I'd Appreciate Feedback on my Poem:
Here's a poem publish on Vita Brevis recently about a closed mining facility. I'm thinking about making some changes to it and would appreciate any feedback you can give me. Thank you very much:
Nightfall at Shaft 12
A wicker basket creaks
As it warms by the fire
Thawing flakes of snow
Which melt and spiral down
The weave that she wove
Just last winter.
The mines were open then.
And I guess they're open now,
but not manned.
She thinks of it still: little veins of iron
Nestled in the rocks
Never to know the light and cold.
Or the roughness of her husband's hands.
She wonders how many meals that stubborn ore
Could afford her child if she only could find it.
She dreamt of finding it. She swore she could.
But it took a town to find it.
It took her husband.
And now the town has all but emptied.
And he has left.
And she has her baskets.
But no one to weave for
And she has her child.
But what little funds its father
Mails home are never enough.
So she watches the snow thaw
Before the coal-fed flames
That flicker through the night
And moisten the wicker basket
And slide down its spiral
Pooling at the bricks
Pooling at the rug
That she's not sure
His boots will tread again.
Quite a few things I liked about this poem when I first read it. One thing that confused me was the setting, I had trouble picturing it. The title suggests the top of an inactive mineshaft, but the poem almost suggests to me something indoors, perhaps inside the woman's home.
One line seemed weak: "But what little funds its father". Since this is the woman's POV, would she really use a banking, kind of bureaucratic sounding word like "funds"? Perhaps money, cash, help. And "its father". Ouch. Please, a gender for this unfortunate child.
The one "I" felt a little out of place. to me Perhaps just give us everything from one POV, not two.
I think this is really beautiful and the rhythm is perfect. I have a strong negative reaction to using "it" for the child. I would choose her/his/their to keep the child human. I was a little unclear on what happened to the father and also what happened when the town found "it." I guess I'm not sure what "it" is in that whole stanza. So, I think it's beautiful, but I am missing some of the meaning. (Reader error? Perhaps).
@phil-hess Excellent feedback, Phil! I've made a couple of changes, and the poem flows much better now. I've unified the POV to just the woman's and I've given the child a gender (poor thing).
As for the setting, it takes place within her home which sits within a mining town. I do like having an uncertainty of place. I realize many find it uncomfortable, but when it's well executed, the poem "unfolds" and "clicks" at the ned. This isn't quite there yet!
What a lovely
@elisaeverts Thanks for your advice, Elisa! So, the mining facility is closing down and the men have all left town to look for work and mail funds home. The women are left at home, so the town is quiet and sparsely populated. Originally I wanted the genderless child to feel uncomfortable and commoditized, but that theme is too out of place with this piece--much better would be to show the mother's deep connection to him/her.
I told Phil something similar: I like uncertainty in my poems. There's a gradual unfolding and "clicking" that occurs when I do it right. But I didn't do it right here! Thanks so much for your help. Once I make some changes I'll see if Brian will update the publication with the newest version
You're a huge help!
@harold-strauss "Originally I wanted the genderless child to feel uncomfortable and commoditized" like the ore still nestled in the rocks that alone sustained this town (or used to). It's as if the mother cannot even look at her child as more than a neutral, objectified "it". That would have been a brilliant mechanic if you made that an ongoing theme in the piece. But you're right, it seems out of place and unjustified in the piece as it stands. "Much better would be to show the mother's deep connection to him/her." Agreed. The woman in the poem seems to be implicitly described as caring and focused on her child's wellbeing.
I look forward to seeing how this piece evolves--it's a refreshing and unique poem, and I'd be happy to update the published version whenever you're ready!
I think the desolate feel of this woman's existence comes through strongly. I'm wondering about the weaving metaphor. How she wove the basket when times were good, kind of liking weaving together a family life, and how the town is empty and now the baskets lay empty...or as Brian mentioned showing a deep connection to the child, could that be built through the weaving metaphor??? Just my thoughts!
@sgeoil That's a great idea, sgeoil! @harold-strauss Extending this metaphor could solve the "it-child" issue and your worry that "commodity" metaphor didn't fit. I think emphasizing the mother's relationship to her child would serve as a great contrast to the desolate town--especially if you combine past and present, good times and bad, thriving town and impoverished one, all within the basket that she stares at by the fire.
As I read a sentence structured in a poem, I become distracted by punctuation. Be willing to change the first letter of each line from a capital letter to lower case. Word processing often automatically makes it a capital letter.
I find making this simple change adds flow and readability.
I agree with previous posts which address gender, and hearth vs. mine shaft imagery.
All the best. I love the basket and melting snow!
@cuauhtemoc: I can't speak for the Harold, but for me the idea is that since it's a poem, not prose, it shouldn't look like prose on the page or read like prose. Otherwise it's maybe, well, just prose.
Take a look at the poems "It and Co." and the terrific "Ash" by our current poet laureate given in this newspaper article to see how she capitalizes her lines:
If it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me.
I never thought about capitalizing the piece in lowercase. For no reason in particular, I have always associated lower-cased poetry with "bloggy" poetry. And I do not mean that in an elitist or condescending way. I'm a serious reader of this type of poetry and have a lot of respect for it. I do feel like it detracts from more somber pieces though. You and Phil gave me some more to think about, so I appreciate it
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