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Grethel


"I won't" she said, "I won't go back.
Not this time. To her? To Dad?

It's twice they have abandoned us
to die alone here in the woods

with only two small knubs of bread.
Oh no, that's right, just one. You fed

yours to all those peckish birds.
'Don't worry,' you said, 'could be worse,'

remember?
And it was.


For days we hungered in the forest,
then, like magic, poof! a cottage

of gingerbread and sugar-glass.
We didn't stop to think or ask

but stole a bite, then stole another;
we might have stolen it to rubble

until we heard the beldam's voice.
'Don't worry,' you said, 'could be worse,'

remember?
And it was.


Me, a slave and you in chains,
a Christmas goose, locked in a cage.

'You feed your brother, make him fat.'
A witch, in all her appetites.

And what did you do? Eat and moan
and trick her with your little bone.

Each day you did I felt her wrath.
'Don't worry,' you said, 'could be worse,'

remember?
And it was.


I close my eyes. I push her in.
Her clothes catch fire, her eyes aflame,

I smell the sizzle of her hair,
my hands burn as I hold the door.

I close my eyes. I hear her scream,
the spit of fat, her feet kicking

and everywhere the reek of flesh,
her bitterness made sweet in death."

"Are you alright? Your eyes are red."
"I know. It could be worse," she said.
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just a question, for now: are the changing font colors intentional?
(06-10-2021, 05:57 PM)RiverNotch Wrote: [ -> ]are the changing font colors intentional?
What changing colours?
most of the text is grey but some words, like "deep" or "I won't" are black
No explanation for this River.  When I look at it the text is uniform black
(which is how I posted it).
it looks uniform black now, thanks! i'll go give it a few more reads
Nothing to do with me River Smile
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An alternative to lines 37/38

and everywhere the stink of flesh,
her sour life made sweet in death.

Opinions welcome
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Knot, I’d like to be more wordy but i am on an internet island with only an iphone for writing.  I am puzzled by the “twice” reference.  Is this their third time or she’s just remembering the first.  Loved the finale.  

as to alternate lines, i’m no help, like them both.
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Hi TqB

In Hansel and Gretel (according to the Brothers Grimm) the first time they are abandoned in the woods they follow the trail of white pebbles that Hansel has left for them back home. The second time (this time) Hansel couldn't get pebbles so he left breadcrumbs, with inevitable results. In the story, after the death of the witch they choose, once again to head home. I took a different tack. Clearer now? Smile


Best, Knot


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Yes.

So, really can’t find much to criticize.  Did I say I like it all?  Not sure why you need to turn refrain into two lines?

You done good.
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Hi TqB.

the refrain - I like to think she leaves a very pointed pause after 'remember', hence two lines.
(06-11-2021, 09:23 PM)TranquillityBase Wrote: [ -> ]

Did I say I like it all?

No, merely that you like the finale (which is a start, of sorts) Smile

Wondering if this
and everywhere the reek of flesh,
her bitterness made sweet in death."
or the previous alternative is still in 'her' voice?


Best, Knot

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I enjoyed it. My suggestion would be to change the title to something more interesting and abstract. Maybe a phrase that has something to do with the theme or story, but doesn't give it away. And get rid of the last line "(*and Hansel)". It ruins the flow and is already obvious. In fact, I wouldn't say the names Hansel or Grethel in the piece at all. It gives it away right from the start. Let it unfold to the reader, and let them realize it as they go along. It's much more fun and engaging that way, IMO.
Hi TB,

thanks for the read. Alternative title suggestions always welcome.
(06-11-2021, 11:02 PM)Torkelburger Wrote: [ -> ]Let it unfold to the reader, and let them realize it as they go along. It's much more fun and engaging that way
I suspect that may depend on the reader. Smile
Can't lose the last line, or rather, need a last line, ending on 'red eyes' is too blatant a reveal, for me.
I like the ambiguity of the last 'it could be worse'.

Best, Knot.


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Sorry, I meant the footnote, then. The "(*and Hansel)". Not the last line.
(06-12-2021, 01:06 AM)Torkelburger Wrote: [ -> ]Sorry, I meant the footnote, then.  The "(*and Hansel)".  Not the last line.
No problem.
(06-11-2021, 10:12 PM)Knot Wrote: [ -> ]

Wondering if this
and everywhere the reek of flesh,
her bitterness made sweet in death."
or the previous alternative is still in 'her' voice?


Best, Knot

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I think this version is more her voice than previous.
In mild to moderate critique, using a #!$* Chiclet keyboard...

