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  #11  
Unread 09-09-2019, 09:39 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Nemo,

Like Ralph I like the play on 'junk'. (Mind you, for a short while I was wondering if the object was some sort of drug paraphanelia). S3 is my favourite stanza, where I'm transported into the child's world, especially these lines:

When my grip became their sea, I feared it
might tip them from their tiny flights of stairs
and wash them, voiceless, unprepared
to what was once more just a waveless floor.

The phrase "wild child" might not have the same meaning in the U.S., but here it has associations with teenage partying, drinking and drug-taking, and so jarred slightly for me for that reason. It also made me think that you might reverse the words, and have "child's wild eye", attributing what's seen to the wildness of a child's eye (vision, view). Anyway, a thought, for what it's worth.

In S4 "It's one of those ..." sounds a bit odd (flat?), also a bit like a reveal to a riddle ("if you haven't got it yet, it's one of those ..."). The use of "it" here, in that we've been talking about it now for three stanzas,seems like it's there so that you can get the plural "things" for the rhyme with "rings". Otherwise you could simply write, "An imported thing ...". That said, I guess you get to echo the first line of the first stanza.

For what it's worth, I hadn't seen a masturbation reading. Having just seen it suggested, I can see a fair few lines that would fit that reading, but it didn't suggest itself when I read it.

best,
Matt
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  #12  
Unread 09-09-2019, 10:02 AM
Rick Mullin's Avatar
Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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Well, I read it twice and masturbation did not occur to me. Walter's comment hits as rather jokey, but, of course, after reading it and going back for a third read of the poem, sure enough, there are all sorts of things that touch on masturbation. Even if unintended, of course, they're "in there," but the poem appealed to me most on the second reading.
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  #13  
Unread 09-09-2019, 01:54 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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LOL, thank you, Orwn! Like Rick, I took your comment as a joke, but I was grateful for the reassurance that I hadn't been alone in seeing masturbatory innuendoes where there were none. (Then again, considering the source, I'm not terribly reassured that I can take this as evidence that my mind isn't pervier than average....)

Nemo, I think it's pretty clear that "whenever one was alone" needs to be tweaked, if you don't want certain minds to focus on that distraction, thereby coarsening some of the delicate beauty of this piece.

I'm not wild about the combination of italics and quotation marks. I think it would be better to choose only one. I was distracted by trying to figure out why both were being used there, when the other items in quotation marks were not italicized.

Would "only a child's wild eye" work better than "only a wild child's eye"?

In S3, I didn't like the ambiguity as to whether the carving had actually fallen to the floor and broken. I prefer to think it didn't, and no broken-off pieces were actually pocketed. But I'm not sure that two different flights of imagination--picturing the carved scene coming to life, and picturing the carved object getting damaged--are helpful in the poem. But I might be persuaded otherwise.
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  #14  
Unread 09-09-2019, 04:50 PM
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Don Jones Don Jones is offline
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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But now that Orwn has put the thought in our heads I'm having quite the time re-reading it. That's deeply unfair in a way but the reader owns the poem as much as the poet.

S2 is not necessary and should be excised.
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  #15  
Unread 09-09-2019, 08:11 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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There is no misundertood innuendo "problem" in the poem. My quick comment (late for work) was to say that the intended magic of the poem is more than a match for any attempt to tip its table into the phallic.
The only pause I had was wondering how the pencil didn't blacken the ivory details when using it to clean in the tight spaces of the carving. The type of intellectual questioning that is not needed here but there it was.
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  #16  
Unread 09-10-2019, 11:45 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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Well, I guess at long last it is my turn to play the literalist (with Ralph). I'd be lying if I didn't confess that all this jerk-off talk didn't begin to get on my nerves. Actually, I suspect that Daniel's oral sex poem has set the members on such a sexual innuendo fishing expedition. Going back through the poem I see where the innuendo takes hold, but I see as many places where it doesn't hold at all. The poem is part of a 'suite' of poems to be gathered under the title Ordinary Objects, each of which may well be accompanied by a photograph of the object in question—so I don't think I need to fret about it being misconstrued beyond this setting.

The question remains whether solitude ("whenever one was alone") is by nature a masturbatory state. Perhaps only from the vantage point of the group.

*

Eric, I don't see how this line . . .

‘and if raised to your eye, you could stare right through its middle’

...loses the meter. The poem repeatedly overstuffs several of its pent lines. For instance: for the sake of the launch of this congested cage of a boat. Such rollicking lines are part of the metrical pattern employed.

I also don't view the word adventure as a negative abstraction here. This is a child's view of the object, and of things foreign, exotic. Having little experience as yet to draw on, adventure is a fittingly big word that covers the whole future of times and places.

