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  #1  
Unread 03-02-2021, 10:27 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default Standing stones

THE REAL ORIGINAL RESTORED

Some stand apart in fields, like Socrates
considering some abstruse question,
and have stood like that for centuries,
so that we have forgotten
to wait for them to move.

When they return to life, resume their motion,
come stomping over to join us at the fire,
calling for wine and sustenance
and testing our beliefs,
what will we say?

AS ORIGINALLY POSTED HERE

Some stand apart in fields, like Socrates
considering some abstruse question,
and have stood like that for centuries,
so that we have forgotten
to wait for them to move.

When they return to life, resume their motion,
come stomping over to join us at the fire,
calling for wine and sustenance
and testing our beliefs,
what will we say?

And if we ask - "What should we say?
How must we change our lives?" -
they might just shrug their shoulders,
avert those old stone faces
so curiously incised.

Last edited by David Callin; 03-05-2021 at 09:33 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-02-2021, 03:21 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi David,

I like the idea of the stones just standing pondering and then eventually coming to motion again. And, having spent thousands of years pondering, having not come to any conclusion. I did wonder if mention of Socrates was a reference to him knowing he knew nothing, and perhaps that the stones had come to the same conclusion.

S1 seems to have an ABABX (slant) rhyme scheme, which is strengthened by the IP feel of lines 1&3, it sets me up to expect rhyme in what follows, but there's no rhyme in the following stanzas. So I reckon it'd be worth doing something to disrupt that.

In S2, I'm not sure if the stones are testing our beliefs simply by virtue of being in motion and talking, or whether they are actively testing our beliefs by e.g. asking us things -- as Socrates tested the beliefs of those he was in dialogue with. Maybe both. I'm not saying that's an issue, just letting you know if you were particularly after one or the other.

S2 ends with the N asking us what we would say to the stones. S3 opens with us asking the stones what to say. I found this a bit confusing. Are we asking the stones what we should say to them? Or what we should say in general?

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-02-2021 at 03:48 PM.
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  #3  
Unread 03-03-2021, 10:08 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I like the conceit here but wonder if you've done enough with it? As Matt says, I don't see the stones testing our beliefs, but what if you dived, or dug, into the stones? Now they are actors in the way a well-done animation could make them actors. What about their veins, their hearts, even their brains? You ask "What should we say?" How about asking "What would they say?" What would be their words? Could we hear and understand them? Of course, you may want to keep it this way because it's lighter. That may be your intent. For me, I want more of something. But that may just be me.

Enjoyed.
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  #4  
Unread 03-04-2021, 12:02 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thanks Matt. Very good points. Let's see ...

S1 comes from a Socratic anecdote which seems to be less well known than I had thought. I came across it recently, not for the first time, in a terrific rendering by Anne Carson. His disreputable but dashing friend Alcibiades is speaking:

Here’s another example.
Early one day he was struck by a thought
and stood from dawn in the same spot,
pondering.

He just couldn’t get it,
continued to stand, continued to ponder.
Noon came on.
The others were noticing.

‘Sokrates has stood in the same place since dawn,’
said one to another,
‘thinking something.’
It was a notably hot summer day.

At evening some took their bedding outside
and watched him to see if he’d stand there all night.
He stood there all night.
And at dawn, after offering a prayer to the sun, he went his way.


I had not noticed that rhyming pattern in S1 at all. Completely unintentional. Pure chance. I do see the IP now, but we often fall into IP, even in life, don't we? It is a sort of default mode.

And S2 sort carries on from S1. As it should. Still quite Socratic, I think.

I suppose "what will we say?" is us imagining being put on the spot by the stones, in a Socratic manner, and in S3 - in my mind, at least - there is a response to that, but one that says, well, what should we say? We are uncertain.

And there's a little touch of Rilke in the night in L2 there. These stones are a sight more archaic than that torso of Apollo, after all. But they're not telling us. We can't read them (or those curious incisions). They are unknowable.

Stone face was Buster Keaton's nickname too, of course. And that tickles me.

John, thanks for your good questions too. I think the answer must be that I want to show them as unknowable, so I can't attempt to ventriloquise them. But that may be a mistake.

Overall, I want the stones to be mysterious, intriguing and ultimately unknowable. Big ask!

Cheers both

David
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Unread 03-04-2021, 12:09 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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David, I think that's my issue. The stones come over to the fire and have food and wine. I guess that could suggest something biblical but to me, it makes the stones buddies from down the street. It diminishes their mysteriousness. But I may be missing the entire thing. It's happened before.
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  #6  
Unread 03-04-2021, 12:47 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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No, now you mention it, I do see a discrepancy there. Thanks John. Let me ponder on that.

Cheers

David
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  #7  
Unread 03-04-2021, 01:28 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

I think you might just have too many words (or too few) to make the point you want to make.

If you’re hinting at big/open/mysterious things then less might be more. You have quite fancy modifiers in here (abstruse, for example) which don’t add much to it, for me. And I think you could do more with space, perhaps considering a line space between forgotten and /to wait. Back on the ‘less is more’, perhaps you don’t need the ‘so that’ at the start of L4, either? All the lovely mellifluous phrases don’t conjure up stones to me in S2, really, either - although they’re nice to read.

Likewise, do you need the ‘And’ at the start of S3? Or could you just go straight into the questions - and maybe also consider making S3 in the present tense, too - it might enhance the sense of mystery, of possibly real in here.

I realise these are quite drastic changes I’m proposing, but they’re offered in good faith - it’s what I’d consider - to play about with a drastic cull of superfluous words. Or, as John suggested, bring in more tangible details and animate the stones.

At the moment it reads a bit ‘in-between’. I do like it, though, and enjoyed the idea very, very much. I hope you keep working on it.

Sarah-Jane
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  #8  
Unread 03-04-2021, 01:52 PM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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Cut the last stanza entirely. Best.
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  #9  
Unread 03-05-2021, 09:32 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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John, Jane - I will come to Allen first, because what he says does, perhaps, address your main problem with the poem.

Allen, your suggestion is brilliant (if brutal), but as I pondered it last night, marveling at its brilliance and brutality, I remembered that the poem had originally started out as the first two stanzas only. I added the third at someone's prompting in a different place. And that might explain the mismatch between the first two stanzas and the the last.

So I'll do that, and see how it looks (again). It gives the poem (I think!) a wholeness that it did not have before. And it gets rid of the unnecessary Rilke reference. Socrates is quite enough to be going on with.

It does, perhaps, make the stones more clubbable than in S3, but then Socrates was a very clubbable gent. So I'll see how that sits for a while.

John, Jane ... does that help? (I might just mention, Jane, that I don't have a problem with "abstruse" where it is, but of course you are welcome to. I couldn't argue with that, although I could, and do, disagree.)

Cheers

David
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  #10  
Unread 03-05-2021, 10:58 AM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is online now
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Hello, I didn’t mean to be “brutal,” which I reserve for cockroaches. I just thought it would be stronger without my own besetting error of overdoing. It reminded me of a poem I read about three? years ago where a speaker is confronted with or time-traveled to a scene with an Anglo-Saxon, and who speaks a short phrase to the ancient using only words that have changed little in the last hundred and sixty or so decades. That poem ended with “What would I know?” in Old English speech. I’ve had a steady love of Anglo-Saxon ever since a super great school friend gave me Sweet’s grammar as a lucky talisman.

Last edited by Allen Tice; 03-05-2021 at 01:13 PM. Reason: super
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