With lifeless smiles she’s sitting tight in the vase.
With painted flowers, leaves and twigs she’s like
a dressed deadman on funeral day. Let days
and months pass by; forever she’s childlike
innocent sans conceit and crooked ways.

I mizzled some perfume on her and tried
to adjust her petals. She quailed a bit!
“O God, can paper plants do that?” I sighed
and sprayed some more! She swayed again and spit
on soil below. What’s moving her, I pried!

There’s nothing there around: no flies, no worms!
She’s like a corpse, that popped up head from grave.
Unphased—no spring elates nor autumn harms
her paper body. I laughed and said “So knave!
Don’t like fake soil? As if you’re fresh to farm!”

My wife then came: “What’re you doing there ‘lone?”
I told. She said: “When you and I can smile
why not a paper rose? What zing of life we own
today…same fake simpers… we’re just a pile
of bones… at least her smile is without guile!”

 

 

Once an advocate, Sathya Narayana joined the Government of India as Inspector of Salt in 1984 and received two service promotions. In May 2014, he took voluntary retirement as Superintendent of Salt.


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24 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Sathya, of course you are free to write howsoever you wish to write, but that does not mean that readers won’t notice and comment upon metrical irregularities.

    Stanza 1, line 1 ends with an anapest. Stanza 1, line 5 begins with a dactyl. Stanza 2, line 2 begins with an anapest. Not only are these rather strange substitutions, but an extra syllable is added to the lines in which they occur.

    Back to stanza 1, you need commas after “childlike” and “innocent.” And are you trying to tell me that “LIKE” rhymes with “CHILDlike?”

    In stanza 4, line 1 you would be better served using “What are” instead of “What’re” if you have any intention of preserving the iambic meter, but you’re going to end up with too many syllables anyway. That line is very awkward. The first four lines as a whole are a metrical nightmare. Scan, scan, scan!

    Reply
    • Sathyanarayana M.V. S

      Thank you very much Mr. Anderson for such brilliant criticism. I will try to improve my craft.

      Reply
    • Leonard Dabydeen

      Back to stanza 1, you need commas after “childlike” and “innocent.” And are you trying to tell me that “LIKE” rhymes with “CHILDlike?”

      Go to: https://www.rhymer.com/like.html

      65 Two-Syllable Rhymes of Like

      Find here “LIKE” rhymes with “CHILDLIKE”

      Reply
  2. Monty

    Namaste, Sathya.

    I never criticise any poems at SCP which are written by those for whom English is not their native tongue; rather, I’m always left in wonderment that such writers can even produce English poetry in an acceptable form. ‘Paper Flowers’ is no different: I’m truly impressed at your poetic ability.

    But I think you should pay serious attention to all the points made by the Commenter above (CB). They’re all valid points, and they can make the difference between ‘decent’ poetry (which yours undoubtedly is) and ‘serious’ poetry (which yours has the potential to become).

    I’d like to give you one simple example of how one of CB’s points could be remedied . .

    The first line of the piece reads:

    “With lifeless smiles she’s sitting tight in the vase.”

    . . which is immediately metrically-imbalanced to the rest of the stanza. So, you have to think: ‘How can I lose a syllable, but still maintain the same line?’ . .
    and you may find:

    “With lifeless smiles she sits tight in the vase”

    See? Same line, same meaning, but metrically-acquiescent. It only requires thought.

    I should also point-out that line 4 of the 2nd stanza should end in “spat” (past tense), not “spit” (present tense). “She swayed (past tense) again and spat (past tense) . . “.

    On the whole, I feel that you’ve chosen a thoughtful subject for your poem; and I especially liked the implication of the very last line.

    Reply
    • Sathyanarayana M.V. S

      Thank you very much Mr. Monty. I will keep in mind your wonderful suggestions. I know I have to go a long way in achieving perfection. As you rightly said, for non-English speaking poets there are concomitant problems, especially in mastering the original accent and phonetics. Besides English was also not my subject during my educational pursuit. Thank you very much. Let me try for better.

      Reply
      • Monty

        . . . they were CB’s suggestions, not mine. I only gave an example of how one of his suggestions could be achieved.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, of all the persons with whom I have interacted here, you are both the most mordant and the most acute. I don’t know what I would do without you.

      Reply
    • Leonard Dabydeen

      I should also point-out that line 4 of the 2nd stanza should end in “spat” (past tense), not “spit” (present tense). “She swayed (past tense) again and spat (past tense) . . “.

      https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/spit
      language note:
      In American English, the form spit is used as the past tense and past participle.

      Reply
      • Monty

        I’m British, Leonard. I’ve lived in France for the last 20 years; but I spent the first 37 years of my life in Britain . . speaking pure English. Hence, I had no idea that Americans use ‘spit’ in the past tense . . so, Sathya, please accept my apology.

