Thread: Love Sick
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Unread 08-25-2019, 02:42 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Daniel, hi Andrew,

And thank you both for returning with your thoughts.
Daniel: I'm glad you like this piece, and that you find it gritty - that's more or less my aim here. Like Andrew, you note a certain staccato or kaleidoscopic rhythm to the piece, but I don't think I can change S2L3, since he's been singing is not Dylan's statement, it's mine (the song is from 1997). Holocaust is a highly charged word; I'm very glad it works for you in the end, since as you note, there's no guarantee of that. I've hoped to use it with care here. You're also right about the meter-smoothing "then" in S4L4, but I think it also fits the turn from the young to the old in the argument. As you say, maybe "need some reminding" is better. Thanks again, profoundly, for the suggestion to remove Dylan from the poem - I'm not ready though to do so 100%, since I want folks to go back to his song, and Dylan situates the piece, to my mind. Hence the closing reference. It took me several years to write a non-crap Dylan poem, so I was glad when this one happened.
Andrew: thanks for your thoughtful points. Yes, the black soil works for Dylan, but I also had in mind the Oresteia, whose motto in my books is blood calls for blood. The absolute manifests from below, not above, which leads me to the leap about there being no God. Not one in Heaven, anyway. My lines "And that is how the sky / sits on the world, how ocean laps the shore" were really just a fancy way for me to say "how things are," as I recall from the act of writing. But the bottom line is that anything a writer has to explain in footnotes has not worked on the page, and your concerns are apt and pointed. The poem is shifting, fragmentary, amorphous, where meaning and the thrust of narrative is concerned. The trouble is, I like those lines - the black soil, the sea and sky - so much I've not seen a way to amend them yet. They seem elemental to me, and I think I need that. Which brings us to the night. In my private universe, out of which my poems spring, night is shorthand for adversity. It succeeds the day, as fortune's wheel turns, bringing pain where pleasure or joy once stood, and is inescapable. Similarly, George Harrison sings "Daylight has a way of arriving at the right time."
Of course, none of these explanations appear on the page the poem is standing on; and they are worth only what they are worth, since the poem is in the final analysis independent and autonomous. You've pointed to some serious stumbling blocks facing readers of the piece, where meaning seems to come out of left field. As I say, my hopes of an easy fix here are diminished by the appeal these images had/have for me as author. Perhaps they belong in the end to my private universe, and I've not yet made them public. But they speak to my heart. I'm afraid I don't see an immediate way forward to greater clarity here without some concomitant loss.
Maybe "as if / there were no God here, or the sky at night ..."? Does that help at all? Though I quite like the Nietzschean finality of the original.
Oh, I should say that Dylan's lovesickness, to me, is atypical: it is a bone-weary abdication of love for a fallen world, and not for any one beloved.
Anyway, that's where I'm at, in a kind of stream of consciousness. Thank you, Andrew, for making me think. And I'm glad you quite like this.

Cheers both,
John
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