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  #11  
Old 12-10-2017, 08:58 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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If you're looking to regularise the metre, there's also L5 which is missing an off-beat after "hands" -- which may not be an issue for you, of course.

Matt
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  #12  
Old 12-10-2017, 11:18 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Good idea for a poem about the Nativity, Mark, approaching it through a kids’ dramatization of it. As with the others, I like the ending of this poem a lot, and several of the images. For me, however, the poem is still taking shape. I’ll try to explain why.

The main reason is the middle part, where you get to the Nativity scene. The image in line 5 is ambiguous, and I’m not sure it’s ambiguous in the good sense. I’m guessing the workman is Joseph. Is the swelling Mary’s pregnant belly? The baby? I’m afraid I don’t get it. Right after that, we’re in the imagery of the kids’ dramatization, which seems suddenly spliced in after the workman’s hands. Maybe I’m just being dense, but I’ve read the poem several times and keep feeling that the images are too abbreviated or packed in there, and disconnected.

You’ve probably already considered this, but I think it might be better to open the poem with the scene of the kids’ play, to get us right into imagining the dynamics the poem explores, and then to get to the stepping back and reflecting on contemporary skeptical responses. The poem is called “Nativity Play” but that action is actually rather peripheral in it.

A couple of other things:

In line 1, I get 6 beats since “Drawn” gets a stress before “again.” Also, “through” as a preposition there is a little unclear, since it could mean “by means of our bones of unbelief.” A suggestion: “Drawn back, despite our bones of unbelief / to find . . . ”

I get 6 beats in the last line of the poem too, since “dreaming” has that feminine ending so I stress “of” automatically. Maybe “of blackness in the night” would work

In the last line of the octave, I am not getting why it’s a “strange” retelling, since it seems so normal and everyday. Would you go for a “plain” retelling there instead?

My reaction is so different from other critters’, I kept waiting to see if I’d see the light at last. But so far, this is what I come up with.

Cheers,

Andrew
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  #13  
Old 12-10-2017, 11:50 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Matt - maybe not 'regularise'. I want it to work I suppose.

Andrew - Fear not. You're only the fourth critter after all, so many opinions much harsher than yours could be around the corner. The poem is absolutely still taking shape, of course. That's why it's here.

Thanks for giving me lots to think about, it's what I want. I'll probably take up your first suggestion. You took me back to my original word. The very first scribbled draft of this began:

'I'm drawn to that cold desert night
despite my bones of unbelief.'

Thank you thank you. Will be back with this tomorrow.

Cheers all.
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  #14  
Old 12-10-2017, 11:53 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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I've sat through a few of these, of course, and this is perfect:

With paper crowns,
tin-foil wings and children's dressing gowns
the Holy Land appears — such strange retelling.


I sympathise with Andrew's problem with the swelling, and I'm not sure about being drawn "through our bones of unbelief".

It's a very Larkin-like conclusion, although the phrase that comes to mind is actually from Eliot: "where prayer has been valid".

So this does justice to nativity plays and their slightly vexed place in our culture now. Good work.

Cheers

David
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  #15  
Old 12-10-2017, 08:57 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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I like this a lot, Mark. The uncertainty of disbelief--the bones of disbelief confronting the awe within the one who looks. And the close! That is really beautiful. It puts the confrontation into a profound and simply stated context.

Rick
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  #16  
Old 12-10-2017, 11:43 PM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Callin View Post
It's a very Larkin-like conclusion,...
This confused me a bit. Surely the conclusion is:

XXXX Lately I've been dreaming
of the blackness of the night, the warmth of straw.

And this doesn’t strike this reader as especially Larkinesque. British humour it does have, but Larkinesque??

The previous sentence is Larkinesque, however, and perhaps this is what David is referring to:

XXXX A kind of awe
is in here somewhere, or hidden in ourselves
who do the looking.

I’m not sure that you want to have a Larkin tag on this otherwise rather original piece. The only decent rhyme word for “elves” is “-selves” and it’s a headache to fit in.

L2: I feel “magic” is too tired a word to do much more work. How about “drama” for the alliteration with “drawn” and “desert”.

Duncan
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  #17  
Old 12-11-2017, 04:38 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi folks. So, quite a big revision to this.

Andrew - Thanks for making me think. I've gone with your idea of starting with the Nativity play and added a little more detail in order to come back to it towards the end.

The 'swelling' is Mary's belly, yes. Hopefully that's clearer now also.

I decided to keep 'through', despite the ambiguity. 'Despite' would be clearer, true, and 'through' could be read as 'by means of'. But I like the quite odd image of the play's strange magic pulling the N through his own 'bones of disbelief'.

I've also kept 'strange'. I thought a lot about your objection. Yes, children's Nativity Plays are plain, homely affairs but only, like all ritualistic hangovers, because we are so used them that we become numb to their strangeness. So the word is an attempt to assert that strangeness again.

In terms of the metre, I don't know. I've done some things. It feels ok for me at the moment.

Thanks again for your detailed crit. Be interested to hear if the changes work for you.

Hi David - Glad you like a lot of this. Larkin again eh? Ha. I was thinking about this. I think it might be that 'And often I agree'. I couldn't place the echo, then I remembered 'And they are right, of course' in 'Poetry of Departures'. Well, that particular phrase has gone. I suppose I do that 'thinking aloud' thing as well here —extrapolating big themes, searching for transcendence, drawing conclusions (or attempting it) from the quotidian.

Cheers.

Rick - thank you. I'm very happy you like it. Let me know if the revision changes or strengthens your view.

Duncan - Hi. See my comments to David re. Larkin.

I don't mind 'elves/selves' there. A handy rhyme yes, but 'elves' doesn't seem forced, given the content.

I want to stick with 'magic'. Again, a well-worn word, but the right one I think. 'Drama' we might get from Shakespeare or...well any drama. Our religious myths, particularly as filtered to, and by, children give us something else. Particularly this one.

Thanks for reading all. I don't want to say what I've changed or why, but I'd appreciate any thoughts on it.

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 12-11-2017 at 09:08 AM.
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  #18  
Old 12-11-2017, 05:15 AM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Hi Mark,

The revision is good.

However I query whether the beasts of labour are labouring at this point and I feel that the vowel rhyme clunks.

"of starlit rest among the labouring beasts."

Regards

Jan
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  #19  
Old 12-11-2017, 02:26 PM
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin's Avatar
Duncan Gillies MacLaurin Duncan Gillies MacLaurin is offline
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It wasn't "elves" that seemed forced to me, it was "-selves", and I still think it is. Try "mistletoes" and "those".

Duncan
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  #20  
Old 12-11-2017, 02:35 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Duncan Gillies MacLaurin View Post
This confused me a bit. Surely the conclusion is:

XXXX Lately I've been dreaming
of the blackness of the night, the warmth of straw.

And this doesn’t strike this reader as especially Larkinesque. British humour it does have, but Larkinesque??

The previous sentence is Larkinesque, however, and perhaps this is what David is referring to:

XXXX A kind of awe
is in here somewhere, or hidden in ourselves
who do the looking.
Yes, that's it, Duncan.

David
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