1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Shoreditch Orchid - Winning Entry in the Arvon International Poetry competition

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Gannon, Nov 18, 2008.

    Here is the winning entry in the Arvon International Poetry competition. Curious to know your thoughts on the piece. Without over-analysis (I've currently read it only once), I think for my taste it isn't tight enough, and that there are a couple of void terms, but that it is nevertheless very impressive, as a winning entry in an international poetry contest ought to be. The vivid imagery is particularly striking, especially when other than the orchid itself, it is not that exotic, rather and simply well-executed.

    What are your thoughts?

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?view=DETAILS&grid=A1YourView&xml=/arts/2008/10/31/boarvon.xml

    Shoreditch Orchid - Peter Daniels

    They’re grubbing up the old modern
    rusty concrete lampposts,
    with a special orange grab
    on a fixture removal unit.
    The planters come up behind
    with new old lampposts in lamppost green,
    and bury each root in a freshly-dug hole.
    The bus can’t get past, brooding in vibrations.
    We’re stuck at the half-refurbished
    late-Georgian crescent of handbag wholesalers.
    The window won’t open. The man behind me
    whistles “What A Wonderful World”,
    and I think to myself:

    Any day soon
    the rubble will be sifted; the streets all swept,
    and we’ll be aboard a millennium tram ride,
    the smooth one we’ve been promised, with a while yet to go
    until the rising sea and the exterminating meteor,
    but close before the war
    starting with the robocar disaster.
    And when the millennium crumbles,
    I’II be squinting through the corrugated fence
    at the wreck of the mayor’s armoured vehicle, upside down
    where they dumped the files of the Inner City Partnership;
    and as I kick an old kerbstone
    I’II find you, Shoreditch orchid, true and shy,
    rooting in the meadow streets
    through old cable, broken porcelain, rivets and springs;
    living off the bones of the railway.
    You’ll make your entry unannounced,
    in the distraction of buddleia throwing its slender legs
    out in the air from nothing,
    from off the highest parapets, cheap
    attention-seeking shrub from somewhere
    like nowhere. But here
    you’ll identify your own private genes,
    a quiet specimen-bloom seeded in junk,
    and no use to any of us; only an intricate bee-trap
    composed in simple waxy petals, waiting
    for the bees to reinvent their appetite.
    We’ll be waiting for the maps to kindle
    as we get settled, where we find ourselves
    undiscovering the city,
    its lost works, disestablished
    under the bridges. There’s no more bargaining
    for melons and good brass buttons.
    We share your niche
    and crouch as the falling sun
    shines through smoke, and the lampposts
    fail to light the night to the place all buses go.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The discussion as to what constitues poetry is not one for here, but one in which I'd be happy to participate. For the purposes of this thread let us agree to saying that as the piece won an international poetry contest, it must have appeared as such in the judges' eyes.

    It's an interesting point, that which you call the format of poetry. You are alluding to its structure, line lengths and breaks (aesthetics), and it's syntax. Indeed if you remove the poetic condiseration of these devices, then the piece could be presented as prose. I would have to argue that the feel would still be poetic but I'll come onto that.

    The point however is that these devices are present, and when combined with a host of other technique constitute, in this case, a poem. When and how to break up lines is a very powerful tool in a poet's arsenal. Along with punctuation, I find this device controls a reader, firstly in their breathing and secondly in their comprehension of the piece. Once the poet controls the reader he can guide them to his message. If he fails to control the reader's comprehension, the poem will fail to reveal all of its nuances.

    The effective line break will take into consideration that a seasoned reader will not stop at its end, and rather spill their reading into the next line; just as one would in reading prose. An even more effective line break will take that into consideration, and appreciate that in reality this doesn't (always) happen. These pauses allow for reflection on what has come before and allow for anticipation of what is to come next. They can then by extension allow the poet to build suspense, release and bathos, amongst other device, into the poem.

    An effective point at which to break is when an idea is complete, but a clause is not. This allows the spill over to clarify, concrete or contradict what has gone before, allowing the installation of some of the above device.

    The break can also assist with rhythm allowing for internal rhyme structure to appear, and allows for a overt imprint or tone to be set. The poet can set up traps for the reader based on assumptions made and dashed in the clarifying clauses. The poet can further control a reader's enjoyment of a piece with a well-placed line break if its use pleases the tongue, that is to say, if it helps the reading and its natural flow.

    Purely aesthetic line breaks such as you allude to above, where there is no reason for the break except to make the piece look like a poem, or to have lines that are roughly the same visual length are unwise. Poetry above anything is an art, and it is an art that requires careful choice and deployment of device such as the line break. Pyrely aesthetic breaks add nothing except a sense of aesthetics. The Aesthetes would of course argue that this is reason enough, but the majority of readers would not.

    As with all device, it is up to you the reader to determine how well the author has managed deployment, and how well he has framed it as a complete work. After a second and third reading, I maintain this isn't quite tight enough for my absolute adulation, but deeply appreciate the time and thought it took to weave such a deceptively complex poem, without it appearing such. That is an art. And this according to pure logic is therefore a poem.
     
