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  #1  
Old 09-16-2018, 12:38 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default Tholtans

Ruined cottages are the
high water mark
of population,
left high and dry by Malthus, like
some prodigious effort
of the sea.

Life climbed as far as this, before
falling back into
the fatter valley,
an overflow decanted via
Liverpool to Saskatchewan
and Ohio.

How many Margarets - Peggies - Paaies,
who hung out washing in
the flapping gale,
or tried to make a garden on the
side of a steep
unfriendly hill,

have not grown giddy at the thought
of the purgatorial
Atlantic,
its shriving storms, its access, after
many trials, to
the Plains of Heaven?
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  #2  
Old 09-16-2018, 04:20 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Softly exhilarating as usual (it’s unusual). The nonchalant way in which you inject Malthus’ theory (and then ultimately reject it) is wonderfully done. If promiscuity, war and famine don’t do their job then the sea will swallow them bit by bit.
The poem strikes me as something of a meditation on the dead. It is contemplative to begin but then stanzas 3 and 4 soar.

Some Thoughts
  • I assume “washing” is correct as a noun. Here we simply say “who hung out the wash”.
  • The naming of women who hung the wash and built gardens is poignant. I can’t confirm the name Paaies. Is it Manx? Tholtans is a wonderful word.
  • “flapping gale” does double duty describing both the hung clothing and the stiff breeze.
  • “fatter valley” as a way of contrasting horizontal vs. vertical landscape.
  • “Unfriendly hill” caught me because it’s not often that something as benign as a hill would be unfriendly. It got me to thinking about how hard it must have been to build and maintain terraced gardens.
  • There is a panoramic feel to this. A sweeping scope of largeness. Phrasing such as “purgatorial Atlantic”, “plains of Heaven”, “fatter valley”, “unfriendly hill”, “Liverpool to Saskatchewan and Ohio” -- all combined give the N a kind of distant view of it all.
Which brings me to the long and winding question asked. It’s a dark question dealing with the human psyche and it’s mysterious way of thinking. It is a well-crafted question that caused me to wonder -- your usual effect on me. Very nice work.
x
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  #3  
Old 09-18-2018, 07:21 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thanks for throwing your hat into the ring here, Jim! It is of minority interest, I suppose, but I'm glad you got something out of it.

Re Some Thoughts

I assume “washing” is correct as a noun. Here we simply say “who hung out the wash”. Yes, a noun.
The naming of women who hung the wash and built gardens is poignant. I can’t confirm the name Paaies. Is it Manx? Tholtans is a wonderful word. Peggy is an abbreviation of Margaret, of course, and Paaie is the Manx equivalent of Peggy.

I enjoyed your enjoyment of this. Thank you.

Cheers

David
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Old 09-18-2018, 06:40 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I'm baffled. Perhaps it's an island thing....

The geography alone should attract poetic cartographers.

Apparently this is the first poem that is beyond criticism. Congratulations.
x
x
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Old 09-19-2018, 11:17 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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An island thing ... Yes, perhaps. Although, in a larger view, it's about the 19th century population growth of the countries of North America - a small sample of it, admittedly.

Anyway, perhaps we should end our lonely vigil here in this desolate spot. Let's go inside and get a drink.

Cheers

David

P.S. Beyond ... or beneath.
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Old 09-19-2018, 05:52 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Or above?

I admit I stumbled on Malthus (do you need him?) and had to remind myself who he was and what significance he might have to the poem. And I'm always on the defensive when a poem makes me feel like an ignoramus in the opening stanza. Then I googled the title and saw those bleakly amazing photographs. So, although I got the general idea that it was about New World emigration, the first half felt a little like homework for me. But stanzas 3 and 4 are quite beautiful.
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Old 09-19-2018, 06:15 PM
Curtis Gale Weeks Curtis Gale Weeks is offline
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I don't think I'd change a thing.

The poem changes me.
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Old 09-20-2018, 08:17 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi David,

Coming back to this 24 hours later having absorbed the homework, S1 and 2 have opened up for me too and the imagery has revealed itself. I like it all. A slow burner possibly.
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Old 09-20-2018, 02:28 PM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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My first impression was that it was so sad; island people full of hope, pioneering their way inland, only to find that there was nothing there. Withdrawing again to the shore to look the other way for that elusive "something better". Taking their language up with them into their own country, leaving it behind as they ventured further afield.

Then I investigated Malthus and didn't know whether to feel vindicated or stupid.

But I'll stick with sad, which is how the poem has stuck with me.
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Old 09-20-2018, 03:10 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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David,
I, too, am feeling a bit dense myself. I didn’t pick up on the larger picture of the migration of people across the Atlantic (presumably to America). I did sense a shift in tone/perspective beginning with stanza 3 that I like very much. A sense of unfullfilled yearning, which I think is exactly what your going for. But I am, as I said, dense : )
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