorn valley of ancestors.
The kindred spirits of my parents,
their parents, and to three generations
are here.
Stones hold names once etched
which time and time and times erode.
Wind whispers names over hill
and valley in raspy voices--
none intelligible now.
Chimney stones of church
and one-roomed school hold a hill
in high esteem. Hand-set steps mark
foundation where civilization started,
a place to learn, a place to turn
the varied tongues into English,
into citizens of this world.
Headstones--some carved, some not,
some standing, some leaning, all hiding
in grass and weeds--my evidence.


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Still Kooser'ed

Post  tsukany on Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:14 pm

Is this an elegy in a strict sense?  (Kooser challenges names of poetic forms in titles)

Seems like the poem wants to center on "stones."  " . . . hold a hill" is hard to process for me.
"headstone . . . (are) my evidence" of what?

I really like the tone.  I like how the images in the stanzas are empty.  I agree that the first stanza may not be needed.

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Elegy poem

Post  Pat on Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:24 pm

Dennis, this brought back some memories of two country graveyards near Perryville, AR.  I have kinfolks buried there.  Hard working, common people.  I remember visiting with a grandmother once and the gravestones were weedy.  

I wonder if you could drop stanza 1 and retitle it something like:  The Valley of My Ancestors  (which is from stanza 1).  It clues the reader in to the importance of the valley. 
S 2:  Instead of hold which seems detached, I wonder if you would be open to more of a feeling word:  maybe cradle.  I like whisper.    I'm thinking of what can happen in the cemetery:  spirits, prayers, sing, kneel, hush, search, soar.  Just throwing out words that fit for me in cemeteries. 

S 3:  I like the connections/focus on stones.  I like you throwing in the learning and citizens.  That personalized it for me.  Hold names, hold a hill:  interesting.   The stones are remnants/ traces left behind of another time that you hold dear?  I got lost on that one because as it reads I'm not sure if the hill is the deal or the stones.   The rest of that stanza helped me realize how you meant it.

S 4: Evidence of you being linked to the history here?   
Dennis, I wonder if you started this poem as if you were searching for something and you find the evidence in the weeds and long grass.  Just a thought. 

Do you need "my evidence"?   proof of ancestors/ your history?  Only you know what you are shooting for.   I followed the picture of the valley/hill.  Sentimental.


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Post  Dewell H. Byrd on Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:43 am

Dennis, I like the sentiment you express in this poem... especially via valley, headstones positioned askew.  I would prefer that you let the stones, weeds, etc tell the story marking the span of generations, time, times...  maybe introduce self by an unmarked stone among the generations.  The title leads me away from the poem, sorry. 
I, too, am a visitor of old cemeteries noting the history especially in the Gold Rush country.  Dewell

Dewell H. Byrd

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Re: Is first strophe necessary?

Post  Karen on Sat Feb 28, 2015 1:08 pm

Pat's title suggestion to use some meat from the first stanza is a good one.  I like the idea of starting with the second stanza. 

Reading the poems posted here makes me realize how often I am on autopilot, in the land of mental grocery lists and word juggling when life, death, love, loss and opportunity are raging around me.  There is never a lack for subject matter, only a lack of appreciation.


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