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Cyril Darkcloud

Quill-Bearer
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  1. Silent is the owl’s flight, and silent the falling of the sheet of hastily scribbled verse that falls from its claws. Inspiration is a thing best not disturbed. But it is also a thing to be encouraged. The owl does not linger, but the words it carried remain, hanging in the stillness of the evening air. Whispered songs whose hushed and certain notes press against the waiting ear in tones at once both tentative and sure are songs that hold in simple secrecy the pain, the joy, the mystery of life, of world, of wounded heart and upturned lips whose glee proves to be at once both disciplined and pure. And as the sheet completes its slow spiral to the floor of the Banquet Hall the air within the room stirs briefly with but the whisper of sound and movement: A promising beginning, Silver Wind, and your revisions are a step in the right direction. Keep working with this piece. Additional comments will be forthcoming.
  2. rev, Thanks for the kind words. The first two stanzas are my favorites as well. Your suggestion of ‘staircases’ is an interesting one and I’ll need to think about it for a bit. That stanza came together so tightly and so swiftly that I was content to leave it largely untouched in the process of revisions that produced the present version of the piece. As for ‘listless’ I’m glad you found it thought-provoking as it was a very carefully placed word. Your interpretation of a singular memory in the final verse is one that I did not expect, although I can see where the words might invite that train of thought. It is the idea of ‘numbness’ however around which the verse is built. Insightful comments are very much appreciated, and you’ve given me a couple helpful ideas to hold in reserve for a possible revision of the piece. Thanks again.
  3. Reverie's poem can be found in the Banquet Room here. This is an outstanding piece of writing, reverie. One of the truly fine touches of the piece is the subtle reversal its brief sentences make of the traditional perspective of the young looking to their elders for wisdom and insight – a reversal that plays well against the theme of a traditional perspective’s inability to adapt. That this is done with a gentle sureness that avoids the two all too common mistakes of either dismissing what is older or of considering the new with little more than a shallow romanticism is the mark of very well-conceived and well-executed statements on the part of the writer. Each of the short, one sentence, verses has something to commend it. Of particular note in the first stanza is the contrast between the relaxed intimacy of a smile and the stern, non-smiling, distance of the xenophobic father who himself is not present, save in the effect he has had upon the narrator. In fact this overlapping of presence, the implied physical presence of that one to whom the narrator speaks and the presence of a physically absent father and family by means of how they have shaped the life of the narrator is another of the poems several strengths. The second stanza offers two very creative phrases – the use of “halflings” to describe those of dual-cultural background and the original and surprising reworking of that traditional American expression “the land of the free”. These two expressions play well against each other and are fine vehicles for emphasizing the contrast between the freedom of that one who stands readily within the dual freedoms of his/her heritage, and the narrator who cannot fully claim that same dual freedom. Verse three offers the shift in perspective that I mentioned above. Here, as above with ‘xenophobic’, I think the choice of ‘exquisite’ is on target. It is perhaps a more formal word, but that is precisely why it works so well here. The narrator is a person of two worlds and the mimesis of allowing his words to disclose this is another one of the strengths of the poem. That one caught by the formality of his own culture can express his appreciation of another’s freedom to blend this same culture with another by using a word at that is curiously intimate and formal at the same time is another fine touch. The final verse offers the reader a concluding line that is beautiful in its honest simplicity – the kind of line that would be lost in a lesser piece of writing, but that serves very well here. Ordinarily, at this point in a feedback post I’m well into offering a list of possible avenues to explore with regard to revising a piece of writing. Here, however, I cannot do that. You are correct, I believe in perceiving a certain completeness about the poem and a delicacy in how its elements are combined – the kind of delicacy that requires the author to take the lead in deciding what if anything should be revisited. For my own part, I am content simply to appreciate it as a fine piece of writing.
