Poem Preview

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:07 AM

So, I had a poetic breakthrough today. I've been fiddling with a 44 line poem since last fall. I'd work on it a bit, then leave it. It's grown slowly, starting from just a few small lines. But, I've had a growing sense it needed to be part of a much more ambitious work to really reach my goals for it. I am trying to experiment with the modernist style of T.S. Eliot, fused with my normal iambic pentameter, rhyming verse. I'm clearly no Eliot, nor is my goal to nail an imitation of his style, but rather I am trying to apply some lessons from his poetry to make my own style a bit less of a pseudo-neo-Classical style with too much raw emotion. Eliot advises, and I think for good reason, that the poet's job is to distill raw emotion into what the New Criticism dubbed “the objective correlative.” That term refers to creating objective descriptions that evoke particular emotions rather than merely describing the emotions themselves. A great example comes from Archibald MacLeish's “Ars Poetica,” which states, “For all the history of grief / An empty door / And a maple leaf.” Think about those lines for a moment — does not “An empty door / And a maple leaf” describe a biting grief far better than any direct description could likely provide?

At any rate, I'm not exactly a fast poet, but I managed to write another 78 lines today, consisting of parts of two more poems. Quantity is not how one should measure poetic success, but it is the way one measures how close one is to completing the framework of a project. ;) The project now may include up to ten poems which will form a larger poetic sequence. My original poem fits in as the third poem in the sequence.

Here are the first lines as they presently are written:

Shadows mark untrue casts of reality,
A silent world lacking validity,
Those visitants dance and flicker as
The dark wood, staid oaks and pines, sway now.
An ache beyond the words I know, will know,
Illude my muse to sing out in any key.
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