Forgetting the Tiananmen Square Massacre for 30 Years

Robbed of life and liberty in open air,
Young citizens ran out of breath inside the Square.
Hot bullets opened skin to pump bright flesh holes bare.
A follow-up of tanks made sure no space was spare.

The man who shuffled shopping bags and stopped a tank
Stayed famous 30 years although his presence sank
As slickly as the fleshy dead who never stank
But were removed, like hidden debt in some big bank.

The daylight robbery that’s laundered by the state
Removing people’s histories and aired debate
Has no remorse or memories to show to date

In law courts, government departments, embassies,
Confucius Institutes, and universities.
That forced amnesia: the communist disease.

 

 

China Tribunal

An independent tribunal into forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience in China, headed by Sir Geoffrey Nice, will give its closing statements in the United Kingdom this month.

Who needs metaphor when facts appear
__To crumble human nature and divine;
When all the presentations witnessed here
__Show conscience severed from a squirming spine?

The communists’ wrongdoings are severe,
__They butcher spirit – China’s, yours and mine.
Precision questioning weighs up, makes clear,
__They’ve crossed a boundary, an ethics line.

This fine judicial autopsy can spear,
__Shine truth’s sharp needles through the Devil’s shrine.
Pin down its smog and mirrors, calmly steer,
__Evaluate through China’s soul’s decline.

Unless we have a motive and a mind
__To scour the shelves to find where truth falls short,
Our soul food menus offer husk and rind
__For thoughtless eating smacks of falling short.

In this Tribunal, helpers helped to bind
__The evidence behind the wide report:
Too much is missing, now, from humankind
__If organs leave fit bodies like a wart.

With sticks and carrots, worldviews are kept blind,
__Media and business are made sport,
And governments are made to walk behind
__Red banners that obscure how sins distort.

But this Tribunal’s not for medal wins,
__Have one side or another be lined up
To wear pimped laurels like posed manikins –
__It stirs all comers in its brewing cup:

The perpetrators, ugly as their sins,
__Who were invited but did not turn up;
The fazeless faces and the radiant skins
__Of interveners who will not give up;

The data drones who’ve clattered in the bins
__Of callous wasters and have counted up;
Escapees speaking as themselves not twins
__Of stories media do not pick up;

All are arrayed in person to refute
__The diktat of the givers of abuse
Who spoon out organs like the seeds of fruit
__And leave the flesh to rot, still boned but loose.

Were lungs and livers drilled out for the loot
__To suck the prices, dump the fibrous juice,
To help some near-death paying guest reboot
__From vitals that the donors still had use?

Even half-way through there’s no dispute:
__The Party’s organ harvesting’s in use.
But this Tribunal can’t arrest its root,
__Nor sentence, lock away, or knot a noose.

For that’s another step, another task.
__Here’s stored the findings from the evidence
Where higher offices can search and ask.
__Here lie the stories of life’s severance.

Here are hard scrutinies of laid out facts,
__Set arguments and probing inference
From reams of videos and written tracts
__Set here with conscious human confidence.

May these give help and resolution’s ease
__To those infected by the lack of sense:
Survivors, lost, affected families,
__And those bound down in its continuance.

 

 

Damian Robin is a writer and editor living in the United Kingdom.


Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.”

32 Responses

    • Damian Robin

      The title to the poem is more commonly called ‘The Answer’

      Reply
  1. C.B. Anderson

    So far, all the comments are from the author himself. The prosodical problems with these poems are legion, and almost too manifold to enumerate entirely. So, just a couple of examples:

    “A follow-up of tanks made sure no space was spare.” Just what the hell is this supposed to mean? I expect poetry to be compressed, not beyond all comprehension.

    In the second poem: “For thoughtless eating smacks of falling short.” This is not exactly nonsensical, but do you expect the reader to accept “truth Falls short/falling short” as an acceptable rhyme? I see that you have attempted to write a long poem where the rhymes continue stanza after stanza, which is a laudable effort, but for the love of God, you need to write plausible sentences that don’t seem forced and wrenched.

