Campaign of 1940-1952

True Cincinnati spirit is the love
of hearth, the principles of isolation,
a life in works of service to the nation.
Could he reverse the course and release the doves
of peace, he’d throw his barbs at what he felt
were dangers to the American way of life,
decrying Roosevelt’s class war as strife
not fit for the hearty sons of the rust belt,
and raised his voice, in protest against the decade
growth of regulation halting men
from their potential liberty, with a grin
that said that the federal budget must be paid.

In chambers of the Senate a brusque voice
is quelled as Eisenhower becomes the choice.

 

 

Flame Parrots at the Monticello Gardens

I admit at one point that flowers
in themselves didn’t matter to me.
We could agree there is some power
apportioned to them, as tourists see

with wonder how color and shape
exist beyond the normality
accustomed to. I too would rate
them nice, but hunt for reality

within the bulbs some touched with little
imagination. I felt the heat
of a land unknown within the middle
gardens, and tasted it as sweet

despite the great distance from soil
of that Lone Star state. These transplants
out east are to their essence loyal—
It takes humility to recant

a prior nonchalance to others’
observations, and learn to love
these flowers just as a father and mother
regard your traits as flashes from above.

 

 

Croquet as Ritual

The season shifts to rest as frost
begins to coat the patterned lawn.
The tangent wooden spheres that crossed
such narrow spaces just draw out yawns

from us settling the final game,
we who heard laughter in the spring.
Dressed ritually in white, we frame
the year in terms of mallet swings,

and so, the time comes for an end
to our priesthood of scholar-preps,
till swollen winter retreats and mends
the court we served with our footsteps.

We meditate about the reason
each year we continue to ordain
our lives with meaning when the season
of simple lawn games comes again.

Just like a quest for mythic rites,
and just as arcane, the sequence starts
over when evening takes in daylight
later as the fall hours depart.

Some act off one another, eyeing
a pattern through the outlined course:
the hoop, the strike, the ball just lying
for an endgame by some tour de force.

And others join, having the sport
itself as the sole end. With skill
for skill’s sake, reverence helps support
set efforts, despite the missing will.

We gather as passé gentlemen
within a slight, barbarian age
and speculate about the end
someday, and still we silence our rage.

 

 

Christopher Fried lives in Henrico, VA. He had his first collection of poetry, All Aboard the Timesphere, published in Summer 2013. He has contributed articles to Listverse, Knowledgenuts, TopTenz, and NewRetroWave on occasion. He’s currently serving as an advisor on the proposed documentary In Search of Tomorrow.


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11 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    Christopher, I found all three of these poems to be a metrical muddle, and I found it difficult to discern the point you were trying to make in any one of them. The only soundly metrical line in all three was:

    regard your traits as flashes from above.

    I’m sure there must have been a few others, but then, accidents happen.

    You seem unable even to count syllables. I don’t know what else to say. I think you could write an orderly, well-constructed poem if you applied yourself assiduously. The overarching point is that certain constitutive (not regulative) rules, when adhered to, go a long way toward engaging the reader in a cogent discourse. Sadly, the poems posted above fall flat.

    Reply
  2. Lew Icarus Bede

    I disagree with Mr. Anderson’s statement that “the only soundly metrical line in all three [poems] was ‘regard your traits as flashes from above'”. The first line of the first poem is a pure iambic pentameter, “True Cincinnati spirit is the love…” and a very nice line indeed. But notice: the following “of hearth”, which concludes the opening, developing thought is on the next line. This is what I found frequently occurring in my own poetry, when I indulged too readily in enjambment. It was for that reason that I worked on longer lines, particularly in the 1980s, hexameters, fourteeners, sixteeners, seventeeners, and others, before settling in the 2010s traditionally and historically with heptameters. Who knows what the next decade will bring?

