This poem arose from a sort of half-waking dream I had in which I was the southern Alps, raising my arms to catch the moist Mediterranean air racing over me and, in so doing, causing the Föhn wind. Once I got writing, I was blown a little off course here and there, nearly capsized a few times, and finally brought these verses in to port.
Interesting note: combined with 14 other simultaneous wildfires in southern California, the 2003 Old Fire and Cedar Fire together burned 3640 homes, covered nearly 750,000 acres, and killed 24 people. The Cedar fire alone was the largest wildfire in the state’s history. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Santa Ana winds carrying the cremated remains of whole forests out towards the Channel Islands archipelago.
If you are interested in finding out about the silent holocaust that continues against the Rromani, and especially the plight of forcibly institutionalized Rromani children, there are (finally) many articles starting to appear on the web. Just search the term Rromani, making sure to include the second r. You can also search the (derogatory) term antiziganism.
The bit about Hitler’s niece is true.
The preview image is by Paul Klee:
Foehn Wind in Marc’s Garden, 1915, 102 oil on canvas.
It is in the public domain.
Update. I decided to tag this as “Mature” content, since the poem mentions suicide and a moth has sex. More and more, I’m erring on the side of caution with these things—and I welcome your feedback on the issue.
2nd Update. The line breaks of the Vântul Mare stanza were keeping me up at night, so I tinkered with them. Also, “red” was driving me nuts, as it is no where specific enough for the Santa-Ana-wind-driven sunsets I remember. I finally realized what color was in my mind’s eye: mace, now officially my new favorite color. It’s exactly what I remember…and the name is perfect, in so many ways.
The poem uses many different sound effects (for lack of a better word) like half-rhymes, internal rhymes, ending (nearly) all lines in a stanza with the same consonant sound, etc., etc. Do these get in the way, or add to the effectiveness of the poem?
With each stanza, the poem gets increasingly specific about human, historical, political context. Does this work for you?
Have you ever experienced any of the winds described in the poem, either adiabatic like the Föhn or katabatic like the Santa Anas? If so, does this poem ring true or seem meaningful in the context of what you experienced?
Is it clear who the speaker of the poem is? Whether you answered yes or no, does this seem to matter; does it help or hinder the poem in any way?
Hello, I will be critiquing your piece on behalf of . I will do my best to help by suggesting improvements that can be made and general feedback on aesthetic appeal.
Williwaw: In meteorology, a williwaw is a sudden blast of wind descending from a mountainous coast to the sea. The word is of unknown origin, but was earliest used by British seamen in the 19th century. The usage appears for winds found in the Strait of Magellan, the Aleutian Islands and the coastal fjords of the Alaskan Panhandle, where the terms outflow wind and squamish wind are also used for the same phenomenon.
Halny - a foehn wind that blows in southern Poland and in Slovakia in the Carpathian Mountains. Halny is a warm windstorm that blows through the valleys. It is often disastrous; ripping off roofs, causing avalanches and, according to some people, can have some influence on mental states.
When you breathe over my Aleutians (a range ofvolcanic mountians near alaska, good image, but very obscure) the air gets dense, accelerates and can’t wait to wreak and wreck. (very nice variation) It’s a squamish wind that knocks (squeemish? squamish is a native american tribe isn't it? Wordplay?) my mariners down; there’ll be (from here I have no idea what's going on) no crab returned, and no hands (nice line but it doesn't seem to mean anything) found.
You cried over my windward slopes, iced my Sexten Dolomites (a contrast between ice and hot?) and quickly hot, you wracked, (ties back to "wreak" and "wreck") blew and panted madness across my best tourist’s Austria, racing like some mad Austrian. (why the repetition?) One arm you dove and drove the pitons (again the pattern shows up) off my Ogre’s Mordwand; (no idea what this is) another rang bells in Vaduz and killed the mood for anyone come near my Black Forest. (another nature reserve)
How many acres can you burn in what you pass off as passion, (a great line) blowing down from the highest peaks of your massif desire? I’ve seen (massif-section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures. Wordplay? Massive/massif) your old fire come alive and turn (here especially, there is the sudden "turn") you heartless. I’ve seen cedars blazing in your eyes and embers (a forest fire) carried so far past Santa Catalina the sun sets a purple, mace and cornsilk sky. (what a contrasting image, it doesn't seem to match the rest of the imagery) You were born in the Mojave and the Sonoran, never any (Mojave, Sonoran - two deserts composing much of southern California and other south-west states) drop of water, and sometimes when you roar, the daily filth we breathe heads for the open sea. Then, your mad aspirations schmear the ghosts (schmear - German for "smear") of orange groves like Santa Anna winding up the Alamo.
