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  #11  
Unread 08-28-2019, 12:59 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good evening Rick, Daniel, Aaron P, Matt, Ralph, Aaron N, and Andrew,

And thank you for your visits and your fine suggestions. I'm glad you seem generally to like this piece. I've posted a revision - version II - incorporating various of your improvements, and I think the piece has gained thereby. Do let me know what you think.
Rick: I've trimmed weft as you propose, and revised the vane detail (which is indeed from a source, though I recognize its truth).
Daniel: thank you, and thanks also for the reading you propose in your PM, which I find compelling.
Aaron P: maybe is gone. Thank you!
Matt: thank you for your usual collection of tactful, incisive readings and elegant solutions to the problems you note. You do devote a lot of time to making others' poems better. I've adopted a variety of your emendations here.
Ralph: glad you like it! I'll happily take the word "muscular," and thank you also for the fascinating Yeats detail - a man careful in his word choices.
Aaron N: I've solved a variety of problems here with others' help, but have not yet found a solution for the "It is possible" sentence. My problem stems in part from the fact that I do like what it does and am reluctant to lose that. I tried "To float upon a pond / or climb ...," but I find that less effective. Anyway, i am still pondering your insight. Do you have any suggestions?
Andrew: maybe is gone, thank you. As I mention to Aaron N, I've not yet solved "It is possible," but am very open to suggestions on how to proceed. It is indeed much looser than the rest, but I quite like that contrast, that moment of breath as the bird lifts into air. Anyway.

Thank you all, both for your positive feedback here, and for improving this art. I think it's making progress. Sorry I took a while to get back to you, it was our first day of classes. Lots of teaching done. Talked a bit about Marie de France.

Cheers,
John

Oh - for "waiting air," I also considered "pulsing air," which I think I can justify, and which picks up the ps in that stanza. But waiting echoes the later word wind, and pulsing is a little close to turning in the previous stanza.

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-28-2019 at 01:07 AM.
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  #12  
Unread 08-28-2019, 06:24 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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So, I do like seeing Blake and Whitman mentioned in comments here, and will gladly take those unearned compliments. I myself was thinking of this guy as I wrote, and will post here, though my work can only suffer in the comparison:

The Windhover
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
To Christ our Lord

I caught this morning morning's minion, king-
dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

Cheers,
John
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  #13  
Unread 08-28-2019, 09:14 AM
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Orwn Acra Orwn Acra is offline
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Might you replace some of the end stops with semicolons?

The tensile strength of bone; the pectorals
that punch a body through the air; the fan
of feathers on a wing, their fine twin vanes;

the passage through the heavens, and the weft
of common purpose, when a turning bird
crosses the flock’s warp – shuttle on a loom.

The sudden lift into the sky; the plunge
of pure delight, or through the waiting air
toward a target; wind and turbulence.

The fleck upon the skyline; the two legs
tucked flat against the drag, as the twin eyes
scan Earth and Heaven. Is it possible

to climb above the tallest tree? The art
of daub and wattle; breaking through the egg
into reality; the beak or bill.
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  #14  
Unread 08-28-2019, 11:14 AM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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John,

I enjoy this also and think it one of the best things I have read of yours. The poem's fixation on naming is effectively carried out and engrossing. I might have responded to this poem earlier, but these past few days have been one for the books, seemingly torn from the script of a dull soap opera; my roommate who hitherto concealed all hint of discontent, up and did away with himself. I knew him for a short time only and more as an acquaintance than a friend, but still, it caught me off-guard and put my ability to buffer a hit with calmness and dignity to the test. I have used this opportunity as an advanced workshop in stoicism, besides testing different medicine for the mind more generally, to include poetry. Among the various methods of consolation, I have found the most effective to be that recommended by the stoics, Epictetus and Seneca, to put the sufferer in mind of heavier pressures and worse calamities than those about which he has cause to bemoan. For instance, when I think about the prisoner of war in Vietnam for seven years, James Stockdale, who used Epictetus's teachings to palliate his condition under torture. When I think of him or others under worse misfortune than I have experienced, I shrink back to my own state, and instead of fretting that so much must be felt, am relieved to learn I do not have to feel the half. Since it is relative, I do not think of myself as unfortunate. But after this, I find the next most effective one is poetry or whatever absorbs the mind and banishes the sour thoughts to remoter channels; that makes it easier to bear them by disallowing them a single concentrated stream. I find effective poems do this, and yours proved no exception. I was convinced by the voice from the first. I was all in the poem, with the speaker's wide-eyed admiration for birds being infectious.

All the best,

Erik

P.S. I could not simply start another critique without mentioning what went down that might affect it, and what, being human, seems unnatural to omit. The whole experience is insane.

