The Process

On The Nature Of Charm

When the Hindu word
for incalculable charm
was uttered suddenly
in a poetry class
I noticed just how small
your breasts might be--

Like two small wrens I chase at dawn,
two blue eggs trapped in the fabric
of a summer day--

Later by the Riviera
apartment pool
you mentioned--dualism is reductionist
too bad there are only two
of us, I mused,
sitting on UV resistant chairs,
waiting for the moonrise.

Yet the mysterious word
lingering toward the semester's end
tunneled like a snowflake
into my denim cuffs, and up my shirt.

Even when you were in Central Asia
digging into dusty ruins, learning
a forgotten language in your sleep,
I was in my room
with the parakeet your husband
gave to me.

I thought of the moment when you spoke,
your syllables like a waterfall
tumbling over foliage
in the land where he was stolen,
of the word which I now repeat
as the parakeet's iridescent feathers part
and brush his wire cage.

The brass hinge creaks
in the empty room.
I tell him my own name,
place it on his beak,
but he does not talk
or tilt his eyes.

Yet charm exists
in the smallest things --
it binds the atoms of my hand,
its spin
determines which way your hair will part
or if the yolk will break today
this morning when you are not here:

I cook in orange sunlight,
the parakeet shifts his talons
on the wooden pegs each hour,
flexing hollow bones
inside his ancient wings.

Editor #1 -- no
Editor #2 -- Very lovely, but I do wish the author would tighten things up a bit. For me, the real meat of this poem starts at this verse:

"Even when you were in Central Asia . . ."

I'm not sure I needed to hear anything that came before that except the first two lines which establish the premise of the poem (the Hindu word for incalculable charm). I could have done without the verse on the Riviera apartment pool which I felt was a distraction and only delayed me from the real thrust of things. After that, it got very interesting and captivating and honing in on the parakeet gave me much to consider. I'm giving it a grade of C because I'd like to see what a little further editing and cutting on this one could do for the overall momentum.
Editor #3 -- A+ There is so much to say about this poem. It is tight both subject wise, and form wise. Some of the lines are so startling and good. This, to me is a great poem.
Editor #4 -- Like the images, but got a little lost in the narrative. B
Editor #5 -- B
Editor #6 -- C, I can't score this one higher because I want it to be a great poem. Right now it's a good one. Lacks clarity and needs to be compressed.
Editor #7 -- A
Editor #8 -- Expertly worded. Fine piece. B+

"On the Nature of Charm"'s greatest weakness was that it was previously published in the Winter 2002 issue of Poet's Canvas. While Stirring does accept previously published work, we are always touchy about publishing it, especially if it appeared in another Internet-only publication. While it is over our six month window period for previously published work, I still was much more hesitant than I normally would about the piece appearing in Stirring.

When this happens, I look more closely at the comments than I might normally. Instead of focusing on the A's that this poem received, I start to look at the C's and the comments concerning its compression. And of course, I start to agree with them. I mean, hey, I'm human. But in the same sense, it is an awesome poem, and I am a fan of the author, who always manages to amaze. Not to mention that's he's a big name on the net, so it never hurts to push his work through the process a bit harder than I may with others. (Hint to those looking to submit: I also like to push young poets and previously unpublished poets.) What I mean by this, is that I may select a piece to go through the round of cuts that I might not from another author because I *want* that writer to appear in the next issue. Some writers have even gotten to the point that their submissions are so consistently tight and well-written, that they are given an automatic greenlight through the first round of cuts. (Though this usually takes over seven appearances in teh Stirring, and at least one in our Best Of section.) From there, it's up to the other editors, though. Even if I am totally infatuated with someone and want to bear their children, if the other eight editors don't agree with me, it's all for naught.

In the long run, I decided to hedge my bets and hold it over for consideration in the November issue. I wish I could tell you whether it was going to run or not, now, but that all depends on the quality of submissions that we receive between now and then, and their publication status -- we always try to give preference to unpublished work. And in David's defense, he did send us one unpublished poem in the submission batch . . . but he made the mistake of wowing us with "On the Nature of Charm" first. :) Regardless of publication, though, I know I can con David into sending us more work. (Or at least, I hope so.) So don't expect us to go Cazden-less for too long.

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