    I could go on, but I think I’ll just have another drink and enjoy the remains of the day.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks for taking the time, CB.
      The spare space was meant to indicate the flesh holes being plugged.
      ‘Short’ rhymes with ‘short’, I thought.

      Reply
      • Monty

        Am I tripping out; or did you really just say that last sentence?

  2. Damian Robin

    Evidently I did write the sentence. What was in it to make you trip, Monty?

    Reply
    • Monty

      If you’re saying that ‘short’ rhymes with ‘short’; would you also say that ‘rhyme’ rhymes with ‘rhyme’?

      Reply
      • Damian Robin

        Of course. I was responding to the question “do you expect the reader to accept “truth Falls short/falling short” as an acceptable rhyme?” put by C.B. Anderson a few comments earlier.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Yeah, and for you too Monty, self-rhymes are trivial, and usually an indication of laziness.

    Reply
  4. Monty

    Forgive me, Damian I knew what you were getting at; I was just being . . not quite sarcastic, let’s say facetious.

    CB’s initial comment was to say: “In poetry, we can rhyme two words which sound the same; but we can’t use the same word twice for a rhyme.” Surely that rule is on page-1 of any ‘how to write poetry’ book. And yet you done it!

    And what’s more: when CB pointed-out the glaring anomaly . . it fairly tickled me when you retorted with the endorsement that ‘short’ rhymes fully with ‘short’ (how could it not do, if it’s the same word?) . . indicating that CB’s comment must’ve flown well above your head; and also seemingly indicating that you saw nothing untoward in using the same word twice.

    Do you still see nothing untoward in such an act?

    Reply
  5. Damian Robin

    Yes it did go over my head, Monty, and far above. There was an intention to make untruths, or deliberately limiting truth, marry with thoughtlessness and lack of interest or enquiry. I can see that using the same word is lazy (lacking in enquiry! )

    The subtleties of sarcastic and facetious, for me, link to satire. I will continue the dialogue we were having on ‘Towards the End of Chinese Communism’.

    Thanks to you, CB. You said “The prosodical problems with these poems are legion … ” Could you pull some more up. It would help me and many who read this site.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Mr. Robin, you are correct that it is possible to rhyme “short” and “short.” This sort of thing is not commonly done in English verse, but it does happen in French, where it is called “rime riche.” It allows you to rhyme words that are identical, or which are homophones, or which are homographic but with different meanings.

      Here’s an English example from Ernest Dowson:

      They are not long, the weeping and the laughter —
      Love and desire and hate.
      I think they have no portion in us after
      We pass the gate.

      They are not long, the days of wine and roses —
      Out of a misty dream
      Our path emerges for awhile, then closes
      Within a dream.

      In the second quatrain, Dowson uses “dream” as a rime riche. Although this is only infrequently done in English, it does happen sometimes. A homophonic rime riche would be to rhyme “bear” and “bare.” A homographic rime riche would be to rhyme “fair’ and “fair,” where the first one would mean beautiful while the second would mean a market or festival.

      Reply
  6. Damian Robin

    Thanks Prof-S.
    “A homographic rime riche would be to rhyme “fair’ and “fair,” where the first one would mean beautiful while the second would mean a market or festival.”
    Is the ‘dream’ rhyme in the Dowson poem called something like ‘plain homographic rhyme’ ? They are homographic and also have the same meaning, are identical, and so not very ‘riche’.
    Might there be a latin/greek-derived word for this ? Finding something near was a too-far stretch for available online translators and me so I’m putting it back to you.

    Reply
  7. Joseph S. Salemi

    Dowson’s rime riche of “dream” and “dream” is simply an identical rime riche. The word is exactly the same word in both lines, both in spelling and meaning. I don’t know of any Greek-based term for it.

    Here’s a homophonic rime riche:

    Milady is the single, sole
    Empress of my captive soul.

    Here’s a homographic rime riche:

    We in the forest cannot bear
    The predatory, savage bear.

    If you want a made-up comic Greek-based word for what Dowson does with his rime riche of “dream” and “dream,” you could call it “iso-eidetic homographic rime riche.” But I think it’s best to call it identical rime riche.