Last edited by Erik Olson; 08-28-2019 at 10:45 PM.
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  #15  
Unread 08-28-2019, 04:37 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Walter, hi Erik,

And thank you both for stopping in.
Walter, I'm interested in your idea. I think I see it with periods to end the stanzas but semicolons within the stanzas to unify them more. I also know an editor who objects to sentence fragments and would love to see them replaced, though likely with em dashes to link them. OTOH, I kind of like the finality of that series of periods, the way the sentence fragments map out a list. So I can't yet make up my mind. Thank you for spurring me to thought.
Erik, I am very sorry to hear your news. It seems ironic that people ending their lives often feel completely isolated, and then the act they choose brings the whole web of their acquaintance into sharp relief. It is good however to hear that you have tools to cope with this unexpected blow. Such events do tend to put life's various vicissitudes into perspective.
Meanwhile, I am happy that my poem could lift you a bit out of your immediate circumstances. I was glad to write it, and am glad to hear it was able to do some good work. Glad also to hear that something of Hopkins's joy comes through in my clipped syntax.

Thank you both,
John
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  #16  
Unread 08-31-2019, 09:52 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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This poem rewards repeated readings and feels fresh every time, always a good thing.

I do feel that S2 could be brought into further focus, to better utilize that great weaving imagery.

and the weft
of common purpose, when a turning bird
crosses the flock’s warp – shuttle on a loom.

Could this be written more vividly, to get us to see the warp and weft, the birds criss-crossing etc.? I also don’t get how the syntax is working in that last line. Is “warp-shuttle” a compound noun? Or is that dash an em dash before “shuttle”? I’d like to see somehow the bird-wefts and -warps in relation to the shuttle, which would be . . . what? their collective flight? Not getting a clear image of that.

I found this on wiki, which might stir thoughts if you’re into revising:

Quote:
The warp threads are typically stronger, as they have to run the entire length of a bolt of fabric. Fabrics with warp and weft threads have the most stretch when pulled diagonally, or on the bias. In some sewing situations, this is helpful, but in embroidery, it can cause distortion.
Also, at the end of the poem, “through the egg / into the real” might be stronger than “reality,” because of the near rhyme of real and bill.

Another poet this reminds me of, ever so slightly, is Denise Levertov, who did so many good things with Williams’s “no ideas but in things.”
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  #17  
Unread 08-31-2019, 01:10 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Andrew,

And thank you for returning to think a bit further about this piece and to make me think in turn. I'm glad you like it.
I believe your remark on bringing the weaving into sharper focus echoes a comment upthread. In any case, you've spurred me to post a tweak I'd made in MS. and hadn't got around to posting on the Sphere: crosses is now braids through, repeating the word through, but I'm hoping to get away with that. Thank you for the nudge. I tinkered with the punctuation and went back to what you correctly surmised was an em dash before shuttle. A comma feels too weak.
Does "twin eyes" seem OK to you? That's a recent tweak. I also made the long sentence that troubled readers into a question, which I think plays to its strengths: Is it possible ... ?
I hear the internal rhyme you point to in real - bill, but I'm not yet sure I need it, and I don't have two syllables extra that feel unavoidable. Maybe "into the real at last"? But that gets a bit longer than I'd like, and I quite like the cold shower that the bare word "reality" seems to offer.
What do you think?

Cheers,
John
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  #18  
Unread 08-31-2019, 02:01 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi John,

I liked your suggestion of 'pulsing' over 'waiting', in that it has more vibrancy, aliveness, in keeping with what precedes. Not that I dislike 'waiting'.

'as the twin eyes' struck me as little odd. Probably because eyes (almost) always come in pairs (spiders and some insects being the exception), so specifying that there are two of them seems strange. Also, you use 'twin' earlier with 'vanes'.

I like "Is it possible ..." better that "it is ...", but I think Aaron N has a point about it's location in the poem. We have, most recently, a fleck on the horizon. Is the question connected to this? And after the question, we move on to nests.

best,

Matt
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  #19  
Unread 08-31-2019, 03:19 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Matt,

Thank you for coming back! I like the three thoughts you lay out here, and have acted on two of them thus far.
I've gone with pulsing - thank you. And changed twin to clear, a more natural adjective for eyes, I think, as you suggest.
The closing question is really overarching the entire poem. It's a fundamental bird question, i think. As such, perhaps it can sit anywhere? Or perhaps, as Aaron N and you both intimate, perhaps it needs to be precisely located, and isn't yet. I kind of like its irruption where it is now, but am agnostic in the long run, i hope.
What do you think?

Cheers,
John
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  #20  
Unread 08-31-2019, 04:22 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi John,

Another option where you have 'the pulsing air' might be 'the trembling air'. I suggest it because it has the same sense of vitality and aliveness that 'pulsing air' does, but also seems to suggests the waiting prey (a trembling rabbit say) -- or that the air might be like the prey; trembling in anticipation of the bird.

I've realised that what bothered me about 'twin' (in addition to the repetition) was not that you were saying that there are two eyes, but that 'twin' seems to imply there might be cyclops-style birds. For example, if you say a twin-engine plane, the implication is that there could a single-engine planed, similarly with twin vanes, there could be single-vaned alternative, but with eyes ...

Anyway, here, you might go with, "as two clear eyes" as you specify two legs, I think the repetition of 'two' works.

I think you also have the option to drop 'the' altogether, as the language in the poem is pretty concise

Two [something] legs
tucked flat against the drag, as two clear eyes

best,

-Matt
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