  4. The original piece can be found here. Mynx, this is a fun read with a couple nice touches spliced into its overall structure. As it stands, however, there are a few places where it could do with a bit of work. One of the very fine aspects of the piece is a subtle shifting in imagery that takes place across its three stanzas. The first gives the reader an implied image of a hand whose grasp is futile. The second stanza has the implicit image of a thief – i.e., one who snatches what is ours out of our hands. The third stanza presents two images of hands, the first being those of time and the second being the narrator’s hands that desire to hold the one whom time moves away. The poem will be a much more effective piece of writing if these images can be strengthened. Another intriguing aspect of the piece is that stanzas two and three both begin with an explicit description of time in relation to life. The piece concludes with the literal combination of time and life in reversed order in the word “lifetime.” In the first stanza this relation of time to life is implicit. Making this explicit (so long as it is not forced) might provide a further unifying dimension to the poem which can run in tandem with the shifting image of hands. I’d also be remiss if I did not comment on the tone of the piece. The passing of time and the separations it causes is a subject which a number of poets have treated. You manage quite well in this piece to avoid both trite sentimentality and to make a few very fine points in a wonderfully understated manner. The third stanza, in particular, has a well-conceived movement from clever the use of the old saw about death and taxes to the striking last line whose simple phrasing is very effective. This is a deceptive piece in a good way in that it’s gentle and informal tone require the reader to take a closer look to fully appreciate its nuances. Having material like this to work with is a great place to be. Now let’s take a look at a few places where things might benefit from a bit of revision. Stanza 1 – The metaphor here is problematic both on logical grounds– why would one cling to an enemy? - as well as poetic grounds – it has no obvious connection to the fleeting passage of something desired through one’s grasp. In a brief piece composed of short stanzas the need to focus one’s images is a very important thing to keep in mind. This stanza also suffers from a bit of grammatical difficulty – “Over which” would be better than “Of which” here. The description of minutes as flowing in this stanza would seem to invite a fluid metaphor for time. Stanza 2 – Two difficulties stand out here, the first being a minor problem with the rhythm of the piece in line two. The second is another example of inconsistent imagery – why would a beast steal anything? Stanza 3 – This is far and away the best stanza of the piece and there are a couple aspects of the imagery here that really do require a closer look simply because they have so much potential. Here the use of the explicit image of “hands” for time invites the possible explicit companion image of the narrator’s hands holding that one whom time steals away. The expression “the hands” – I’m assuming this is a shortened form of the common expression “the hands of time”, although it also echoes the idea of the hands of a clock – is a bit confusing (what hands are these? whose hands are these?) “Its hands” would perhaps be a better choice in that it draws a tighter connection between the hands and time. Below are a some possible modifications you might want to play with regarding this piece as jumping off points for a more focused reworking. My suggestions here are relatively minor as I do not want to interfere with your own creative process in working with this poem. Time, that draining away of life Over which there’s no control The tighter that I cling to it The faster minutes flow Time, that evil thief of life That steals you away from me That prevents my dreams from coming true, My heart from being free Time, that constant fact of life Right next to tax and death Would but a prayer restrain its hands That mine might hold you for a lifetime and a breath You have the elements of a solid piece of writing here, Mynx. This is a poem that’s well worth a bit of your time and thought at some point down the road with an eye to revising it. Thanks for an enjoyable read. Keep writing!
  5. In the Basement The wooden stairs groan as if my stepping pressed a world of sorrow into their grain. Perhaps it does. It is easy to believe in such things as groaning stairs and sorrow bearing steps down here where everything is damp. I hide down here with my piles of discarded memories, yesterday’s outgrown and out of fashion clothes, and these neglected odds and ends that my rummaging fingers sort but do not feel. My heart is swollen just like these old boxes that are best left unopened and unmoved, and my eyes are tired – tired of looking and too dry for resting. But there’s a kind of peace in the touch of dampness, a peace that numbs one's senses to everything but the listless music of rusty droplets falling off the sweaty skins of pipes.
  6. Cela que je ne puis pas dire en français peut indiquer dans les images: Joyeux anniversaire! As usual, please forgive the bad French. But do enjoy the fireworks! Here's wishing the three of you a very happy birthday.