    Though the poems may be a “metrical muddle”, there is still something in them that is very appealing. With a stronger meter and more articulate expression, these poems could be on the verge of greatness. In “The Campaign of 1940-1952”, Mr. Fried demonstrates a robust vision. To his, however, I prefer Robert Lowell’s iambic tetrameter sonnet “Inauguration Day: January 1953”, which has never left me, since I read it many years ago.

    “The snow had buried Stuyvesant.
    The subways drummed the vaults. I heard
    the el’s green girders charge on third,
    Manhattan’s truss of adamant,
    that groaned in ermine, slummed on want….
    Cyclonic zero of the word,
    God of our armies who interred
    Cold Harbor’s blue immortals, Grant!
    Horseman, your sword is in the groove!

    Ice, ice, our wheels no longer move.
    Look, the fixed stars, all just alike,
    as lack-land atoms split apart,
    and the Republic summons Ike,
    the mausoleum in her heart.”

    Still it would be interesting to see where Mr. Fried’s thoughts could go. In “Flame Parrots at the Monticello Gardens” and “Croquet as Ritual”, Mr. Fried continues topics not touched by others, along with accompanying insights. What I like in all three poems is the language is rugged. Though others at SCP claim Donne as their inspiration, it is Mr. Fried’s forceful awkwardness that more closely approaches it. Of course, as well as others, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) and Robert Lowell (1917-1977) not only reinvigourated Donne’s language, but added new and striking particularities to that style, and in doing so made English literature all the richer for their experiments.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Yeah, Mr. Bede, but it appears that you missed my statement, “I’m sure there must have been a few others.” Robert Lowell showed great potential as a formalist poet, but later in his career he abandoned formalism and unsuccessfully courted a lesbian poet of his day. Lowell is fairly useless as a model of anything worth looking into. I haven’t studied the subject as deeply as you have, sir, but I think you get my point.

      Reply
  3. Christopher Fried

    Thanks for the comments and criticism.

    Croquet as Ritual

    The season shifts to rest as frost
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    begins to coat the patterned lawn.
    [iamb][iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    The tangent wooden spheres that crossed
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    such narrow spaces just draw out yawns
    [iamb] [iamb] [anapest] [iamb]

    from us settling the final game,
    [iamb] [trochee][iamb][iamb]
    we who heard laughter in the spring.
    [double iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    Dressed ritually in white, we frame
    [spondee] [iamb][iamb] [iamb]
    the year in terms of mallet swings,
    [iamb][iamb] [iamb] [iamb]

    and so, the time comes for an end
    [iamb] [iamb] [trochee] [iamb]
    to our priesthood of scholar-preps,
    [double iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    till swollen winter retreats and mends
    [iamb] [iamb] [anapest] [iamb]
    the court we served with our footsteps.
    [iamb] [iamb] [double iamb]

    We meditate about the reason
    [iamb][iamb][iamb] [iamb fem. end]
    each year we continue to ordain
    [iamb] [anapest] [double iamb]
    our lives with meaning when the season
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb fem. end]
    of simple lawn games comes again.
    [iamb] [double iamb] [iamb]

    Just like a quest for mythic rites,
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    and just as arcane, the sequence starts
    [iamb] [anapest] [iamb] [iamb]
    over when evening takes in daylight
    [trochee][iamb] [iamb] [anapest]
    later as the fall hours depart.
    [trochee][double iamb][iamb]

    Some act off one another, eyeing
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][iamb fem. end]
    a pattern through the outlined course:
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [spondee]
    the hoop, the strike, the ball just lying
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb fem. end]
    for an endgame by some tour de force.
    [double iamb] [anapest] [iamb]

    And others join, having the sport
    [iamb] [iamb] [trochee][iamb]
    itself as the sole end. With skill
    [iamb] [double iamb] [iamb]
    for skill’s sake, reverence helps support
    [iamb] [spondee] [iamb] [iamb]
    set efforts, despite the missing will.
    [iamb] [anapest][iamb] [iamb]

