Eratosphere Forums - Metrical Poetry, Free Verse, Fiction, Art, Critique, Discussions Able Muse - a review of poetry, prose and art

Forum Left Top

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 09-30-2017, 03:46 AM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Saeby, Denmark
Posts: 2,791
Default The Noise of a Fly

Here's a very positive review of Douglas Dunn's latest poetry collection, The Noise of a Fly.

I wonder what you say to the reviewer's exhortation: "in years to come ‘Senex in Market Street’ should be printed in new editions as Sonnet 155."

Here's the sonnet in question:


XXSenex on Market Street

X‘Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament’


Posh totty totter past on serious heels.
In handsomeness, with confidence, they walk
Towards exams, and don’t know how it feels
To hear the fateful tick-tock of the clock.
Young women, and young men, I, too, was young –
Believe that if you can! – but years go by
Until, one day, you find your songs are sung;
Ambitionless, your sap and tears run dry.
There’s something I must tell – need you know this? –
I loved a woman who dressed as well as you;
But I can’t give the past false emphasis,
For even old love is for ever new.
X When she walked out she dulcified the air;
X And so do you. To say so’s only fair.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 09-30-2017, 05:07 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 3,602
Default

I found that accolade a little whimsical, but perhaps no more so than the thought that crossed my own mind; that its predestined place is in St Andrews, on Market Street, a bronze plaque on a plinth supporting a statue of the old man himself. It is typical of his style, simple words complicated by fussy grammar and a built-in reminder of the Lesley of the Elegies alongside the later Lesley.

There's a lot I don't especially like about the poem; the clock tick-tocking and the stumble in line 11; the academic question holding the poem at arm's length and the selfconscious backward echoes, via Larkin, of Housman, Marvell, Shakespeare... but the title begs my forgiveness. This is (written in) the voice of an old, slowly-educated, benign curmudgeon and would do well in the place I suggested, with an added nod to Yeats: Girlies, go by.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 09-30-2017, 02:03 PM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Saeby, Denmark
Posts: 2,791
Default

I agree there is whimsy in that accolade, Ann. But I also see it as a huge compliment. Your own wee thought was interesting, and certainly a lot more likely than our reviewer’s here.

I like “the fateful tick-tock of the clock” as it is a direct reference to the different conditions under which exams were sat in Dunn’s day, where a battery-run clock on the wall did tick-tock away mercilessly.

You point to a stumble in line 11. I think you mean that the phrasing of “past false emphasis” is rather awkward. It’s interesting that line 10 has ten words – “I loved a woman who dressed as well as you;” – in view of the laddish notion of calling a beautiful woman a ten. And then L11 – “But I can’t give the past false emphasis” – draws attention to the fact that line 10 can be read as “I loved a woman who’d rest as well as you;” if “the past” – i.e. a verb in the past tense – is given “false emphasis”. In the context “rest” might well mean “die”. This new reading has three alternative meanings:

1. I loved a woman who’d die as much as I do you;
2. I loved a woman who’d die in addition to loving you;
3. I loved a woman who’d die as well as you will die;

The line can also be read as: “I loved a woman who’d wrest as well as you;”

There is another verb in the past tense in line 10: “loved”. “False emphasis” of “loved” would be to promote it to the stressed syllable of an iamb instead of the equally-stressed syllable of a spondee or even the unstressed syllable of a trochaic substitution.

One can read “so’s” in the last line as “SOS” and still have a line of IP, albeit one that ends on two anapaests: “And so do you. To say SOS only fair.”

My thoughts so far.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 09-30-2017, 04:15 PM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 3,602
Default

A swift apology - it was line 10 where I felt the stumble. (I share the lack of aptitude for mathematics that denied Dunn a place at University,)
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 10-01-2017, 03:16 AM
Nigel Mace Nigel Mace is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: The Borders and Italy
Posts: 1,364
Default

Well, yes. "Sonnet 155" is a more than trifle overblown - but it is a cracking sonnet just the same. Your thumb-nail of Dunn's manner, Ann, is telling, but to me it tells of much that I love. His conscious sense of debts owed to a literary hinterland is, to me, one of his many charms.

I passed by both the 'stumble' in line 10 and its numerological significance, Duncan, drawn on by the simply fitting nature of its sense. After all - "I loved a woman, dressed as well as you" - would miss the independent agency of the present line and by its very smoothness invite neglect of her individuality. Where I had a doubt/hesitancy in granting complete approval, came in two other places. First, the slightly lofty half-truth of the end of Line 3; the assumption that the exam clock can be heard in blissful ignorance of the significance of passing time, perhaps, betrays one who never (at that level) heard it and feared its potential, life-long, assumed consequences. Secondly, the rather contrived end of Line 9, " - need you know this?", to set up the rhyme for "emphasis". That was, perhaps, more clever than felt.

Having said all that, I still read it with relish for the word-play, a lot of the sense and the throb of its faintly defiant pulse. Your Market Street proposal, Ann, would be splendid - though, perhaps you'd like one of the Elegies on the other side of the plinth. Which one? - and which poem on which side?
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Forum Right Top
Forum Left Bottom Forum Right Bottom
 
Right Left
Member Login
Forgot password?
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Statistics:
Forum Members: 7,832
Total Threads: 18,594
Total Posts: 240,203
There are 205 users
currently browsing forums.
Forum LeftForum Right


Forum Sponsor:
Donate & Support Able Muse / Eratosphere
Forum LeftForum Right
Right Right
Right Bottom Left Right Bottom Right

Hosted by ApplauZ Online