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Turkish Gown in the Ashmolean Museum

August 4, 2011

Turkish Gown in the Ashmolean Museum

Preserved between old Turkish folds
the richest pigment, youthful, lush:
concealed essentials, memoir’s blush.

Embedded snatches, wrinkles mould
raw history – still botox-free –
uneven, plastic, uncajoled

by fill’em-plump’em. Royal flush
preserved between old Turkish folds.

This is my submission for dVerse Poets Meeting the Bar: Critique and Craft 4 July 2011

I’m wondering particularly whether these two ideas are coming together clearly? I was looking at a Turkish ceremonial cloak in the Ashmolean museum where it described how the original colour had been preserved in the folds where light couldn’t penetrate. This morphed into ideas on wrinkles and botox.. Any suggestions are very welcome..

The form is an Octain devised by Luke Prater:
Eight lines as two tercets and a couplet, eight syllables per line with the first line repeated (as much as possible) as the last. Meter is iambic or trochaic tetrameter, but fine to just count eight syllables per line for those who prefer that.

Rhyme scheme – A-b-b a-c/c-a b-A

(A = repeated refrain line. c/c refers to line five having midline (internal) rhyme (eg. here/sneer), which is different to the a- and b-rhymes)

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  1. Aida permalink

    Great job Becky! The ideas are very clear and the way you’ve combined them is unique. I like the perspective and the fact that you’ve put this in an Octain.
    The only thing I’m not sure about is if the fold and mould totally rhyme. Other than that, great 🙂

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Aida. This is definitely still evolving… happy to know it made sense to you as that was my own main reservation…

  2. after reading the post script it makes sense…upon first reading i was struggling with what was turkish honestly…i was not sure if you were as i def got the body references with the botox…it is already really tight…but think there might be some clarity to work on…

    • Good to hear your responses, Brian… I always have a challenge with getting the right clues out there… it all makes perfect sense in my head 🙂 I have a sneaking suspicion that poems should not need footnotes, so on that basis, I agree this needs work on clarity…

      Appreciate your feedback.

  3. i really like it – it’s clever to bring these two things together and i think it’s also a nice use of luke’s form..i like the ..fill’em-plump’em…smiles

    • Great to hear you caught my meaning Caludia.. thanks for dropping in… Interested that you liked ‘fill ’em-plump ’em… wondered if that didn’t shout too loud in comparison with the rest… although partly the point..

      Still woking on this one… 🙂

  4. Reading this cold and going by the title, I am led to think this is a description of a face – youthful, wrinkles free,( but why folds?), botox free etc but then it’s either folds or wrinkle free, plastic or uneven so I’m left as reader with a confused image, At no time did a get the sense of a robe as the post script suggests. I think part of the challenge is that the form creates some weak and forced rhymes(mould-uncajoled and lush-blush) that doesn’t add the ‘story’.It also tends to tell rather then show. I have no sense here, for example what these rich pigments are.

    the richest pigment, youthful, lush:
    concealed essentials, memoir’s blush.

    However, the concept of exploring the robe as if it was a well preserved face is one worth developing but perhaps not in this form.

    • Thanks, John… really helpful to know where this didn’t work for you… and appreciate the detail of your feedback.

      Definitely see this as an unresolved experiment.. Great to hear different responses out there…

  5. emma permalink

    Becky, I really do enjoy the way you consistently mix the ancient and modern to make something new and fresh. I like the botox connection and how you use that as a point of reference. I wouldn’t have made the connection to your subject without your postscript, but with that info I can clearly see your pattern of thought and the connections you’ve made. Once again though I think it is a beautiful piece of work without pinning down the idea. Poetry for me doesn’t necessarily have to be completely understood to provide enjoyment.

    I agree with Aida about the folds/mould rhyme. I think this is where the difficult part comes in- trying to convey your idea within the constraints of the form.

    • Emma… great to hear how you worked your way into this one… Still have plenty of reservations as you might guess..