Once you cupped my face with bloodless hands. I could feel your Vântul Mare heaving (Vântul Mare - another word for foehn wind) its aura towards my sinister, leeward eye. The vitreous humor (lee - downward slope of the mountain) caught the swell, my orbit jittered out of alignment, and my vision blurred and tunneled through my Făgăraș mountains, (Făgăraș - city in central Romania) lashing like that Beiuş polka in D Lydian. Do I detect (Beiuş - city in Bihor County, Romania) Ceauşescu on your breath? You lean in, (Ceauşescu - a Romanian Communist politician. He was General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party from 1965 to 1989, and as such was the country's last Communist leader.) and I smell Rromani children (an awfully striking image) in unmarked graves, their faintest scent carried off as they expired. How many still languish, lost to the slightest whisper —really just the whim of one whacked, exhumed Conducător with a million-dollar (Conducător (literally in Romanian, "Leader") was the title used officially in two instances by Romanian politicians, and earlier by Carol II.) moon rock? As you exhale, a black gypsy moth emerges from your folds, drags her ass before her groom and, after a bruising, wingless fuck, forgets her eggs (ew, but what a great line) and dies. You celebrate your experiment with a crack and a dry cough.
It all comes down to this: when you breathe over me, everything thickens and wires. Whatever is in the air, whatever hint you might be about life, you crush against my outstretched Alps, heat impassibly, scale, bone, and dry, and drive everyone around me Föhnkrank. (whut?)
It is said that such a wind unsettled Hitler, and drove his beloved, Geli Raubal, his half-sister’s blood, the would-be doctor, singer, the one he held in shadows, protected, spied on, pined for, forbade, then imprisoned—the only woman he claimed to be the only woman he ever loved—to blow her lungs to ashes with his gun. (sad face)
I really hated reading this. Your use of references is masterful but very obscure and doesn't always become clear. There were a couple of names and terms that I couldn't find out about and that was a little upsetting. Poetry isn't meant to be self-explanatory, but there is really no excuse to be enigmatic to the point of redundancy. Still though, your language is wonderful, beautiful. *a thousand different words to describe genius* Ultimately, this is too hard for me to read.
By combining allusions with mixed metaphors involving geography, names of wind, forest fires, political outrage, and whatever-else you have successfully created a piece that has broken me as a critic. I really have no words for this. Your skill leaves me speechless and apathetic at the same time. I didn't like reading this. Is it a good piece? It's very well-written. There is obviously a great deal of effort put into it.
One must wonder though why exactly this piece has languished in the group's "To Be Critiqued" folder for so long...kidding.
Still, on its own it's really impossible to critique. As the one who composed this, you are obviously more knowledgeable about any of these things mentioned within than anyone volunteering. As such, I can't really help you other than to say "too many references. No one's gonna get it!" in a very obnoxious and whiny tone.
Focusing on something else though, your imagery is very clear and translucent (adj. Allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through; semitransparent.). It's a contradiction, I know, but really what I would suggest is improving clarity if you want a wider audience and fine-tune your images if you just want the selective few. There's really nothing else I can offer. So here's some redundancy.
Questions for critique: 1. The poem uses many different sound effects (for lack of a better word) like half-rhymes, internal rhymes, ending (nearly) all lines in a stanza with the same consonant sound, etc., etc. Do these get in the way, or add to the effectiveness of the poem?
Sound device is a better word. And to be honest, I didn't (well, barely) notice(d) a thing. Nothing really rhymed completely except for the internals and what really distracts is the constant unknown reference that takes so much (at least for me) away from this piece.
2. With each stanza, the poem gets increasingly specific about human, historical, political context. Does this work for you?
It would if I had noticed it amongst this wreckage of referential hell. Really hate pieces that go out of their way to make references no one knows anything about. I don't hate you, just the way the piece is structured. Now that you point it out though, I don't see what's the point. It makes for a great ending but ultimately it seems sidetracked (might also be because the topic changes for every stanza).
3. Have you ever experienced any of the winds described in the poem, either adiabatic like the Föhn or katabatic like the Santa Anas? If so, does this poem ring true or seem meaningful in the context of what you experienced?
I live in Los Angeles. I'm Taiwanese. I don't even have a remote semblance of mountain blood in me. I literally have to look up "adiabatic" on Google, at this very moment, just so I can answer this question. You are asking for a hell of a lot, mister, when you request a critique on this. Does this poem ring true? Mm, I don't know. I'm too disorientated from Googling half the things mentioned to really understand the raw material of the piece. Does it seem meaningful? About half the images presented lose all meaning once I take my eye off them. In the end I'm left with only "a heap of broken images". That's right! I have to get T.S. Eliot here to speak for me now 'cuz
"Y'all gon make me lose my mind up in here up in here"
I can't get a coherent picture of the whole thing!
4. Is it clear who the speaker of the poem is? Whether you answered yes or no, does this seem to matter; does it help or hinder the poem in any way?
No, not really. The speaker seems like a common disembodied voice, whose natural habitat is found in poems and haunted houses of all kind. Does it matter? It's a disembodied voice, there is no matter, it's all voice! Does it help the poem!? ......I like pi.
I'm really sorry if I seemed offended. I tried to put together some semblance of a critique but the greatest asset to this piece is also its greatest setback. Your references and allusions are just so hard to understand! It's really cutting it close in terms of obscurity. The biggest thing I would recommend is cutting down on some. There's so much going on that it seems to tumble out at the reader with claws outstretched, shouting, "ANALYZE ME!!!"
I'm really sorry that I can't offer anything more and I hope that you don't feel too disappointed.
Sorry for the slow reply. I really appreciate all the hard work that you put into this critique, and I am sorry that the experience was so unpleasant for you.
One note: all of my literature deviations have "Easter Eggs," i.e., hidden messages that pop up when you hover the cursor over certain words in the poem or story. In most cases, when there is an obscure reference, you'll see an explanation when you hover the cursor over it. For example, when you hover the cursor over Mordwand, a definition appears. Not every reference has this, but most of the difficult ones do.
I fully admit to being out of step with today's culture of instant gratification and fast consumption, and as a consequence I don't expect to be hugely popular. You mention T.S. Eliot--my writing certainly falls in line with the tradition of modernism (and postmodernism and even post-postmodernism) that you could trace back to Eliot's The Wasteland, among other things. (Of course, I certainly don't pretend to belong in the same company as Eliot; he truly is one of the most masterful writers of the last century or so.)
The Wasteland is chock full of references and allusions that certainly make it difficult to appreciate fully. The same, of course, could be said of the work of many of the Romantic poets, of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, of Chaucer and his contemporaries, and of the classical Roman and Greek poets.
The very fair question to ask is whether the work involved in chasing down the allusions in my poetry is worth the effort. For some readers, obviously, the answer will be "no."
Again, you were very kind to put so much effort into writing a critique of this poem, and I thank you for it.
You were just as hard to analyze as Eliot so in truth, I don't think you're too far behind in skill. While I did feel flustered by your poem it was only because of a passing case of the grumps. You have a lovely piece here, filled with so much hard work and obvious show of skill. I'd be happy to look at anything else you'd like to submit to the group. Just don't expect too much beyond a basic evaluation of impression.
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Wow, the obvious depth of knowledge that you possess and the technical skill in the execution of this poem are more than impressive. I feel a little bit like a kid playing in the mud in comparison(which is not necessarily a bad thing). I had to let a lot of the words pass as whispers since the descriptive terms used were so specific and I didn't catch on to the whole subject of the poem until I was a ways in but once I got the rhythm going it was like dancing up the stairs. Each line would spin me around a little but the pacing of the words always gave me a place to keep my feet. Much better the second time around and I have to say just incredibly well done.
Thanks.... and yeah, sorry about the research bit. But it's good for your soul (and your vocabulary & historical & cultural & scientific knowledge, LOL), & mostly it's fun, except for the reading about the Rromani, which is heartbreaking.
I just love that you have some Beowulf in Old English in your signature. The poet I quote in my signature would definitely have approved—and he, as much as anyone, would have known the truth of that saying!