    Reply
  8. Monty

    One hopes you don’t try to take false comfort from the most recent comments; they were only yet another attempt at defending the undefendable.

    If you were already aware of this flimsy ‘niche’ stuff, and deliberately set your poem that way, you’d have two legs to stand on. But it’s clear that you didn’t . . thus ‘short’ and ‘short’ shall simply remain as described by another commenter above . . laziness.

    Reply
  9. Joseph S. Salemi

    It’s easy to dismiss something as “flimsy ‘niche’ stuff” when you don’t know anything about it. But you’ve never been shy about trumpeting your basic ignorance, have you Monty?

    By the way, have you started reading anything prior to 1750 yet? And have you learned what an adverb and the other parts of speech are yet? Have you learned what the subjunctive mood is? Those are all things that you have owned ignorance about here in these threads.

    Reply
    • Monty

      D’you know what you’ve just done, Meatloaf: you’ve took the words right out of my mouth. The first sentence of your last missive – apart from the first two words – describes exactly how I feel about this ‘niche’ thing; I couldn’t have put it better myself. “To dismiss something as flimsy ‘niche’ stuff when I don’t know anything about it” . . that’s exactly how it is. I’m into poetry: pure poetry. This ‘niche’ thing’s got nothing to do with pure poetry. It’s just a gimmick; a little aside for some poets down the years when they felt like doing something different just to break the monotony of writing proper poetry.

      That’s why your first sentence was so prescient, ‘cos I truly “don’t know anything about it”; and the reason for that is that it’s “flimsy” poetry, hence “easy for me to dismiss” (I might add: effortlessly easy). See? You said it all for me. I dismissed it as soon as I learnt of its existence. When I think of all the serious poetry that’s been written in the last 300 years which I’m never gonna get the time to read in this lifetime; it was so easy to dismiss such a flimsy irrelevance as ‘niche’. It was the same last week when I learnt (on these pages) of the existence of ‘clerihews’; I decided immediately that they’re just a little aside for poets when they fancy having a humorous exchange with chums; and instantly dismissed them as having no place in my own personal poetry-psyche. See? I “don’t know anything about” either of them . . ‘cos I don’t want or need to know anything about them; I didn’t even need to know of their existence; and I’d be perfectly content to never hear either word again.

      The following is no more than a hunch: but it’s a hunch I’ve had for many months now . . that whenever an unusual topic arises on these pages, or a little-used form of poetry, or a little-known piece of poetry-trivia, etc, Bruce Wise just googles that subject, and renders the information into a Comment; and then tries to tell us that he’s known about it for 40 years! He makes it so plain to see: by giving examples of little-known poems – word for word. Or by giving poet’s exact dates of birth/death. It’s so obvious!
      I suspect that his Comment below is no more than that (given the fact that he’s copied Lennon’s lyrics from an unreliable source. If he actually knew and felt the song instead of just googling it, he would’ve known that one of the lines ends with “.. and the world will be as one” . . not, as he copied, “.. and the world will live as one”).

      Like I said, I expect the act of googling from Bruce Wise: but you, Meatloaf, have seemingly committed the same deed above. If Mr Robin had intentionally wrote a ‘niche’ poem, you would’ve been wholly justified in evoking another example by Ernest Dowson; but Mr Robin didn’t intend to write a ‘niche’ poem; Mr Robin didn’t even know of its existence; therefore his double-use of the word ‘short’ was done ONLY out of what was described by another Commenter as laziness. After Comments from others, Mr Robin even admitted himself that he “can see that using the same word (twice) is lazy” . . . and yet, inexplicably, you then informed him that “he was correct to rhyme ‘short’ and ‘short'”: HOW COULD HE BE, IF HE DIDN’T KNOW THE EXISTENCE OF NICHE? How utterly senseless. It was at this juncture, I suspect, that you then googled ‘niche poems’, found Dowson, and rendered it into a defending Comment. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve tried to give you – or you yourself have displayed – examples of the mess you get yourself into when trying to defend the undefendable.

