Harvest Sonnet

If, in June, clouds crack and seeping,
Leak their cache upon beast and field,
Surety no longer keeping,
This payment, late, defaults the yield;

Lest the rain delay the reaping
Another week and bring to bear
Blight and pests with six legs creeping,
To heaven we post one more prayer

And hurry; scythes slicing, sweeping
Through the amber ocean’s waves,
Felling rows, hay bound and heaping
As headless stalks stand in their graves

Drowned beneath the deluge, steeping,
Soaked by tears of June clouds weeping.

 

 

Magicians of the Night

Amidst the dancing shadows gray,
That mark the change to dusk from day,
A mesmerizing love affair
Begins in summer’s sultry air.

Cicadas call in voices shrill,
Mosquitos bite and spiders kill,
As June bugs fly into July,
The sun departs, the breezes die.

Before the stars emit their glow,
Their earthen kin announce the show.
Sparkling bright with noiseless wonder,
Flashes lightning without thunder.

Teasing foes, eluding capture,
Near at hand then gone in rapture.
The act is grand, our hearts delight,
Bravo! Magicians of the night.

 

 

Landon Porter is an entrepreneur and database developer in Kansas City, Missouri, where he lives with his wife and three children. He enjoys writing formal verse and the inherent challenges therein, and plans to publish his first collection of poetry in 2020.


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15 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    In “Harvest Sonnet,” the maintaining of the “A” rhyme for eight lines out of fourteen shows great skill. And Porter manages to use it as an active verb, a present participle, and a noun.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, Joe, all of that is true, but I found that the punctuation often did not keep up with the syntax. In the first line, “Clouds crack and seeping” makes little sense without a comma before “and” and a comma after “seeping.” And the meter is all over the place: iambs and trochees are used interchangeably, with little order in the general scheme. And dependent clauses, unattached to anything, seem to litter the wordscape. In the final couplet, I fail to understand how this harvest has anything to do with June clouds.

      I think this entire poem is an example of what happens when someone, enamored of twitty sound-sculpting, thinks he has appropriated the grand ideal. For me, it’s somewhere between C- & D+.

      As for the second poem, the only possible response is: Ho-hum.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Yes, it’s true that the poem could be improved in many ways. I was just trying to find something that was worth commending.

        There is a bit too much “sound-sculpting” here at this site, I agree. Too many persons think that classical poetry is speaking in orotund pomposities that sound somewhat archaic. But beginners have to start somewhere, don’t they?

  2. Martin Rizley

    I found both of these poems to be quite skillfully written, with a rich vocabulary and a subtle use of poetic devices– for example, the use of onamtopeya in the first poem, both in the first line of stanza one (where one hears the “crack” of thunder and the “seeping” sound of hissing rain from the cloud) and in the first line of stanza three (where the “scythes slicing, sweeping” mimic through alliteration the sound of the reapers). With their vivid images, both poems convey in an evocative manner the sultriness of summer.

    Reply
  3. Julian D. Woodruff

    Even I, who detest insects, have to give credit for an imaginative tribute on no.2. The switch back and forth from iambs to trochees in 4trains 3 and 4 is handled consistently. A quibble: do I read “Flashes lightning” as verb-subject?; in which case, why not just reverse them?

    Reply
  4. Monty

    In ‘Harvest’ . .

    . . I’m impressed with the way in which your rich use of language and metaphor has been cleverly woven into the fabric of a farmer’s anxious lot at that time of year . . and the way in which it informs us of such anxieties. We generally view the words ‘harvest’ and ‘harvest-time’ in a positive light, and I for one (having grown-up in a city) wouldn’t have necessarily been aware of what a fragile and nail-biting time it must be for some.

    As well as the metrical faults listed above, I must say I found some of the diction to be a bit dense, owing to what seems, in some parts, to be an over-abundance of commas; and in other parts – conversely – an inadequacy of grammatical separation.

    In L1, for example, when I started reading the poem, I naturally read the words ‘crack and seeping’ in the same way that I’d say ‘hop and skipping’ or ‘rock and rolling’ . . that togetherness of words. Hence, in the opposite context you intended, there simply has to be a separation after ‘crack’, to prevent the reader seeing it as ‘crack and seeping’. A comma would suffice, but to me a semicolon would better emphasise the separation. I personally would’ve dispensed with the first two commas in L1, and rendered it thus:
    If in June clouds crack; and seeping,
    Leak their cache on beast and field . .

