X

Every Little Thing

I. His Version

She treasured every little thing that you                
gave her: the sparrow necklace (hazel blue
to match her eyes) the bracelet slipped inside
the box of chocolate treats—the wine train ride.
And it’s not been just things, but moments too:

the breezy balcony, the Cliff House view,
the kisses long-desired, yet impromptu
when smoky Malbecs were then set aside…
Every little thing.

But smoky moments fade, as breezes do,             
as fondled treasures fall away into
disuse, as you fall off to sleep beside
her while she skims the latest travel guide.
She treasured every little thing. But you.
Every little thing.

X

II. Her Version

You flip through fashions that were never on
your mind. Is he ignoring you? And now
he’s sleeping?—You might be awake till dawn!
You couldn’t show him much more clearly how
you wish he’d talk. A fashion magazine?
Have you seemed like some fashion-forward shrew
or like some fragile little figurine?
He’s stressed, so what are you supposed to do?
You treasure him, but how he overpays
for life. He’s so uncertain, insecure,
not free and bold. Exaggerated praise
for all that he provides might be the cure.
But then he just withdraws. And now he’s gone
to sleep. What did you do? It’s nearly dawn.

X

X 

 

Her Petrarchan Heart

a Petrarchan sonnet embedded inside an Elizabethan sonnet

I smile in my Italian heart—but English ways,
against emotions so taboo, require some tact                
and so I’m hiding in plain view. My eye still strays.
My nerves are tinder. But the part below this act,
which kindles want, slips through the art I layer on
and now that art is burning too. It’s civil war:
I smother it, but when I do, though flames seem gone,
the smolderings rebel, restart, and billow more. 
And yet I’ve learned to love this dance and my disguise
far more than I let on I do. I bait and stare.
I turn demure. It draws you in, intensifies,
and stops. I am not queen by chance. I hold you there:
But if I let you go will you pull through your doubt,
let my Elizabeth stay in…and Petrarch out?

X

x

Daniel Kemper is a systems engineer living in California. 


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61 Responses

  1. C.B. Anderson

    The embedded chiming in “Her Petrarchan Heart”, Daniel, is a very clever idea, and I like a good alexandrine sonnet, but I could not pick up the chime that I expected in the last line.

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      C.B., I don’t catch the drift of your complaint. I see that the word “in” merely recurs in the last line, rather than being rhymed, but I doubt that is your concern.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        That’s exactly my concern, Julian. Every other Petrarchan rhyme sequence here is perfect. The in/in pseudo-rhyme does not adhere to form.

      • Daniel

        Greetings Julian,
        I like the flexibility in your considerations; I tend to think in that kind of way about many things.

        Here, they definitely are intended to rhyme, because they are parts of a sonnet that can stand alone.

        It’s just to the taste of whether identical rhymes are permissible, or more or less so when compared to say, substituting an anapest for an iamb.

  2. Dave Whippman

    Well-written poems: I enjoyed the two viewpoints of “Every Little Thing”.

    Reply
  3. Monty

    Regarding L6 of ‘Hers’, Daniel: I don’t know about over there, but on this side of the pond “Have you seemed like..” is an incorrect usage of both written and spoken English. ‘You seemed like..’ is correct, as is ‘It seemed like..’ or ‘She seemed like..’; but ‘Have you seemed like..’ is as incorrect as ‘Did you seemed like..’ or ‘Will you seemed like..’. What d’you think? Have those words got another meaning over there of which I’m not aware?

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      “Have you seemed like,” is a correct usage of the present perfect tense, both in America and, I’m sure, in Great Britain. Of course “Did you seemed like” and “will you seemed like” are both completely wrong because the auxiliary verbs “do” and “will” take the infinitive form (“seem” in this case) of the verb they accompany. All good, Daniel.

      Reply
      • Monty

        Can you put it in a sentence, CB, so I can hear how it could be used: and how it sounds?

      • Monty

        ‘Have you’ is present tense, and ‘seemed’ is past tense; so how can that work? We wouldn’t say: ‘Have you seemed like a bit lethargic lately?’. We’d say: ‘Have you felt a bit lethargic lately?’.