  7. Happy Bhudda, thanks for the thoughtful and insightful feedback. You’re correct in flagging the ‘of memory’ as problematic. However, I think the issue is one that lies a bit deeper than the question of syllable count – although the disrupted verbal rhythm is a helpful clue that something needs attention. Given that I will often include intentional disruptions of pattern in my writing I have no problem with the fact that the reader is disturbed by the change of syllabic rhythm a bit at this point of the piece as this point is a very good location for just such a disturbance to occur. That this change draws attention to a word that in itself lends no additional force to the movement of the piece, however, marks the disruption as both weak and unnecessary. The real weakness is, I believe, thematic rather than metric. ‘....of memory’ is in the first place a bit too definite – always a danger in a brief piece of writing – in that the work is likely to be stronger by forcing the reader to fill in the blank as it were of to what precisely the narrator might be clinging. Given my preference for strong, blunt words and ideas at such points in a poem, my first inclination is to simply excise these words and leave the blunt ‘to scraps’ hanging in the reader’s hearing: So many little things to clutch! Clenching fingers locked in place I sit and cling to scraps. An empty man whose hands are full. There are several intriguing fields of meaning that open out from the piece with this change as the notion of scraps has a number of distinct, but related nuances – a number of which are sufficiently striking as to have me pondering whether there might be another poem or two lurking within these simple lines. Another option, however, is to excise the fourth line in its entirety and leave verb ‘cling’ simply hanging in the unqualified absolute, an action without any apparent object. This creates an emptiness by means of a statement of absolute grasping that makes an attractive parallel with the concluding lines. It also has the advantage increasing the relative importance of the repeated 'cl-' and -ing' sounds: So many little things to clutch! Clenching fingers locked in place I sit and cling . An empty man whose hands are full. At the moment, I am inclined to prefer the second of these possibilities. But taking a bit of time to let the ideas percolate a bit seems to be the prudent approach for now. Again, thanks for the helpful comment! My thanks as well to the others who took the time and trouble to post their reactions to this piece.
  8. Fragments. Snatches of thought and tatters of word, give lie to the myth of the closure of the book whose dangling strands of scene and plot produce frayed margins where a nimble eye and a skillful jerking of thematic thread might well unweave the not so finished whole. Texts are problematic. Ever incomplete despite being declared ‘finished.’ Awaiting, begging, even demanding, interpretation that the potential of their written words might be realized in places removed from the pages upon which they have been written. Despite the romance which colors casual descriptions of the act of reading, it is often the case that the meeting of reader with text has more of violence and struggle than the pleasure of quiet conversation about it. And some readers do not seek in their reading to divine and participate in whatever spirit may have inspired the author, but rather, upon feeling the text assert the authority of its inspiration, set their faces in resistance against it, seeking after what is left unsaid by the author and exploring the gaps and spaces between his words, and tearing open narratives that at first glance one would think closed. The man of stormy quiet is such a reader. There is violence in the wind which gusts about him. Life moves outward from him, rushing through the fingers of his right hand and running along the handle of the axe until it can mingle with the angry bursting of the wind. Texts are problematic and the appearance of the words of his tale within that space which is demarcated by the norms and structures of a guild is a matter that must be addressed. Stone. The ponderous matter of the metaphor assets itself here – everything defined in terms of the keep. Rooms and walls multiply and claim all words within their bounds. The keep. Mighty and sure and ...... ..... a metaphor. The air about the axe dances with the silver of lightning. To find the words of one’s tale within the space of a guild is to stand under the claims of that guild. Unless one resists. His movement is swift, sudden and decisive. He swings the axe tracing out the silver lightning of his resistance to those words that would demarcate the bounds of his tale. The blade bites deeply into those spaces that mark the turning of posts and there is a shudder that rumbles inward from this isolated margin at the biting of blade and the burning of lightning. No thunder follows the burning silver. Only silence. Something has been torn loose, and, stooping, he grasps hold of it – an idea no longer so complete as once it appeared. Indeed that is the trouble with metaphors, their underlying dynamic is not simply a product of how strongly the elements of the comparison resemble one another but in the magnitude of the tension produced by their differences. And many are the differences between a sturdy and imposing edifice of stone and the words of a collection of posts. And a reader who knows how to move within such tensions might very well bring such a metaphorical keep to ruins. And in this high and lonely place all is silent save the howling of the wind and the falling of the rain.