        How stupid and wrong it sounds to use it in the past tense. . and how typical of America to needlessly abuse our language in such a way. So, where we say “he gritted his teeth” . . would Americans say “he grit his teeth”? How absurd . . and how easily it reminds me of something Oscar Wilde once said: “We have everything in common with America these days . . except, of course, language”.

      • Sathyanarayana

        Monty,

        I accept that mistake. In my anxiety to find a rhyme I used mistakenly spit…I could have changed the whole line.

  3. Sathyanarayana M.V. S

    Please Mr. Monty. Don’t say that. Criticism is good in anyway; but sometimes like a medicine to the ailing and sometimes like dung to the plant. Mr. Anderson has been persistently harsh towards me. I have been observing. He may have his own reasons. I am too old to get into any argument with anyone. But critics should remember that formal poetry in English is essentially accentual. When a poem is read aloud, how the rhythm is heard by audience is important. It all depends on the emotion carried through the metrical arrangement of syllables, where the pitch of voice raises and where it drops. It’s not a mere reckoning of syllables or meter. For example in stanza 1, line 5: of course the first word is a dactyl. But when you read it in continuity as”innocent sans” then there you see two iambs. Similarly while reading aloud we fuse some unstressed syllables with either the previous syllable or next. For example we read ‘Let us’ as Let’s. At places articles like ‘a’ and ‘the’ become almost inaudible.
    That is how scansion is done. I am not trying to support my case. I know my flaws. But poetry is best enjoyed by plain reading but not by vivisecting.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Monty, of all the persons with whom I have interacted here, you are both the most mordant and the most acute. I don’t know what I would do without you.

      Reply
    • Monty

      Don’t say what? I suspect that you’ve misread my words, Sathya. I was merely emphasising that the “wonderful suggestions” for which you seemed to be thanking me . . were in fact CB’s suggestions.

      Talking of whom: If you consider that he’s been “consistently harsh” to your poetry, that could be because the poems you submit have consistently contained errors. I’ve mentioned previously how impressed I always am to find a decent poem written by one for whom English is not their first language; for which reason I won’t criticise it (as can be seen in my initial comment above, which wasn’t critical: it was just to give an example of how quickly and easily one of CB’s points could be rectified). But just because I choose not to criticise certain poems for that reason, it doesn’t mean they’re beyond criticism . . and it doesn’t mean they’re beyond seemingly ‘harsh’ criticism.

      SCP is not just an English Poetry site (there may be hundreds of THEM), but it’s a site which, mercifully, takes English Poetry seriously . . . and any poems which appear on its pages should be judged only on how they stand up as poetry in that language: regardless of the author’s native tongue! Your poems (past and present) are more than good enough to be published on these pages; but at the same time, you must accept that they will be judged (by some) against serious English poetry. There can be no case for an author asking the reader: “If you spot any errors, please ignore them, ‘cos English is not my first language”.

      CB’s remarks above paid no heed to your native tongue; they paid heed only to how your piece stood-up as English poetry; and in another Comment in recent days on these pages, he made similar remarks (perhaps more scathing) on similar errors within a poem written by a Mr Balassone . . who’s native tongue is English! That alone is evidence that you have no cause to take his remarks personally. But if I were to tell you that he’s been historically critical of many poems on these pages, then you must surely banish such thoughts.

      I feel that you were mistaken to label him “consistently harsh”, because “harsh” is only your own interpretation of his words; but you were right to say “consistently”. During the two years in which I’ve been affiliated with SCP, I’ve found CB to be the single most “consistent” critic of poems. The majority of the SCP readership live in America, a country not unknown for wrapping itself in the cotton-wool of sentimentality and gratuitous politeness; thus, many Comments regarding poems on its pages are made in that vein. I see SO many Comments here which are clearly made with the overriding intention of not wishing to offend the author (how many times have I seen a cringingly poor poem attract such effusive gush in the Comments section?) . . all such Comments are disingenuous and useless! All they do is give an author a false sense of their poem; which then prevents them from learning from their mistakes for future poems they write . . and worse, prevents an aspiring poet from gradually learning and their craft: honing their craft.

      On the other hand, CB, when remarking upon a poem, pays no attention to sentimentality or false politeness; pays no attention to the identity of the author; indeed, pays no attention to ANY external factors . . . only to the poem in front of him, and how that poem stands up as English poetry. For that reason, I trust his criticism implicitly. And you, Sathya, should also trust his criticism, not scorn it.

      The main thrust of his Comment above regarded the “metrical irregularities” in your poem; I then gave you a simple example of how one such line he referred to (line 1), could be rectified, hence instead of
      “.. she’s sitting tight in her vase” . . it could be “.. she sits tight in her vase”. But YOU could have thought of that remedy. If you’d have just taken CB’s remarks positively, and thought to yourself: “Right, let me see if I can sort out this meter issue, starting with line 1” . . then you yourself might’ve thought of that same remedy. And you woud’ve had CB’s remarks to thank for that. And even if you decided: “Well, it’s too late to alter the above poem; but the next poem I write, I’m gonna pay the utmost attention to the meter” . . then that also renders CB’s criticism positive.