      • Christopher Flint

        Sorry for my duplication. You posted while I was drafting. I have checked many times, before posting, to see if someone said the same thing ahead of me, but I neglected to do so here.

  4. Christopher Flint

    I believe “Have you seemed like…” uses “seem” correctly in the presemt perfect tense to indicate occurence in the past that might still be ongoing. The expression “seemed like” is less formal usage than “seemed” but common.

    Reply
    • Monty

      “Seemed like” is common, everyday usage: ‘It seemed like it was just about to rain, then the cloud passed’. That’s not the issue here. My contention is.. can those words be preceded by ‘Have you’; and if you think they can, would you care to put them in a sentence?

      Reply
      • Christopher Flint

        Have you seemed nervous all week, Mr. Smith, because your wife is expecting a baby any day now?

        Search “present perfect tense” to see tt explained.

      • Monty

        No, in the first-person it’s: ‘Have you been nervous all week’. In the third-person it’s: ‘She seemed nervous all week’. Anyroad, another commenter (below) has since put the whole thing to bed.

    • Daniel

      Christopher, a worthy soldier in the close-reading war! Thank you for your input.

      Reply
  5. Joseph S. Salemi

    Whether it’s correct usage or not, I agree that the phonics of “Have you seemed…” is grating on the ear. Perhaps the poet could change the entire two lines from a question to a hypothetical statement:

    Had you seemed like some fashion-forward shrew
    He might have called you just a figurine…

    Because this is an implied if-clause, both verbs can be irrealist (“Had you seemed” sounds better with its quasi-subjunctive tone, and “might have called” uses a potential auxiliary).

    Just a suggestion.

    Reply
    • Monty

      ‘Had you seemed’ is the answer, and it’s also a perfect demonstration of how ‘Have you seemed’ is wrong. ‘Have you’ is present tense, ‘seemed’ is past tense – there’s the anomaly. But ‘Had you’ and ‘seemed’ are both past tense.

      Reply
      • Christopher Flint

        Using “had you seemed” invokes “seem” in the the past perfect tense to indicate one occurrence preceding another (in this case speculatively in the subjunctive mood).

        That is also proper usage. but so is Mr. Kemper’s.

      • Monty

        ‘Had you seemed’ is the only correct usage. Not only because it’s correct, but also because it marries with the context in which it was used in the narrative. One shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that L6-7 are a question, which is asking: ‘Does it seem to him that you’re some fashion-forward shrew . . ?‘.. hence, it’s asking if that’s what it seems to the MAN. But if one asks the girl: ‘Have you seemed like’.. then they’re asking the GIRL if that’s how it seems to HER! That’s not the narrative. The narrative is: ‘Had you seemed (to him) like some . . ?

        ‘Have you seemed like’ is not only incorrect usage but, it feels to me, completely unnatural in speech.

      • C.B. Anderson

        That’s irrelevant, Monty. It’s not a matter of past or present tense; it’s a matter of past perfect or present perfect tense. When “seemed” follows “had” or “have” it’s not the past tense, but past perfect or present perfect, respectively. For someone who once claimed that he did not know what an adverb is, you certainly have a lot to say about grammar

        Dr. Salemi might have a good point about the phonics of the line as written, but his point does not in any way vindicate your confusion about the grammar.

      • Monty

        . . . and to this day, CB – pushing 60 – I’m STILL not sure what an adverb is! I learnt its meaning from these pages a cuppla years back, but it’s slipped my mind again (as things rather easily do). But I’m proud of not knowing, fiercely proud, because back in my early teens when most around me were going to school, getting a so-called education, and learning what an adverb was . . I know what me and my ilk were doing instead; and I wouldn’t have missed that for the world. Twain said: ‘Don’t let school get in the way of your education’.. and we certainly didn’t! I had the rest of my life to learn what an adverb was.

