Monday, 16 May 2011

Time Killing (an Octain)

Monday 16th May 2011, A. Palmer

Upon the shelf, you sit and live-
We're taught your hands make presents past
and left to feel we're caught, outcast,

despite our belts in seats you give
to all those born to ride your scorn,
as we are dropped like sand through sieve

by those damn hands. No thing does last-
upon the shelf, we sit and live.

This is an Octain, a form of poetry devised by Luke Prater, which is also the focus of a workshop today (Monday 16th May 2011) over at One Stop PoetryAn Octain is a poem of 8 lines, made up of two tercets and a couplet, with each line comprising of 8 syllables (usually adopting iambic or trochaic tetrameter). The rhyme scheme is A/b/b | a/c-c/a | b/A, where A is a refrain (the first line is repeated closely or identically as the final line) and c-c is a slice of internal rhyme. I first tried my hand at an Octain back in January with a slightly more light-hearted affair than this one. That poem, on the subject of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, can be found here. To read more fantastic attempts at Prater's Octain, head over to the workshop, where there is a Mister Linky widget at the bottom with links to other poets' Octains.


  1. Oh, that's really good Aaron!

  2. This is a work of art. Lovely.

  3. I'm blown away. Truly, thank you both.

  4. Good octain...I could follow your iambic meter in the flow, done very well. Outside of the form, your words were captivating in this piece. ~ Rose

  5. Wonderful line in this Arron, flows very well, can hardly tell it is a restricked form !!

  6. I liked this. It seemed to flow quite naturally.

  7. you nailed the form arron - excellent flow and also very cool imagery with sitting upon the shelf and live and dropped like sand through sieve....starts a whole movie in my head...loved it

  8. I really enjoyed this - the tension and frustration comes across very intensely. I also like that you never mentioned the word 'clock' or 'time' in the poem.

  9. Enjoyed this quite a bit; clocks have at times intimidated me as a way of counting down to death. However, I have chiming clocks now and the music on the quarters make it pleasant. Octain fully realized. Well done.

  10. Clever, thought provoking and in form too.

  11. Arron this is excellent. I might normally baulk at conversational, in some
    contexts redundant language such as 'Although, of course', and the 'Yes'
    of line seven, but they suit the style of the piece perfectly. I don't get the
    sense that they're in there out of needing to make up syllables for the meter
    or to fill space where the poet was lost for better words. The meter is spot-
    on, and the slight variation of the refrain line brings the piece nicely full-
    circle and lends a sense of development to conclusion. These two lines I like
    in particular -

    as we are dropped like sand through sieve >fab

    by those damn hands. Yes, nothing lasts- >'damn' really works here. feel
    that curse. It can sound like a wasted syllable or just too generic/vulgar, but
    I think it's a great word in the right place, as here.

    I have just one issue with the poem, and that's the double plural at the end
    line two - '...presents pasts'. Firstly, I find it hard to speak out. It doesn't roll
    off the tongue well for me. Also it doesn't seem needed for 'pasts' - surely
    'presents past' is correct grammatically? This would make the rhyme with
    tighter 'cast' tighter as well, its nearest rhyme. Or is this not a double plural
    but a possessive missing the apostrophe, as in 'present's pasts'? Even in that
    Context singular 'past' would suffice, no?

    Excellent piece, man. I enjoyed your first, it was very good; this is even
    better. (All the above in my humble opinion, of course).

  12. not sure why my comment came out formatted like that! Hope it's readable

  13. How can I follow up comment the dude that made the form? That's like going onstage after James Taylor. :D

  14. I enjoyed the contrast you created in the first and last lines.

  15. Thank you all for your such kind comments and reviews, I've received more than I thought I would, and it is greatly appreciated.

    And Luke, thank you for taking the time to drop in and peruse your creation being abused here! With regard to your thoughtfully in-depth review, I'd like to answer each point/query in turn:

    Firstly, if I'm to be perfectly honest, my style of poetry often boils down to a slight conversational one. Occasionally, it is warranted and thereby works, frequently it, as you point out, perhaps highlights my immaturity as a writer. Again, this is something I vow to look into improving- another area you have proved helpful with, so thank you.

    Secondly, yes, I actually got the idea for the slight refrain change from your own octain Deference (if the inventor can take a minute liberty, then we all can! was my first thought, but, actually, I feel it can actually be used to make the poem more effective).

    Thirdly, I tried this time to nail the trochaic tetrameter, as my first attempt back in January fell down in that respect somewhat. You may recall me commenting then that meter was what I often struggled with, and I have since tried to rectify that, even writing a alternating sonnet in February. So I'm pleased you picked up on the improved meter-showing here.

    Finally, the "presents pasts" line is referring to BOTH the present and the past as nouns, not, as I suspect you're trying to read it as, the (noun) 'present' being made history (i.e. 'past' as an adjective). It is attempting to illustrate how a clock's ever-moving hands constantly, every second, make that present second a past one as it moves onto a new present second, which, within a further second, will be made a past second itself, causing me to describe them as plurals.

    It's employed to show how I often get so caught up in watching that that I begin to realise I'm watching my life ticking down. The ironic fact that I'm doing nothing as I watch this happen leaves me feeling slightly aside from the world of Time, despite being very much apart of it given Time is happening constantly, killing me for a better way of wording it. Hence I feel "caught, outcast". Of course, then this would fit with the rhyme "lasts" in L7, leaving "outcast" as the slightly ill-fitting rhyme.

    I hope that that made it somewhat clearer. Perhaps I am still incorrect (i.e. is it possible to make 'presents' 'pasts'), in which case I would welcome you to return and notify me so. I appreciate that "presents past" would read better, and leaves no question mark over grammar, but I liked the idea of making them both plural, to capture the second-by-second change from present to past.

    Anyways, I shall work upon my poetic style and attempt to cut the more "redundant" conversational fillers from my work where it does not benefit the poem. Hopefully, my writing can become tighter, more mature and essentially more poetic. Thanks once again for your constructive criticism Luke. Cheers dude.

  16. I like conversations as part of the form as it helps to break the sing-some nature that can creep in

  17. I was actually saying that the conversational aspects of this piece worked very well (whereas often they don't, for me anyway). It's all about context, no? 'Presents pasts' - it's just that it hard to get my tongue around. 'Presents past' is also grammatically correct I think.

    Apologies for my comment being so messed up in format... really hard to read I know. Hope you got it all. Cheers mate, excellent piece, you are too humble!

  18. Ah yes Luke, I didn't make it clear, I understood you welcomed the conversational tone here, but what I meant to say is that your mention of it made me realise that I, in fact, employ it quite a lot. I've re-read some of my poems and I agree with you, I feel that the conversational style highlights my immaturity at times.

    So I was thanking you, and that I've taken it on board for future poems (not this one, just that ironically, it was this poem where it worked that has led to me see that it often fails!). I hope that is clear! Thanks for coming back to clarify pal.