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  #21  
Old 10-11-2017, 08:56 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I think it's almost there. Thanks again, Andrew, for pointing to the weakness in the ending.

Cheers,
John
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  #22  
Old 10-15-2017, 04:51 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi folks,

I'm taking the liberty of bumping this a moment, to see if folks think the latest revision basically works. The poem started with fairly universal condemnation, so I'm interested.

Cheers,
John
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  #23  
Old 10-15-2017, 06:31 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Hey John,
I have been messing around with this story for a while myself, but the poem of it has eluded me. The original versions that is. It is a tough one, maybe not least because its message against hubris is the message of the regime to the underdog in a sense. There is something deeply foreign to us, here and now, in the tone of the story. So sending people there, with allusions, won't work.

I think you would need more of a rewrite of the tale, more of Marsyas soul to be skinned alongside his body. At least for me, the revision doesn't get there either. It just feels a bit flat and so far outside the pain, like through a TV screen of a cartoon characters death. Not sure why.

Last edited by Andrew Mandelbaum; 10-15-2017 at 06:49 AM.
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  #24  
Old 10-15-2017, 06:52 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Andrew,

And thank you for your insight. "So far outside the pain" is a telling line, and I agree, I haven't found a way to put that on the page without sounding telly (my word) or maudlin (Andrew S's). As you say, this story lies outside our experience, however much it resonates. Merrill comes at it obliquely.
Hubris is not my intended theme, since I've gone with the version where Marsyas has no idea Athena has cursed the flute. Out of blue sky annihilation descends on him. These things happen.
I think I'll keep the poem in my MS., where context frames it. But you may have put your finger on its failing.

Cheers,
John
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  #25  
Old 10-15-2017, 07:15 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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I think, for me anyway, Z Herbert's poem is the ground floor for any building or response to the myth:


Apollo and Marsyas

The real duel of Apollo
with Marsyas
(absolute ear
versus immense range)
takes place in the evening
when as we already know
the judges
have awarded victory to the god

bound tight to a tree
meticulously stripped of his skin
Marsyas
howls
before the howl reaches his tall ears
he reposes in the shadow of that howl

shaken by a shudder of disgust
Apollo is cleaning his instrument

only seemingly
is the voice of Marsyas
monotonous
and composed of a single vowel

A

in reality
Marsyas relates
the inexhaustible wealth
of his body

bald mountains of liver
white ravines of aliment
rustling forests of lung
sweet hillocks of muscle
joints bile blood and shudders
the wintry wind of bone
over the salt of memory
shaken by a shudder of disgust
Apollo is cleaning his instrument

now to the chorus
is joined the backbone of Marsyas
in principle the same A
only deeper with the addition of rust

this is already beyond the endurance
of the god with nerves of artificial fibre

along a gravel path
hedged with box
the victor departs
wondering
whether out of Marsyas’ howling
there will not some day arise
a new kind
of art—let us say—concrete

suddenly
at his feet
falls a petrified nightingale


he looks back
and sees
that the hair of the tree to which Marsyas was fastened
is white


completely
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  #26  
Old 10-15-2017, 07:17 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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In my opinion this is coming along, John: the opening section contexualizes the Marsyas story so there’s a sense of why it’s being brought in. At the same time, the problem for me with ending on Marsyas’s painful excoriation is that it implies the speaker of the poem, the poet, has undergone a similar torment. But we have no idea what that might have been so, without further information or context, the ending might be interpreted as an unearned “Woe is me.”

So, what I’m saying is that I think still more needs to be added to contextualize that part.

By the way, for “from A / to B” in part 1, how about “from back / to forth,” echoing the opening and making it less diagrammatic? What’s lost in rhyme is made up for, imo, with greater spatial depth. (I do love that sentence, actually; it really sings.)

Hope this helps.

Andrew

editing back to add: this post was written before I read Andrew M's and your exchange of today.

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 10-15-2017 at 07:19 AM.
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  #27  
Old 10-15-2017, 07:20 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Tremendous. Thank you for sharing what can be done with the Marsyas legend. There is great poetry out of modern Poland.
I've revised my ending a bit; I think it's better, but I feel a certain despair now. It's only to be expected.

Cheers,
John
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  #28  
Old 10-15-2017, 07:46 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good morning Andrew,

And thank you for your remarks. It is heartening to hear that the poem is coming along - I like to feel my work has been worthwhile - and I like your suggestion, which has inspired me.
On the other hand, I think Andrew M. has shown how little point really there is in someone taking on this theme unless they are the equal of Herbert, which I am not. I've posted a pretty thorough revision, which I find edgier and better, but really just because of the work I've already put into this. Your basic point - establishing why this speaks to the poet - is I think unmet without more context. Folks will have to read the book!!

Cheers,
John
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