      Yeah, I can now boast, at the age of 56, that I know what an ‘adverb’ is; I learnt it on these very pages about 300 hours ago. Before then, I only knew of verbs, nouns and adjectives. And adverbs is as far as it needs to go for now. ‘Subjunctive mood’? I wouldn’t know a subjunctive mood if it came up and head-butted me!

      As undoubtedly handy as it must be to know all these technical and grammatical terms for speech/writing, etc . . I’m living proof that it never has been, and never will be, a pre-requisite for the ability to read or write poetry. Poetry is only about feeling: not knowledge. And yet you still persist in your foolish and futile endeavours to give the impression that you feel one who doesn’t know all the proper ‘terms’, and one who ain’t read none of what they call the ‘classics’, and one who’s read nothing of S. Speare except for 10-15 (quality) poems . . should have no place on a poetry-site with which you’re affiliated; and to give the impression that such a person is somehow less than you, ‘cos you know EVERY ‘term’ (and I don’t say that flippantly; I’m fully aware of the unarguable depth of your knowledge . . and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you knew literally EVERY such ‘term’); and to seemingly feel from within that your knowledge somehow qualifies you to attempt the belittling of others . . by pressing a few buttons. Are you secure? Let me say it again: poetry is about feeling, not knowledge.

      You may or may not have heard of the old adage: ‘Don’t let school get in the way of your education’ . . well, I didn’t! I resisted school. I never realised it at the time (in fact, I never realised it fully until I started looking back on things when I was in my 40’s), but I subconsciously resisted all attempts to school me. I didn’t know why at the time: but I do now: I wasn’t meant to be there!
      In junior-school (4 till 11), looking back now, it seems like I was in a coma for the whole time, just day-dreaming, waiting for the bell to ring; I never absorbed hardly anything (but I’ll always remember a lady-teacher telling me one day that I could read well for my age). Then senior-school (11-15), during which time I was increasingly absent. It may sound improbable these days for one to simply not go to school; but inner-city senior-schools could be tough places in Britain in the 70′ – boys only – and some teachers could be easily intimidated. Thus, in a typical class of 30, if 3 or 4 sat at the back and done their own thing while the rest were learning: some teachers would settle for that. And if those same 3 or 4 (every class had 3 or 4) didn’t come in on any given day; teacher was even more content, ‘cos he knew there’d be no disruption to the class. And the longer it went on like that, the more it became a (sort of) unspoken agreement that some of us just went to school when we felt like it. When we didn’t: we’d likely be at the golf-course a mile up the road, on which there was a Par-3 with swamps from tee to green. Needless to say, there were a trillion lost balls in those swamps; and that’s where we were, scampering around in the swamps all day, finding balls, and selling them to the golfers for a shilling . . . our first business, aged 13-14! That was a small part of OUR education. And we went on to teach ourselves everything we needed to know to lead the lives we did. That was enough. We didn’t need to know more. And we subsequently left school at 15 with not even a scrap of paper to say we’d left . . and just continued with our OWN education into the grown-ups world.

      See? I had no state education. That’s how one learns adverbs at 56 (and I’m delighted to tell you that the majority of my chums of a similar age will not be able to tell you what an adverb is the day before they die!). I’m sure you had a normal education, which puts you in the comfy confines of the vast majority; stay there, it’s easy: know all the ‘terms’. But don’t ever feel that you’ve got the right to try belittling the uneducated . . ‘cos you can and will never know what the ‘other’ education is that we didn’t let school get in the way of.
      And there will always be a miniscule minority of society who will fully understand why I’m immensly glad and proud that I shunned a state education . . and eternally grateful that I don’t know of such things as ‘subjunctive moods’.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Here we go again — eleven tedious paragraphs of self-justification, autobiographical reminiscence, abuse, and pompous posturing. Do you realize what a public ass you’re making of yourself, Monty?

        OK — so you’re fiercely proud of your ignorance and spotty education. Congratulations.

        You want to call me “Meatloaf”? Fine. If that’s the limit of your forensic and argumentative abilities, go right ahead.

