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how to discern gardens from woodland

by AvantCoffee

750-1300 AD
we are plagued by our dead ends.
we let the infected touch the earth for us.
we watch them tie our hedges in knots.
in the high spire we exchange candles
with the glass-shattered saints
for a flame to judge the evergreen maze
or whoever’s feet it writhed from.

1300-1550 AD
we follow a trail of ashes
to the childhood vision long overgrown 
and drag the statues to our gardens
because they never see past their simpler time
we like that.
we wash out the mortality with fountain song.
see, it is not stealing when Persephone was
already forced into hell.

1550-1800 AD
when it all comes down
war is flattened land to impose gardens on.
we have tamed beasts before with right angles.
we have taught the flowers our language  
so we can understand where man ends
and asymmetry begins.
we are rulers; measurers of charted lands.
the rest is but petalled hearts and absent dreams.

1700-1900 AD
we remembered our blood beating
in the machine thumping
and let moss soften our edges.
this is why the ships launched:
not for the new age, not for a time past
but a time that will come again
as it always does, beauty
always does.
we let the ships drown for chaos
as it splits the pavement gently.

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814 Reviews

Points: 28551
Reviews: 814

Wed May 29, 2019 6:43 am
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Morrigan wrote a review...

Hello Coffeeism,

I don't think I've ever thought so deeply about gardening before. I never even thought about how old gardens are. Because of this poem, I find myself on the "History of gardening" Wikipedia page, which I did not realize existed before!

Overall, I really enjoy the imagery in this poem, and I think I get the gist of what you were going for, but there are a few questions that this poem has raised for me that I think can be answered by a more focused execution of the poem.

In the first stanza, I believe you're speaking of a hedge maze. Because you put the years in there, I went ahead and searched for some basic historical information about hedge mazes. Wikipedia, not that it's the most reliable source of information, says that the first hedge maze was built around 1460. That doesn't really line up with the date that you provided, but maybe I'm missing something. I know that this is more metaphorical than historical, but if you're going to put specific dates, people will look up information. I also stumbled upon something a little earlier called a knot garden. It's not within this time period still, but I'm wondering if you were speaking of these instead? Either way, I think the imagery in this stanza is wonderfully dark and brooding.

The second stanza doesn't have as much imagery, and I think that's a shame. I really liked what you had going, and I kind of want a little more about the statues here. Something in their feeling or appearance that suggests they're stuck in the simpler time. I don't have a prescription to change this, but something feels lackluster here. I do like the last line in the stanza about Persephone. It really resonated with me.

when it all comes down
This line is totally unnecessary, and it keeps me from getting right into the meat of the stanza. Remove it for a smoother entry into this section. In this section more than any of the others, the tense feels clunky. Now that I'm looking back though, it looks like you switch tense several times. Make sure you're only using one tense. In the first stanza, you use present tense. In the second stanza, you start in past tense, and then switch to present tense. Here, in this stanza, you're using present perfect tense. In the last stanza, we have past tense. It would be less distracting for the reader if you only used one tense instead of switching all over the place.

I agree with Vervain-- there are parts that need more punch and more focus. I like most of the imagery you've got going on, but more specific word choice would help you here. Make sure you're not lingering on lines that aren't needed, as well. I always like to read my poems out loud to myself so I can catch any weirdness. It's amazing what you can hear, but can't see!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I hope that this review proves useful for you! Happy writing, and happy YWSing!

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423 Reviews

Points: 0
Reviews: 423

Sun May 26, 2019 2:29 pm
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Vervain wrote a review...

Hi Coffee! Here for a review; I haven't looked at poetry in a while, so apologies if I'm a bit rusty.

I feel like this is a really strong concept for a poem, but I'd like to see a bit of what was happening socially at these times that drove people to make these changes to garden architecture. I know this is more metaphorical than literal, but since you're basing this off real history and real periods of gardening, it might be a good idea to have some strips in-between as well for transitions.

You've also, at the end, written 1550-1800 and 1700-1900. I'm not sure if that overlap is purposeful, just thought I'd point it out for you.

You have a few lines in here that feel awkward to me, and I think it's because of the tense this poem is written in. Present tense can be difficult to pull off, and while I think this poem does it spectacularly for the most part, a few lines -- the ones you've written in past and past perfect -- feel a little out of place. I'd recommend taking a look at the first two lines of the second stanza, and the third and fourth lines of the third stanza, to see if there's any way to make those flow a little better.

You start a lot of your lines with conjunctions, which I think is adding to my issues with the flow in this poem. There's no real punch to any of the lines, and they all feel soft and blurry with the lines before and after them. This is something I think is a diction issue, and stronger word choice would preclude the need to have the conjunctions, much less have them beginning the lines.

The last line especially -- "as it splits the pavement gently" -- feels anticlimactic to a poem that is, effectively, about the entirety of US/European gardening habits. I think that in this case, it feels very passive, and you could go about making it more active in that "the pavement splits for chaos", finding different ways to phrase that idea.

I recommend messing around with the phrasing in this poem, picking different words and different orders to put them in, until you find a word/word order that gives it a bit more punch. As it is, it's a really good concept, but I find it pretty lackluster in execution. Keep writing!

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15 Reviews

Points: 353
Reviews: 15

Sat May 25, 2019 8:49 pm
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ThePenultimateGinger wrote a review...

Does this count as a review? I'm counting it as a review.
This poem is rad as hell, I just. Waving my arms around frantically right now. Even Grammarly couldn't find the right verb for it. GOD. I love the imagery. I'd hang this on my wall. Or in my greenhouse. It's so good. I loved it. Besides the date on the fifth section being from 1700-1900, which is a bit weird because you already covered the 1700s between 1550-1800, that was a little annoying. And I think it would've been interesting to see the 2000s covered, with all of the environmental challenges ahead of us. But the rest was excellent! I love how the rhythm is chaotic and controlled at the same time. I'm curious, is it intentional or did I just read into it too much?

AvantCoffee says...

Haha I appreciate this. Yeah that date is weird because the historical movement of that time (Romanticism) overlaps the one before, which is fairly annoying but I aimed for accuracy so ugh. I also thought to do the 2000s! But I might in a more intimate 'part 2' poem or some such something. And I did try to give it a chaotic-yet-controlled sort of rhythm, so I'm glad that sort of came across~

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.
— Franz Kafka