Please VOTE!!! for your favourite poem(s) in the Anthology Thread, SDMB Poetry Sweatshop, March 2011

It is 9 PM EDT - the March 2011 Poetry Sweatshop will close an hour from now. In the meantime, I will start posting the poems I’ve received thus far, and I’ll start the poll at 10 PM. As I write this, interested poets still have one hour to submit something.

Past poets (and I) have greatly appreciated people’s comments and feedback on the works presented here. I have one simple request - please wait one hour until the Sweatshop officially ends at 10 PM before posting anything else. That way, the first replies are all just the poems. After 10 PM - yes, please, we welcome your input!

I just want to emphasize the importance of voting - the poets are depending on you for an outside opinion of their work. The poll is by secret ballot, so no one need ever know how you voted. As we have done for the last few months, I will make this a multiple choice poll.

Please note that the poll is seeking your favourite poem - no special knowledge of poetry required. Whichever poems strike a chord with you, please give them your vote. And, though the choice will be difficult, please take the time to choose at least one poem.

I also want to mention that because of our working method, all of the following poems will be posted under my user name, which may lead people to think that I am trying to claim authorship. Only one of the following poems is mine - the authors’ names may be found in the spoiler boxes at the bottom of each reply.

The three words this month are:


And so, allow me to present our poets’ work for this March…

I won’t admit I lost your hand’s grip
in this maelstrom of mortal turns;

six PM, the cell phone hollow ringing
in the store, answered by my partner
who turned pale and gave it over

for me to hold as your mother spoke
gentle static over a distant line–
you’ve left by your own final rope.

Sick, dragged from the floor
and to the freezing car, winded
by the weight of strangled sobs

and chest reeling from the convulsive
tremors, I find my voice as a stream
of violent curses echoing on windows,

loud in the closed space, my fist
into the dash with the cracking
of plastic and the whispered promise

as I pass through the darkened city:
I’ll never visit your grave.

Angel of the Lord

When questioned what the gentle mortal gave
Titania still displays a silent smile.
Her Oberon, ashamed, now like a slave
Attentive to her whims and her desire
Attempts to make amends for his cruel jest.

When Bottom feels the length’ning of the days,
His daydreams centre round a certain bower
And each Mid-Summer’s Night, he makes his way
With his guitar, waits til the midnight hour
And plays the blues Her Majesty requests.

As he brays ‘Can’t get no satisfaction’
He makes his Dobro moan as best he can
He makes good use of Oberon’s distraction
And dreams that he can be her back-door man,
His muse, who held his mane next to her breast…

Le Minister de l’au-delà

He was easy to ignore
just another stray on the street
unwanted, unwelcome, unwashed
averse to cars and extended hands
shying away even from the kind and gentle
passersby who saw him now and then:
a dirty brown coat, mangy, flea-bit, thin
with chewed-upon ears and dull dark eyes
undoubtedly mortal, death not far distant, and
unloved, as if he had always been so.

To see him you wouldn’t know - couldn’t -
of another time, a better life
for he had once had a home
and food, and toys, and a collar
and a family who loved their dog and
gave him sunny days and restful nights
but no more, no more
and now he was
left with nothing
only his furtive dreams
of a warm house that wasn’t there anymore
even if he could have found it.

Elendil’s Heir


In the morning, when I got up,
I repeated my daily ritual -
Mornings are both hard and fuzzy; the shower’s
Water almost cleanses the night from us, but doesn’t quite manage.

I went into the closet as always,
Trying to pick the clothes I’d wear that day.
Sleepy, I forgot what I went in there to
Do and was upset that I needed to go back inside.

When I turned I saw the cricket.
He stood or maybe squatted still and calm.
He frightened me, though he was still, green and
Calm. He was very round, a veritable Buddha of bugs.

I jumped back, but still he sat there,
Unperturbed by my agitation.
He was a fat cricket and he sat on
My bookshelf. Or squatted, or stood. One never knows with insects.

He hanged upside down on the shelf,
He seemed to look at me with no eyes,
But he did not see me, he did not see
Anything. Or if he did, it wasn’t in my room he saw it.

He gave an odd impression of thought,
and I began to think he meditated,
That the creature contemplated dreams that
No other mortal did. The cricket made me feel queer and alone.