    We gather as passé gentlemen
    [iamb] [anapest] [iamb][iamb]
    within a slight, barbarian age
    [iamb][iamb] [iamb] [anapest]
    and speculate about the end
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][iamb]
    someday, and still we silence (hush) our rage.
    [trochee] [iamb] [iamb] [anapest]-if changed [trochee][iamb][iamb][iamb]

    Campaign of 1940-1952

    True Cincinnati spirit is the love
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][iamb][iamb]
    of hearth, the principles of isolation,
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][iamb][iamb fem. end]
    a life in works of service to the nation.
    [iamb][iamb][iamb] [iamb] [iamb fem. end]
    Could he reverse the course and release the doves
    [trochee][iamb] [iamb] [anapest] [iamb]
    of peace, he’d throw his barbs at what he felt
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb][iamb]
    were dangers to the American way of life,
    [iamb] [iamb] [anapest][anapest][iamb]
    decrying Roosevelt’s class war as strife
    [iamb][iamb][iamb] [spondee] [iamb]
    not fit for the hearty sons of the rust belt,
    [iamb] [anapest] [iamb] [double iamb]
    and raised his voice, in protest against the decade
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [anapest] [anapest]
    growth of regulation halting men
    [headless iamb][iamb][iamb][iamb][iamb]
    from their potential liberty, with a grin
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][iamb][anapest]
    that said that the federal budget must be paid.
    [iamb] [anapest] [anapest] [iamb] [iamb]

    In chambers of the Senate a brusque voice
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb] [double iamb]
    is quelled as Eisenhower becomes the choice.
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]

    Flame Parrots at the Monticello Gardens

    I admit at one point that flowers
    [headless iamb][iamb][anapest][iamb]
    in themselves didn’t matter to me.
    [double iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    We could agree there is some power
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    apportioned to them, as tourists see
    [iamb] [anapest] [iamb][iamb]

    with wonder how color and shape
    [iamb] [iamb] [trochee][iamb]
    exist beyond the normality
    [iamb][iamb][anapest][iamb]
    accustomed to. I too would rate
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]
    them nice, but hunt for reality
    [iamb] [iamb] [anapest][iamb]

    within the bulbs some touched with little
    [iamb][iamb] [iamb] [iamb fem. end]
    imagination. I felt the heat
    [iamb][iamb][anapest][iamb]
    of a land unknown within the middle
    [anapest][iamb] [iamb][iamb fem. end]
    gardens, and tasted it as sweet
    [trochee][iamb][iamb][iamb]

    despite the great distance from soil
    [iamb] [iamb] [trochee] [iamb]
    of that Lone Star state. These transplants
    [double iamb] [spondee] [iamb]
    out east are to their essence loyal—
    [iamb] [double iamb][iamb]
    It takes humility to recant
    [iamb][iamb][iamb][anapest]

    a prior nonchalance to others’
    [iamb][iamb][iamb][iamb fem. end]
    observations, and learn to love
    [headless iamb][iamb][anapest][iamb]
    these flowers just as a father and mother
    [iamb] [iamb][iamb][anapest fem. end]
    regard your traits as flashes (glints) from above.
    [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb] [iamb]-if changed[iamb][iamb][iamb][anapest]

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Jesus, Christopher! you didn’t have to go to all that trouble to defend your meter. And I wonder how you justify all those anapests. I also wonder what you mean by a “double iamb.” Two in a row, or something else? Forget about it; nothing I say here on this website carries any weight, and all I have ever done is make enemies.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Kip, what you say in these threads does carry a lot of weight. Believe me, it does.

        Putting aside the question of metrics in Fried’s poems, let me just say this in general. There is a marked tendency at this site for poets to think (unconsciously) that meaning in a poem is absolutely primary, and that the manner of verbal expression is a distant second.

        It’s actually quite the reverse. The real signs of formalist (“classical”) poetry are sophisticated command of language, idiom, and metrical technique. The “meaning” of the poem (i.e. what you’re trying to say) is a distant fourth.

