Winners and Losers in Literature

Ion Luca Caragiale, from Wikipedia.
Ion Luca Caragiale, from Wikipedia.

People love those great romantics

with their self-absorbed delirium

especially if they die of tuberculosis or worse or alone.

But garrets are passé, starving is forever,

and audiences matter.

As long as you don’t let it show.

 

Unnecessary, it seems to me,

your sighing, your plaintive distress.

We know, we’ve been there, no need to tarry.

Mere hint and then whisk over.

Sunlight lingering on a teardrop

Is more effective by far than a November soaking.

 

Madam, if I may… tell you that you whinge

and use a hundred words

where a spatter of six will do.

Your ears so waxed with self-pity and doubts,

your voice so coarsened by years of neglect,

that you forget to listen and render with fidelity,

you lose the joy of using a microscope.

Cut smaller still your canvas,

till you can stitch it to perfection.

Be precious, not so greedy to spit out the half-digested…

Polish your gemstones for years.

Mock, but with purpose,

yourself before all others.

 

And then perhaps some decades hence

you’ll learn to make it look

effortless, spontaneous.

 

Perhaps not quite the right response to the prompt about winning and losing for dVerse Poets, but I am having an internal dialogue with my writing hero, Caragiale, Romanian playwright, journalist and short story writer. Every word perfectly chosen and placed. Unlike my gushing, spouting self. I know I will be a winner when I finally learn to control the rawness and shape the internal world more gracefully.

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38 thoughts on “Winners and Losers in Literature”

  1. What a beautifully crafted argument for restraint, for careful choosing of words and for showing each choice off to maximum advantage. When I grow up I want to be able to do that!

  2. ha. I don’t have the patience for that…smiles…three is art…but I think it takes many forms…well polished verse…and felt verse are not always the same in my opinion….smiles…interesting approach with the convo with your writing hero.

    1. And perhaps I also thought about winning the battle with yourself, your own bad habits and verbosity, your own lack of control (when I say you, I mean ‘me’, you know that, don’t you?)

  3. I love the ending but these lines got me:

    Be precious, not so greedy to spit out the half-digested…

    Polish your gemstones for years.

    Mock, but with purpose,

    yourself before all others.

    I will try your approach, smiles ~

  4. I must admit I have not heard of Caragiale, but your poem makes me want to think about who my literary heroes are and what messages they would like to leave with me. I second Gabriella’s comment about liking the idea of reducing a hundred words to six. That alone makes me want to read some Caragiale, as I am not a fan of verbosity. And ‘a small canvas’ has much to offer, I think. Much more difficult to fill a small canvas well than to fill a large canvas with everything under the sun. Smiles.

    1. Caragiale is fiendishly difficult to translate and he hasn’t been much translated into English. I’ll try and do a detailed post about him and any works which might be available in translation. He is very funny and satirical about politicians, pretentiousness, snobbery… and so many of his observations are still so topical!

  5. Love this – especially the first stanza, and the third, beginning, “Madam…” – I’m assuming that’s his message to you. One of your best that I’ve read, Marina Sofia.

  6. Why use three words when a Hundred will do, the English teachers howled, & n
    twitter, my six-word stories do wonders for harnessing my excessive urges, but too soon I bore with the implied, the suggested, the symbolic, & I need to double-down on the meat. I have a lifetime of words tearing at my brain seeking egress. I liked your lines /sunlight lingering on a teardrop/is more effective by far than a November soaking/.

  7. ah.. perfection the devil of details that ruled my life..

    And this takes me back to the rules and regulations of a life well ruled….

    But no more details for me.. to rule me at least…

    i rule the details with tapestry…

    and the time of free…

    is always now..:)

    in the tapestry of imperfection flowing as river never emptying me…

    again….in illusion of perfection that never ever existed

    in
    any
    way….

    1. Thanks, Viv – you like your succint poetry forms as much as I do – I really admire tanka and haiku. Not that Caragiale is quite so succint (he has a fantastic ear for the vernacular of his time), but it is very well calibrated, even though it looks and sounds natural.

  8. Beautiful poem, Marina. Thanks for sharing. I have a soft corner for writers and poets who suffer because of poverty through their lifetime, but are celebrated after they die. Sometimes the literary establishment is just waiting for them to die, because praising them with posthumous awards. I remember when Roberto Bolano died, suddenly his works were all translated into English, won all kind of posthumous awards and he became a legend. When he was alive, he was a poor writer, who tried to make ends meet, who even worked as a janitor to put food on the table, but who also rebelled against the literary establishment and tried writing in a new way. When I read the poem you have quoted, I remembered that.

  9. If one takes the trouble then things can have a better chance to be addressed and be resolved. If strengthened by support from those famous and wise it can work wonders. Great lines Marina!

    Hank

  10. Sunlight lingering on a teardrop
    Is more effective by far than a November soaking.

    Really enjoyed that as well as your intro!! The POV I really enjoyed as by the end I thought you were talking to yourself. Well done and I like the slight deviation from the challenge – but it works – self evaluation is important – even though we are often our own worst critics.

  11. “Your ears so waxed with self-pity and doubts,

    your voice so coarsened by years of neglect,

    that you forget to listen and render with fidelity”

    Very powerful – and yes when I read your piece, I noticed the difference with your usual style – Great write.

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