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Old 01-25-2004, 09:24 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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I am reading a book length manuscript from one of our members, Oliver Murray. Like Clive, Oliver writes freely and formally, and I'd appreciate your comments on this poem in free verse.

What Marks We Leave


On my grandfather's turf-bog
the sides of the dug pits are black
and oily as fruitcake, where the spades
have cut the peat’s face and every move
of cloud is noted in the straight-carved pools.

My grandfather was a policeman
who’d learned shorthand, to take
crop records and witness statements
in times of civil war and land disputes,
noting property boundaries,
and where the dead lay.
On this bog he struck down to a hard leaf
that lay, interrupting the thin layers of time.
He washed the clogged metal clean
of the dark gruel of the peat.
then cycled sixteen miles to the police station.

The bronze-age cloak-pin of fine-beaten gold
with its repeating curve design has been
in the Museum for nearly a hundred years
It never bore his name, and shorthand
is like a memory of an ancient language,
a code tapped between enthusiasts.
But somewhere, some marks he made
must still be left, deep in the black water,
below the surface that, patiently,
without prejudice, records the sky.


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Old 01-25-2004, 12:33 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is offline
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This is very fine. I love the title and the different resonances it takes on in the course of the poem. The language is clear and precise, and there is just one point that I found confusing. After "It never bore his name," there should be a comma, because otherwise "shorthand" seems to be part of the same clause. I had to re-read that sentence to get the intended meaning. I like how much of the grandfather's personality is conveyed obliquely, through his actions or the pools that patiently reflect the sky.

Susan
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Old 01-25-2004, 04:25 PM
David Anthony David Anthony is offline
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I think the boundary between good free verse and good formal verse is largely artificial.
I look forward to seeing Oliver's book.
Best regards,
David
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Old 01-25-2004, 06:55 PM
Janet Kenny Janet Kenny is offline
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Tim and Oliver, much beauty and character in this poem, and yes, to the comma suggested by Susan.
Janet
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Old 01-25-2004, 08:40 PM
VictoriaGaile VictoriaGaile is offline
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One thing that strikes me are the nice images along the end words of the poem: black spade, policeman take statements, language enthusiasts, patiently records the sky.

I like the progression of sound in S1: the moving vowel of bog, black, spades, then the assonance of moves and pools.
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:05 AM
oliver murray oliver murray is offline
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Tim,

I appreciate your posting this, particularly because it enabled me to spot an "infelicity" in that I used the word "bog" three times, and two of them were within a few lines of each other. I have substituted "peat" for one of them. Someone on another board told me he thought this piece might be too "Heaneyesque" but the Murrays were on the bog long before the Heaneys, and Heaney's grandad didn't find a three thousand year old gold ornament like mine did. Many thanks to all who have commented, particularly Susan about that comma. She is, of course, right, and I have now changed it.

Regards,

Oliver.
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:40 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
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They may well have found one Oliver which never did find its way to a museum.

What a pity your grandfather never got credit for his discovery, and then again, maybe not, as I'm sure your book and this poem within its pages would give him lot of pride and all the regognition he would want.

Congratulation on many fronts;
Jim

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Old 01-26-2004, 11:20 AM
oliver murray oliver murray is offline
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Jim,

Your're a caution! I never thought of that. I never met this grandfather, but he lived in Scotstown, Co Monaghan and when I researched it I discovered he lived in the next townland to the inventor of Gregg's shorthand. I don't know whether that had anything to do with it, but his shorthand was so good it was published on one of Gregg's manuals. Many thanks for your kind words.

Regards,

Oliver.
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Old 01-26-2004, 11:58 AM
Jim Hayes Jim Hayes is offline
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Ireland is a small place Oliver, my fatherinlaw served in the police force in Co Monaghan from its establishment until his retirement some twentyfive, thirty years ago.

I'll bet he knew your grandfather and damned if he didn't dig enough turf from the Bragan -according to himself- to have filled a bucket full of gold artifacts.

Jim
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Old 01-26-2004, 09:29 PM
Golias Golias is offline
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A very nice one, Oliver. I also am looking forward to reading the book one day.

BTW: a bit of trivia picked up from another poem about Irish turf is the name of a tool used in the cutting thereof: sleane--- which would make a useful rhyme somewhere.

G.

[This message has been edited by Golias (edited January 26, 2004).]
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