Friday, September 05, 2008

Poems of the Day - 5

The Ensemble by Floyd Skloot is today’s offering from Poetry Daily. It’s about a theatre troupe rehearsing an amateur production of Hamlet. Skloot employs quite a tight iambic pentameter but skilfully varies the rhythm from line to line – the poem never succumbs to a ti-tum ti-tum ti-tum monotony. The tone is informal and humorous but not ironic. The foibles of the characters are celebrated rather than made fun of. Skloot succeeds both in sticking to his rhyme scheme without anything seeming forced into the pattern and also in using the line-breaks to create various effects – often of surprise e.g. “inner/ hothead”, “together/ tomorrow”. I loved the lines:

Meanwhile, the Gertrude whispering her way
through another chest cold still does not know
her speech from Act Three, saying No more sweets,
instead of No more, sweet Hamlet!

Skloot captures the seriousness, humour, attitudes, fears, and hopes that run through a cast like that, and makes it simply an object of celebration in the final lines. Perhaps he could have done a little more at the end? Maybe, but I don’t think he wanted to, and at least he resisted the temptation to leap for some fake epiphany. The poem isn't aiming to be cutting-edge stuff, but it is enjoyable, authentic and very well written. 4/6

A strong finish for Kim Gek Lin Short at No Tell Motel with Death Certificate. She succeeds in combining motifs from plastic surgery, religion and magic in what appears to be a scene of death and rebirth. The death certificate, presumably, is the “coiled piece of paper torn from a soup can” and Harlan, the bugman, is “induced,” a word that might admit more than one interpretation. There’s a constant juxtaposition of the sacred and profane throughout the narrative - plastic surgery is compared to the Sunday church service, the configuration of the heavens gives way to an image borrowed from a typical TV magician. So well handled shifts of imagery, a sense of mystery, and good writing. Kim Gek Lin Short’s best of the week, I think. 4/6

No Tell Motel doesn’t post poems over weekends and, even though Poetry Daily still continues, I think I’ll make these posts a weekday-only thing. I’ve made the marks out of 6 rather than out of 5 on the all the posts – just to give me a little more room for manoeuvre.


Andrew Shields said...

I've read very little Skloot—basically whatever appears on PD. But every time they have a poem of his, I enjoy it very much. I think the deadpan approach that you comment on in your discussion of the ending is essential here; he's not trying to compete with Shakespeare, after all, but to address the human side of performance, and it would mess it up to reach for too much.

Kim Gek Lin Short said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Will said...

I very much enjoyed the Skloot poem, and not just because I know the world of theatre as he obviously does. It's terse but open, with delicious character notes very deftly described. Like you I admire the construction of the poem: it has form and structure, but with a degree of freedom.