Eldritch Mistress by Richard Fay


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Post September 15, 2009, 11:34:29 PM

Eldritch Mistress by Richard Fay

Response to “Eldritch Mistress”

Another fine short fantasy poem by Richard.

I like the overall story of the poem and the contrast in the image of the "pale maid beneath the dark boughs" especially.

My only constructive criticism on this one would be “stealing someone’s heart with a kiss” seems cliché and in my experience clichés are best avoided in most cases, unless you are going to twist the cliché on itself in an ironic way for instance.

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Post September 16, 2009, 04:00:39 PM

"Fey kiss", meaning in this instance a prophetic kiss of death, a fateful kiss of doom, isn't twist enough? Sure, the whole "steal my heart with a kiss" is cliche, but there is more to the third line than that. And the word fey is the key (at least, I hope it is). The following lines in the piece, the actual turn or twist of the cinquain, should certainly reinforce the concept that this is more than mere romantic fancy; the narrator gives his love and his life to his eldritch mistress, willingly or unwillingly. And steal implies theft of something not given up completely willingly, suggesting that a bit of fairy magic was used to seduce the susceptible mortal. That's how these fairy lovers often operated; they used spells and glamour to steal a man's heart and soul with a kiss, a touch, or a mere look. Once seduced by such powerful charms, the hapless human would have the very essence of life drained from his mortal shell. It was usually a fatal attraction in a quite literal sense.

Oh well, I understand the criticism about cliche, and have heard it before, but I think the terror of the dreaded cliche has become something of a cliche itself. In other words, I don't think cliche need necessarily be taboo. It need not spell the death knell of a work. Besides, one reader's cliche may well be another reader's standard trope, phrase, or concept.

Anyway, the cinquain itself, the five lines taken as a whole, is supposed to be a dark twist on romantic verse.
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Post September 16, 2009, 04:09:56 PM

Perhaps this piece was a bit too obscure, a bit too subtle, and could have benefitted from a more direct reference to those fatally attractive fairy lovers. Both eldritch and fey only suggest a more general otherworldiness or weirdness, not specifically of the realm of faerie. However, I didn't want it to be too obvious, either. The way I composed the piece, the mistress could just as easily be a dark sorceress, or a succubus, or some other type of mystical lethal lover.
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Post September 16, 2009, 04:22:59 PM

cliche

A cliche my dear hero?
maybe.
an experience, not without,
those of us her taste still lingers,
sweet theses years after.
and as a cliche called? do doubt.

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Post September 16, 2009, 04:49:21 PM

correction cliche

A cliche my dear hero?
maybe.
an experience, not without,
those of us her taste still lingers,
sweet theses many years here after.
and, as a cliche called? do doubt.

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Post September 16, 2009, 05:59:32 PM

Richard,

I am not criticizing the theme of your poem. I understand perfectly well the intent of the poem and the type of character you are describing in the Eldritch Mistress.

She seems reminiscent of the fairy lady of “La Belle Dam Sans Merci” by John Keats
http://www.poetry-online.org/keats_la_belle_dame_sans_merci.htm

I was merely suggesting that a phrase like “stealing a heart with a kiss” seems cliché the same way saying a character was “wearing his heart on his sleeve” or “she was so beautiful she took my breath away” does. Let me just state the obvious here, a cliché is an expression or idea that is no longer effective because of overuse. If you search the internet for the phrase “steal my heart,” a lot of song lyrics and poems come up, evidence of its overuse. There is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they can be a shortcut to describing something to your reader, but they don’t seem very fresh or original. Using them in a poem is in a way equivalent to telling rather than showing. It is using an abstraction to make your point rather than concrete description.

That’s my two cents worth. Take them or leave them. I care not, either way.
:wink:

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Post September 16, 2009, 06:10:22 PM

RT wrote:

A cliche my dear hero?
maybe.
an experience, not without,
those of us her taste still lingers,
sweet theses many years here after.
and, as a cliche called? do doubt.


You'll have to be a little less abstruse RT. :lol:

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Post September 17, 2009, 12:01:20 PM

davidsonhero wrote:Richard,

I am not criticizing the theme of your poem. I understand perfectly well the intent of the poem and the type of character you are describing in the Eldritch Mistress.

