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The Carousel

by Zettel 

Posted: 19 November 2004
Word Count: 182

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The Carousel

Round and round, and up and down
come board our very pretty ride
wicked smiles they never frown
the moveless horses, baleful eyed
but have a care, this circle game
ends only when someone has died.

Up and down, and round and round
pitilessly the horses spin
never merry, they go round
implacable, they draw you in
the heartless painted ponies prance
come join our dance on unfair ground

Newton's second law obtains
when violence rears its evil head
act, react, we grasp the reins
on retribution's path we're led
the roundabout of death spins on
'til nothing evil men restrains

Round and round it ever goes
the gaudy carousel of hate
how it started no one knows
it's lost within the nation state
and Gods at war give men excuse
to follow every wind that blows.

Round and round and round he cried
the grinning joker spun the wheel
faster, faster, love's dead he lied
don't think, don't doubt, don't pause, don't feel
roll up roll up kids it's quite safe
come join me on my pretty ride.


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Comments by other Members

lieslj at 05:09 on 20 November 2004  Report this post
The carousel as the metaphor for toxic relationship! Yes, indeed. Didn't Jacques Brel sing something along these lines?

I guess at first reading I imagined this was about a relationship within a family and I felt the imagery worked. On second reading - and particularly the fourth stanza - I thought perhaps it was about the US led invasion of Iraq. The ambiguity troubled me a bit and I found myself thinking that the carousel is too small an image to contain such an enormous tragedy.

Once again, I'm no fan of rhyming poetry, yet the carousel contains a rhythm that lends itself to rhyme. You use the device to good effect.


James Graham at 16:02 on 20 November 2004  Report this post
I could see there might be something sinister about a carousel, as there is perhaps about circus clowns. But I can't help agreeing that it's not that sinister and so it doesn't quite work as a metaphor for war. There's a possibility I can see of using the carousel as a metaphor for the consumer culture - we pay to join in, everything's brightly coloured to attract us, we get reassuring messages about something that can be quite different in reality: the product disappoints; even if it pleases us, we are encouraged always to 'go round again'; we get into debt. It's a good metaphor for something in modern life, but not really for war, I think. I liked your previous poem 'Hearts and Minds' much better - but admire the rhyming in both. Whenever I try to make a rhyming poem I have the most almighty struggle.


Zettel at 17:08 on 20 November 2004  Report this post
Lieslj and James

Thanks for the comments. The carousel was intended as a metaphor for the endless cycle of violence that seems to underlie all conflicts and almost seems to transcend the particular beliefs etc that ostensibly justify each one. In that sense there seems to me to be something, however appalling the thought, that attracts people to it or at least that they they do not seem to be able to resist once drawn into the cycle: hence Newton's second law of action/reaction being equal and opposite. Whether I have chosen the right metaphor here is open to question, what I am convinced of is that the 'banality of evil' is true and that something as innocent even as a fairgound roundabout (and I certaily find the horses deeply sinister in aspect)is more apposite than some dramatic powerful image.

That I have to explain this is proof positive that I haven't got it over in the poem, which is disappointing but not too discouraging - I'm perhaps trying to do somthing a bit beyond my present ability - that's OK: just keep trying.

Thanks again for the comments. As for rhyming James: its ironic, you have trouble making it rhyme I have the reverse problem and dum di dum is the result. I think my problem's worse than yours (but then people always think that don't they?)



joanie at 17:24 on 20 November 2004  Report this post
Zettel, my first impression as I read through this was very similar, as James said, to circus clowns; something sinister. The first two stanzas made me think 'Horror movie', but having read your explanation I can understand what you are saying. I think the metaphor works well actually.

I too love to write rhyming verse, but I rarely post it on here......

....I stopped at this point to consider that statement. Perhaps I post more rhyming verse than I realise!

Thanks for the explanation, Z, I enjoyed the poem and it has made me think.