      I agree with you about the balance between ambiguity and precision… I can tolerate and definitely enjoy a certain amount of ambiguity when I’m reading other people’s work… drawing the line in the best place as a writer is a challenge I’m finding… 🙂

      Thanks also for your note on the rhyme…

  6. Loved the first stanza, but struggled through some of the wording throughout the rest of the piece. Would have liked to seen the flow continue as in the first stanza. Interesting topic.

    • Sorry you had to struggle… I’m still working on this and would like to make it a smoother journey.. I appreciate your feedback …

  7. Hi Becky –

    It’s not completely clear, mixing the Botox thing with the ancient fabric (which may take a whole Octain to figure out anyway since it’s only eight lines long, one of which a repeated refrain). However I don’t think this is a huge issue. I’m a fan of poetry (providing it’s well-written, as this is) that leaves the reader with some room to manoeuvre in the imagination department. As per you have presented us with sharp, redundancy-free verse, rich in word-use, original in concept and execution, and staying within the confines of a form while making it feel like you’re writing as freely as you care to. So either I draw from it what I will, and enjoy it aesthetically, or if nothing else, just enjoy it aesthetically. I was about to pick out a favourite line but there are several… extra marks for iambic tetra. Nice flow

    • Hi Luke… thanks for your comments… happy that you are willing to accommodate the admitted ambiguity of this.. really wasn’t sure how it would be received or understood, so this is a perfect place to find out..

      Very pleased you approve of how I’ve used your form… 8 lines for this concept is a challenge… but with 80 I may not have nailed it any better…

      Still some manoeuvring of my own to consider to see whether I can sharpen the clarity… but wow, no redundancy… Thanks too for the intro to this evening’s focus.. really helpful 🙂

  8. I’ll admit I “got it” better on second read after reviewing your process notes. Well-executed octain and I love how you found the inspiration at a museum. Also, for this “old” lady, consoling message.

    • Hi Victoria.. good to hear your feedback.. Thank you for your positive encouragement re the octain.. one of my favourite forms… and I’m still ruminating on improving the clarity..

  9. Tom Eliot permalink

    Hi Becky,

    This poem is very thougthful and intelligent.

    Your ability to communicate your concept in a strict frame work is to be admired.

    From what i can tell you have managed the set task with aplomb.

    Aside from all this formal praise – i really loved it too

    Thanks Becky

    • Tom.. your crit looks like a poem… but possibly not one of your surreal extravaganzas… Thank you for your kind words.. much appreciated… glad this one left a mark…

  10. With hints from your title, I came close to your intended meaning on first read, but the postscript was necessary to fully understand. Aside from that slight vagueness, this hit the spot for form and diction.

  11. I agree with Tom – using this tight framework to build this piece on is admirable and filled with your ability to overcome the built-in obstacles.

    I only have one observation that hasn’t been commented on directly by the others. I think your title, for me, became part of the poem. Not reading the title together with your first line changed the poem for me because I assumed the skin was “Turkish” and didn’t make the leap to fabric folds.
    So perhaps a change to the title or the first line might make the poem more accessible.

    Thanks for posting a wonderful Octain. They are always a challenge, I think.

    • Thank you Gay… I enjoy working in form to contain complex ideas…. free verse lets me hang myself sometimes…

      Your suggestion about the title is really helpful.. you’re right of course… a clearer title would lead the reader in more cleverly.. will think on that..

      Very much appreciate your feedback…

  12. I really enjoyed this octain – IMHO the tension and ambiguity between folds and botox was wonderful.

  13. Hi Marousia… happy to hear you enjoyed that tension and felt positive about the ambiguity…. Thank you…

  14. I’ve taken Gay’s suggestion and changed the title of this one hoping this will give the reader better initial direction. I’m still thinking about clarifying the transition from gown to skin…

  15. I’m glad to have encountered it with the explanatory title — and such lovely words in that title, too. I still needed your note to grasp the meaning fully. (Well, almost. I am still wondering about ‘memoir’s blush’.)

    It’s full of great images and original words, as others have said. Like others again, I think you need to abandon this form for this poem. You are trying to fit some interesting shifts of thought into so few lines! I think you need to give yourself a bit more room to play.

    • Thanks, Rosemary… appreciate your ideas… Yes, I’m considering other forms to explore these ideas..

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