    It’s the same with lines 7 and 8. I know there’s a comma at the end of L7, but I feel the separation should be more emphatic, ‘coz the poem’s going from one segment (the threat to the crop, etc) to another segment: “Right, let’s pray one more time”. I would’ve used an ellipsis, as in:
    Blight and pests with six legs creeping . . .
    To heaven we send one more prayer.

    To a lesser extent, I feel that it’s unclear to the reader how L11 should flow into L12.

    In L4, an ‘s’ should be added to either ‘rain’ or ‘delay’..
    Lest the rains delay the reaping
    Lest the rain delays the reaping

    I should say that the last 6 lines of the piece – set apart – convey a beautiful sense of imagery and metaphor . . and the last 3 lines in particular are masterful. And I commend your faultless use of rhyme throughout the whole piece.

    I can’t help wondering whether ‘twas by chance or by design that the third word from the start of the poem is the same as the third word from the end?

    In ‘Magicians’ . .

    . . I feel the diction to be much more clear, and the grammar to be much more adequate. And the poem as a whole gives a vivid image of around 9pm on a summer’s evening. This poem seems more considered than the first one (maybe less rushed), and contains some gorgeous individual lines. I didn’t quite grasp the 4th stanza, but the first 3 were well-written, and the 3rd itself was high-class (although I find it inexplicable as to why you wrote ‘flashes lightning’ instead of simply ‘lightning flashes’). For the former to stand-up, it would surely have to be ‘flashes OF lightning’; but even with the added ‘of’, what need was there to write it that way . . when it could’ve simply and snuggly be given as:
    Sparkling bright with noiseless wonder,
    Lightning flashes without thunder.

    Again, the piece is impeccably rhymed from first to last; with none of the rhymes (in either poem) giving any sense of being forced.

    Reply
    • Landon Porter

      Thank you for your response. To give light to your stated confusion in “Magicians” regarding the fourth stanza, the whole poem is about fireflies (some may call them lightening bugs). They are the “Magicians of the Night”. They tease their would-be captors, eluding them by apparent rapture, and are flashing lightening without thunder. As to why “Flashes lightening…” instead of “Lightening flashes…”, it is to simply connect to the preceding line that also begins with a verb (albeit a different tense). Nevertheless, to me the poem reads the same either way.

      As to “Harvest Sonnet”, an improved punctuation format would help, as there is a lot going on regarding verb tenses and the sort. I do know that when it is read aloud in the way it is meant to be read, it flows honestly and smoothly and is very easily followed.. Yes, it is not “song-songy” like many formal poems, but I think it still honors the form.

      Reply
      • Monty

        Regarding ‘Harvest’ . .

        . . you say that “when it’s read aloud.. it flows smoothly”: but I imagine you’re referring to when it’s read aloud ‘by yourself’. Of course a poem will flow as intended if the author himself is reading it; because the author knows how he wrote it! And because he reads it in such an assured way, I think that can sometimes override any curiosity he may have as to how another might read the same piece. If the flow is so readily apparent to him, he (perhaps unconsciously) assumes it’s as apparent to others.

        While it’s a vital necessity for an author to re-read their piece exhaustively before deeming it to be ‘finished’, there is also (as I once remarked upon on these pages) the additional option of the author getting someone else to read it aloud to him. Not necessarily the nearest person to hand when the time comes; but one whose reading-level could be described as being in the upper reaches of average.. or above. Get them to read it aloud 5-10 times. It’s surprising how much information can be gleaned from this act (where they pause: where they don’t: on which words they place emphasis: on which they don’t, etc). If this had happened with the above poem, maybe your designated reader would’ve read ‘crack and seeping’ as it looks on the page: to sound like ‘rock and rolling’ . . and you would’ve smelt the rat.

        As for ‘Magicians . .