        Cricket is an ancient English game with many old and arcane laws, and many in the modern day who’ve played the game professionally, even some who’ve gone on to play for England, have readily admitted that they never knew ALL the rules: the seemingly-minor technicalities. And it’s the same with me. I was blessed to be born with a natural affinity with, and empathy for, the written word . . without needing to know all the technicalities. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t welcome having all such technicalities in my head – I would. But my life simply didn’t pan out that way: que sera sera! Consequently, when I read something it’s all about seeing and feeling, not knowing. I know how I SEE “have you seemed like”, and I know how it FEELS to me – simply wrong!

        I confess to not knowing (as you’ve probably guessed) about the existence of ‘perfect’ tenses until you mentioned it yesterday. I only cited the anomaly between past and present tenses because I assumed that that must be the technical reason to explain my feeling that those words were wrong. If you’re now telling me that “have you seemed like” is correct in a ‘tense’ sense – owing to the ‘perfect’ thing – then I’ll gladly take your word for it. I stand corrected, and I’m grateful for the education. But in the sense of clear and proper English diction, until the day I die those words can and will never be correct in my eyes. I’m not being unnecessarily argumentative; it’s just my feeling. And we can’t change our feelings, can we. We can change many things about ourselves if we so wish; but we can’t change or control our feelings. Feelings just happen of their own volition.

    • Daniel

      Howdy, Dr. Salemi,
      RE – [grating on the ear.] I think this cuts down to the true point and I considered your suggestion long before deciding on a simpler, though more extensive fix. A great deal of inspiration for these poems came from your poems regarding male-female relations. More to come, time for a little more playfulness and release though I think… hmm…

      Reply
  6. Christopher Flint

    Monty —

    The woman is asking herself whether she appeared to the man in a particular way in the past. The present perfect tense uses “has” or “have” with the verb’s past participle. If you doubt Mr. Anderson and me, please consider researching the present perfect tense.

    Mr. Salemi has taken a different tack invoking different but also correct usage.

    Mr. Kemper could indeed find that less grating, but he also has to decide how it affects his verse otherwise. Mr. Kemper’s current usage is acceptable.

    Reply
    • Monty

      If you refer above to my reply to CB, you’ll notice that I’ve conceded (after his explanation about ‘perfect’) that the words “have you seemed like” may well be correct in a ‘tense’ sense, owing to the ‘perfect’ thing, which was hitherto unknown to me. I was out of my depth there.

      But in the sense of proper English diction, those words, to me, can and will never be correct. I’m aware that the girl is asking herself how she might appear to the man, but to convey that sense fully, it would require the addition of the words ‘to him’: ‘Have you seemed to him like some.. shrew.. ?’ . . but even that reads awkwardly, and feels wrong. Of course, without the spacial and metrical restrictions of a poem, the sense would ideally be conveyed thus: ‘Does he seem to think that you’re just some fashion-forward shrew.. ?’ – but whatever, the word ‘him’ or ‘he’ has to be added somewhere to fully convey the sense, otherwise it remains ambiguous.

      You seem to be slightly in accordance with another commenter’s assertion that said words are ‘grating on the ear’. If that’s the case, let me end by saying this . . . In all cases, at all times, the use of correct English diction will never be grating on the ear. If it grates, something’s wrong.

      Reply
      • Christopher Flint

        I’m not at all in accordance with Mr. Salemi about “grating”, but the only pertinent issue is how Mr. Kemper feels. His original usage is correct. And so is Mr. Salemi’s suggestion, which sounds less grating to him.

      • Monty

        You’ve obviously not seen Daniel’s latest comment (below). He now feels that his original usage was incorrect; and has decided to change it to ‘do I seem like’ . . which is the perfect remedy for that line, and bona fide English diction.

      • Daniel

        Careful. I think my grammar is correct; however, it does not mean it was poetically correct. There is always an interplay between poet and reader for usage. My proposed fix is on the line that I think I can improve the poem; not necessarily “fix” what some/not all think is wrong. My point is that if it is so distracting as to generate something like 4x the posts on grammar versus content, then I ought to be able to do better than that.

