Poem for Critique 016: Flying by night by Bill Schwalm

WAS picture 1Welcome to Morgen’s Online Poetry Writing Group and the sixteenth poem submitted to this blog for feedback. This piece is by Bill Schwalm.

Please do comment in the section below telling us what you liked about this poem and, what if anything, the author could do to improve upon it, specifically:

1.  General comments

2.  Lack of focus of antecedent in the early part

3.  Sentence length and awkwardness

4.  The fact that the couplet in the last stanza does not comprise a sentence

Thank you – it’s very much appreciated!


Flying by night

Settled in the reeds with early snow,

lie they hidden in a thicket under elms,

or are they only tangled in the branches

where a tree has fallen by the river?

Maybe they have been among the geese

that argue in the sky at night,

as birds of passage casting shadows where

the cotton floated lately over summer fields,

now recollecting one another’s faces

only as the geese remember stars—


Summoned to the air by changing light

to follow avian voices in the night.


Thank you, Bill.

WAS picture 2Bill Schwalm is unpublished as a poet.  He has been reading and writing poems since he was a boy.

He holds currently the position Professor of Physics at The University of North Dakota.

Bill would love to hear your comments via the comments section below and / or  http://www.facebook.com/william.schwalm.3.


If you’d like to submit your poem (50 lines max) for feedback on this blog see Submissions and / for consideration for the weekly Post-weekend Poetry slot on my main blog, take a look here.

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My online writing blog / Facebook groups are:

Morgen’s Online Non-Fiction Writing Group

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Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group

Morgen’s Online Script Writing Group

Thank you for reading this and we look forward to your comments.

7 responses to “Poem for Critique 016: Flying by night by Bill Schwalm

  1. “Lie they hidden… ” in the second line sounds old fashioned and stuffy, but still, for some reason it sounds well. Then the being, “tangled in the branches where a tree has fallen by the river,” pulls the reader back to earth. A goose would not be tangled like that, so it either doesn’t fit or it reminds me that I am human, unable to fly with the geese. So yes, there is ambiguity in “they.” I feel it is alright. I have heard geese fly overhead at night that seem to be arguing. The geese argue, cast shadows and recollect, all in the same sentence of five lines. It is convoluted, but the rhythm is right. And it lets me know I am the one tangled in the branches. I like it. I would not mess with the end. Sentence or not, it has verve.

  2. It’s moody, nostalgic and very nice… apart from the ending. Sorry, the rhyme there is spoiling the poem’s delicate structure.

  3. Thank you, Tom, Anna. I’ve passed on your comments to Bill.

  4. Bill, I worked out a poem inspired by yours, just as yours is inspired by Anna’s (is it?). I hope you will like it.

    The Geese

    Geese in Spring
    arrive from somewhere south
    and mate
    and fly the waterways
    at unsafe speed between the hemlocks
    past the ledges, skimming
    over lakes,
    they hurtle recklessly in pairs.
    Somewhere along the way
    they hatch and raise their young,
    until in Autumn prompted
    by some furtive angle of the sun
    the geese take up,
    and forming chevrons,
    fly away again
    to who knows where.

  5. The poem describes geese landing in the spring and taking flight again in the fall after staying the summer. There is nothing extraordinary about that. A mysterious slant of sunlight prompts them to migrate, and take to the sky finally at the end. It is well written, as far as I know. But in all the particulars I mentioned, don’t you think the poem is quite similar to mine, which you have reviewed above? I mean it is similar in at least those ways. It also describes mated pairs of birds flying in reckless nuptial, hurtling between the trees? That is rather similar to my piece, it seems to me. Of course, this similarity doesn’t change the fact that I like your version of it. I like it better than mine, in fact. I like the smooth way it moves along from idea to idea. My poem was criticized for having the rhyming couplet.

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