Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hourglass Scribbles

I'd meant to post another piece of short fiction here, but I never quite got around to writing it up.  But I did scribble down a poem the other day and would enjoy any feedback, especially since I rarely write poetry.

And what if I could see in the pauses between seconds,
let the tide of time run still without ebb or flow,
and breathe without fear of the weight of sand above me,
or the fall onto the pillars beneath me.
At peace in the present, without

As if I turned the black sand glass to rest upon its side,
with some small grain caught between one single moment in the sieve
I dont think I could rest for that instance, just as the grain could not remain still,
but knows it will soon be righted,
to either back into the reserve of unfallen time.
One grain redeemed, only to fall at another time.

Time is a desert, a wilderness of horrors,
where what we fear beyond the horizon
is exceeded by the memories we leave forgotten behind us.
But storms arise and place all time beneath and above us
within the air we breath and the glances we take,
until the fears above and beneath us are once more the moments,
waiting in the single spot between two seas of an hourglass.


  1. This poem has some great images and passages, sometimes weighed down by garbled syntax and good intentions. Your opening stanza begins somewhat clumsily -- consider a more penetrating approach. Instead of opening with the weighty and imprecise "and what if", put us right into the action with "I could see in the pauses between seconds". Especially in your beginnings, strive for punch and panache. Lines 3 and 4 of stanza one are delightful.

    It took me a few reads to divine the meaning of stanza two's first three lines. I like what you're trying to say, but I might consider cutting out 40% of the words, and saying things as simply as possible, especially for such a (relatively) complicated idea. "I turn the sand glass to rest on its side/ with some small grain caught level/I don't think I could rest for that instant, either/knowing it will soon be righted to one..." Something like that. You get the drift. The phrase "unfallen time" is pristine -- the sort of image I wish I'd come up with first.

    First line of the third stanza is somewhat graceless, but I appreciate its second half. One thing to watch out for when writing conclusions in your poetry -- try to stay away from the moral of the story, tying things together too neatly, with all your intentions laid bare self-consciously. One way to avoid this here is to cut a few lines. Regardless of your decision, however, the closing line is laudable.

    All in all, a promising poetic venture. You should write more of it.

  2. i was under the impression that the "and what if" starts it off by suggesting this is all hypothetical since you can't sit inside an hourglass
    because if you delete that then the second line doesn't make sense anymore, actually the entire first stanza doesn't align properly if you remove that phrase
    also, rewriting the second stanza like you suggest would basically make it a plain text description of a grain of sand in the middle
    yet you say the end should be all mysterious and confusing
    make up your mind
    i agree that it needs to be tightened up
    but i think it is nearly impossible to comment on content as so much of the poetry we have today is "mistakes" people made when they were experimenting with poetry
    granted, there are probably ten thousand failed poets for every one that actually creates something good
    but still

  3. wow Kylan, thanks for the thoughtful critique - I'm really excited to play around with it some more. Like you could tell, I didn't really give myself the time or the mind to revise. I just started typing. I knew it needed some overhauling, but I wasn't quite sure where to start. So thanks so much!

    And Rem, thank you for your defense of "And what if". I think you're spot on when it suggests a hypothetical nature to the poem. I honestly just love the feeling that phrase gives - like you're coming into this poem mid-conversation. That there's something going on before, and you're not quite sure, you just now you're in it now and it's picked up so quickly you can't really concern yourself with what you missed you're just there. For all my concerns about time in this poem, I think that kind of context (I almost want to call it slight of hand) just fits for me.

    You're comments also made me think about evaluating poetry, generally. My grandmother secretly reads my blog (often to my chagrin) and has the habit of making offhanded statements or gestures that relate to what I've written. Of course, she never acknowledges my writing. Well, this last week, she gave me a book of poetry composed by a great-something in our family. It was legitimate, a collection of poems published by a new york press (not bad for a mormon boy born and raised in Utah). But then she asked me what I thought. And all I could do was shrug my shoulders and go "ehhh". It wasn't juvenile and it wasn't tripe (which by the way, can also refer to the second stomach of a cow, gives the "rubbish" definition all new meaning right?), but it wasn't anything special either. I think my grandmother was thoroughly annoyed.

    I think my great-grand something's poetry didn't connect with me because it didn't have something. I read one literary critic who argued that poetry's greatest value is to arrange words, phrases, and sounds in unexpected and illogical ways that somehow how an emotional sense to them. And that unexpectedness in the poem can give us the same tingle up our spine as the unfamiliar yet natural feeling of kissing someone for the first time. While my great-grand something surely was trying to do that, he was doing what other people had done before, what people after him had overdone. So for me, it just felt prosaic.

    thanks again for the comments!

  4. as an unpolished, non-analytical reader-- i liked it very much.
    critiques are welcome on any of my poems on my blog: All Things Purple
    under Writing Adventures in the table of contents found at the bottom of the page.