    • BDW

      Note to Mr. Monty:

      Though you may not care,
      an adverb is a word that modifies (indicates something about) a verb, an adjective, another adverb, etc. It is one of the parts of speech, including noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. What makes it tricky is that the same word can be used as a different part of speech; and words can be parts of phrases and clauses, for example, that function as a different part of speech as well. That said, it is nice to think our language has only (or mainly, depending on your outlook) eight parts of speech. That means that everything we ever say or write can be classified by so few elements.

      In your comment above “STILL” is an adverb, used for saying a situation continues to exist, as is “again”, an adverb meaning another time.

      A common way to see some adverbs is the suffix “ly”, as when you used the words “easily” and “fiercely”. You certainly “know” how to use adverbs, even if you don’t know you are using them.

      Reply
  7. Daniel Kemper

    Just peeking in. Much more attention deserved in the posts. Has anyone seen “The Crying Game” ?

    Reply
    • C.B. Anderson

      Yes, I saw that film. It was weird but quite interesting. But what do you mean by “Much more attention deserved in the posts”?

      Reply
      • Daniel

        Working from my mobile in a server room. (Started drinking too early). I mean you guys deserve better replies than I’ll have Tim to give for a while yet

      • Daniel

        Mr. Anderson… in my best “Matrix” voice.. 🙂
        Anyway, just a little fun. Your analysis of the grammar taught me quite a bit and I think your side carries the day. (FWIW) Crying Game/Dil are thoughts to tip the reader to look deeper, but haven’t finished that consideration satisfactorily yet. I seek your analyses often. BTW, when you say you like a good alexandrine, you make it seem like a good port wine, which I receive positively.

  8. James A. Tweedie

    Daniel, I am too poor a grammarian to enter into this amusing debate. If the phrase was grating I missed it because I was too enchanted by the ingenious ruse of embedding a tetrameter Petrarchan sonnet form within a hexameter Shakespearean form. Very clever indeed, and with the possible exception of the doubled “in” at the end, I found it nearly flawless. Bravo! I love cleverness, especially when it is pulled off so well.

    And the first poem, describing two views of the same events by the two sides of the couple’s coin, was good fun and, I fear, perhaps true more often than we may be aware!

    Reply
    • Daniel

      James, much as I love the debate, I love cutting through it too. Your praise of my form gives me energy for more! Exploring he said/she said ain’t easy from any angle!

      Reply
  9. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Daniel, I’ve seen “The Crying Game”. If it’s the British 1992 film, Forest Whitaker’s scorpion analogy remains with me to this day. As for your poems, I love them. Your imagination and creativity combined have lifted me to intriguing and inspiring poetic heights, and I thank you for that!

    Reply
    • Daniel

      Hey Susan, so happy to get your commentary and praise– thank you! Title’s are hard– don’t want to depend on the movie, nor give too much away, but…

      Reply
  10. Daniel

    Back from work. Checking in. I’ll probably change “Have you” to “Do I” and set all in 1st P. I was going to call the sonnet in a sonnet “Dil” for the character with the big reveal, but thought it might be too over the top. More in the morning.

    Reply
    • Monty

      That’s a splendid idea, Daniel.. ‘Do I’ could be the perfect remedy, ‘coz it captures the sense perfectly:
      ‘Do I seem like some fashion-forward shrew..?’
      May I say that I like your use of the word “tinder” in your third piece.

      Reply
      • Daniel

        Monty– thank you for that. And for the vigorous investigation. Generally, if a usage is not clearly good, then clearly, it’s bad. 🙂 “tinder” -heh, yeah, I got you. A happy find.

  11. Daniel Kemper

    Thankful to be where passion for detail is paramount.

    I’ll fix [her view] via ‘Do I’ and put in 1st P (v. “Have you”). Should [in…in] be fixed? Meh, mulling “it stirs the sin”. Thanks everyone for strong suggestions and vigorous debate.

    Posted to work as a group, male pov, female pov, and [problematic], for a complete study in pov. Form-as-content, arbitrary intricacies. Male-Petrarch(an) hides in Female-Elizabeth(an), save the reversed final line, the big reveal. Just a pov study, not pro or con here on issues potentially raised.