  3. bobvinvent
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    bobvinvent Member

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    Is this a poem at all

    I share garmar's reservations about this poem, which lacks economy and resonance, and ends with a cringeworthy last line, which attempts to make up for the lack of emotion in the rest of its long-winded tedious chattering duration. Where are the memorable phrases that the reader can take away and admire? It all seems like a carefully researched and targeted affair, deliberately aimed at the London lit establishment who judged the competition. But then Andrew Motion our departing Poet Laureate, head of the judges, is no great artist himself compared to most of his predecessors.. If this poem is among the best composed this year, then English poetry is in a sorry state, suffering from a similar ephemerality as British art, which this week awarded the Turner Prize to a similarly undisciplined assembly of ideas as Mr Daniels' poem, which seems more like the first draft of notes than a presented offering. Lamentable.
     
  4. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting and informed thoughts bob. There is for sure a call for a potential review with regards to the economy of language, and I'd be first to agree for a review. However, it could also be said that the meandering approach to form represents his wandering around the Capital? I think the judges may have sided with the latter.

    And whilst I think 'cringe-worthy' is a little strong for the final line, I agree it jars in a piece that does rely on overt rhyme. I do wonder how that one got past his personal censure, as question it on every read, but assume that he likes the poetic, rhythmic finish it provides.

    As for memorable phrases, I'm not sure I here agree. This is not because there are memorable phrases here present because they are few and far or arguably inexistent, as you say. Rather, I think a piece needs to be memorable, rather than an extract. Memorable quips do help cement a piece in the reader but the collective should be what is most revered. It is no use having a few good lines propped up by mediocrity. The same can be said for having a great concept but failing to execute it.

    What hits home hardest in what you say is that, if this is the best there was, then it was a sorry contest. Now this is interesting. Poertry, of course, is hugely subjective, and as such this London based piece would appeal to London based judges more than a different panel. However, the reverse could also have been true. If one word of this poem rang untrue in the hearts of the judges, then its chances of winning were greatly magnified. As such I believe they believed this piece to be credible. In my mind, credibilty is one of the hardest aspects of any writing to acheive.

    I am not at the level to yet write poetry of this level. Nor, must it be said, is this this style in which I write - I try to be a lot tighter (back to economy). Where the resonance strikes, if not in the poem, is in the reader. I think that this poem rings attainable for the aspiring poet. It is not set on too high a pedestal. Just like the orchid itself, it inspires hope in the reader. I too, could spill ink in such a fashion. I too could describe a lazy day in my home town. Perhaps the judges were inspired by similar optimism: a poem for the everyday generation, where attention is short and blooms epemeral. Take what beauty you can, it is not sure to last.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It was a good poem, but to be honest, I was expecting something better from a winning entry. My immediate criticism is that he relied on too many adjectives to make it descriptive. It would be interesting to read other poems from the contest.
     
  6. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with both these sentiments. Anyone know where the other entries can be viewed so as to provide a comparison?

    I do very much like this entry, but as I hamfistedly attempted to say above, I like it because it is firstly rife with poetic device etc, but secondly and more crucially, because it is attainable. That is to say, that feasibly I, or someone here could produce such an entry to rival this one, given enough time and a few refinements etc. I like it because of this quality, it makes the piece optimistic, like the orchid itself, and also indentifiable.

    However, the problem with this is that as you say, if it is attainable, do we, as the reader not hope for more, something better as you put it? And I agree, but not whole-heartedly. Half-heartedly. I'm on the fence.
     
  7. bobvinvent
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    bobvinvent Member

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    I disagree with the above comment about the poem being "rife with poetic device". It is chopped-up prose redeemed somewhat with the imagery in the second section. If it won for its apparent "accessibility", its very prosaic unpoeticness, I think you would find that the public, rather than a London-dwelling right-on paid-up members of the informed PC lit establishment would think this is barely poetry at all and rightly criticise it on that score. I won't sit on the fence just in case it might be a good poem. It isn't.
     
  8. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that is a fairly sweeping statement. I think your arguement may be that the quality of the winning entry might not be to your expected standard, but that does not prevent it from being simply a 'good' poem out of context. For us to know if it was good enough to deserve winning the contest, we would need to see the other contenders.

    I'm certainly not arguing that it is a great poem, or even that it deserved to win, rather that away from that context, it can, and in my opinion, does stand alone as a good poem.

    In terms of justification, I could concentrate on the super or meta-poetical aspects such as what we have already discussed - its optimism and inspirational qualities, or the one as yet undiscussed, that any work that can inspire debate is a cut above (or below, one could argue of course!).

    But for the purpose of this justification I can refer to Daniels' variant syntax, none-perfunctory line break employment, juxtaposition (rusty concrete), jarring dichotomy (old modern), reliable metaphor and personification (brooding buses), irony (albeit heavy-handed "What a wondeful world), variant repetition and subsequent emphasis, complex social deixis, throw away alliteration, assonance and at least once rhyme, and a host of vibrant imagery, which in fairness could be location specific in terms of warm identifiability. And I'm sure there will be more at play with a detailed analysis.

    Like I said, I'm not vying to hail this a great poem, rather to restate my claim that I like it and for which reasons, and there are enough ticks for me to be happy in that otherwise unsubstantiated claim. Kind regards.
     

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