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  #21  
Unread 07-13-2019, 12:58 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Isbell View Post
Update: oh - I don't know how other people feel, but I quite like "And so, the heart constricts," which I think is just what it does.
I love that phrase. I found the Latinate word, conspicuous at the end of a line and in a poem light on such words, somewhat onomatopoeic. I can feel it, the sensation of the heart constricting.
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  #22  
Unread 07-13-2019, 08:53 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Thank you, Andrew. I was looking for some play between Germanic and Romance vocabulary in this.

Cheers,
John
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  #23  
Unread 07-14-2019, 06:09 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John,

Like others, I find this possibly my favourite of yours. It does move through a very familiar poetic trajectory of 'N notices something in nature which leads him to make a wistful connection with his own life'. But it does it nicely. It's comforting, as someone said. Comforting in its melancholy. And I like the unusual specifics of the reminiscences: 'upside down...translating Greek'.

A couple of things:

Is there a thematic reason that the rain comes 'from Heaven' rather than from somewhere more mundanely accurate? Everything else in the poem's meditation seems to come from a fairly secular place, so this struck me as a bit of a stock 'poetry' phrase.

'A clump
of rain-wet sheep – an archipelago
of those who’ve wandered off to where the grass
has spoken to them – this is pretty much
how sheep appear to live.'

What's at either side of the dashes doesn't form a sentence. I wonder if punctuation needs tinkering with here. Could the second dash be a full stop?

'I do not / hold out much hope'. This was the only moment where the enjambment felt noticeably weak. Maybe something like: 'Such a hope / seems futile as it springs and the heart constricts...' or some such.

Enjoyed this.
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  #24  
Unread 07-14-2019, 07:00 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Thank you, Mark, those sound like good suggestions! Traveling again today, but will look at revising (on the computer) when we get there tomorrow.

Regards,
John
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  #25  
Unread 07-14-2019, 11:30 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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A couple more things, John.

First, the em-dash thing has stopped bugging me as much. I don't know how grammatically incorrect it is, but it reads ok.

I've already mentioned 'Heaven', but this whole section

rain comes glistening
from Heaven onto hedge and sheep and grass
as if in monotone.

I'm not sure of. The dull effect of 'as if in monotone' seems to deliberately contrast with 'glistening / from Heaven' but I'm not sure why, or what point is being made. And I'm not sure if 'as if in monotone' (a sound) fits with the visual of 'glistening'. The lines don't feel quite thought out, unless I'm missing something.

I agree with Sam about 'gamboling'. It isn't enough to say that this is what sheep do. This is a key moment in the poem. Make us see that funny, straight-legged bounce they do, or feel the joy of it, otherwise it's just a dead word.

'Could it be / that we might see the sheep stir into action'. The first person plural only happens here, and distracts by making me wonder if the N is either not alone, or it's a device to magically involve the reader in the scene. The former would be confusing, since no other person is mentioned otherwise, and I find the latter a bit corny.

'young lamb' is a tautology. I can see a defence for it emotionally, and Blake had his 'Little Lamb', but that was the voice of a child and I bet there's something better. It's a fine line between deliberately guileless, flat phrasing and taking the easy option.
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  #26  
Unread 07-15-2019, 02:47 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

Hmm. Well, I've arrived - eleven time zones different, and about three days later - but am pretty worn out. Have revised two key passages you point to, FWIW, and will now try to get some sleep. Back later.

Cheers,
John
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  #27  
Unread 07-15-2019, 05:00 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good afternoon Mark,

OK, I'm fresher now. I'll try to respond to you in detail.
Wistful was not perhaps the mood I'd intended - say despairing - but it'll do. As for Heaven, the sheep exist, I would say, in a horizontal world, their horizons are thus. But it is determined from above, "like some slow punishment," as my revision goes. So yes, I do want Heaven there, very much so. The rain, like the knacker's blade, descends from above, outside the sheep's realm of comprehension or possibility. As in Animal Farm, for us all. I suspect this coincides with stock "poetry" because others have had the same thought, it's not original. I'm not sure it has to be. Lastly here, "'I do not / hold out much hope'. I agree, I could put something less crumpled there, but that is what I was going for. I see your point, yet think it's what I want. Oh - and you now sound happier with the em dash, which makes me glad.
Your second comment had a few cogent objections to 'as if in monotone.' I've changed it to "like some slow punishment," which I hope you and others will prefer. I think I do, on balance. As to my point, I hope to have sketched it out above. Glistening too is there for a reason - it is if you like ironic, the rain may be beautiful but it is relentless. So yes, this is thought out. Next, you describe lambs nicely. I believe gamboling precisely captures lambs in motion, but I've found an alternative I don't find awful, and I'm trying it. There's a limpidity to gamboling I think I've lost. Similarly, "young lamb" is I hope equally limpid. You note elegantly that "It's a fine line between deliberately guileless, flat phrasing and taking the easy option," but I believe "young lamb" is what I want and need here, I've not yet found better. And lastly, you make an interesting point about my "we." It is perhaps a bit cheaty to want the poem to open out a moment here, but I also feel that "I" would be a bit relentlessly first-person and local, not to say minor. I hope the poem is big enough to carry the word "we," but I'd be very interested in others' thoughts.

Thanks for making me think. Revision posted,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-15-2019 at 05:03 AM.
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