James Graham at 19:25 on 20 November 2004  Report this post
Violence seeming to transcend ideological, economic and other motives for war: I can absolutely see that. And that, to some, violence is attractive - maybe we should say legitimate violence, the huge attraction of getting into a situation in which killing is authorised and rewarded. (Illegitimate violence is attractive too, but those who get into it are never quite as free as the soldier is.) On reconsideration, I think why the carousel metaphor doesn't quite work is that the war/violence content isn't prominent enough. The poem is more about the carousel than about war, whereas there should be a more equal balance - closer to 'this is war, and it reminds me of a carousel' rather than 'this is a carousel, and it reminds me of war'. I'm coming at it this way because I do see from your explanation that the carousel metaphor has more potential than I thought on first reading.


lieslj at 06:58 on 21 November 2004  Report this post
This is the essence of the task at hand, the challenge that I too am grappling with:

I'm perhaps trying to do somthing a bit beyond my present ability - that's OK: just keep trying.

Your courage to venture past what is known to you is an attitude that will ensure artistic growth. You present a reminder to all of us to move beyond the comfortable.

You remind me to push further too. Thank you.

Zettel at 10:48 on 21 November 2004  Report this post
Thanks for coming back. I think there is much in what you say but I do get the impression from your own and other comments that I find fairgrounds in general and especially figures like the carousel horses far more sinster than you all do. Its those bloody movies again: so many movies use the imagery: The Third Man, Strangers on the Train etc etc. The fairground is where people go to be scared witless, for enjoyment. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with it but it is plugging into something irrational and visceral, ancient. I have loved movies all my life of every genre except one: horror. I am disturbed at sitting in a cinema and hearing people laugh (however nervously)at motiveless death and mutilation etc. Somethingdrove people to watch hangings and executions. And who would
bet you couldn't sell tickets even today?

You are enticed onto the carousel because it looks so safe and innoccuous: but you cannot get off until it decides to stop; you are passively carried on by the momentum created by someone else; even if you feel sick, you must complete the ride, you cannot get off half way through; and all your 'companions' on the carousel are moving in unison, just as helpless, just as passive.......

As I've now written 3 times more in explanation (not complaining at all - I'm a very gratified at the interest everyone's comments display) it is by definition a poem that doesn't quite work. OK as I said before: make it (or the next one) work.

Music to my ears! Making someone think, or feel must be one of the most satisfying outcomes of sharing a poem.

Liesl: Likewise your generous comments.

And yes I think perhaps a poem about the fairground might be a good idea. That comes from all your comments - thanks.


The Walrus at 19:24 on 21 November 2004  Report this post
Blimey, have brain ache from reading the comments. Am well over my head wading into a debate such as this, so will keep it brief. I think the metaphor works: a) the endless circular movement of the carousel mirrors the fact that humanity has never learnt from history. Torture, murder just keep on happening; b) the 'grinning joker' for me, personifies politicians, attempting to draw you in on the offer of something good, while hiding behind their egos/personal agendas... yadda yadda.

The Walrus

fireweed at 20:54 on 21 November 2004  Report this post
Zettel, the fact that your poem has provoked such a lively and thought-provoking debate suggests that on one level it has worked. As it was an ambitious attempt to grapple with big issues - war, evil- then you wouldn't expect to be able to resolve all the complexities they throw up so easily. Don't be discouraged - take heart from having tried and nearly got there - keep writing.


Don Gorgon at 23:53 on 21 November 2004  Report this post
Zettel, when I read this, before reading the comments - which are good reading in themselves, very interesting - I thought it was about life, the 'real world' and all that, with a passing reference to war in the fourth verse. After reading the comments, yours in particular, I can see where your coming from now and understand it more, so nice one for that. Even though I may have missed the point first time round, I still enjoyed it with my interpretation! Nice works.



Zettel at 20:48 on 22 November 2004  Report this post
Walrus, Fireweed and Don

I wish the poem was as good as the discussion! Thanks for your as ever, constructive and encouraging remarks. Sorry if we've made your head hurt Wal. I have more sympathy than you might imagine. The great thing about WW in general and Poetry I in particular is that you feel among friends and therefore don't feel too bad about stretching your abilities a bit.

So for your ever supportive and constructive comments, many thanks. Although one has come to rely on it - never taken for granted folks.

Thanks again


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