    Reply
  12. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Daniel, just a quick note to say, I’ve taken the clues on board and appreciate all three beautifully wrought poems as a series that has made me smile. I must say that the true delight of the poems lies underneath… underneath (that word makes me laugh) the initial take is an eye-opening surprise that tells me never to judge on initial appearance. I particularly like how the Petrarchan sonnet embedded inside an Elizabethan sonnet reveals all. Bravo!!

    Reply
  13. Christopher Flint

    Monty —

    Mr. Kemper did not say his original usage was incorrect. He agreed with Mr. Salemi, upon further review, that he would be better served by avoiding any possibility of controversy. Mr. Kemper found his correct, original usage worth rethinking in retrospect.

    Thus. he decided to make two novel changes in principle.

    First, he decided to have the woman wondering to herself, more immediately and less detached, in the first person rather than the second person.

    Second, he decided to have her appear to worry only about the moment she was in and not about the longer history of her conduct.

    Those significant changes in principle require muliple lines to be altered. Those revised lines will paint a different picture of the subject, and that’s Mr. Kemper’s prerogative.

    Confessing his original usage was “incorrect” was not an option, and he made no such statement that I have found. Mr. Salemi also did not declare the original usage “incorrect”.

    Reply
    • Monty

      You’ve patently misquoted me, Chris. If you read my last comment again, you’ll notice that I didn’t write ‘Daniel SAID it was incorrect usage’, as you’re now trying to say. What I actually wrote was “Daniel NOW FEELS it was incorrect usage”, which was a simple presumption, and one which I had every right to make, given that he’d already decided to change those words.

      It was only me who actually SAID it was incorrect usage, and I still say it, and always will. And I feel that my assertion has been entirely endorsed by the fact that earlier in this thread I invited both CB and yourself to put the words “have you seemed like” into a sentence. CB declined, and you tried but failed. The invitation is still open . . .

      Reply
  14. Joseph S. Salemi

    A particular usage in English may be correct, technically, but still be awkward and grating to the ear. The very first task of any poet (not the ONLY one, but the FIRST one) is to write felicitously and elegantly.

    Let’s give Monty some credit for being the first one in this thread to point out the problem.

    Reply
    • Daniel

      Agreed. On all fronts. The debate is worthy. That a poem triggers its own distractions points to the idea that it can be improved substantially.

      Reply
    • Christopher Flint

      Mr. Salemi —

      I too feel and regret Mr. Kemper’s frustration.

      Even where we disagree, I respect your experience and resulting judgment enormously.

      I agree that proper English might sound awkward to those who never learned it and don’t employ it in their normal speech. And I agree that the poet in search of universal appeal is thus often faced with difficult choices between or among correct forms of usage, especially the poet invoking rhyme and meter. English verbs have muliple tenses to effect distinctly different thoughts.

      There are 40 plus comments about grammar here because Monty adamantly and repeatedly made a false, uninformed claim that he refused to verify, which he is capable of doing, and for which he has electronic resources at his fingertips.

      Where grammar is correct, “awkward” and “grating” are indeed in the ear of the beholder.

      I believe the line that started all this forces the reader to intone the meter or accept its variation, but I don’t believe that a “problem” ever existed.

      Mr. Kemper’s original usage was correct, and to many ears would not be at all grating. Monty’s concern should have been that he personally found it bothersome, and he should have immediately provided a substitution more to his liking to make his point. That would have generated far less reaction. That is exactly what you did, and that’s how this forum is most productive.

      Mr. Kemper decided to act on the strength of your sensitivity and example, and he is making significant, extensive, novel changes to his work.

      Your decision and his to affirm Monty’s conduct and role is inarguable.

      I’ve said once before Monty’s right to be inconsiderate is protected, but it earns no recognition from me in this situation.

      Mr. Kemper appears to be very capable of weighing — and weighting — well offered fact and opinion. He believes he will now create a better poem by amending it, and that’s all that matters.