  9. Elsewhere – The windswept margins Emptiness. Expansive and inviting, so like those reaches of Sky that stretch without end beyond the tops of the clouds where there is no shield from the burning heat of sun and the lungs must fight to find sufficient air for breathing. Space both vast and harsh in its openness to possibility and movement has drawn suddenly and unaccountably near. He smiles. So like the feel of that unforgiving place of living struggle and struggling life that he names home is this nearness of terribly great possibility that his heart cannot but skip a step or two of its movement. How few are the truly open spaces of this board so far from the Sky and so consciously styled after a keep, a fixed structure of rigid stone where activity is placed within rooms and passages and corners, and how refreshing this presence of that spaciousness which reaches beyond margins and overturns the power of fixed form. Urgent pleading follows of course, as it always does when such things occur. Frantic words rise in a din of PMs and postings as if the losing of one’s moorings or the assaults of that which lies beyond those limiting gates whose opening and closing we deceive ourselves into believing we control were any more terrible than the continual truncating of movement between those great courses of confining stone. He ignores the pleading and soon its words fall mute and scattered for the wind of the margins does not suffer long the speaking of the center. The guilds and their survival mean little to him. But the calling of this expansiveness so like that of the limitless Sky, that is another matter entirely and he will not suffer it to be silenced by those that dwell within walls of stone. He reaches for his axes.....
  10. To have is to hold So many little things to clutch! Clenching fingers locked in place I sit and cling to scraps of memory. An empty man whose hands are full.
  11. When reverie was organizing his quill quest I made the offer of a multi-part piece of critical feedback for the winner. Unfortunately life reverted into one of its intensely busy cycles for me at about the time the Slamquest was reaching its conclusion. I’ve only just managed to work enough free time into my schedule to begin composition of the promised prize - hopefully it will do full justice to Mira’s fine work as the winning poet. As it has been a while since Mira’s winning entries were posted in the Slamquest thread I’d encourage anyone reading this to check them out in their original setting before reading my own comments upon them. To facilitate this I’ll link to the poems tonight in this post and put up the first installment of my promised feedback tomorrow. Mira’s first poem, titled Daedalus’ Son can be found on the second page of the Slamquest. His second poem, apparently untitled, is located on the fourth page of the Slamquest. Mira and reverie, my apologies for the delay in getting this done.
  12. Trajan Dwarfson Gray. Featureless, flat and heavy, the sky stretches overhead as if it were a bolt of tent cloth pulled tight by great unseen hands. The air is muggy and breath moves sluggishly through the throat and lungs as the low rumbling of a distant and approaching thunder sounds behind the taut gray uniformity of the sky. The sound of the thunder distracts him a moment and he pauses the movement of the whetstone along his blade. There is something more than merely natural about the sky this evening - an overabundance of the natural – and the rumbled threat of a summer storm within a sky stretched so tight as this carries with it the insistence that the arrival of a summer storm is not simply a natural thing during an evening like this one, but the only possible thing nature itself would allow. He spits. He listens a moment to the growling of the thunder and then begins to move the whetstone once more along the edge of the broadsword. There is a burnished sharpness about the gray of the sky that is not unlike that of the blade upon which he has been working. There is comfort in such things. Comfort and memories. “Here be a hefty yard o’ steel, lad,” the voice of Sevvord Aleswiller always rings out in his thoughts with a peculiar clarity when he thinks of those distant days. That he should vividly remember that gruff dwarven warrior who has raised him from a foundling child is only natural. That he should remember so vividly this day when he was but a stammering youngling is another matter entirely. It had been just over a year since that day Sevvord’s band of dwarven warriors – mercenaries – had stumbled upon him in that place his parents had concealed him so effectively, despite their desperate haste, from the humanoid raiders that had swept down upon their homestead. He had taken to sleeping in the wagon that held the weapons, finding strange comfort in nearness to the sure and cold strength of the well-cared-for blades. “T’is still a might taller than yerself, boyo,” the dwarf grinned as he held the blade out at an angle so that Trajan might run his small hands along its hilt. “Sure’n it’s a fine sword, well-made and truly balanced and good for the showin’ of an enemy the color of his insides.” His eyes widen once more, as they have always done at the recollection of that initial widening of his eyes when his fingers first attempted to close their grasp around the handle of that sword which now fits so naturally into the contours of his hand. “Friends come and friends go, lad,” the dwarf said, “aye, and family too. But a sure arm and a good blade, those are things ye can be trustin’.” Sevvord sat on a small crate in the wagon and setting the blade onto the floor, pulled Trajan onto his lap. “But ye best be learnin’ this from the beginning, lad – there ain’t no piece of steel so strong and so sure that it’s any good if there ain’t steel in yer heart. We’ve all watched how ye’ve been taken to the steel, lad, takin’ to it more than a human has a right to, and, truth be told, we don’t know nothin’ about raisin’ a human child. But…..” There was a firmness, sharp like a tempered blade, about the voice of the dwarf as he continued, “….. we be knowin’ plenty about steel.” The first few drops of rain have begun to fall and he allows his memories to recede back into silence. His movements are unhurried as he replaces his tools in their pouch and resheathes the sword. The storm is near at hand and he has some distance yet to travel.
