My Writers Circle

Poets Corner => Review My Poetry => Topic started by: Uncle Bill on May 15, 2006, 10:59:05 PM

Title: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 15, 2006, 10:59:05 PM
I saw a World War I memorial in Germany some years ago, and the memorial stood out in its uniqueness.  I can recall seeing no other WWI or WWII memorials during my stay in that country.

   The Cenotaph
  Still als wäre die Welt tot

   At the apex struts an imperial eagle,
   His talons biting the blood-red sandstone.

   On the sides a deathly glint
   Aspires from the arms of a Maltese cross

   On the base incised with names
   Of those who went, a perfect act of attrition.

   On the ground grey and crimson leaves
   Choked from nearby trees.

   All around a black fence marches
   Pincing memories.

   And all around cacophonous cobblestone
   Echo Clausewitz and Calamity Jane.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
 Reader Notes:

“Still als wäre die Welt tot:”  An adaptation from Alban Berg’s opera, Wozzek, Act I, Scene II, meaning, “Quiet as though the world were dead.

Clausewitz:  Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), Prussian military officer and theorist; his espousal of mass, defensive, military formations  “contributed to the deadlock and costly attrition strategy of 1914-1918...” (The Encyclopædia Britannica, 14th Ed., 1929, p. 5-782).

Calamity Jane:  A gun of the 11th Field Artillery that fired the last shot on the American front in World War I (The American Peoples Encyclopedia, Chicago: Spencer Press, Inc. 1960, p. 20-309).
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Lin on May 16, 2006, 03:00:34 AM
Oh yes yes yes - lovely!!  Ive also written something about the war in poetry and it was read by the Green Howards at my father's funeral.

Well chosen words.   

All the best

Lin
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 16, 2006, 08:05:50 AM
Thank you for your kind remarks, Lin.  I didn't write the poem as an anti-war poem per se;  I was just struck by the irony of the edifice.  And I did find it strange to see no other memorials in what was West Germany at the time.  I'm sure there were some.  But I never saw them.

Thanks again for the read and crit.

UB
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: squidgy on May 17, 2006, 12:01:37 PM
This was excellent! From the heart - remembering the souls.
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: katinka on May 17, 2006, 08:28:05 PM
love it! ;)
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Cathy C on May 17, 2006, 08:45:41 PM
Quote
“Quiet as though the world were dead.

It says it all UB.

Although, it has to be said that the memorial, to me, (Are these your words or the words quoted on it - wasn't sure from your post?) shows no remorse; no mention of the lives lost, the pain felt on both sides, or the futility of it all....

If not your words but an actual epitaph you saw, then I'm not surprised there weren't more. :'(

CATHY C
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 17, 2006, 09:06:27 PM
Squidgy, Kat & Cathy,

     Thank you for taking the time to read the poem, and for your generous remarks!

     I saw the war memorial in a small village in Germany in the early 1960s.  I was driving a truck through one of those traffic circles (I think the Brits call them Round Abouts) in the center of the town when I noticed the memorial off to one side.  At the time, this memorial struck me as wildly inappropriate in a country that many had perceived as a aggressor nation in WWI.  I attempted to capture that irony in the poem.  My impressions of the memorial were fleeting because I didn’t take the time to stop and to look at the memorial more closely.  But the details I wrote in the poem were accurate as far as I can recall.  The quotation from Berg’s opera, Wozzek, was included in the poem only to build atmosphere.  The memorial itself had no such inscription.
     I’ve always had a question in my mind about the last stanza: can you hear the sound of cannons and howitzers in those lines?  I tried to emulate those sounds with those highly discordant words.  Do you hear the artillery?

UB
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Cathy C on May 17, 2006, 09:18:30 PM
So, the poem was yours and yet... not yours. ;D

You captured it well UB.

Quote
And all around cacophonous cobblestone
   Echo Clausewitz and Calamity Jane.

Yeah, I can hear the noise, but I would change it slightly ( no surprise there. ;D)

And all around, cacophonous sounds of artillery
bouncing off the cobblestone
 Echo Clausewitz and Calamity Jane.

or something like that? :P

CATHY C

Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 17, 2006, 09:32:58 PM
Cathy,

I don't think so.  The words "sounds," "artillery," "bouncing," and "off" are too quiet to express those sounds because they are pronounced too far forward in the mouth.  You want glottals ("ca," "coph," "cob," "echo," etc.) to cough those words out of the mouth, like the explosion of cannon fire.  The hissing sound of the word "sounds" doesn't get it.  Ditto for artillery, bouncing and off.  Now if you had a bilabial plosive or two (e.g., "boom," "poof," "pow,"etc.), well,  I might consider that.

UB
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Cathy C on May 17, 2006, 09:40:45 PM
Quote
Now if you had a bilabial plosive or two (e.g., "boom," "poof," "pow,"etc.), well,  I might consider that.

We're still speaking English here? ???

Just checking. ;D

No, I get it. I've no idea about poetry but I can appreciate that guttural sounds would be necessary to express the setiment you need.

Soreeeee. :-[

CATHY C

The only
Quote
bilabial plosive
  (love that phrase, even if it isn't in the dictionary)sound I can come up with is Kerpow! (Batman, I think. ???)

Guess I'm no help at all? :'(
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 17, 2006, 10:09:26 PM
Cathy Dear,

     Oh, girl, you gotta get yourself a copy of John Lyons, Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969).  Look on page 121 to see those lovely bilabial plosives: "p," & "b."  Those phonemes are pronounced with both lips (hence, bilabial) initially, followed by an explosion of air (hence, plosive) as in the words "poof," "boots," etc.
     Incidentally, if you want to name a hunting dog who will respond to your commands, name the dog "Boots."  The word is a bilabial plosive with a nice, deeply resonant "oo" center, and a crisp "ts" ending sound.  That sort of a name will get a dog's attention because the word itself has an authoritative air about it.  Call your dog "Hugh" and the sucker will never listen to a thing you say.  For sure, for sure.

UB
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Cathy C on May 18, 2006, 01:33:20 PM
Quote
Call your dog "Hugh" and the sucker will never listen to a thing you say.  For sure, for sure.

Ah, so that's what happened to my brother? ;D

CATHY C
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 18, 2006, 02:49:22 PM
Cathy Dear,

Yup.  I'll betcha brother Hugh never listened to a single word you said.  It's all in the name.

UB
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: actpoet1 on May 18, 2006, 03:26:12 PM
I like the poem. Good structure, pacing, word choice and tone. However, I would like to have some "else" for the images to play off, so it smacks the reader more.

Just a thought.

Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: CarrieSheppard on May 18, 2006, 05:22:32 PM
I like it as is - conjours a very strong image for me. 

Carrie
Title: Re: Poem: The Cenotaph
Post by: Uncle Bill on May 19, 2006, 11:11:07 PM
actpoet1,

     I think you may be right about adding something to the poem to act as a sounding board for the other images/ideas/impressions in the poem.  I seem to have an annoying tendency to "describe" things rather than to show their characteristics through action; the resulting poems often look more like grocery lists than anything worth keeping.
     But thank you for taking the time to read the poem and to offer you comments.

UB