Ste last draft

5 Feb

What still needs to be cut and what works?

95 Years

His face is a mask, which, when looked on now hangs crooked.
The elastic in his skin holds loosely: worn too many times.
Canals meander round his eyes –
excavations into formerly untouched ground.
The banks of his cheeks: the victims of attrition,
steadily engraved.

Inside, his mind wavers
as dirt beneath the current.
Writhing deceptively majestic;
sifting in and out of line with the surface.

His younger, working-man’s mind
had spent a lifetime conducting the intricacies
of engines and electricity, stationed
overseas and in the shires.
Calloused hands maintaining machines
and family.

Once an engineer to the airships, now
his brain won’t remember that meticulous process.
In his dreams, he still works
for the Electricity Board.

In reality his mind sputters, incandescent;
thoughts descending effortless.
He rehashes the same conversations 30 seconds apart,
stuttering –
his head still trying to re-harness Spitfire hearts
when his mind can’t.

Cruel victory for outliving and outlasting
contemporaries and timelines:
His thoughts
and his contexts
and his discourse
are ripped from him,
on top of the Parkinson’s which already effects his grip on things.

He came to me in my dreams last week –
The first honest conversation I’ve had with my Grandad since I was 6.
He said it felt like crows had come home to roost in the wrong attic.
We stood in the eaves of the roof, with the birds
and dust and boxes.
A shaft of light lofted in through one small window,
but there was no ladder out of there.

Like whispers heightened by silence,
I try and vibe off little positives.
Like how he enjoys spending time with my son
even when he can’t remember who he is.

Some days he won’t remember my name,
and one day I won’t remember his.
Victims of life’s same demented disease.


2 Responses to “Ste last draft”

  1. mouthypoets February 5, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    The language you’ve used in the poem has a sense of antiquity which is fitting, given what the poem is about.

    Less in terms of performance, and more for the page I think you could use line breaks in different places in the first couple of lines:

    His face is a mask, which, when looked on now
    hangs crooked.The elastic in his skin holds loosely: worn
    too many times.

    Not necessarily exactly as the above, but I think ‘worn’ becomes more effective this way. It would become a pun – worn in the sense that he is physically worn out, and worn too many times in the literal sense.

    Do you need to say 30 seconds apart? Could it just be seconds?

    I think you could lose the last line. When you read it for the first time I understood what you meant without it, and it has more impact that way. I preferred the subtlety. I don’t think you need to be any clearer about what’s being disclosed.


  2. mouthypoets February 6, 2014 at 10:20 pm #

    Hi Stephen, as I am short on time and I have been working with you for a long time I have taken a lot for granted in this feedback – been quiet cut throat and shown you want I want (very much how my editor would with me) rather than walking you though it like I normally would. If you want to pick any specific parts of this up with me when I get back – feel free.

    -Original word choices throughout, this poem is set in a foundation of accurate verb and noun choices which give the poem crisp images and also give the narrative a distinct movement. Some examples of your word choices at their best; canals meander round his eyes // his mind wavers // his mind sputters //

    -specificity of the story, e.g. In his dreams he still works for the Electricity board (I like this like so much, if there was a way to make it the first line I would do so) // he rehashes the same conversations 30 seconds apart //

    -when the above and your natural rhythm combine, e.g. His head still trying to re-harness Spitfire hearts when his mind can’t // it felt like crows had come to roost I the wrong attic //

    -clever plays on phrasing/ metaphors e.g. The Parkinson’s which already effects his grip on things // but there was no ladder out //

    -I really like the ending, I think it does all of the above in a really strong way, but it is contrasting,u short, so it might be worth adding a little bit more tactical specificity – weaving your word choices in with those you have used to describe the grandad to describe the relationship with the son so the connection feels more embedded into the poem. Patricia Smith does this kind of thing really well if you want some examples.


    1. form/ redundancies:
    I feel like through a lot of this you use more words than you need to and this could be tackled by playing around with a more ridged stanza formation. Think of each stanza as a unit of meaning (this will help you work out the number of lines in each stanza you want to stick with) e.g:

    The elastic of his skin holds loose: worn too many times.
    Canals meander round his eyes – excavating untouched ground.
    Inside his mind waves – dirt beneath the current. Writhing.

    His younger, worker-man’s mind spent 48 years (specific number?)
    Conducting engines and electricity. Oversees and in the shires.
    Hands calloused, maintaining machines and family.

    -hopefully you can see I have stripped the text down to clear images and movements, using minimal syllables to do so. This poem has a really strong narrative and characters that cages lost in the lovely language you are showering them in, try using this form to strip it down to the bare minimum. If you analyse my changes you will spot some key refinements I think you could make throughout your piece;
    -word order/ punctuation to reduce sentence lengths,
    -cutting out words or lines that are repeating points or images,
    -compressing sentences/ metaphors into one images,
    -and more poignant line breaks being the key ones.

    2. Cliche/ unoriginal/ there are better word/ warnings (basically, get out the thesaurus; cruel victory for outliving and outlasting, contemporaries and times lines // a shaft of light // whispers heightened by silence //

    I hope thismal bee some kind of helpful.

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