  13. It is an admittedly unusual thing that one would bring an axe to a gathering of poets, but unusual though it may be it is no more out of the ordinary than the gathering itself with its shifters of form, its giant guinea pigs, its personified lawn darts and the attendant chaos that follows upon such a combination of beings in any one place for any significant length of time. Indeed, it is time to place the focus of this evening firmly upon that one whose has done so masterful a job of allowing the attention to fall upon others. His fingers tighten around the handle of the axe and life moves outward from his hand through the blade of the weapon to mingle with the free and living air that moves about him. The diverse eddies of wind entering the room through the open doors of the balcony shift in the nature of their motion, gathering the lingering smoke within the Conservatory and carrying it swiftly out of the great chamber. As the noise in the room subsides he speaks, his voice still not raising above a whisper and still borne along the currents of wind to the ears of the many gathered in this place. “A word of thanks to that one called the Dreamlost, for great has been the effort in preparing and in executing so fine an undertaking as this. Awakening and celebrating the talent of others is often a greater feat than the simple exercise of one’s own gifts.” A burst of wind swirls about the spotlight, moving it to shine upon the figure of the Dreamlost. “And so perhaps, it is fitting to conclude with a few lines of verse penned as a reflection upon the notion of being dreamlost........” Speak to me of dreaming and visions of the night, of the passing of angels on ladders of gold suspended between the burning light of that whose clarity blinds the eyes and the steady pressing of the overlooked upon the soles of tired feet. Sing to me of seeing, of that which eludes the grasping of fingers but sits in the sure possession of sight, of the forsaking of home for the folding of tents and of walking to lands residing only in promise, and of stars too many to be contained between the fences of the eye. Whisper to me the tale of dirt, too tiny, too plural, of which dreams are made and vain hopes are spun, whose grit is brushed from stepping sandals to form those clouds that betoken movement forward under burning sun, and whose itching dust is but that sand beneath whose touch upon closed lids is concealed the darkness of both the desperate and the dreamlost. He steps off the ledge of the balcony and into the free and living air which bears him silently away as those gathered turn their attention to the Dreamlost whose vision and labor gave rise to this event.
  14. There is a shifting in the movement of the wind as he removes a sheet of paper from the leather bound journal he carries. As he begins to speak the words of a second poem, he releases the page into the free and living air whose gusting motion carries it across the inner court of the Keep to the tower which houses the Writers’ Workshop. The breeze slows to a more gentle movement and the page drifts downward to rest on top of the scribbled leaves upon which were penned the previous drafts of this same poem. Held The smile, of course, is all too real, and so is that which it conceals beneath the sweeping arc of reaching arms whose circling grasp glides forward under reassuring breath. Negation stiffens halfway up my throat and far beneath my stumbling tongue knuckles glisten white with pressure’s rime. But fists are numb and impotent that mutely hang on listless arms. And graceful words and graceful limbs pregnant with a graceless hunger that will not be refused snap closed as fingers weave together behind my waist. Brushed aside to be embraced, I am held. Imprisoned.
  15. His voice is no louder than a whisper, small within the silence and yet direct and clear, his words borne along the air within the chamber directly to the ears of those who have gathered. “For all of the words which have been so well spoken within the air of this place, there are others, more perhaps, that remain unbreathed and unsaid – not for lack of willingness on the speaker’s part, but for the falling silent of inspiration’s voice. One, at the very least, among those who have gathered here has labored much and without apparent fruit in seeking to compose a piece for reading. Yet labor such as his moreso even than polished text is the true mark of a writer, and it is his struggle after words which has given rise to the composing of these: There is a speaking deep beneath the silence of the muse, hidden in that stillness that stands sure as stone against the clawing desperation of thinking flailing after words. The exhausted, those whose spent thoughts lie limp and bruised before the cold and unmoved weight of inspiration’s stern refusal to bend to vagaries of will and whim, are those alone, should they but rest their heads upon this stony pillow, who might chance to hear the humming of its secret song.”
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