But I was wet and cold and naked.
The gentle moment passed, I felt angry.
I went back into my closet, put on my
Trousers and went to work. I kept thinking of him all day long.

At night I forgot him.


And with the poll established, the writing portion of the March 2011 SDMB Poetry Sweatshop draws to a close. Now, I get the real pleasure of savouring everyone’s well-chosen words.

I’d like to open the floor to commentary, as well. It is a very interesting aspect of these Sweatshops - the opportunity to hear what your readers think, as opposed to what an editor or teacher thinks.

And please, take a moment to cast a vote. If I may suggest, read them over and the next day, whichever one you find yourself remembering, vote for it.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Mods for their ongoing support - it is greatly appreciated.


I voted for the cricket and Bottom. Cricket made me think and Bottom made me smile. I didn’t quite connect with the other two.

[twelve year old boy]back-door man : snicker :[/twelve year old boy]

The First Stage (tore me up).

Anyone care to explain this? Did the Father commit suicide?

I thought it was an estranged adult child (the first line) but I could be wrong, and yes - suicide.

I think one of the most effective things about ‘The First Stage’ is that the relationship isn’t detailed in any way - to the narrator it is so clear that it doesn’t need spelling out, whereas the raw emotion does need to be expressed in an uncontrolled flood. ‘Your mother’ could be the speaker’s wife but it doesn’t have to be. It’s beautifully done.

Sorry, I had to go for a minute - another thing I love about ‘The First Stage’ is the description of the speaker’s physical reaction to the news and how it matches the symptoms of death by asphyxiation.

I really enjoyed the untitled poem about the cricket, especially that after the sartorial revelation of the Buddha nature of a cricket, by night the speaker has forgotten that experience. I had never before considered a cricket as a gateway to the unknowable, but that’s exactly right. You can never tell with insects…

I’m hoping that we’ll get some more people voting and commenting in the next little while - it’s been quiet these last couple of days.

This time limit is a lot tougher than I expected. I almost didn’t manage to write anything at all and what I did write I found very disappointing. Congratulations to all the other poets for such great jobs! I certainly don’t know how you did it. I’d need a lot longer with my own poem before I’d be happy. I wanted it both more concise and longer. Lots of stuff ended up left out and what made it in wasn’t all that well expressed. Maybe next time I’ll try a fixed form and see if that helps.

My favorite was Bottom’s Bounce, by Le Ministre de l’au-delà, which was witty and sexy and incredibly polished. I loved all the Rolling Stones references and wonder if I missed any. The heavy use of alliteration in the last verse was just perfect, with the rough, masculine “H” sounds contrasting with the soft “M” sounds as if giving us a preview of what will happen in the bower after the poem ends. The whole last stanza was very well thought out, with great use of anaphora and internal rhyme at key points.

I almost voted for Le Ministre de l’au-delà but it felt a bit as if I’d be voting against myself, so I ended up abstaining.

vdgg81 - many thanks for those kind words. I appreciate it very much.
I need to run, but I wanted to give this a quick bump to see if there might be any more interested people out there who haven’t voted yet. We have around 12 hours more before the close of the poll…

Best wishes, everyone.

I’ll bump it, too. C’mon, Dopers, vote!

I did like, “Bottom’s Bounce,” I must say. The wordplay, the song references, the rhythm and the rhyme scheme–it was carefully crafted, and a lot of fun to read!

With the close of the poll, we have reached the end of the March 2011 SDMB Poetry Sweatshop. I would first like to congratulate our poets - Angel of the Lord, Le Minister de l’au-delà, Elendil’s Heir and vdgg81 - for their outstanding work this month.

And it is my pleasure to offer my particular congratulations to Angel of the Lord, the ‘Poet Laureate of the Straight Dope Message Board’ and author of the powerful ‘The First Stage’. Bravo!

I would also like to take this moment to thank the Mods for their ongoing help and support. I’d like to thank our readers and voters as well - your participation is greatly appreciated.

Next Poetry Sweatshop will be sometime in late May. Meanwhile, for those interested, I hope to be running a Short Fiction contest sometime in the last week of April.

My best wishes to all of you,

Le Ministre de l’au-delà

Congrats, Angel, and thanks, Ministre!

Congrats all, well done on all accounts!