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  #11  
Unread 08-19-2019, 09:08 AM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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I'm with John on this one. The opening words - Please put me with your hands - have no meaning for me, and if the speaker explains exactly what that means I'm missing something basic. It is supposed to indicate "please pat me..." or "please touch me..."? Is a Polish accent/poor French involved. I'm lost. And, unfortunately, if you're lost on the first phrase of a poem - not willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt because the alternates sound so strange - and the rest of the poem is not really revealing - it's tough to focus on the areas of good and graceful writing (L10-L13, for example) and ignore the fact that the poem isn't coming clear to you.
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  #12  
Unread 08-19-2019, 11:07 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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I guess different readers will have different responses to a first line whose meaning isn't immediately clear.

Since in the first line we have yet to be told that this is a translation of bad French, I read it as English: "Please put me in the place where your hands are / alongside your hands". Maybe it doesn't fully make sense, but I like the sound of it, and the sense of entreaty is clear, especially alongside "My hands are empty". Anyway, rather than being put off, I wanted to read on and find out more.

I guess I'm not wholly clear what she intended to write when she composed the French sentence -- what she'd have written if her French were good: Did she choose the wrong verb ("mettre"?) by mistake, or is this a phrase that works in Polish and not in English/French, maybe. But ultimately that doesn't trouble me. I don't think I need to know for the poem to work.

I'm curious to know if these love notes and hearts in among her papers actually exist or are an invention for sake of the poem. Not that it affects the poem, I'm just curious, and a quick google didn't illuminate me.

-Matt
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  #13  
Unread 08-19-2019, 02:46 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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[Cross-posted with Matt--I got interrupted while writing this.]

I'm pretty skeptical about this whole scenario.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie's French sounds impeccable to me here.

Frankly, I think that if there's any bad French going on, it's more likely to be on the part of the English-speaking translator than on the part of Mme. Curie. And if you just made that sentence up, it seems a grave injustice based on nothing more than anti-immigrant stereotypes.

And is there actual evidence of a schoolgirl-like doodle of a heart in Marie Curie's lab notes? Really? That seems way, way out of character to me.

She did write love letters, because she famously received two telegrams on the same day in 1911: the first informing her that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the second informing her that the wife of the man with whom she had an affair after Pierre's death had given a newspaper her love letters to him.

I get the impression that she was all business when it came to lab work, though. I won't believe otherwise without stronger evidence.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 08-19-2019 at 02:48 PM.
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  #14  
Unread 08-19-2019, 03:51 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Julie, I'm not sure that video can tell us anything about her French when she first met Pierre: A few decades of practice could have made a fair bit of a difference to her fluency, I reckon. That said, a quick google tells me that at the time she started working in a lab with Pierre, she'd already been living and studying in Paris for three years and gained two degrees, so likely her French was pretty reasonable by then -- at least in the field of physics, if not of the heart -- albeit not necessarily idiomatic.

Ashley, I also read that Marie Skłodowska Curie used both surnames, as Julie names her. If you use both surnames in your epigraph, it might help make clearer why her French (in your poem at least) was less than perfect.

-Matt
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  #15  
Unread 08-19-2019, 08:45 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Right after her graduation in Poland at age fifteen, she wrote in a letter to a friend that she was teaching French to a little boy.

Quote:
"I can't believe algebra or geometry ever existed. I have completely forgotten them," she writes, "...aside from an hour's French lesson with a little boy I don't do a thing, positively not a thing[.]"

From Marie Curie: A Life by Susan Quinn (Google Books https://tinyurl.com/y3x5bsnj )
So she already had some mastery of the language long before she arrived to study at the Sorbonne. She wasn't starting from scratch.
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  #16  
Unread 08-19-2019, 11:13 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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There is nothing in the poem that indicates that Marie Curie was not born in France, except for an ambiguous hint in L6/L7. By then, I think almost anybody who wasn't reading this as a workshop participant would have already given up.

At the very least, Ashley, if you're going to provide an epigraph describing her scientific studies and cause of death, mention that she was born in Poland.
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  #17  
Unread 08-22-2019, 07:57 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Wow, this poem really seems rankle a few feathers.

I'll just say that, as Miller Williams once said, "Poetry isn't non-fiction" and "Sometimes the least interesting thing about a fact is that it happened."

I'm in the middle of major life changes, so you'll have to forgive my not responding to each of you individually as I would normally do, but I have read each of the comments, and I thank each of you for your time with this one.

To those who seems offended: my apologies.

To those who seem enchanted: my thanks.

Best,

Ashley
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  #18  
Unread 08-22-2019, 08:25 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Ashley, I like it more as I read it more. It's pretty gorgeous. I don't know who Miller Williams is, but I'm with them. For me, it's not important that the poem follow strict biographical facts. It's your imaginative and emotional response, your version of Curie and her interior world and it seems a sincere and respectful one to me. We don't look to Shakespeare's history plays for factual accuracy, more for psychological and emotional accuracy and resonance. There's a difference between art and journalism. I'm not going to use this poem as my 'go-to' source for rigorous biographical information about Marie Curie. And I don't think any less of the real Marie Curie, as a scientific genius and a person, because your poem suggests she might have once drawn a heart in a moment of sentiment, or that she didn't speak perfect French when she met her husband, whether or not these things are wholly true. (Neither would I think any less of her if these things were true for that matter)

Take care.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 08-23-2019 at 05:45 AM. Reason: Reworded to get rid of rhetorical questions, which made me sound more indignant that was necessary. Ha.
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  #19  
Unread 08-22-2019, 09:56 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Does that mean I can post my Dickinson bondage poems? Really though, I think dropping a name is a hit or miss thing, whatever you want to do with it. It immediately draws attention. So it has that going for it, I suppose. I think the imagined and the real needs to be a more interesting mix in any case. Which doesn't necessarily mean it should be believable, but this seems a tad gratuitous.
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  #20  
Unread 08-23-2019, 06:06 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hey Ashley,

Well, I’m not offended, but my enchantment is qualified by incomprehension.

Cheers,
John
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