        It’s next to impossible to get most Americans to understand this fact. They keep going on and on about “what they feel” or “what they want to get across” or “how they have a point to make.” When you try to talk to them about slipshod meter or syntactical awkwardness, they get a confused look on their faces.

  4. Christopher Fried

    The double iamb is a foot of four syllables, the first two unstressed and the second two stressed. It is also called ionic minor as it was adapted from Greek and Latin forms. In a number of poems, from Shakespeare’s to the Victorians’, it was used in place of two iambic meters.
    Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 32”: “When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover”
    [Double iamb] [iamb] [iamb][iamb hypermetrical]

    Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 1”: “Within thine own bud buriest thy content”
    [iamb] [double iamb][iamb][iamb]

    Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 34”: “To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face”
    [iamb][iamb] [double iamb] [iamb]

    Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 25”: “But as the marigold at the sun’s eye”
    [iamb][iamb][iamb][double iamb]

    John Keats’ “When I have fears that I may cease to be”:
    “Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain”
    [trochee][spondee][double iamb][iamb]

    Tennyson’s In Memoriam Section L:
    “When the blood creeps and the nerves prick”
    [double iamb] [double iamb]

    W.B. Yeats’ The Countess Cathleen: “And the white breast of the dim sea”
    [double iamb] [double iamb]

    Reply
    • Clifton Anderson Anderson

      On the matter of the double iamb, as you described it, I would analyze the substitution as a pyrrhic and a spondee. Of course, as with many lines of measured poetry, multiple interpretations of the metrical structure are possible, due to the fact the building blocks are binary (i.e., stressed or unstressed. If you take an anapestic line, for instance, depending on where you begin scansion, you might find yourself dealing with dactyls or amphibrachs, especially if the line is a long one: ‘–‘–‘–‘–‘–‘

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Exactly so. I call beginning a sonnet with a trochee rather than the expected iamb a “choriambic start.” Others call it a “trochaic substitution.” The name doesn’t matter. The important thing is that the practice is a part of the toolkit of a good formal poet, and that he uses it with ease and assurance.

  5. Cadwel E. Bruise

    I enjoyed Mr. Fried’s metrical analyses of his poems after Mr. Anderson’s critique. [In English literature Edgar Poe inaugurated the self critique with his essay on “The Raven”.] One of my more constant points @ SCP and elsewhere is that being attacked literarily gives one a chance to argue for one’s poetry. I know my poetry elsewhere may get dozens of more “likes” and “thanks”, but it is the harping against my poetry that gives me a chance to go more deeply into my own verse—to really see if it stands up literarily, and occasionally, historic’lly.

    Note to CBA: Elizabeth Bishop once told me that she thought Robert Lowell was the greatest poet of her generation; and even though I disgreed with her on so many things then, when she was alive, and now, I agree with her on that. Though I could empathize in many ways with Richard Wilbur [We both served in Europe, raised families, etc.], he did not hit the chords that Robert Lowell hit. I know contemporaries, like former SCP contributor GMH Thompson, as well as CBA, dislike Lowell’s body of work. But even though I believe Robert Lowell was the best Postmodernist poet in English, like all writers, Shakespeare and Dante included, we are all flawed. In fact, a few years back, I took one of Mr. Thompson’s impassioned diatribes against Robert Lowell and turned it into a tennos.

    On the Mediocre Manifestations of Robert Lowell
    for G. M. H. Thomson

    The poetry of Robert Lowell would better serve as planks
    in whalers or for firewood for stern New England Yanks.
    That grand inquisitor of narcissism left his curse
    of wooden, Puritanical, rhetoric’lly-stiff verse.
    Lord Weary’s Castle is so hulking thick, it bears one down;
    its Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket bores one to the ground.
    If Frost had been a piece of cardboard soaked in turpentine
    for seventy long years, he’d have become a Lowell twine.
    L. Bogan nailed his style—high-pitched, Baroque intensity—
    a cross between Donne’s Metafizz and Melville’s density.

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Mr. Bruise, that might have been the best tennos I have read so far. I loved “Metafizz.”

      Reply

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