      Indeed, he is still looking for input that might strengthen three very cleverly done works.

      I think Mr. Anderson’s point about rhyme in the dual sonnet is a far more worthy matter to pursue in Mr. Kemper’s behalf. I have spent some effort on suggestion there, thus far to no avail worth published comment. If there’s a good solution to be found, that work, in my view, will be extremely accomplished.

      Mr. Kemper’s ingenuity is remarkable.

      Reply
      • Monty

        All the things you’ve just said in your last comment are just your own personal opinions on a myriad of nigh-irrelevant points; and you can keep making them till the cows come home.. that is your right. But I’m dealing with facts, not opinions: and the fact is you STILL haven’t been able to prove me wrong once and for all by putting ‘have you seemed like’ in a viable sentence! And don’t give it all the: ‘I can’t be bothered’ or ‘I’m not gonna waste my time on you’. My educated guess is that you’ve been trying desperately to come up with such a sentence, ‘coz you couldn’t resist the chance of being able to bask in the satisfaction of proving me wrong indubitably; but have now resigned yourself to the fact – fact! – that no sentence exists. So, in frustration, you’re now trying to denigrate me in other way in your obsequious remarks to other commenters, It’s normal human behaviour!

        It’s not gonna happen: just accept it.

  15. Daniel

    Agreed, Dr. S. After 40+ posts on grammar, would it be untoward to seek a few more comments on the meat of the poems?

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Language IS the meat of any poem. If it were otherwise, we could dispense with poetry entirely.

      Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Daniel,
      I sympathize with you in your weariness. While Prof. Salemi is right to demand felicity as well as technical propriety in a poem, and even to consider them paramount, your work is deserving of consideration from other perspectives, and this community (I individually perhaps foremost) tends to get lost among the leaves, forgetting the trees, let alone the forest. (E.g., my own sonnet on Pollock garnered 37 comments, nearly all trashing P and ignoring the poem, which was no paean.) I will leave it to the more learned to offer such comments, beyond echoing that I find the sonnet wonderfully inventive and brilliant (in/in and the tense/person thing notwithstanding); and:
      “Have you, poor beaten horse,
      Seemed like a corpse?”
      “Of course!”

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Thank you very much for this observation, Julian. I agree wholeheartedly. I have gained an awful lot from the comments on this site and it is a privilege to be in the company of those who strive to enlighten us all on the literary front.

        I agree with Dr. Salemi – “Language IS the meat of any poem”. But, no one commenter should detract from any poem with a series of long-winded observations on their own personal relationship with grammar. When the crux of the initial comment is done and dealt with, surely the author of the comment should have the wherewithal to know when enough is enough. When the poet being addressed has graciously accepted the observation, thanked the commenter, and said he is looking to change the piece as a result… that should be the end of the matter. Endless, mindless waffle is off-putting to poets and commenters alike.

      • Monty

        D’you know nothing of human diplomacy? You haven’t got any right at all to say my comments ARE “endless, mindless waffle”; you’ve only got the right to say that YOU PERSONALLY FEEL that they’re endless, mindless waffle.. that it’s YOUR PERSONAL OPINION that they’re endless, mindless waffle. To say that they ARE such is to assume that everyone else in this thread feels the same way about my comments, when there’s no evidence of such in anyone else’s comments: not a shred.

        I happen to know a bit about the peculiarities of human behaviour, and I realised long ago that when someone has a personal opinion about something, they will sometimes try to wrangle that opinion into a fact, to give the impression that others are in agreement with them. Such behaviour normally happens when one has no proof that their words are correct, and no genuine conviction in what they’re saying (e.g. When one is saying something – anything! – just out of spite to someone against whom they’ve had a long-standing grudge); so they try to lure readers into assuming that everyone else agrees with them, which they feel will add a bit of weight to their words. It’s classic human behaviour: ‘I personally think Monty’s words are waffle’ changes to ‘Monty’s words are waffle: they must be, ‘coz everyone says so’.