      We say that “the truth hurts”: and it sometimes does. But it only hurts if one chooses to feel the pain, instead of taking the truth constructively. Criticism can always be positive . . but only if the receiver allows themself to be receptive to the positivity of criticism.

      If, in the future, you were to submit a flawless poem to these pages . . I would imagine that no reader would be more satisfied than CB.

      Reply
      • Leonard Dabydeen

        English is already an official language in India along with Hindi. The Constitution of India designates the official language of the Government of India as Hindi written in the Devanagari script, as well as English. There is no national language as declared by the Constitution of India.Aug 1, 2016

      • Sathyanarayana

        Thank you very much Sir Leonard Dabydeen. You are right. English is our language as much as that of US and UK. But the problem is our expression is a little different, that sounds odd to US readers. I read authors from African countries. Their English too is different. We try to put some extra effort to impress US readers and experts like Mr. Monty and Mr. Anderson. Still I guess we are lagging behind. I may support my work but I see the truth behind what the experts say. Let me try Sir. There were few poems published here that were well received. Sometimes we falter. I hope to impress Mr. Monty and Mr. Anderson in future.

    • Monty

      . . but, as I’ve learnt from Leonard above: ‘spit’ is not wrong if you’re writing in US-English. It’s wrong in British-English, and it sounds absurd in the past tense . . but there you go, that’s America for you!

      It may be a good idea for you to make a permanent decision for the future, Sathya: you should either ALWAYS write in British-English (hence always using British-English dictionaries) . . or ALWAYS write in US-English (always using US-English dictionaries) . . but don’t use the two together. In my view, the former is pure and consistent; the latter is such that one never knows what kind of aberration one might encounter.

      Reply
      • Monty

        . . and I’m far from an “expert” when it comes to “meter”. I’ve only started to learn about “meter” in the two years I’ve been with SCP (and listening to people like CB) . . and I’ve still got so much learn!

        So, Sathya, we may both be in the same boat . . .

      • Sathyanarayana

        Dear Monty,

        The problem with Indian English is that, we learnt English from the British and later the US influence and has been immense on us. During my younger days we used words like football, aerial etc. the British words. They are now replaced by soccer, antenna etc. At the same time we used US words too like pants (trousers in British). So Indian English is so intermingled. We are helpless and cannt keep checking each word. Hence my request is take our poetry as written in Indian English. As I said earlier counting of syll9is not the right method in formal verse. In accentual verse the emphasis is on stresses than on the number of syllables. Please check the poetry of any great poet. For example read the following lines of Shakespeare:

        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

        In the second line you find two extra syllables (oblivion has 4 syllables). But while reading it the silence a couple of ovals…this is called synacope. Syncope or elision is also used by omitting ovals. For example : over is written as ov’r or never is written as n’ver. These techniques are used as guiding factors for the reader on how to read the poem.

  4. Laxman Rao

    Sir..all said and done…even the legendary poets like Shakespeare, Keats, Byron are still criticized.but as you said ‘But poetry is best enjoyed by plain reading but not by vivisecting’. that summarises everything. I have a poem which goes this way…I wish not to be read by a laureate who questions on a comma, or examines an exclamation!
    ..for me, it’s as giving life to the paper flowers. Great job..kudos.

    Reply
    • Monty

      I hope my Comment above will show you that any poem submitted to SCP may well have a comma “questioned”; may well have an exclamation-mark “examined”; that’s how things are at serious poetry sites.

      For those unwilling to have their poems subjected to such vivisection . . there’s an abundance of lesser poetry-sites where even the most flawed poetry will find its place unchallenged and unquestioned.

      If that’s what an author desires: that’s their choice. I personally feel that Sathya’s poetry is too good for lesser sites, and it deserves its place at SCP. He just needs to hone his craft . . and he won’t be able to do that by taking any notice of sentimental remarks.

      Reply
  5. Sathyanarayana M.V. S

    Thank you very much Laxman Rao garu. Constructive criticism is always good. I respect both Mr. Anderson and Mr. Monty. They suggested some valid points. I am doing mistakes, no denying of that fact. But all are not mistakes! There are few picadillos one can ignore.

    Reply
    • Leonard Dabydeen

      Trying to please some of the poets some of the time, and ALL poets ALL the time is a complex and difficult challenge. Following ‘basic’ metric regulations and biting your nails about strange substitutions are not definitive by any so-called ‘expert’ in the classic versification. But it’s wise to understand acceptable guidelines and follow examples of those who have been considered, even by yourself, as satisfactory in the playing field. My bottom line is try to be the best at your work, that’s how ‘others’ got where they wanted to be. Most of the Nobel Prize winners for Literature have never seen a classroom in a college or university.

      Reply
      • Sathyanarayana

        Bade Bhayya Sir Leonard Dabydeen, your words are very inspiring and insightful. Thank you very much for instilling confidence in me.

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