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Featured Guest Poet Sheila Freeman

The Clothes of the Dead

The clothes of the
dead lay folded,
in paper-lined drawers,
smelling of lilac,
or aged wood,
or not at all,

hang indifferent,
on hollowed hangars,
in airless closets,

musty and dispassionate,
the clothes of the dead
wait and wait and wait

September, 2000

Sheila Freeman's Questions:

1. how can i improve the ending?

2. is the poem too -short?

3. does it need more imagery?

4. is it worth salvaging?

I think you create a strong moving image, definitely worth working on. Here are a few comments: It's definitely not to short. I would look for some additional imagery in the 3rd vese from the and -- "musty and dispassionate" seems like too much naming not enough description. "The clothes of the dead lay folded," This break (after "the") sounds wierd. I'm not sure you need or [=>not at all,], it does not add much and really you could go directly to the next stanza wait and wait [I would drob the 3rd =>and wait] I hope it helps. All the best.
USA - Fri Sep 22 16:04:09 2000

This is straight forward, objective language. The short phrases throw up one image after another like old snapshots. Each stanza has its own focus, and the poem as a whole is very focused, and to that extent, works. The language, however, is rather banal. And there is not, to me, the sense that some occasion has inspired this piece, that the author is emotionally engaged. Your questions: My suggestion for improving the ending is that you try a little free association, see if you can open up your language, invoke some resonance. I don't think the length of the poem in any way deters the reader from your point. Not more imagery, but more varied. Is it worth salvaging? By all means.
John Owen
USA - Sun Sep 24 14:21:15 2000
First the poem is too short but just by a bit. I don't think it's a question of salvage, it's a question of another revision. I think you miss the opportunity to get the kind of grounding and emphasis that repetition would give you. I think each stanza should start with the anaphora of "The clothes of the dead". The Clothes of the Dead The clothes of the {tough line break} dead lay folded, in paper-lined drawers, smelling of lilac, or aged wood, or not at all. The clothes of the dead hang indifferent, on hollowed hangars, in airless closets, [ignoring the light] {just a suggestion but needs a line here} The clothes of the dead are musty and dispassionate. {I think this line repeats gestures from above and doesn't advance the poem. You should find something else} The clothes of the dead wait and wait and wait
Ian Wilson
USA - Wed Sep 27 12:17:31 2000
This poem is definetly not too short, and certainly worth revising one final time. There doesn't seem to be much to rework, other than the line break (the clothes of the dead)- you lose emphasis on the center of your image by breaking the line in half... If you want to keep the break in that particular line, I would suggest separating the word you want to stick with the reader the most and using it alone on the second line. Beautiful poetry, the length is perfect for making the reader read the poem twice....
USA - Wed Sep 27 15:00:34 2000
I felt the poem condensed too much at the end. It began with the nice details of the hanging and folded clothes: lilac-smelling, hanging on hollow hangers. But then the poem picks up speed fast with broad strokes: musty and dispassionate/ the clothes of the dead / wait and wait and wait. To create the static feeling you're portraying, it was all just too quick. I wondered what came next. To fix this, I would expand on the description of the waiting clothes, maybe bring in a parallel waiting of some kind, someone's. Make the read wait a bit to get the ending. It's an idea full of potential, the clothes of someone dead. You could bring a lot more out of the images, I think.
USA - Wed Sep 27 19:49:44 2000
I think the beginning images are excellant and quite evocative. The poem ended (for me) too quickly and abruptly. I would not break the line until after dead. I think there needs to be more breaking open the feeling behind clothes of the dead by adding a few more images/feelings I agree with Rachel that the line length breaks into a rthymn that does not fit the idea. In the end the closthes of the dead do go to meet them..... Thanks for sharing!! Denise
USA - Mon Oct 2 12:40:55 2000
With regard to your last question I would suggest that you end with a repitition of "The clothes of the dead." Your imagery throughout the poem was quite sufficient in conveying the very fact that they will wait. Being "told" again, and at the close of the poem, diminishes the work. Good luck in further revisions! Paul F.
paul Flannigan
canada - Mon Oct 2 22:13:10 2000
The poem is not too short, it just ends too abruptly while the readers is expecting something else, different from the "wait... In the first stanza, I'd drop "or not at all" and add another scent, a scent perceived not smelled. Was thinking of " of emptiness", thus involving the living observer. The repetition of "the clothes of the dead" ould be dropped in the second stanza and re-used in the third to shift the focus from the dead to the living. An additional line or two would do. Definitely, a poem worth working on. Thank you for the read. Paula
Paula Grenside
Italy - Wed Oct 4 11:37:54 2000

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