As for it's a formerly wonderstruck husk, well, it's my favorite line in the poem. I admit that the meter is as condensed there as some other the other lines are expanded. But again, that is part of the aural pattern of the poem. I don't mind the Seussian overtones either. I like that it is both reductive and arcane at the same time. And I like that it is such a mouthful, Roger—I laughed aloud when I wrote it. I feel like its irreverence nicely balances some of the more classically poetic images in the rest of the poem. The tense of the poem changes in that stanza as well, I am no longer talking through the past ("It was one of those forbidden things"), but directly in the present ("It’s one of those imported things")—as such, I feel like a change in tone is appropriate, less wonder-filled, more sardonically adult.

*

I'll get you for this, Orwn!

*

Matt, yes, I guess I was opening myself up for a bit of riddling with the one word title, and the hesitancy with which I unveil the object. Again, the context the poem will appear in (ordinary objects) might make junk a more resonant term in the way I toss it off it in the title. (And of course with the phrase 'toss it off' I have now entered into the spirit of prurient tittering. You can't un-plant a seed.)

I think I am going to take your (and Julie's) suggestion and make it, rather than a wild child's eye, a child's wild eye. I don't know why I didn't think of that myself. Thanks.

The repetition of "it's one of those..." in the final stanza is meant to echo the opening stanza, but there has been (as I pointed out above) and important change of tense: it was to it's. I think that justifies the current repetitive structure. Though no one seems to have noticed it, I deemed it the poem's most daring gesture, and expected to be challenged on the shifting verb tenses. That's a large part of why I posted it, to get the reaction.

*

Thanks, Rick, for keeping your hands out of your pockets.

*

That is a weird moment in the poem, Julie—did it, or didn't it get damaged? The thing is I don't quite remember, but the object before me does have a piece or two missing, and I remember similar scenarios with other objects from my childhood. I even thought of tweaking the verb tense there to emphasize the ambiguity . . .

The wreck replaced, I offered prayers,
and pocketing smaller pieces, swam for shore.


The wreck replaced, I'd offer prayers,
and pocketing smaller pieces, swim for shore.


How's that sound?
Still, I don't find the double scenario too cumbersome: that is the nature of heroic adventure, things get broken, people get hurt. So by bringing to life the object, I bring on the consequences of that life too. The irony is that the junk is exotic only to the small white child in the 1950's suburbs—to those aboard it was no doubt more a matter of drudgery than adventure.

As for the quote-marked italicized lines, they were meant to recount the legend-like exaggerations proffered to the child. The un-italicized line was just a person talking. I have been taken to task before for over-subtle use of all those techniques, but I can't quite break the habit. I love the variety of typographical textures at my disposal.

*

I'd rather discard the entire poem, Don, than excise the second stanza. It is integral!

I agree about a poem's ownership, but I am still alive, so I will resist until I am no long able to do so, ha!

*

Andrew, where the hell have you been, my man? The pencil might have blackened the inner recesses, though the fineness of the point, expertly wielded, may have avoided constant with all the but webs themselves. But one thing is certain: you owe me a phone call!

Thanks, all.

Nemo
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  #17  
Unread 09-10-2019, 12:14 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Nemo,

The tense change in the final stanza didn't seem problematic to me. My reading was that the N still has the object (or has found it again). Literally, I'd thought, though rereading, I guess it's possible that he may still have it in the way that one has a memory. The original "It was" had referred to the object when the N played with it as a child, so that also didn't seem problematic. The adult N has cleaned the object up. That it's done with pencil, I can also see as a reference to this poem, which clears out the spider webs of memory, perhaps. And at the close, "eye to former eye", I'd read that the adult eye is looking into the child's eye (and the child's view of the object) -- and vice versa perhaps. "Time's crust" can refer both to the antiquity of the object, or to the N's own past.

-Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-10-2019 at 03:56 PM.
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  #18  
Unread 09-10-2019, 12:59 PM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R. Nemo Hill View Post
The question remains whether solitude ("whenever one was alone") is by nature a masturbatory state. Perhaps only from the vantage point of the group.
It's not just the state of being alone, though, Nemo. It's the context of touching something that a child has been told--with the vehemence of an exclamation point!--must immediately stop being touched, and must never be touched again. And yet the child does so anyway. (The word "whenever" before "one was alone" could mean simply a combination of opportunity and quiet defiance, or it could mean a compulsion. Childhood masturbation can be a self-comfort "stimming" tic.)

If the poem had said "whenever you were alone with it," so that the forbidden activity were more connected to being alone with the object that had just been described, I'm confident that my mind would not have gone to the gutter. I blame you.

But I agree with the many who have mentioned that even if readers' minds do go there, the poem does not provide much support for that reading. So it's up to you if you want to regard it as a problem worth fixing. I also think you're right that a sex-themed poem in the neighborhood of this one made it more likely that this group of readers would be predisposed for certain interpretations.