        . . it wasn’t so much that I was “confused” about it; I could see that the poem was describing the scene at dusk when night-insects start doing their thing. But I couldn’t tell from the narrative that it was referring to fireflies exclusively. I thought it was referring to all such insects (gnats, moths, crickets, etc), and that the last stanza may’ve been alluding to the “show” of the insects preying upon/avoiding each other.

        Forgetting for a moment the order in which the words ‘flashes’ and ‘lightning’ should be placed . . I can see within your last reply that you used the word ‘lightening’ four times: and the word ‘lightning’ not once. Would this indicate that ‘lightening’ was in fact the word you intended to use in the poem, but wrote ‘lightning’ in error? Thus you intended it to be read as . . the FLASHES of the fireflies LIGHTENING up the sky. Was that your intention?

      • Landon Porter

        Thanks, Monty. I appreciate your feedback.

        Yes, having another person read it aloud would be helpful.

        And “lightning” is correct . . . “lightening” as I wrote in the comments was in error.

  5. Mark F. Stone

    Landon, Hi.

    1. I agree with C.B. that in the first poem there should be a comma after “crack.”

    2. I really like the second poem, and here’s why. It’s charming. I like animal poems. I like the capture/rapture rhyme. I think June bugs flying into July is a clever turn of phrase. Having four lines of trochaic meter (lines 11-14), in an otherwise iambic poem, might be unusual, but it totally works for me in this case.

    3. Like the others, I was confused by “Flashes lightning without thunder.” In your comment about the second poem, you say that “the whole poem is about fireflies (some may call them lightning bugs).” However, I was not able to discern that from the text of the poem. Neither “firefly” nor “lightning bug” is mentioned in the poem. I thought the poem was about cicadas, mosquitos and June bugs flying around jubilantly on a summer evening. I think that a lightning bug “flashing lightning without thunder” is a wonderful line, but it has to be clear in the mind of the reader that that is what is happening. Two potential fixes come to mind. The first is to include “lightning bugs” in the title of the poem, perhaps:

    Lightning Bugs: Magicians of the Night

    The second idea is to make it clear in the third stanza that it is the lightning bugs who are flashing the lightning. Perhaps something like:

    Before the stars emit their glow,
    The lightning bugs announce their show,
    Sparkling bright with noiseless wonder,
    Flashing lightning without thunder.

    Best wishes,

    Mark

    Reply
    • Landon Porter

      Thanks, Mark. Early drafts of “Harvest Sonnet” actually did have a comma after “crack” (as well as a few others throughout) but I trimmed them prior to submission. I will revise on my end (when I read it out loud, they show up anyway).

      Regarding “Magicians..”, the full poem was born out of a riddle (the last stanza) and there are hints throughout that there is something beyond the surface level reading. “Earthen kin” of the stars sparkle and flash like “lightening” yet are without the noise of thunder . . . they are seen one moment then gone the next, etc. Without the deeper meaning, it is just a “ho-hum” poem, but there’s more to it than that. I have refrained from spelling it out for the reader so that there is the possibility of discovery. That was my intent anyway, and though noble, perhaps it has fallen short of it’s aim. 🙂

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        Do not despair, Landon. Everyone falls short of their aims most of the time. Nitpickers, such as myself, only serve to make others aware of their shortcomings. There are at least eight elements, the successful execution of which, are required to produce a great poem. Let’s see: diction, grammar, punctuation, syntax, theme, connection to the common pulse, innovation, reference (howsoever subtle) to past masters, plus a few other things I can’t remember at present. You have done well, and I’m confidant that you will do better in the future.

      • Landon Porter

        Despair? This is not a term with which I am familiar. But a position of one whose only purpose is to make others aware of their shortcomings (not my words, mind you) is a position of despair if I’ve ever known one. If you can find someone in close proximity, ask them to give you a hug.

  6. C.B. Anderson

    Well, Landon, rather than give me a hug, perhaps you should lift a mug (or two) and learn the many details that attend the English language. And then, if it’s not too much trouble, you should find a way not to be so thin-skinned if you wish to continue presenting your work for public consumption. Everyone has an opinion, and for the most part you should let them roll off your back, but nonetheless take them under advisement, if the criticism is warranted. Sleep well, tyro. Do not despair of being unfamiliar with the term “despair.”

    Reply

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