        I don’t need to Google Ernest Dowson. I’m more than familiar with his oeuvre, having published a scholarly article on his religious poetry in the Victorian Newsletter back in 1987. In this thread I quoted his poem with the rime-riche of “dream…dream” from memory. It is one of the most famous of all Dowson’s pieces, having provided the title for the film “Days of Wine and Roses.” But I guess you haven’t watched much cinema either. Another of his poems (to the prostitute Cynara), gives us the title for the film “Gone with the Wind.”

        You think poetry is exclusively about feeling? Then I suggest you go to one of the myriad free-verse websites, where you can wallow in emotive drool and sentiment. And nobody there will bother you about the subjunctive mood.

        I don’t belittle people for their lack of education. I’m not some left-liberal elitist. But when you show up everywhere shooting your mouth off about things that you don’t know, and then claiming the right to be ignorant — well, that’s another matter entirely.

        By the way, the word isn’t “undefendable.” It’s “indefensible.”

  10. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    My favourite repeated rhyme is that by Emily Dickinson, stanza five in the following poem:

    Because I could not stop for Death—
    He kindly stopped for me—
    The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
    And Immortality.

    We slowly drove—He knew no haste
    And I had put away
    My labor and my leisure too,
    For His Civility—

    We passed the School, where Children strove
    At Recess—in the Ring—
    We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
    We passed the Setting Sun—

    Or rather—He passed us—
    The Dews drew quivering and chill—
    For only Gossamer, my Gown—
    My tippet—only Tulle—

    We paused before a House that seemed
    A swelling of the Ground—
    The Roof was scarcely visible—
    The Cornice—in the Ground—

    Since then—t’is Centuries—and yet
    Feel shorter than the Day
    I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
    Were toward Eternity—

    The fact is that the classical Greeks were not as interested in rhyme, as they were in syllables; but they were very interested in sounds (parachesis) and repetition of words. Among so many schemes (figures of words, not affecting the intended sense), as opposed to tropes (figures of thought, changes of words for the sake of changes of sense), this strand suggests the following terms:

    1. homoeoteleuton, same ending = end rhyme;
    2. homoeoptaton, similar case endings;
    3. polyoptaton, same word, different cases;
    4. epizeuxis, immediate repetition;
    5. anaphora, repeated beginning of phrases;
    6. epistrophe, repeated end of of phrases;
    7. epanastrophe, beginning and end of phrases; and
    8. polysyndeton.

    Of the above, I think I have used all, except for maybe 2. My favourite epistrophe in British literature is that of Willliam Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice, which was, I seem to remember, an adaption from a poem of Edmund Spenser (1552/3-1599):

    Bassanio:
    Sweet Portia,
    If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
    If you did know for whom I gave the ring
    And would conceive for what I gave the ring
    And how unwillingly I left the ring,
    When nought would be accepted but the ring,
    You would abate the strength of your displeasure.
    Portia:
    If you had known the virtue of the ring,
    Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
    Or your own honour to contain the ring,
    You would not then have parted with the ring.
    What man is there so much unreasonable,
    If you had pleased to have defended it
    With any terms of zeal, wanted the modesty
    To urge the thing held as a ceremony?
    Nerissa teaches me what to believe:
    I’ll die for’t but some woman had the ring.

    Here is my take on Shakespeare’s lines (in iambic hexametres), which Mr. Mantyk published @SCP on June 3, 2013:

    The Ring
    “my precious,”
    —Gollum, in The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien

    I only knew but one tall dude who had a ring
    with magic powers. He had one large, silver ring.
    Although still visible when he put on his ring,
    it gave him strength. I know, because he used the ring
    on me. I was at peace, not thinking of a ring,
    when he burst in all tough and macho with his ring.
    He pushed me down and shoved me flat with his round ring,
    and slammed me hard again, again! with that damn ring.
    I fought. It hurt. Oh, then my ears began to ring.
    But he continued on—two fighters in a ring.
    It left a scar. I would not soon forget that ring,
    oh, even now some decades past, remembering.