Quote:
As for it's a formerly wonderstruck husk...
Unlike Roger, I didn't think of Seuss, but now that I do, Seussian overtones seem appropriate for a poem that time-travels between childhood and adulthood. [CORRECTION: Roger actually said the opposite of what I'd remembered him saying. Erik said it was Seussian. Roger, in the post after Erik's, said he didn't find it too Seussian.] Speaking of time travel:

Quote:
The tense of the poem changes in that stanza as well, I am no longer talking through the past ("It was one of those forbidden things"), but directly in the present ("It’s one of those imported things")—as such, I feel like a change in tone is appropriate, less wonder-filled, more sardonically adult.

[...]

The repetition of "it's one of those..." in the final stanza is meant to echo the opening stanza, but there has been (as I pointed out above) and important change of tense: it was to it's. I think that justifies the current repetitive structure. Though no one seems to have noticed it, I deemed it the poem's most daring gesture, and expected to be challenged on the shifting verb tenses. That's a large part of why I posted it, to get the reaction.
The changing verb tenses over the course of the poem's trajectory made perfect sense to me, and coincided with a shift to a more rational adult perspective that still isn't quite immune to the spell that captivated the child. Which is why I didn't remark on the changes in tense. So, success?

Quote:
That is a weird moment in the poem, Julie—did it, or didn't it get damaged? The thing is I don't quite remember, but the object before me does have a piece or two missing, and I remember similar scenarios with other objects from my childhood. I even thought of tweaking the verb tense there to emphasize the ambiguity . . .

The wreck replaced, I offered prayers,
and pocketing smaller pieces, swam for shore.


The wreck replaced, I'd offer prayers,
and pocketing smaller pieces, swim for shore.


How's that sound?
Literalist that I am--I know, I know, it's a curse--I can't help wondering whether whoever did the child narrator's laundry ever found forgotten pocketed bits in his pockets. Busted! (In both senses of "busted.") And how many such shipwrecks could an old ivory object sustain without getting deeper cracks and perhaps shattering entirely? So it might be more effective for this to be one incident, perhaps anchored to the distant past, rather than ambiguously implying the habitual situation of an imperfect tense ("I would" = "I used to, on a regular basis"), or even a recent lack of care. [Edited to say: On further thought, I guess in this context "I would" could still remain hypothetical/conditional, and the whole thing could remained imagined. So...um...yeah, I don't know. I'll think about it some more.]

The main ambiguity that troubled me was whether the carved sailors really could fall out of the ship (without being broken off), or if that was just the child's imagination at work. But like most things that bug me in a poem, this probably isn't a big deal. Like Andrew M., I had actually wondered about the transfer of graphite from the sharpened pencil to the ivory, too, but then I thought I'd blathered about enough other stuff that I shouldn't mention another picky little thing.

Also, hi, Andrew M.! Very nice to see you!

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-11-2019 at 12:14 PM. Reason: Correction of who said what
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  #19  
Unread 09-10-2019, 01:29 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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I thought there were two different boats. The one that the child played with and fantasised about and possibly partially destroyed with his clandestine tinkering and the one that the adult found in a joblot of unconsidered trifles. Now he can tinker with it intrusively, constructively, and reclaim something of the lost magic. The junk within the junk, lost and found. The difference that a stated provenance makes to the value of bric-a-brac. The poem satisfies me because it undoes sadness.

I have looked for lost things on eBay and the finding and buying and once-again owning does not bring back the original but it helps to put the loss into perspective. The awe and the preciousness are changed and, in the name of restoration, one can go at it with a sharpened pencil and a different kind of love.
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  #20  
Unread 09-10-2019, 01:56 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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In my own circuitous way I have managed to merge both tropes (a child’s sense of wonder and the taboo-like trappings of masturbation -- divergent as they are) and can point to each as they dance alone in and around the poem. Even more than that, I can feel them fusing together to become a third, more universal trope: that of the artist’s power to use the (secondary) imagination such as the kind Coleridge spoke of here.

It (the fusion of the two) also dovetails nicely with the oft-quoted Picasso quip that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” And then it further dovetails with Einstein’s declaration, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.
I would not ordinarily namedrop such heavyweight thinkers in one fell swoop, but the combination of the three -- Coleridge, Picasso and Einstein -- have produced something of a trifecta/eureka moment for me.

So how do I fuse masturbation with imagination? That’s easy. In this poem, it becomes an act of sublimation performed by the child within the person that the poet must be able to retain in order to create.

I also am a bit distracted by the quotations/italics. Maybe drop the quotation marks from the italicized text?

Btw, In my first few readings of the poem Walter’s take never occured to me. But now, It is absorbed into the brilliance that the poem is.
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