Poetry discussion thread!

Hello~ I am making a poetry discussion thread due to high demand (the high demand is from me)

Of possible interest to @AmandaB @sophia @kamineko @LapinLunaireGames but also anyone else!

We’ll pick poems and talk about them!! and then we’ll pick more!!

edit: We’re gonna try to focus on analyzing one poem per week (a week from the posting of each poem) also.

Here’s Complaint of Achilles’ Heel which I stumbled across recently and really like.

Reproduced for convenience:

Complaint of Achilles’ Heel

Everyone’s so quick to blame my
tenderness. My wound opening like a mouth
to kiss an arrow’s steel beak.

A beautiful man, now, plants his face
in Trojan sand while I tell
the secrets of his body—

make the ground red with truth.
Red with the death of Achilles, felled
by an arrow’s bite when nothing—

nothing—could puncture his Kevlar skin.
Everyone skips ahead to the moral: don’t
be a heel. For just one day I felt

sun where the chafing bonds of sandal
should have been. Without me, he’d be
just more fodder for the cannon.

I made him a hero, Troy’s poster
boy. Everyone forgets I was part of him,
I needed him—that even as he died,

I tasted each pulse—
that I could not hold back its rush of red
birds or the season to which they flew.


Making me compassionate for a foot is an impressive feat.

The language also evokes a sensual sadness, the kiss of an arrow’s “steel beak” echoing the “red birds” as Achilles bleeds out, tasting the pulse of Achilles and needing him, the secrets of his body. I really like the recurrence of red - I tend to avoid repeating words in my poetry and I really shouldn’t because it can be very powerful.

The “, now,” in “A beautiful man, now,” is so intriguing. Those commas! (Hamilton musical voice) “It changed the meaning / Did you intend it?” Does this relate to being Troy’s poster boy?


Erich Fried: “Es ist was es ist” (translated from German by me)

It is nonsense says the reason
It is what it is says love

It is disaster says calculation
It is nothing but pain says the fear
It is hopeless says the insight
It is what it is says love

It is ridiculous says the pride
It is careless says the caution
It is impossible says experience
It is what it is says love

Pretty self-explanatory, so maybe not much to discuss.


A wonderful poem by Joe Roxy:

Mijn leven is een stoel met scheve poten,
mijn innerlijk is echt niet zo stabiel.
Vaak val ik zelfs inwendig op mijn kloten,
al heb ik dan geen kloten aan mijn ziel.

(My life is a chair with crooked legs,
my inner life is truly quite unstable.
Oftentimes I even fall on my inner bollocks,
even though I have no bollocks on my soul.)

(Joe Roxy is the poet alter ego of Hugo Matthysen, Belgian musician writer, tv-maker, musician, and all-round absurdist comedian. Here he tackles mental lability in his own straightforward way.)


Spirit animals are OUT spirit bollocks are IN

I love that this is from the perspective of the heel, and the language is gorgeous. But I do have few quibbles with it. Achilles was a hero for a long time before getting killed-- the killing was what made him a poster boy for fatal flaws. And he was on the opposite side of Troy, so I’m confused about how getting killed makes him Troy’s poster boy. Hector was Troy’s poster boy and Achilles smashed him. Without the heel, I doubt Achilles would have been cannon fodder. He’d killed Hector, after all, and was at the top of his game.

I also like the punctuation-- “A beautiful man, now, plants his face”-- meaning now he’s beautiful in his death, with his face hidden in dirt?

A nice way to start discussing poetry, Aster!

Should we have a roster of people who’d like to submit poems for discussion and a regular schedule? Or simply wing it?

**Edit: I see that we have other poems already posted. I’d like to gently suggest that we allow one poem at a time for discussion so that they don’t get buried.


I was gonna say we wing it re: schedule but I agree that we should only have one poem at a time to discuss ^^

Those are good points regarding the poem! I wouldn’t have caught that otherwise.

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Want to just do a poem per week? That gives people who don’t check the forum every day time to chime in. Or is that too long a time between poems? How should people who want to post a poem for discussion know that it’s their turn? Ach, there’s bureaucracy everywhere.

RE the poem: I think Paris knew about Achilles’ weakness and shot him in the heel on purpose. Perhaps there’s a version of the story where his sandal strap breaks? These lines are confounding me:

For just one day I felt

sun where the chafing bonds of sandal
should have been.

To me that indicates that the sandal had broken, exposing the mortal heel? I don’t remember if that’s part of the story.

Also, the ending. This is really very nice. It’s an effective way to talk about someone bleeding out-- the “rush of red birds.” And the season to which they flew? Death, the afterlife, the undiscovered country?


The idea of discussing only one poem at a time makes sense to. Unfortunately it goes against my “hit and run” posting behaviour. But I will try to follow that idea and to not forget about it.

Once a week seems like a good time frame to me.

