Sunday, August 24, 2014


Text by Leon Wing
Poem by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch


before water filled the open lung
of the baby grand.

This little poem is a haiku comprising 17 syllables, no matter the stress patterns, if any. Normally the lines would be cut into three parts, with a 5-7-5 number of syllables a line. Most of the time you 'd associate a haiku with serene and beautiful images of nature or some poignant experience.  

But as you can tell from reading this piece here that the first line only goes up to 3 syllables. The remaining two are brought down to the middle line, totalling the second line to 9 syllables. The last line never wavers from the normal 5 syllables.

If you happen to know something about reading music, you'd know that a cadence is made up of two chords usually found at the end of a piece of music. It can be applied to signal the end of the piece of music. 

And the cadence, or rather more than one of which, used in this poem signals the end of an event or passage. The line above doesn't say if it is an imperfect or perfect cadence. Usually if imperfect, it indicates that the sound wants to keep going in order to finish the music. If perfect, it means the sound is finishing the music. 

Whether perfect or imperfect, the cadence in the poem will still signal some kind of ending, of life, or of more than one life as implied by the plurality of the word.

The sudden and unexpected cutting of the line after just three syllables instead of the normal five indicates a sudden and precipitate cadence, a sudden interruption of its playing a song, some kind of sudden and unexpected event. And in this case, it is the crashing of an iceberg on the ship Titanic.

Instead of telling or showing us the drowning of the ship's unfortunate passengers and crew, the second and last lines take on the metaphoric image of a baby grand piano with its opened lid like an open lung, filling in with water.

'Titanic' is taken from Not In These Shoes by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch.

Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch's collections include Rockclimbing in Silk (Seren, 2001), Not in These Shoes (Picador, 2008) and Banjo (Picador, 2012). She was shortlisted twice for Wales Book of the Year. She received a Hawthornden Fellowship. She  won a Leverhulme writer in residence award in 2012 to collaborate with the National Wool Museum, with Rack Press putting out Lime & Winter in 2014. that same year in June she was poet in residence at the Dylan Thomas Boathouse. Literature Wales has awarded her a bursary to research and write her next collection. 

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bodybuilders Contest

Text by Leon Wing
Poem by Wisława Szymborska

Bodybuilders Contest 

From scalp to sole, all muscles in slow motion. 
The ocean of his torso drips with lotion. 
The king of all is he who preens and wrestles
with sinews twisted into monstrous pretzels. 

Onstage, he grapples with a grizzly bear 
the deadlier for not really being there. 
Three unseen panthers are in turn laid low,
each with one smoothly choreographed blow. 

He grunts while showing his poses and paces. 
His back alone has twenty different faces. 
The mammoth fist he raises as he wins 
is tribute to the force of vitamins. 

This amusing poem by Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska is a translation from the Polish. Whoever did this translation performed a superlative job of transposing the sing song rhythm, with regular unstress and stress patterns, ending each pair of lines with a rhyme.

This poem shows up the ridiculousness of these bodybuilding competitions, where monstrously muscled men preen around onstage, covered in oil, the better to show off those "monstrous pretzels" of muscles. They have to act or go through these routines which look as if they are grappling with a bear or beating off panthers in slow motion. This monstrosity is compounded by backs having different faces and a mammoth fist. The humour and mockery are heightened at the end of the poem, when the ending line praises the force - not the benefits - of vitamins.

Every line in this poem is in pentameter, with five beats or feet. In order to sustain this regular beat, when reading this following stanza, for instance, you have to read a normally unstressed word or syllable as a beat, or have to promote an unstress, as in IN. And if a normally stressed word or syllable happens to fall in the place of an unstressed position, you have to do the reverse, to demote the stress, as in "slow". 

And this sort of thing is happening in most of the lines. But if you insist on reading in a normal manner, like in actual speech, you will lose the rhythm, thus depriving the humour, mockery and sarcasm in the descriptions.

From SCALP  to SOLE, all MUScles IN slow MOtion. 
The Ocean OF his TORso DRIPS with LOtion. 
The KING of ALL is HE who PREENS and WREStles
with SInews TWISted INto MONstrous PRETzels. 


About Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska [qviˈswava ʂɨmˈbɔrska] : A Polish poet, essayist and translator, she was born in 2 July 1923  and died in 1 February 2012. She won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature for "poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality". Her countrymen called her the "Mozart of Poetry".  She even sells more books than other famous prose authors, and is translated into English, European languages, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Whole World Gets Together and Gangbangs a Deer

Text by Leon Wing
Poem by Patricia Lockwood

The Whole World Gets Together and Gangbangs a Deer

Bambi is fresh from the countryside. Bambi is fresh
and we want him on film. He doesn’t even know
how to kiss yet. “Lean in and part your lips,” we say, ...

This very short piece here is an excerpt from a much longer poem taken from a new collection "Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals" by Patricia Lockwood. This collection is the second from this young American poet, and her first for Penguin Books.

Even with just only three lines on show here, they look on the surface to be just a simple poem, a weird and incomprehensible one at that, about a countryside deer named Bambi, whom the whole world wants to put in a movie, a virgin who hasn't kissed before and who has to be taught how to (up to this point).

One could imagine the poet penning it in a dash, quickly and without any second thoughts over form or method. Well, you would think so, wouldn't you, with a title that doesn't look as though it means anything deeply poetic but is merely a shock tactic? These three lines alone will give you an indication of how the rest of the poem will read; and if so, you could easily just skim through the poem, thinking nothing much of it, and quickly turn to the next poem, without looking beneath the words, their significance. 

That deer in the title is Bambi, like that innocent deer character of the same name in the Disney cartoon. As Bambi is an animal, this hints at the term for a new recruit into an industry, the so called "fresh meat". Based on the sexual innuendo of the long title, it wouldn't be off the mark to guess at the sex industry, where you might come across some porn star named Bambi.   "fresh from the countryside" hints at the innocence and inexperience of someone entering the big bad world of the city. The name Bambi, in this case, applies so well here, as it is imbued with the sense of innocence as well as sexuality.

There is a purpose to the repetition of "Bambi is fresh", bounding the first line on opposite ends. Even though the rather long title is really quite telling, and it is very clear it is all about some violent act of sex, this is the only place where the poet says this explicitly. She doesn't do that inside the body of the poem, the stanza. Instead she utilises the repetition of those three words to allow a sense the insistence of the "bam" sound to mimick the violent wham banging act of sex. 

Besides those repeated plosives, you will also find a number of sibilant sounds in "fresh from", "..side" and, again, "fresh". Straddling these sounds is a solitary guttural "c" in country, and its stressed beat here rhymes with the unseen rude word for the female privates.

At the first line you think Bambi is some female character, but reading on to this second line that contains toned down or softened nasals and aspirants, you are surprised  - or confused - to learn that she is a "him".  But why a female name for a male? This could be hinting at some cross dressing, transgender or even gay element, who knows. And the sentence after the full stop underpins or confirms his innocence, his not knowing how to perform something. An enjambment happens at this point, to create a tension: What does he not know how to do?  The following line reveals that it is something as fundamental and as requisite to the sex act as a kiss.

This third and last line has a lot of softer sounds, making the harder ones like "kiss" and "part" stand out. "Kiss", with a hard and sharp guttural, reminds us of the unseen rudeness implicit in "country". The plosive in "part" is also hard and pointing back to the softer plosive of "Bambi", like a final part of an act, like an orgasm. Following the hard "p" in "part", the remaining sounds in "your lips,” we say, ..." go soft. And this acts like the relaxation after that orgasm.

I'm afraid I must only parse this poem up to the above three lines. If I take on the entire poem, this posting could run on and on, to several hundred words and more. If you really want to continue reading the rest of it, get Lockwood's book at the links below.


About Patricia Lockwood: She invented the "sext" poetic form and is notorious for her Twitter poems, gaining the title Poet Laureate of Twitter. In 2013 her prose poem "Rape Joke" went viral and gained the attention of The Guardian, who said it "casually reawakened a generation's interest in poetry." and of The Poetry Foundation who declared her poem "world famous."  She got into The Best American Poetry 2014 and won a Pushcart Prize.

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals is available from Google Play BooksAmazon,and Kobo.

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