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Sweet Helen

July 19, 2011


The face that launched a thousand ships,
possessed by poets, painters. Fucked.
Retold, remodelled; nipped and tucked.

How do I love thee? Watch my lips
embraced in silence. Hows erased
by queuing suitors’ fingertips.

That’s my last Duchess painted, sucked,
-the face that launched a thousand quips.

With thanks and apologies to Marlowe, Browning and Browning
This is an octain, a form devised by Luke Prater – who also provided the final line.
Painting: Helen of Troy by Evelyn de Morgan, 1898

From → Uncategorized

  1. Cheers @dVerse and all you word fanatics out there .. xx

  2. one emoticon: 🙂

  3. cheers becky – and wow…what a poem…!!! this sweet helen…goodness – there’s dynamite in your words

  4. thanks, Claudia … thought she served a night out…. 🙂

    Hi Gary….thanks for dropping in…

  5. A great Octain Becky… you are so sharp with words. I think no apologies needed to Marlowe et al.

    (incidentally if you’re having blog formatting problems with a gap between each line you just need to go into the HTML editor to paste it in and make sure there’s no code around/no gaps where you don’t want them before you look at it with the visual editor).

  6. ha. nice dexterity of word…and some fun word play along the way…

  7. thanks Brian … cheers.. or guess that should at the very least be bottom’s up…

  8. thanks, Luke…. as you know..this was the first…so pretty fond of it x

    yep..and the view from here is interesting too…only got these up an hour ago….appreciate your formatting tips… and encouragement at FEPC … what aplace to learn … looks like @dVerse is going to shape up… cheers…mine’s a…

  9. emma permalink

    Yay Becky…I didn’t realize you were blogging. I love this poem, your words flow effortlessly and come together to tell such interesting stories. Looking forward to more.

    • Hey Emma…welcome..! I got this up at 7.50 this evening… that’s why it looks v.v. dull… but had to start..didn’t want to miss this event..such a buzz.. ever.. for your warm support…your turn soon..?

  10. Read and loved this before on Facial Expressions Poetry Circle. Very witty and clever write.

    • Thanks, Avril…yes, FEPC has been a warm embrace..and a kick up the octains… I’m learning every time I go there..

  11. Sweet Helen, indeed! This is an edgy Octain, Becky!

  12. Fantastic Octain Becky!

    • Thanks, Christi…. really appreciate your response … do love those octains.. 🙂 Thanks for visiting..

  13. I missed this on FEPC…so good. I’ll be looking for more of your work. I like the cheeky tone of this.

    • Thank You..! It was a lot of fun to write… Yes…will see you on FEPC…thanks for dropping in here

  14. Oh! An Octain! Wonderfully crafted and full of imagery. This is brilliant. I love it.


    • Hi Beth.. Thanks for dropping in and for your ! response… 🙂

      More than a little besotted with octains ..

  15. hummmmm… love the dialogue tween artist and work

  16. Great Octain Becky, loved this one when I read it on the board. Sharp witty piece, poem’s not bad either haha.

  17. Sharp, clever – and poor, sweet Helen!

  18. really clever writing ….thank you

  19. No apologies indeed…just pure poetic power! Wonderful 🙂

    • Thank you so much… this was my first octain and my second poem .. so special to me for those things.. 🙂

  20. The face that launched a thousand ships,
    possessed by poets, painters. Fucked.
    Retold, remodelled; nipped and tucked.

    I like the quick pace that you establish, it’s the start of the poem and so you’ve set the meter running very well indeed and when you read the next portion that ‘possessed by poets’ becomes quite lovely.

    How do I love thee? Watch my lips
    embraced in silence. Hows erased
    by queuing suitors’ fingertips.

    I like how this uses the well known phrase of ‘How do I love thee’ and then you immediately introduce a silence, as a reader I think ‘damn it’ because there’s like a behind closed door aspect. ‘Watch my lips’
    ‘Hows erased’
    ‘by queing suitors fingertips’

    each one of those statements is quite lovely and quite condensed and meaningful.The silence hard on the heels of ‘watch’ so that you are really saying ‘imagine’ and giving us just enough to pique that imagination.
    Hows erased is stunning and quite stunning for being so short, it is the magic of action and doing and so I go back to that opening section and compare that to those poets and their beautiful Helen, in this poem the narrator is a beautiful Helen. That is so eminent, the wonder of, the intimacy of line. Poetry for the world v communion between two people.

    ‘by queing suitors fingertips’ ‘
    I very much like that this sentence is a little laboured. I don’t mean you have done a bad job with it, it’s the the sonic quality of it slows down and each word is drawn, this is like love and touching and deliberation and that says so much about the moment.

    That’s my last Duchess painted, sucked,
    -the face that launched a thousand quips.

    I don’t know exactly what the penultimate line means, something like that’s my take or that’s my story or this is my poetic take on that story (of Helen)

    or simply that this is the way you live your life.

    I don’t have to know, the thing is you’ve led me so very well throughout the poem, I can just linger there and enjoy it.

    Excellent poem, archives are great.

    • Thank you so much for that in-depth comment… longer than the poem..:) As you see, this was the start of my writing, so quite a special poem for me.

      I’m thrilled to hear your reading of it and how it unrolled for you. Just in case you’re interested, the majority of the penultimate line (in italics) is a quotes from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnet (XLIII Sonnets from the Portuguese)… probably one of her best known and this is part of the opening line. So in that sense it was another way of referring to how artists, writers possess and reproduce identities of their subjects, but also how another poet has asked a question about love. The ‘sucked’ is a direct reference to how Helen’s identity has been appropriated. Good to know you didn’t mind not totally getting that… I think that is probably the weakest part and might be revised one of these days..

      I very much enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this.. 🙂

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