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Yeah I really like the ending! It really hits nicely. I think what I got from the sandal line was the idea of brief freedom from mundane pain, there’s a lot of contrasts of mixed emotions in the poem. I don’t think it’s adhering so close to the myth as much as the feeling of confused mourning.

I also like the modern cadence - “don’t be a heel” bringing in a wrestling term for ex.

A week seems reasonable but if that’s the case I might need to pick even meatier poems ^^

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Kevlar is definitely modern (invented 1965), too. Cannons were not present in ancient Greek, too.

At first I didn’t understand anything in this poem. I misinterpreted the title as “…about…” but now I see it’s “…by…”.

It seems to switch between literal Achille’s heel and the symbolic one.

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I was also wondering about these anachronisms. Clearly, the poet is not trying to achieve historical or temporal accuracy. We have The Illiad for that sort of account of Achilles’ fall. There’s no use in trying to replicate Homer, though I am quite interested in the history of translating Homer, and how the various translations over the millennia reflect as much about those times and places as they do ancient Greece. For instance, Lisa Jarnot’s translation of a book from The Illiad is fantastic in this regard, as she puts the poem in the context of how war ravages societies, then as now.

In any event, this isn’t Jensen’s project per se. It seems more like the allusions to contemporary items and the more colloquial tone serve to recast this symbol of Achille’s heel through a current lens – to talk through this symbol from the present looking backward. This is a symbol that’s become cliche for how it’s traveled through time, and Jensen is reuniting the symbol to its original literary context of the death of Achilles but doing so in a way that brings along much of the cultural baggage it has accumulated.

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Well, considering that the whole thing may not have actually happened, and if it did, it certainly didn’t happen like the myths say, it may seem silly to nitpick about accuracy. But I confess it bugs me when poetry flat-out gets it wrong. Like blooming lilacs in Texas or a river where it’s not. Possibly that’s just my OCD showing.

I do like the juxtaposition of the ancient myth and the modern colloquial tone, though, and I love the way you phrased this:

Quite agree, although I wouldn’t have said it so well.


I totally agree. I wasn’t trying to suggest that Homer’s recounting of Achille’s fall was itself a truly documented historical event but rather taking up @Pebblerubble’s good point that there’s a clear – and I’d say intentional – dissonance between the tone and diction of the poem and the subject matter of a figure from Greek antiquity. Like I was getting at before, I think this is in service of Jensen playing with the way that a poetic symbol can get dislodged from its original context and accumulate other cultural references along the way, so I think we’re on the same page there!


Curious if anyone has further thoughts on this!:

A beautiful man, now,

Well it’s been a week! Who has a new poem to analyze?

I’ll throw this one out there as something completely different:

Inside the Ghost Volcano
by Will Alexander

With the body of a morbid hanging doll
my aura burns
by shifts
by ambles
by mirages

by the sun in its primordial morass
summoned from a spectral locust feast

through electric bartering grammes
as if a spectrum had been transmogrified
across the sum of exploded solar windows
amidst motions of viral infamy
of sudden discharge pontoons
of magical lyncean sails above ships of pure vitrescence

by empty Minoan game dogs
debating oxygen as form
debating menace as ideal
as one listens to fire
in dense eruptional gullet
in hanging hydrogen mirrors
so that each image is shifted
back & forth
between gales & the apparition of gales

so that
unicorns from Çatal Hüyük
cease to condense as forms of the earth
but take on the body of enigma as transparence
as blackened meteor in abstraction

the sun no longer quantified
by strange calendrical posses
but becomes
balletic differential
which ceases to quarrel
with the magic of fragment as schism

as mist
as a power cast before oasis

because the game dogs
the unicorn mirrors
spun as a wakeless ocular thirst
as a conjured distance
evolved from the force of a clarified activity

like darkened water as shock
as scale which looms as humidity
then the eyes always focused
as pleas for hushed exhibits


I love how Will Alexander achieves an incantatory, mystical effect in his poems. It feels like some magical spell is being cast that’s transforming the environment itself, or transporting the reader back to primordial space. I need to think more about the narrative of the poem, but I’ve been enjoying the musical and tonal qualities a lot.


Woah that’s a meaty one for sure! I keep rereading it over and over trying to absorb it. It feels very weighty, like the volcano itself is intoning the words.

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I just learned that ghost volcanos (or volcanic ghosts) are a real thing-- places where volcanos once stood but no longer do, only plugs of hardened lava that the volcano crumbles away from. Instructive in reading this poem, as the metaphor is something in the narrator altering violently:

as if a spectrum had been transmogrified
across the sum of exploded solar windows

I’ll keep reading.


That poem by Will Alexander is just gorgeous. Here’s a couple of short ones by Stephen Crane:

“I saw a man pursuing the horizon”

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never —”

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”


these are nice! we did say we’d stick with one poem for a week before moving on though :sweat_smile: