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 Joie De Mourir
Posted: May 29 2007, 09:57 PM

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Beyond this arid pit is life, lived
incognito. Dreams resist
our beckoning. Just coax the one
that's closest. I can see
my wife: a rose
corsage adorns her wrist; her iris
catches the voyeur sun.

I see her neckline, hem and slit
unfurl then gather like geese
in flight. At dusk we dance and turn
to tell the termagant wind
to end its fit. Two shadows
move at the speed of night
across the shadeless halls
of hell.
Posted: Jun 1 2007, 01:15 PM

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Joined: 15-May 07

Hello DPK, it’s quite wonderful to have such a talented poet among us.

Sometimes the casual on-line poetry reader, active in many forums and things, forgets that among all the mediocre poems lie masterpieces. One could search through one hundred poems and find not one which demonstrated such refined ability like Joie De Mourir. Consequently such a poem is a nightmare, of sorts, for a critiquer because they become less helpful as the poem needs less help. However still I’m going to comment and try to give you as much feedback as possible.

Let’s start with the title, Joie De Mourir. I speak some French and can make my way around, and thank God that this isn’t a idiom or I would never have been able to understand it. Joy Of Dying, translated literally, is quite an interesting concept. I have asked some people if they have ever seen the movie The Fountain because it deals with this theme in such a magnificent fashion. If you have seen it, then you know what I mean, if you haven’t you should. Your title sets the stage for what seems to be, from the casual onlooker, a rather stupid and contrasting statement since most look for joy in life rather than death. What joy is there in dying? However the poem expands on the limitations of life and how these limitations are removed in death, and thus that is the joy of dying.

S1 features a speaker describing life almost as one grand limitation, it’s an “…arid pit…” which features “…[resisting] dreams…”. S1 then introduces the speakers wife, who seems to be outside under the sun.
S2 expands the description of the wife to fine detail, we have descriptions of her neckline, described through a simile to “…unfurl…”. S2 then moves on to describe the two dancing at dusk in a double hope to “…the termagant wind to end its fit…” and to escape “…across the shadeless halls of hell…”

This poem is composed of sixteen lines, two stanzas, fitted in iambic pentameter. This is the first thing you notice when reading it aloud. It is appropriate especially as the poem deals with a dance, not only between the two lovers, but also a dance between worlds (life and death). The iamb sets almost a musical tone to the piece which complements this context. Further introspection on the meter tells us this in fact a curgina, with a rhyming metrical verse, AABCCB.
The incorporated line breaks are exceptionally executed, for instance:
my wife: a rose
corsage adorns her wrist; her iris
catches the voyeur sun.

Here a pun on “…iris…” between the iris of the rose and her eye is enough to justify the form. The rest of the linebreaks are also well done.
Methods of delievery

The initial poem itself does not have any solid images illustrating its points “…lived incognito…” and “Dreams resist our beckoning…” etc. Rather these statements help introduce the general dislike attained by the speaker for life itself. Despite the lack of visual sensory descriptions it’s still effective, and you have some solid images later on:
a) “…a rose corsage adorns her wrist…” – Describing the rose corsage implements an idea that she is dressed formally, since these roses are given from partners at formal occasions. So I get the idea that this woman is looking immaculate and this is why the husband is so drawn to her, and moreover even the sun.
b) “…her iris catches the voyeur sun.” – The pun is very subtle here, but very effective. The joining of these two ideas, her eyes and the rose, with the pun incorporates some suggested relationship between the two, perhaps this woman is just like a rose, which represents beauty. Perhaps this is why the sun is looking at her in such a captivating, and maybe sexual, fashion.
c) “…voyeur sun…” – I touched on this slightly before, however this helps set the setting as near dusk, having the sun almost approach these people, and specifically the wife. As the sun appears to grow while it sets an image of it almost observing increasingly intently is suggested through describing it as voyeur. This also descirbes some sexual attraction as well. The personification makes the sun almost an evil entity, as if the man’s wife is being taken advantage of, further describing the limitations in life. Later on when the sun is gone these people are free, speciffically the wife, from it’s gaze, thus indulging in the joy of death. I must admit, this is excellently done.
d) “…hem and slit unfurl the gather like geese in flight…” – The geese imagery is a bit worn, but still succeds to help aid your description of how this woman looks. The further description of the woman almost “[unfurling]” emphasizes again her relation to the rose in an intimate fashion. Also the flight is perhaps foreshadowing for the flight from life they will undergo in moments.
e) “…turn to tell the termagant wind to end its fit…” – The image here achieves further descriptions of the dance the couple is undergoing. But rather than it being a gental graceful dance it seems a more violent one, as they are both quickly turning in defiance almost of the pressing and “..termagent wind…”. Of course, the wind also represents life and its demanding control over the actions of these two people. Their dance is almost in defiance of the wind, pushing them perhaps in another direction.
f) “Two shadows move at the speed of night…” – At first I had no idea what the speed of night was actually. But then I realised it is not the speed itself but the idea that night cloaks individuals movements and gives them the ability to almost sneak away. Thus rather then these two people, or “…shadows…”, moving at an actual speed, it’s in fact just movement without life or the “…voyeur sun…” watching, giving the illusion that they moved a great speed.
g) “…across the shadeless halls of hell…” – Hands down, the best image of this poem. The description that these people have fled life to hell seems rather startling, and we ask why is there joy in death if death leads you to hell? However this stark contrast only helps emphasize the great limitations of life, that even in hell a better existance can be maintained. Moreover, describing the halls of hell as shadeless tell us more of the vacancy of light, and the lack of that “…voyeur sun…” which the couple resented.

