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Missionary Sunset

A burning mango
slides off the center of the sky
and down my parching throat.
Turns the Rift Valley to a steamy haze;
sinks down in the jungle darkness.
Orphic breezes tease
through unwashed hair.
Puddle irises reflect the violet hour
stitching sharded gypsum
across an equator sky.
This would be no night for talking
even if I weren't so alone.

3 Apr 06

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this is a wondeful poem
 — lyom

thank you, lyom.  I have great respect for your work, so that mean a lot.
 — unknown

damn... really?!
that means a lot to me too...
thank you.
 — lyom

I think you get close with your metaphors, but need to reach another step with most of them.

I say that because in spite of some of them disagreeing with me, I think you still come remarkably close to achieving what you set out to with this one;  Don't change the last two lines.

If you want me to get more specific, I will.

I hope your plans are going well.
 — root

Specifics, because I think otherwise it appears too vague:

mango sunset
monkey breeze
puddle irises

I think everything else works fluidly, but those three can be changed slightly to capture roughly the same feeling and lose some of the cumbersome context baggage you don't want.

Violet hour is superb.
 — root

root- thank you muchly for your comments.  

unfortunately, i've gotten a bit of differing criticism on this one (elsewhere), which has mainly made me confused.

i'm curious: you know what I mean by irises, right?  as in eyes, not flowers.  would it suit you better for me to say 'liquid irises' or is it the image itself which is lacking?

Monkey breezes has never sat well with me either.  I will continue considering.

I don't think I can live without mango sunset.  What exactly is the baggage that you feel with this one?

Plans are painfully slow, but going well.

Thanks for taking the time to read this one.
 — jerotich

You're right, I was thinking eyes not flowers.

I keep coming back to this hoping to have the right words to critique;  Not this time, but I'm close.

I think the best way I can help would actually be to write my own version and then expound on where changes would help.

I think even something as simple as 'primal' to replace 'monkey' would be an instant improvement.
 — root

Edited a tad.  I feel I've compromised some of my brevity, but gained more substance to what I'm saying.  Not sure if it was worth it.  Still mulling this one over.
 — jerotich

Excellent imagery, a question, why did you use conjunctions in some places and not others

Watch as a burning mango sunset  1
slides off the center of the sky  2
and down my parched throat.  3
Turns the Rift Valley to an electric haze.  4
Sink down in jungle darkness;  5
feel the orphic breezes tease  6
through unwashed hair.  7
Puddle irises reflect the violet hour  8
stitching sharded rhinestones  9
across an equatorial sky.  10         ;  equatorial skies
This would be no night for talking  11
even if I weren't so alone.  12
 — wantsaname

i'm not sure why my grammar is so strange when I write poems about Africa.  At the same time, I'm not sure if I can change it.  I feel like the lines of the poem need to be sparse to grab that sense of uneasiness which I have about this poem.  I'll think about some of your proposed fixes though.  
 — jerotich

'violet hour' most likely has been plagiarized from the play by mr greenberg
 — unknown

that is a somewhat bold assertion unknown, especially considering jerotich explained the  violet referred to irises (flowers), and in no way seems to share context with the play by greenberg.

furthermore, plagiarism is only really a valid statement if there is much much more material being dealt with; by those same standards, any idiom could be plagiarism.  

i don't believe you intended to be inflammatory, but you should be more careful with your word choice in the future.  just because you recognize something from somewhere else doesn't mean you shouldn't suspend your disbelief and give the piece a fair shot at being what it is.
 — root

btw l6 is, i think, an improvement
 — root

root let the author speak or are you a ventriloquist now?
 — unknown

Believe it or not, I'm allowed to comment to whatever I consider of interest;  That's the beauty of this community and free speech.

Yes;  I can use free speech to graciously defend a friend of mine in the same way you  can use it to try to bring her down.

I was the one who praised violet hour earlier, so its a natural sequitur in my opinion, not like I'm completely uninvolved in what was brought up.

Context issues overlooked.  I anticipate jero's response, too, but whether its Greenberg or not doesn't change my opinion that it fits the bill here.
 — root

"At the violet hour, when the eyes and back
Turn upward from the desk, when the human engine waits
Like a taxi throbbing waiting,
I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives

Old man with wrinkled female breasts, can see
At the violet hour, the evening hour that strives
Howeward, and brings the sailor home from sea,
The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast,
            ;          &nbs p;          &nb sp;          &n bsp;          & nbsp;                 lights

Her stove, and lays out food in tins.
Out of the window perilously spread
Her drying combinations touched by the sun's last rays..."

~T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland (Lines 215-225), 1922

To the best of my understanding, Greenburg's play was released in 2003.  Yet his play was set in April 1919, Eliot's era (and lets not forget that the Wasteland begins with the line "April is the cruellest month").  So wouldn't it appear that Greenburg actually plagiarized from Eliot?

But no, he didn't.  What he was doing was allusion.  Allusion is a device which I greatly respect.  I find it a little thrilling to take part in this "literary conversation," writers bouncing back one anothers themes in different times and in different ways, bringing new relevance to old ideas and acknowledging that we are part of a bigger picture.  

