Guest Poet Jim Gramann


There is heat in these bad lands
that is autocratic.
It persecutes without regard,
plunging an emphatic

thirst into the deepest pores
of being.  Stunned, the baked
geology devolved from it,
skeletons of naked

earth, the stark, defeated bones
of what remains of these
bad lands, murdered by the heat.
Sticks of limbs please

a grinning sun with ghastly shade,
and still the cloudless stare,
still the heat, the witless drone,
the life-engulfing flare

of wind that plunders rain, dishonors
roots.  The Badlands wind,
a prowling heat--But when this heat
turns on itself, is pinned

in clouds of rage, how the rain
exults!  Hear it thrum
the bones of earth, its untamed rout,
the cracking of its drum,

the resurrection of these lands
in rebel rain.  The drive,
thirst, lust, crest, shout!
To live!  Dear God, to live.

September, 2000

Jim Gramann's Questions:

1.  This poem is written in ballad stanzas, using an axbx rhyme pattern, but with little coincidence between sentence and either line or stanza. As a result, many rhymes are not picked up by the ear.  Are the rhymes that are heard distracting?  Should I abandon end-rhymes altogether?

2.  The next-to-last line contains four "defective" feet. The intent is to slow the forward motion of the poem because I thought it was ending prematurely, and also to emphasize the consonant rhymes in that line. Would it improve the line to write "the thirst, the lust, the crest, a shout!"?

Had I the Wakeless Sleep

Had I the wakeless sleep of slippered seas,
of tide's expectant shore, the rumored breeze,
propelled a river's race with willowed sky,
and nothing less than these

I would have mere hints of you--the ply
of sea before a wave, a murmur, shy
and velvet, blue soft-spoken in the leaves
as summers hurry by.

September, 2000

Jim Gramann's Questions:

1.  I'm concerned that, even for a love poem, the diction might be too quaint for contemporary ears.  What do you think?

2.  The first two lines contain in rapid succession four adjective-noun pairings. To avoid a sing-song repetition, I reversed the order of parts in the second line from that of the first (i.e., subject-preposition to preposition-subject).  Does this counter sing-song or reinforce it?


Elusive and ethereal,
fragile as a final flickered thought in
evening, echoing the frail fall
of snow on winter's neighborhood,
diminishing.  Surreal
quilt of remnants torn from half-forgotten
Februaries--pale, unraveling in the pall
of winter's dying labor.  I would

sadly feel her passing to the sad charade
of spring, whisper sadly in the still
of oldest solitude, Don't go.
Her constancy adrift, thinly frayed
to introspection. Gone. And still
I'd lift my face to flannel snow.

September, 2000

Jim Gramann's Questions:

1.  This sonnet is irregular in its meter, using many reduced lines, especially in the octave.  Does that distract?

2.   The turn at the sestet includes a shift from sentence fragments to complete sentences.  This was supposed to create a sad, song-like flow that would suddenly be interrupted by the finality of "Gone."  But I wonder if it's too schmaltzy. What do you think?

The Albany Poetry Workshop