She seems reminiscent of the fairy lady of “La Belle Dam Sans Merci” by John Keats
http://www.poetry-online.org/keats_la_belle_dame_sans_merci.htm

I was merely suggesting that a phrase like “stealing a heart with a kiss” seems cliché the same way saying a character was “wearing his heart on his sleeve” or “she was so beautiful she took my breath away” does. Let me just state the obvious here, a cliché is an expression or idea that is no longer effective because of overuse. If you search the internet for the phrase “steal my heart,” a lot of song lyrics and poems come up, evidence of its overuse. There is nothing inherently wrong with these phrases, they can be a shortcut to describing something to your reader, but they don’t seem very fresh or original. Using them in a poem is in a way equivalent to telling rather than showing. It is using an abstraction to make your point rather than concrete description.

That’s my two cents worth. Take them or leave them. I care not, either way.
:wink:

Hero


My point is just that the phrase isn't merely "steal my heart with a kiss", I adjusted the phrase slightly as "steal my heart with fey kiss". If using those three words "steal my heart" is a cliche, and fey doesn't twist it enough, then so be it. Although, I bet I could type all sorts of three-word phrases into Google and come up with thousands, if not millions, of hits in each case. Still, you are right, "steal my heart" has been used a lot, more than likely to the point of overuse. Perhaps I didn't twist the cliche enough. Perhaps I should have created a stronger twist, or made different word choices, but the poem is out there now.

I listen to constructive criticism, really I do, but I don't always have to agree with it. That is something I think writers need to be aware of; they can disagree with criticism. You just have to be careful how you go about it. And I can be quite vocal at times about my disagreement with certain criticisms, which isn't always the popular path, but that's the way I am. And discussing criticisms can be a sticky subject. Opinions tend to run strong on either side of the issue. And opinions can be dreadfully inflexible things nowadays, especially on the crazy-net.

In this instance, my instincts tell me that the line is fine as-is. Others can disagree with that opinion. You can't please all of the people all of the time, and cliche has become such a writer's bogey that it's bound to rear its ugly head sooner or later. I still stand by my opinion that the criticism of cliche has become, in some ways, cliche itself. The brooding romantic vampire antihero has become something of a cliche, but it still seems to work well enough for Stephanie Meyer! (Like her or hate her, she is selling books and making money, so maybe cliche isn't such the death-knell it's made out to be. Much of what is drilled into writers' heads nowadays seems to fly in the face of reality anyway. Yes, I don't just question certain criticisms of my own work, I question the supposed bigger picture as well. I'm like that.)

By the way, the Keats poem was one of the things that led me to compose this cinquain. I had just read it, or at least an excerpt from it, in The Ultimate Fairies Handbook by Susannah Marriot. Once I read the poem, I knew I had to come up with my own version of that type of story.

In the text right before the poem, the author spoke about the Korrigan temptress that would sit in the gloom of the forest near a ruined well and comb her golden hair. There was a comment made to the point that light disagreed with her complexion. That gave me "Pale maid...beneath dark boughs", and I then added a bit from the life-draining Lhiannan shee to finish it off. (Another source, one I read after I wrote the poem, stated that the Korrigan temptress might operate in a similar fashion to the Lhiannan shee, ultimately killing her mortal love-slave.)
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Post September 17, 2009, 02:55:57 PM

Has anyone ever thought that maybe certain things are used so much because they actually might work, or it it just me? Maybe I lack a true writer's mindset, especially in regards to things like cliche. I don't know.

Another line of mine, in another poem published elsewhere, was questioned because of my use of the cliche "as a moth to flame". However, the simple fact remains, moths ARE fatally drawn to lights, and MOST understand the concept perfectly. Should I have tried to come up with something else, and run the risk of creating a new phrase too obscure to be understood by most readers? ("As a fly to a stinkhorn", perhaps, or maybe "as a gnat to a pitcher plant"? Although, neither seems as poetic somehow, and they may not be as clear as the cliche phrase "as a moth to flame".) Must we necessarily ditch something that works simply because we weren't the first to use it? If it's clear and it works, if others understand the concept, what's the problem?

In response to a criticism that all my works are simply derivative, a poet friend of mine said that everything is, in its own way, derivative of something else. I think the whole "originality versus cliche" business is similar; what seems original might not actually be as original as it first appears. Something influenced the writer; none of us write in a vacuum. And maybe the converse it true; maybe cliche isn't always as cliche as it first appears. Maybe some things get used so often because they actually work, they actually fit, they are actually understandable.

Just musing over the whole idea.
"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did. I'm going to recite poetry!"

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