    Reply
  11. C.B. Anderson

    Egads, all you fellows. A faulty rhyme is not a crime, but good ones will ring true, and that’s what you must do. I don’t give a damn what Shakespeare wrote, especially if he might have been lampooning some of the deviant practices of his time. Who knows? There might be a basis for doctoral thesis here for someone.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Hi CB, your indicate of faulty rhyme has spawned some buoyant quips. I wonder do you dare to stir these waters with another one (or pair) (or more) of faulty points to launch more learning tips?

      Reply
      • Damian Robin

        Hi CB – I have read many of your poems and see the high standard of your prosody. So this request is made to you as someone with a fine record. It is not thrown out to the air in the flippant hope of good returns. The expectation is of good insight.

  12. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    I, too, find the use of identical rhymes distasteful, as Mr. Phillips and Mr. Anderson do, but it can be done brilliantly, as in the case of Dickinson above. The technique itself is not a flaw; it is the execution of it that can be questioned.

    What I find interesting in the following popular oral example of identical rhyme is how John Lennon, in “Imagine”, extends the duration of “say”, “day”, and “world” in his singing, but does not delay the words after those stays.

    “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
    I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”

    Victorian poet Edward Lear frequently used identical rhyme in his limericks, as in the following example:

    There was an old man with a beard,
    who said, “It is just as I feared!
    Two owls and a hen,
    Four larks and a wren,
    Have all built their nests in my beard!”

    Granted, all writers have flaws, and granted, trying to make a place for one’s own writing in the World is a rather difficult thing to do; nevertheless, I think it is less distasteful in English literature to have disdain for identical rhyme than it is “to not give a damn what Shakespeare wrote”, even if it was before 1750.

    Reply
  13. Lu "Reed ABCs" Wei

    Mr. Robin’s take on the Tiananmen Square anniversary took a visceral vantage point. Here is another.

    Tiananmen Square
    by Lu “Reed ABCs” Wei

    It is the largest public space located on the Earth,
    880 by 500 meters is its girth,
    located in Beijing, at midpoint Chang’an Avenue,
    which is the Street, Eternal Peace, that passes by its view.

    Tiananmen Square is the pride of hardcore communists;
    it is spectacular on seeing, even in the mist.
    The grand flag-raising ceremony is attended by
    the people, guards and spies, each day, clear or polluted sky.

    The National Museum, east, holds porcelain and jade.
    West of the Square, the Great Hall of the People casts its shade.
    The center Monument of Heroes juts out, joust-square, tall.
    Up north, the Tower looms; at south, embalmed, Mao’s in his Hall.

    The oldest Chinese record of a solar eclipse seen
    took place on June the 4th in 781 BC.
    This year on June the 4th in 2019 one could see
    peace covering the Square, a shadow on eternity.

    Reply
    • Damian Robin

      Thanks, Bruce, for your alternative guide to Tiananmen Square.

      Information, in our ‘data age’, is so swamping, it’s good to get poems that parallel this. In line with ‘infotainment’ and ‘docudrama’, poems of this kind might be named ‘infoems’.

      However, if they are fact-based, the facts need to be correct. The first line of the poem which states that Tiananmen Square is ‘the largest public space on Earth’. Online sources say other city squares are bigger than Tiananmen with Dalian being the largest in the world.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_city_squares_by_size
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xinghai_Square

      The word ‘public’ could be misleading. Tiananmen Square has a lot of security checks to go through and strict opening and closing times. This fits your general sombre view of it.

      I know from other poems of yours that you can number well; and you can treat heavy issues with seriousness and humour. So I do not dismiss them as doggerel. They are more like muted gnashers of Ogden Nash.

      However, dogmatic definitions of doggerel hit on it being unmetrical. Fitting names and titles, dates and specific numbers into existing meters often overstretches. “The oldest Chinese record of a solar eclipse seen” has the twisted foot of ‘eclipse’. ‘Solar eclipse’ is the go-to title. The rhythm could be kept to with ‘solar blackout’. But that’s a choice.

      “This year on June the 4th in 2019 one could see” has a grace note in ‘in 2019’. It could be streamlined by taking out ‘in’, adding a comma after ‘4th’ and pronouncing ‘2019’ as ‘two thousand nineteen’. [= “This year on June the 4th, 2019, one could see”.]

      Also, how is “880 by 500 meters is its girth” pronounced and stressed to fit into the 12 beat lines ? How they are to be pronounced is a usual difficulty with numerals

      There is ambiguity in the last two lines. It is unclear if ‘peace’ is covering the Square like a shadow or if ‘the Square’ is the shadow on eternity. It is by knowing the general politics of your other work and the way ‘peace’ is most often used that I take I go with the second reading.

      I am very grateful for your laying out information about the buildings around the Square, their names and what they house. It gives a good feel to it being “ the pride of hardcore communists”.

      Reply
  14. D Robin

    Pronouncing ‘2019’ as ‘two thousand nineteen’ does not avoid a foot reversal. It’s still natural to me to say ‘two THOUsand nineTEEN’. That throws two stresses together
    “This YEAR on JUNE the FOURTH, two THOUsand nineTEEN, ONE could SEE”.
    Actually there is a repetition: “This year’ and ‘2019’. So there’s a few syllables to play with, Bruce!

    Reply
    • D Robin

      “This YEAR on JUNE the FOURTH, two THOUsand AND nineTEEN, we SEE”. This fits.

      Reply
  15. Lu "Reed ABCs" Wei

    1. I appreciate Mr. Robin’s attention to detail.

    2. For this type of work, I use the term “docupoem”.

    3. One of the reasons I like the meter of this poem is that it is easily revised, and following the ballad, dove-tails neatly into English literature. As regards to the first line, the data I obtained was obviously flawed. Mr. Robin’s attentive reading has caused me to make a truer revision on two points, the area and the security.

    “One of the largest, most secure spots on the planet Earth,”

    4. Though I have enjoyed the disjointed lines of Ogden Nash, these lines are hardly “muted gnashers”.

    5. On the following point, however, I agree with Mr. Robin completely: “Fitting names and titles, dates and specific numbers into existing meters often overstretches.” And this is the serious argument for free verse and for prose. I fight that constantly in my writing. However, in this case, because it was a central idea in the poem, I used eclipse as I did. Surprisingly perhaps, I wanted the dissonance, the alliteration, the assonance and the double beat at the end of the first line of the last stanza.

    “The oldest Chinese record of a solar eclipse seen”

    6. However, I disagree about the meter of the following line:

    “This year on June the 4th in 2019 one could see”

    Nineteen fits the meter perfectly if one uses the pronunciation, NINE teen, as I do when I say THIR teen, FOUR teen, FIF teen, or SIX teen, or when I say NINE teen EIGHT teen, NINE teen NINE teen, or NINE teen TWEN ty. However, I do realize that it may be pronounced nine TEEN, and I would not be averse to also using it as a spondee NINE TEEN. In addition, this year is not an example of repetition, but it is an example of redundancy that I do not want to change because I wanted the emphasis.

    7. I also disagree to call these “12 beat lines”. They are iambic heptameters. So, as far as I am concerned, the following pronunciation fits the metric perfectly. Though the line may be disliked because it is “too prosy”; I like it just how it is—for that reason.

    “Eight-hundred-eighty by five-hundred meters is its girth.”

    8. As a close reader Mr. Robin did catch the ambiguity of peace; it is, after all, a forced peace which casts its shadow eclipse-like upon the square and on eternity, a salient perspective.

    Reply
  16. D Robin

    Thanks Bruce/Wei, for your detailed response. I will send a more focused reply soon.
    In the meantime, please accept this piece that I obsessed over recently. Its ending took some direction from your poem above, particularly “at south, embalmed, Mao’s in his Hall”.

    Fat Cat

    The Cultural Revolution was uncivil war –
    Regions, families, human beings torn apart;
    The Chairman mixed and matched so no-one knew what for.

    The Chair manoeuvred students for his own sick sake –
    Old objects’ values ended in a littered heart;
    Young revolutionaries forced Tradition’s break,

    New culture was a crusted goblet where he spat.
    Though he lies in state, on show, his shadow fart
    Balloons; his organs ghosted like a plastic cat;
    His flesh projected in a lying piece of art.

    Reply

Leave a Reply to Damian Robin Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.