All in all, the images you used were excellent not only standing alone but also because they all worked together perfectly to illustrate the appeal of death and the limitation of life.

Metaphors and Similes
a) “…then gather like geese in flight…”
– I touched on this before. It’s slightly worn, but still greatly effective since it works well with some other aspects of the poem, in partcilular the flight foreshadows the actual coming flight of the two people to hell.

a) “Dreams resist our beckoning…” – It would of course be more appropriatly described with some tangible image empahsizing your point here, however even in the absence of sensory descriptions this personification here of dreams still fulfills your intentions to highlight the negatives of life.
b) “…voyeur sun…” – I’ve already touched on this.
c) “…iris…” – That is of the rose, which succeds to emphasize the connection between the woman and the rose, giving some reason for the sun to be overly allured to her.
d) “…termagant wind…” – Almost as if the wind was a fitting child, the parents are telling it to calm down.

All are very effective.
a) “…coax… that’s closest…”
b) “…rose corsage adorns…”
c) “….wrist…iris…”
d) “…gather like geese…”
e) “…dusk we dance…turn to tell…termagent…”
f) “…shadows…speed…shadless halls of hell…”

Overall you use some great liteary features to make your points.

Literal meaning
A married couple are outside why an interested sun watches his wife. After a dance they run off to hell.
Figurative meaning
Light is shown to be a grand limitation of life, specifically described through the personification of the sun as being ‘voyeur’. This gives an almost sexual, yet greatly inappropriate, characteristic of the sun eyeing the woman since she is this mans wife. More ideas describe how life isn’t so great, “Dreams resist our beckoning.” Etc. The poem becomes a metaphorical representation of how death should not be feared but welcomed and how in the end even if we end up in hell we will be in fact, ironically, better off.

Overall the direction and development of the poem was carefully executed, following very specific structure and maintaining an interesting rhyme. I had no idea where it was going, I couldn’t foresee what would happen, and the ending surprised me, with their going to hell.

Work this spectacular needs to be praised because not only does it require a skilful poet, but it requires much time and effort and brooding to get it to this level of refinement. It would be nice if you paired your initial claims with concrete images, showing us how our dreams resist our beckoning and how life is in fact lived incognito. It’s perhaps for these reasons why the parts after this are the most impacting and meaningful in the poem. Overall this was quite a pleasure to read, and I truly do love the idea of death being joyful. If you haven’t see that movie, it approaches death as a rebirth, not being reincarnated but rather once you die you become a part of the Earth.
A very interesting scene features one of the main characters describing to her husband how when an old man died and the villagers buried him, and over his grave planted a seed, and when that seed flourished to a tree which bore fruit, and that fruit was eaten by a sparrow, that man flew with the bird.

Take care, and I look forward to your future works here.
ms sleek
Posted: Jun 4 2007, 05:35 PM

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QUOTE (DPK @ May 29 2007, 09:57 PM)
Beyond this arid pit is life, lived
incognito.  Dreams resist
our beckoning.  Just coax the one
that's closest.  I can see
my wife:  a rose
corsage adorns her wrist;  her iris
catches the voyeur sun.

I see her neckline, hem and slit
unfurl then gather like geese
in flight.  At dusk we dance and turn
to tell the termagant wind
to end its fit.  Two shadows
move at the speed of night
across the shadeless halls
of hell.

The first image is ghostly;
it's the ethereal idea of the past.

At first there's a need to see a skeleton,
for example, a dried out flower on a bony wrist,
but then the iris makes more of the bones.

There is something 'bleachy' about it
under the sun, like the observer white washes,
or the observer wipes everything out but a breeze.

The dance is done at dusk.

And "speed of night" should be saved!

(nice line)

"(S)hadeless halls/of hell is some kind imagery,
but I'm not sure what it is, except to impose my own concrete coffins or crypts or something. It's needing to have more. More poem. Oddly, it's not finished. I suppose ghosts aren't.
Posted: Jun 12 2007, 09:11 PM

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Mike & Ms. Sleek:

Thank you very much for your thoughtful critiques. I will keep them in mind as I ponder revisions.

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