        Here are some examples to consider, which prove that your previous comment (which was ostensibly addressed to Julian, but let’s face it, was addressed directly to me) was simply all of the above:

        a/ You told Julian that you “agreed wholeheartedly” with his above comment, but in that comment he refers to what he deems to be “Daniel’s weariness” of this debate, when Daniel’s given not the slightest intimation that he’s weary with it; indeed, it would seem to be the opposite, given that he’s used words in this thread such as: “I love the debate”.. “I’m thankful to be where passion for detail is paramount”..”The debate is worthy”. Does that sound wearisome? See? You were “agreeing wholeheartedly” with Julian only in the ostensible, and in reality just seizing the oppurtunity to have an undisguised dig at me. It’s there for all to see.

        b/ Julian referred to a sonnet of his own about Pollock which has previously appeared on these pages, and he says: “Nearly all of the 37 comments the poem garnered were trashing Pollock and ignoring the poem”. See? It happens: and it’s happened hundreds of times on these pages, and will again. Get over it. I was involved in the comments that day, and there were some nasty, ill-considered things said about Pollock, and surrealistic-art in general. But this thread of Daniel’s has been nothing but a polite and passionately-healthy debate; and you shouldn’t try to persuade people that it’s anything else.

        c/ You refer to my SERIES of long-winded comments about my relationship with grammar, but 1/ It was only ONE comment, not a series.. 2/ It was a valid comment in reply to CB’s comment to me; and it was addressed directly to him in relation to another conversation we had previously on these pages. The contents of the comment were between me and CB only, and the length of the comment was no one’s business but mine!

        d/ You say that “no one commenter should detract from any poem” . . but, in this case, no one commenter has! I agree, as will anyone, that the weight of ALL the comments has inadvertently detracted from the poem; but I don’t think anyone will agree with you that I ALONE have detracted from the poem . . and I think most will see your claim as evidence that you’re just exploiting this thread to re-enact your long-standing vendetta against me. It’s as clear as day.

    • C.B. Anderson

      This, Daniel, is an answer to Monty’s complaint (above, I presume) that neither Mr. Flint nor I have offered a “viable” sentence in which “have you seemed like” is put, for, after all, he is “dealing with facts, not opinions.” How about this:

      In your opinion, madam, have you ever seemed like a bitch to any of your male companions?

      Reply
  16. Joseph S. Salemi

    Before this blows up into another flame war, can I just say a few things?

    Just because some of us find a certain concatenation of words to be “awkward” or “grating” doesn’t mean that we are ignorant of grammar, any more than a poet’s use of substitutions in a line of verse means that he is not writing “perfect meter.”

    Monty pointed out something that I had also felt about the line in question — namely, that it just didn’t sound right. Screaming that the line follows “correct grammar” is not a valid argument against that perception.

    Yes, Mr. Kemper might be frustrated that the comments here went on without any attention to the substance of his poetry. But in many poems the actual substance or subject of the work is never in question. It was easy enough to follow what Mr. Kemper was saying in all three pieces, so discussion of their meaning was unnecessary. Of course all of us here love to get lots of in-depth commentary on the poems we post, but a poem with straightforward and uncomplicated meaning tends not to receive it.

    We all have our personality flaws. I’ve had it out with Monty many times on these threads, and he certainly can be mercurial and impulsive. But I can be insufferably arch and sarcastic, as I’m well aware. With all due respect to Mr. Flint, several of his comments here and at other threads show a somewhat authoritarian streak — the rigidity on metrical issues, the insistence that correct grammar conquers all, and his comment that Mr. Kemper’s change in the line “requires multiple lines to be altered.” (Really? Who says?)

    God knows I’m an authoritarian reactionary. But adherence to the traditions of formalist poetry is NOT about laying down absolute laws and regulations and requirements and moral strictures. These are the manacle-clanking tendencies of modernism and liberalism! Traditional formalist poetry is about writing whatever the hell you find interesting and pleasant, and doing it in the most elegant and felicitous English that you can manage. It is a licensed zone of hyper-reality, not a Platonic world of Forms. It has ALWAYS been that way, regardless of people with a philosophical or socio-political agenda who try to hijack our movement. (Ille qui habet aures, audiat).

    Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Prof. Salemi,
      Do we really need that comma after “aures”? (Just kidding!)

      Reply
    • Christopher Flint

      Mr. Salemi —

      Again, I respect you enormously, and I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts on “traditional formalist poetry”.

      I am disappointed, however, at the indictment of my character though I recognize you are freely entitled to such regard.

      With respect to changes, here is what Mr. Kemper had said at the time I spoke:

      “Back from work. Checking in. I’ll probably change “Have you” to “Do I” and set all in 1st P. I was going to call the sonnet in a sonnet “Dil” for the character with the big reveal, but thought it might be too over the top. More in the morning.”

      He is clearly acknowledging the need to reset all second person to first person if he resets any. That makes perfect sense to me. I wasn’t speculating about the need for multiple changes. I took Mr. Kemper’s word for it.

      I have nowhere knowingly attempted to be “authoritarian”. I have gone out of my way not to express my opinion as if it were fact, and to make sure that those I addressed understood that intention.

      That said, facts have to be stated as facts.

      Mr. Anderson first pointed out the fact and correctness of the present perfect tense and declared that Monty’s unfounded protest to Mr. Kemper was therefore not properly reasoned. Monty was not simply questioning poetic effectiveness at that point. He was rigidly declaring usage invalid. And at that point Mr. Anderson was not addressing poetic effectiveness at all.

      In his own thread, Mr. Anderson pointed out the fact that Mr. Kemper’s rhyme was not pure in a particular instance. That fact was related to, but separate from, Mr. Anderson’s implicit opinion that pure rhymes in that instance would have improved Mr. Kemper’s work.

      I have simply defended the fact that Mr. Kemper’s usage was correct. and that, as such, to many, it would not seem grating. Whether it was poetically effective is not where Monty started. I thought it served Mr. Kemper’s purpose well.

      I have not said anywhere that correct grammar conquers all. I have basically said that Monty has falsely accused folks of using invalid grammar as his way of asserting his “poetic sense” opinion. And I have agreed he is entitled to that abrasive technique. But I don’t think it becomes him or the SCP, and I think it wastes time. When he’s not speaking to a provable fact that he has researched, all he needs to do is state his discomfort as an opinion and offer an improvement like most everyone else is doing. He certainly would be well advised not to keep arguing the existence of facts he refuses to validate.

      I have gone far out of my way to make it very clear that my positions with respect to meter and rhyme are opinions from which I reason observations and suggestions. My opinions are rooted in facts as I know them, but they are themselves expressions of belief, not fact. If someone does not agree with my positions, they will understandably fault my reasoned observation and suggestion. When they do, the matter is moot.

      Unlike meter and rhyme, correctness of grammar and its application is generally argued from authorities, which reflect, in large measure, concensus.

      Whether poetry has to abide correct grammar is a matter of opinion. So is whether a particular grammatical option optimizes poetic effect. I have never suggested otherwise.

      I am at an utter loss to understand how, “in fairness…,” you have leveled yor accusations of grammatical and metrical rigidity (as if I insist on imposing my personal beliefs) without citing specific particulars.

      But those are your inarguable prerogative and I am not inviting further discussion.

      I can assure you, I have only the best interest of SCP and the contributors at heart. My time is too short and too precious to waste.

      Reply
  17. Daniel Kemper

    Up to the point where I stated my solution (and actually for a little while after) all was good for me. —btw, the solution that I chose requires changing several lines because it involves changing the person of the poem. That was just what it took to get to the point of resolution. Not one to shrug off work. After that it’s not about the poem or poetry. One can’t discuss it in terms of feel because the poem has changed; one can discuss the grammar still, but then it’s just that: grammar.

    It’s been a great party. Thanks everyone for coming.

    Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        But not before we’ve had a nightcap or two. Mr. Flint believes that his integrity has been impugned, and I would like to assure him that (in my opinion, at least) he has written nothing that smacks of pedantry, but has expressed explicitly his attentiveness to order and normative convention. And so to bed.

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