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  #1  
Unread 12-05-2021, 07:13 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default De profundis

The sea is turned all lion now,
and claws over the promenade
at the Victorian boarding houses
that stand back, holding their skirts.

Beach Street loses certainty.
A gull is blown backwards
in a gesture of surprise
over the Victorian boarding houses.

Who will help us, they cry mutely.
Who will save us
from this ravening beast?

Can anyone save them?
Should they call to God out of the depths of their distress?
They might as well.
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  #2  
Unread 12-05-2021, 12:43 PM
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Seree Zohar Seree Zohar is offline
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Hi David,
Well, I especially enjoyed the vibrant images of S1, and much of S2.
I wonder though at the repeat of “Victorian boarding houses” in S2: does it really need to be there? But S3 and 4 don’t seem to be gelling quite yet. fwiw, I also find ‘that’ stand back somewhat clumsy and wonder why you didn’t go with ‘standing back’ which seems far more natural flow. I hope you can find a more exciting solution for S3-4 to match the energy of S1.
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  #3  
Unread 12-05-2021, 03:29 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi David,

This has great economy and some great lines. I love the surprised gull and I love “loses certainty” to describe the street in a storm. The Victorian boarding houses personified as rather prim Victorian ladies and the deflating humour of the final line are very Callin-esque (but I also love them both). I have some thoughts:

Like Seree, I wondered if you need the “Victorian boarding houses” repetition. It seems to mainly exist because you need to mention them again in order to slide into the dialogue of S3. I was also briefly confused about this dialogue, thinking at first it was being delivered by one of the gulls. So with these things in mind, I wondered if you might swap S1 and 2, losing the last line of S2 while you’re at it (“Beach Street loses certainty” makes an arresting opening!) I also had a thought that you might lose “all” before “lion”. Like this:


De profundis

Beach Street loses certainty.
A gull is blown backwards
in a gesture of surprise.

The sea is turned lion now,
and claws over the promenade
at the Victorian boarding houses
that stand back, holding their skirts.

Who will help us, they cry mutely.
Who will save us
from this ravening beast?

Can anyone save them?
Should they call to God out of the depths of their distress?
They might as well.
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  #4  
Unread 12-05-2021, 03:55 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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It's an interesting poem with strong lines. I do like what Mark has done with the stanzas better, though.
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  #5  
Unread 12-05-2021, 04:40 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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As often, I prefer the original take. However, carry on.
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  #6  
Unread 12-05-2021, 04:53 PM
Jim Ramsey Jim Ramsey is offline
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Hi David,

I like this as you've written it. I did though want to toss out a couple ideas for changes I myself would think about even if in the end I discarded them. I think "raising their skirts" is a good line, but I might be tempted to substitute "lifting their hems" as more gender neutral. Victorian houses have decorative underpinnings that traditionally are called skirts, so I would make this change only if I was reasonably sure "skirts" could be off-putting to someone who mattered to you. The word "hems" could apply to gowns or ceremonial robes or pants or whatever the reader thought of or whatever referent you might be thinking of if you make changes. Also, I might think about replacing the second "Victorian boarding houses" with "the row's old penitents." or some other referent you preferred. One take I have on your piece is that the past, the dead, have left a distressing legacy. The lion image makes me reflect on the British empire. Any reference to seaside turmoil these days seems to call up thoughts of global warming. And of course, the title seems to reference Psalm 130. I always like at least a hint of the deeper layers of a poem, although I've found many on the sphere prefer the reader to find them in their imaginations. For instance, at first I tried to read this as referencing Oscar Wilde's time in prison and his famous letter known to his lover (which held many religious, perhaps penitent thoughts and is known as De Profundis). The first two stanzas would read like this using my iffy suggestions:

The sea is turned all lion now,
and claws over the promenade
at the Victorian boarding houses
that stand back, lifting their hems.

Beach Street loses certainty.
A gull is blown backwards
in a gesture of surprise
over the row's old penitents....

All the best,
Jim
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  #7  
Unread 12-06-2021, 06:23 PM
Cally Conan-Davies Cally Conan-Davies is offline
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G'day David!

I really like imagery and the crispness of the language overall, which is why some little things that others have noticed struck me, too. The first line could even cut back to 'The sea is a lion now'. And the "that" stood out for me, too. You could go "as the Victorian boarding houses / stand back, lifting their hems".

Oddly, I really like the repetition of 'Victorian boarding houses'. Just the sound of it! It sounds so upright and stolid in contrast to the leaping lion! And it sets the tone, too. It's funny. In that wry way. As the last line is.

In fact, the last line just cracks me up!

Good one, Cally-lad!

Cally
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  #8  
Unread 12-07-2021, 04:19 PM
Jim Ramsey Jim Ramsey is offline
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Hi David,

I'm back at this again, perhaps this time with my imagination reined in. Cally's comment got me thinking and Googling. Maybe this piece is about the decline/dying out of the boarding houses that became popular in the Victorian era and has nothing to do with anything I speculated about. It may not even be referring to Victorian architecture per se. Well, at least now you know for sure you can send someone on a flight of fancy with it.

All the best,
Jim
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  #9  
Unread 12-07-2021, 04:55 PM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Something about the gait of this poem with its repeated lines, its unevenness, eccentricity, and jokiness reminds me of Stevie Smith. (In a good way!)
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  #10  
Unread 12-10-2021, 01:31 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Apologies for the delay in replying ...

Thanks Seree. Your location is very relevant to the matter in question, isn't it? I enjoyed spotting that. You are not alone, I see, in questioning the repeat of “Victorian boarding houses” in S2.

And thank you Mark. I think you're right about the reason for the repetition but - having done it - I find I quite like the effect of it. Yours is a very deft rearrangement of the poem, though. I like it. But, like Allen (hi Allen), I think I still prefer the original.

Thanks John.

And thank you, Jim. Those are some nice thoughts. I did not know about the hems / skirts, and I had completely forgotten the Oscar connection. That's definitely something to think about. And thanks for coming back.

Thanks Cally! I'll have another look at the first line.

And thanks Joe. I will happily take a Steve Smith reference any day of the week. In fact I feel I should read more of her. I have only read her in general anthologies so far.

Thanks all!

David
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