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Poll: Offsetting Verses in "On Wings of Hope" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poll: Offsetting Verses in "On Wings of Hope"
Two people pointed out that the narrator shift in "On Wings of Hope" is not clear enough. One suggested offsetting alternate verses. On the other hoof, there is already a visual distinction in the pattern of line lengths; the manta lines are long-short-long-short while the cockroach lines are short-long-short-long. Any change needs to accommodate that, and not make the poem illegible. Below is a version of the poem with the manta verses left-justified and the cockroach verses indented. What do you think? If this version doesn't work, other options include using italics, a different typeface, or a different color to distinguish the verses belonging to each narrator.

EDIT 1/12/09: Everyone pretty much agrees that the offset version is legible, and distinguishes the two narrators better. This is now the official version of the poem; I'll go back and add a note to the original, but leave that up so people can see the evolution process.

On Wings of Hope


As a young Singer, I saw
my world broken
like driftwood battered
by waves.

          As a young Sailor, I saw
          my crewmates destroyed by demons
          from the deep.
          Only I survived, clinging to wreckage.

I became a Trader, exchanging
the tunes
that are our tools: songs to build,
songs to shape.

          I became a Captain, leading
          fierce forays against the demons, but
          they cursed me, for I began
          to see their black-winged shapes as beautiful.

How could I help but wonder if
the landlings
had trade and Traders too?
What then?

          How could I help but wonder if
          the demons had their own navies, and if
          their Sailors, like myself,
          sometimes lay awake wishing for peace?

When the storm came, I saw
the deathshadow
spill itself into the water, its landlings
sinking fast.

          When the storm came, I saw
          the demon flying beneath us through dark water,
          but it was the waves, not the demon,
          that overturned our boat.

The water surged around me
as I dove,
catching one on my back. I could save
only one.

          The water surged around me
          as I drowned, and then something hit me
          hard in the belly, bearing me
          up through the rushing waves into the air.

As fast as I could go toward the shore,
I went,
hoping it would be enough for the landling
to reach safety.

          As fast as I could go toward the shore,
          I flailed my way through the waves, struggled up
          the rain-wrecked beach, battered
          but not beaten. Still breathing. Because of a demon.

When the weather cleared,
I watched him,
unable to leave or look away.
How strange.

          When the weather cleared,
          I watched her, like a dark kite in the water,
          graceful as a cloud.
          I wondered why she had saved me.

On his shrimpy body, he wore things –
small things
and long thin things attached like remoras.
What for?

          On her shadowy body, she had
          markings of lighter and darker gray, and under
          her wings she was pale as smoke.
          She carried no tools, but then, how could she?

I sang to him, though I am a Trader,
and Song
no longer my business. Can even a landling
hear truth?

          I sang to her, though I am a Captain,
          and had no business consorting with the enemy.
          Her songs were sweet and weird.
          Can even a demon understand the beauty of music?

I do not care what my people say:
for my part,
I will not fight the landlings any longer.
They are people.

          I do not care what my people say:
          these are not demons, but strange people of the sea.
          I will not fight them any longer.
          And I will find out why they think they must fight us.


Poll #1329422 Revising "On Wings of Hope"
This poll is closed.

Which is more legible?

The original left-justified version.
0(0.0%)
The new version with offset verses.
11(61.1%)
Both are about the same.
7(38.9%)

Which version distinguishes the two narrators better?

The original left-justified version.
0(0.0%)
The new version with offset verses.
18(100.0%)
Both are about the same.
0(0.0%)

Which version do you prefer?

The original left-justified version.
0(0.0%)
The new version with offset verses.
17(94.4%)
Both are good.
1(5.6%)
Neither is good; try something else.
0(0.0%)

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9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: January 12th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC) (Link)
The offset stanzas (or any other means of distinguishing them, but I think offset is easiest for me to pick up) indicate different speakers. I'm not sure I'd have been able to make sense of it left-justified if I hadn't already known it was two speakers -- I'm not sensitive enough to have picked up the differing line lengths, at least not without reading it several times.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: January 12th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you...

... for the feedback. It's useful for me to know when I'm focusing on something that's too subtle for other people to see easily; and a distinction that doesn't do its job isn't sufficient. So far, the new offset version is leading strongly.
dulcinbradbury From: dulcinbradbury Date: January 12th, 2009 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I threw in my two cents because I'd mentioned it before. Of course, since this is how I distinguish between voices in poems, it's my default assumption when I see it.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: January 12th, 2009 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I had no idea at all in the original that there were two speakers. None at all. So obviously, I was rather confused at the end of it. I would also not know one speaker was a manta ray and one a cockroach without the intro at top. So I like this one.

From: technoshaman Date: July 11th, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
:reading this many moons later...:

Yeah. Such are the ways peace gets started...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 11th, 2013 08:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you found this series enjoyable.
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 27th, 2014 11:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, so sweet. Very gentle and accepting as well as curious these two.

I'm glad you went with the off-set version because I think I wouldn't have liked it as much otherwise. I had to reread it a few times to be sure I had the right narrator with the right verses as it stands, though that's as much the fact that I'm easily distracted and that I think it'd work better for me as a the final part of a poetic triptych with The Songs That Know and another piece from the cockroach's view.

Granted, I'm not entirely sure if the manta ray narrators are the same narrator, but reading them so closely together seems to have made them such in my mind.

*ruffles hair* Er... Anyway. I think this is a lovely way to look at two conflicting sides of an issue. And it does so with... not a lot of understanding on either side yet, but the start of it and a willingness to explore the curiosity that sparked it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 28th, 2014 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> Oh, so sweet. Very gentle and accepting as well as curious these two. <<

Thank you!

>> I'm glad you went with the off-set version because I think I wouldn't have liked it as much otherwise. <<

Form and shape are important parts of poetry. Sometimes it takes a little thought to get them exactly right.

>> I had to reread it a few times to be sure I had the right narrator with the right verses as it stands, though that's as much the fact that I'm easily distracted and that I think it'd work better for me as a the final part of a poetic triptych with The Songs That Know and another piece from the cockroach's view. <<

I'm glad you got through it.

>> Granted, I'm not entirely sure if the manta ray narrators are the same narrator, but reading them so closely together seems to have made them such in my mind. <<

I suspect they might be the same, but I'm not entirely sure. Sometimes it takes me a while to pin things down.

>> *ruffles hair* Er... Anyway. I think this is a lovely way to look at two conflicting sides of an issue. And it does so with... not a lot of understanding on either side yet, but the start of it and a willingness to explore the curiosity that sparked it. <<

Yay! That's what I was aiming for, that tentative bumping against each other to see what's going on when nobody knows for sure but they hope it will be friendly rather than violent.
little_lynnet From: little_lynnet Date: May 28th, 2014 01:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'm glad you got through it.

*chuckles* That makes it sound like it was a hardship to do, and it really wasn't. It's just one of those poems that requires a little more attention for me to get the most out of it. I enjoyed it. ^_^

I suspect they might be the same, but I'm not entirely sure. Sometimes it takes me a while to pin things down.

I understand. My pieces are usually like that. I just spent a good... two weeks or so fighting one of my settings because it refused to be pinned down. I still expect it to change its mind. Anyway, for what its worth, the narrators in your poems feel the same to me. Just with a fairly big age difference between them.
9 comments or Leave a comment