The general form, referring to incidents in the fairy tale one by one followed by the refrain, is effective.  This is, in part, because the fairy tale itself follows that buildup format (first, then second abandonment, etc.).

The idea of the vile witch sweetening in death, as if refined by it, is noteworthy.

There are a few infelicities such as "we might have stole that house to rubble."  It's funny and childish, but doesn't fit with the distinctly adult and world-weary theme and refrain.  A little change of word order could allow "stolen" while retaining the parallelism with "stole."

On a moderate rather than mild level, I see an issue and an opportunity.  The issue is where the story ends, i.e. with G's burned hands and the sickening smell.  Readers familiar with the fairy tale will understand that things do get better (by some measures) after that - finding the pearls, even their mother's death (justice for pushing Dad to lose the kids).  At this point in time, the refrain works that way.  But the rest of the story... well.

The other thing is that only Gret(he)l's voice speaks.  There's an opportunity to delve, at least a little, into Hansel's experience - optimist, giving in to temptation, sort of thing.  Not as interesting as G's, or as oppressed, but... well, maybe the refrain is his true voice.  Does he have anything else to say?

Overall, it's a good story and a good poem.  Maybe G could kvetch a little harder, even.
Hi TqB,
noted, thanks.


Hi duke,
good trip?

Thanks for the critique.

I wanted her (voice) to grow up as the piece progressed - from the more infantile 'I won't. I won't'
to that (adult) 'sweet by death' tone at the end - so I'm not too bothered about that line being 'childish'
That said, would
we might have stolen it to rubble
be an improvement?

Actually, the poem 'ends' with her 'not going back' (or at least that's my intention) - the starting point of the piece, for me, was I couldn't understand why either of the would return to parents who have twice tried to kill them, so I decided she didn't. Smile Oh yeah, and she might have become a witch, or The Girl in the Woods (see Intensive).

Hansel, the refrain is close to his 'true voice', in the story he's optimistic and reassuring, to the point of delusion (and nowhere does he even say thank you to her for rescuing him). Typical patronising older brother, perhaps. Smile

Personally, I think that the father kills the (step)mother. Too much of a 'happy coincidence' that she just dies.


Thanks again, both..


Best, Knot


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Never encountered it spelled "Grethel" before. Any reason why you chose it?

The punctuation is a little wonky. "Don't worry" in the first two sections should probably be with ' than with ".

Second section 'could be worse' is out of place -- it's all good until they got caught, and even then it could have been they got caught by a willing host.

Third section is deliciously sexual, what with the emphasis on "appetites" and "little bone". First line of third section should probably end in a colon. Third line of said section should probably end in, say, an em dash, and the fourth line should definitely start in lower case. 

Fourth section: "aflame"? Also, I feel that line could end in a colon, and the following line a full stop. Sixth line should end with a comma, while the line that follows it needn't. I prefer "stench" to "reek" -- while "reek" rhymes, I've encountered it more as a verb, while stench sort of ties to "scream", "spit", and "sweetness".

The fourth section ties to the third in terms of sexuality and repression, which I again find rather splendid, and it sort of makes a point of the association between the stepmother and the witch in the original story. I feel like I'm missing something, though. I'm missing the rest of the scene.

I kinda need to know where they are. What the immediate context of the conversation is. Are they in the woods? Are they still in the cottage? And how about their bodies? Are Gretel's hands still burnt? Is her face covered in ashes? What about Hansel makes him so mute here -- was he humbled? Was he an Isaac, a supporting character in his own story? Did he even pay attention to Gretel during her speech? 

You can keep all these things ambiguous, but right now we're a level removed from ambiguous: there's simply nothing in the text that even hints at their present moment. It seems to me that the poem itself means to fully evoke a reinterpretation of the story -- one where the fate of the characters is a mystery, or one where the original tale is truly twisted -- but is instead a mere fragment, a memorable snippet of a scene in a play that, by being a snippet, loses most of its meaning.

I think you can probably resolve this by adding a little more conversation -- Gretel remarks on where they are now, complains that Hansel isn't listening, really anything that talks about their present -- or else by sneaking in a few more objective details at the end. Oh, and I second Torkelburger in removing the parenthetic at the end -- with the title and the subject matter, it's obvious who answers -- unless you mean to emphasize Hansel's aloofness or passivity in your retelling.

Also, some of your replies have some words and letters that are bolded or of a different color, which I haven't encountered with anyone else xD It's very helpful to know that it's not intentional, so there's probably some technical issue behind it that I can't diagnose.
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