In the few lines I just quoted, Eliot himself alluded to Sappho and mythology.

And though I am fully aware that I will likely never amount to anything in the history of poetry or literature, I can still express my admiration for Eliot by playing off of his themes and descriptions.  And it was, in fact, Eliot who was my inspiration for the words "violet hour".  I think it fit along with the mood I was trying to capture, and I think the description can stand alone for those who do not note the Wasteland parallel.  

That said, I am rather fond of root so please refrain from harassing him in connection with one of my poems.  

Thank you both for your interest in this matter.  I'm curious if either of you have further thoughts regarding my interpretations of the Greenburg and Eliot connection.
 — jerotich

A well-spoken commentary on poetic license.

Eliot himself said "Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal."

So props to the unknown for recognition and props to you for using it well here.
 — root

moody and intriguing. I think this is a wonderful poem. I don't think you need "so" in your last line. I'll have to read this again and again to catch nuances.

 — borntodance

thanks and thanks
 — jerotich

this poem is perfect. great imagery in line one.
 — listen

Dear Ms. "the hour when the cows are returning home",

ahhh. i posted a comment and then must have typed in the little code wrong. am now cursing. let me see if i can remember. excuse my hasty directness... i have a phone call to make and an 8 page paper to write ce soir.

I would have to agree, I think, with root that your metaphors aren't working as hard as they could be. Remember triggering town? (ah, chris c) You're going to want your images to work double, trip, quad duty. You're going to want them to let tone/mood ride on their shoulders. And you're going to want them to help you get to the second/deeper level of the poem. Your images are certainly beautiful, but they could be doing more if you pushed them a little farther.

The last two lines aren't quite doing it for me. Firstly, the double negs are somewhat confusing. Secondly, the language is vague and too easy. I think this is where image could be really good for you in terms of the deeper level of the poem. And I think the use of image will really boost the ending that isn't doing the beautiful work of the rest of the poem much justice. What exactly are you trying to say here? And do you think an image might be a better way to get that across? What exactly are you trying to say... it isnt clear yet. Try an image and remember if you say it clearly, 'it will be beautiful no matter what!' ;)  It seems like you might be aiming to capture the perfect solemnity of sacred solitude. (i'm sorry for the alliteration.) the beauty of being alone and in touch with nature (or God, if you prefer.)I dont know what your image would be... that first start that treks across the lilac horizon? I don't know. But you can definitely come up with something stronger than what you have there.

Just a few strange uses of syntax here. I think one of the problems with the poem is that it addresses someone. To whom is the reader addressing the poem... encouraging him/her to watch and sink? The ambiguity here is somewhat unsettling. I wonder if a more direct, graceful interaction with the landscape itself wouldn't work better. Right now, the rhetorical device of "address" is creating poetic distance in the poem... an awkward space between the poem, the speaker, and the whoever it is the poem is speaking to.

The reason this might be happening is, like the ending, you might not have found your beginning yet. Sometimes the opening line/lines are just a placeholder for the poet to situate herself into the language, themes, images, etcetera of the poem. Now that you have the poem inside you and on the page, play a little to see if you can't get the poem more direct... a little more crisp.

The burning mango is a really glorious image... again, how can this apply to the deeper level of the poem? I think you need to explore the emotional and intellectual investments the poem is making... and consequentially asking your reader to make. All of your images should point to that. Poetry is great... but it should be more than just pretty... it should not only make us see/hear/smell/etcetera... it should make us feel/think/connect. So see how the mango contributes accordingly.

The second stanza, again, is beautiful. Unwashed hair is pitch perfect.

The third stanza is on its way to being quite lovely... but it's confusing to me. How is the reader to connect the flowers to stitching rhinestones (presumably stars)... and what does the reflection--- what seems to be the flowers' embodyment of the colour of dusk--- have to do with stitching shards. I think that you might be mixing conflicting metaphors here... with flowers and shards... how do you stitch shards... i'm willing to believe it with just a little more clarity. Also, are the flowers in the puddle? Is the actual water reflecting the sky? If so... what role do the actual flowers play? I know these sound like stupid questions... but, again, I think you can sharpen this bit.

Really... lovely work. What I love about the "literary conversation" that we can take part in... is the way that we are able, as writers today, to manipulate what has come before us... to reshape tropes, images, language, even turns of phrase and own them... because we bring ourselves to the work... and in so doing, change eveyrthing that has touched the page over the history of man. but i'm getting whimsical.

This had better take... because i'm not writing it again. I'm afraid you got a watered down version of my previous post. It'll have to do.

YOur Friend,
 — unknown

this is incredible, i absolutely love it, esp the first stanza. delicious!
 — unknown

 — Virgil

Fantastically good, like a vision by Blake. Great use of colour

Larry pinks and purpled Lark
 — larrylark

really nice poem.
 — varun

Middle two stanzas are the weak link
 — poetbill