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  #1  
Unread 08-05-2019, 04:52 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Default Marie Curieís Research Papers Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

Marie Curieís Research Papers Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

Marie Curie, and husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium prior to her death in 1934 from acute radiation exposure.

Please put me with your hands. My palms are empty.
I counted down from ten each time I dared
to think you loved me. Now, of course, Iím scared
Iíll seduce the second world too soon and empty
this first one out before Iíve finished it.
Among my scattered notes youíll find the first
heart I ever drew. Written in the worst
French, Please, put me with your hands. And it
meant that I wanted to be surrendered to.
Some nights, awake, I wonder why we leave
the dust behind that we do. Does grief grieve
itself? The cells and circumstances we liken to
living are what slough away. Weíve seen the light
that hides inside us. Grows long as bones. And white.
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  #2  
Unread 08-05-2019, 06:03 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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On the 74th anniversary of the Hiroshima explosion (as I write, almost to the minute in Japan), the title has resonance. Without trying to explore that, does the poemís shape have significance?
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Unread 08-05-2019, 06:14 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Ashley,

The language here is crisp and musical. However, frankly I'm not always sure what it means, in the opening for instance. I don't think that will matter to everybody; however, if it matters to you, you might try letting the poem breathe a little more, which would give you room to explain more some of what is going on.
Others of course object to exposition pretty readily. So how to proceed is obviously your decision.

Cheers,
John

Update: for instance, who or what is the addressee?
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Unread 08-07-2019, 04:58 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Hi, Allen:

The format is just a free-verse sonnet. No special meaning to the form. Thanks for stopping in.

Hi, John:

I thought (more like "hoped") that the epigraph would lead the reader to understand that this was a monologue delivered to Pierre. I see that isn't working. Thanks for kicking the tires on this one.
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Unread 08-07-2019, 07:30 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Ashley, I thought it looked like half a silhouette of a man with his ear and hair being outlined. Then, you must for give me since, apart from the Big and Little Dippers, I have trouble seeing those famous ancient constellations in the sky that are so famous.
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Unread 08-07-2019, 07:38 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Ashley,

Thank you for explaining the addressee. I've just reread and I'm afraid I still find the poem a little confusing. But maybe that's just me. If and how you edit is of course your call.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 08-08-2019, 08:20 AM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Thanks for coming back, John.

I suppose I'm assuming too much on the part of the reader--that Curie was involved in breakthrough technologies for the first X-rays; that she was Polish but immigrated to France and her husband was French.

But, as I always say, if you have to explain it, it ain't working.

Thanks for your considerable time with this. Muchas gracias.
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Unread 08-19-2019, 06:40 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Ashley,

I'm baffled by the responses to this, but they must feel pretty disheartening. I think it's fairly obvious who the speaker and addressee are and what the context is (Curie approaching death), given the title and epigraph. And John's confusion about the strange opening ('Please put me with your hands') can be dismissed as sloppy reading, surely, as the speaker herself goes on to explain exactly what it means

'Written in the worst
French, Please, put me with your hands. And it
meant that I wanted to be surrendered to.'

(sorry John, but there it is)

I might not grasp every image completely, but at its heart it's a simple love poem from a speaker who knows death is approaching. I read 'radioactive' in the title as 'emotionally affecting' metaphorically, as well as its literal sense. A lovely, quiet sonnet with an interesting context, and quite moving.
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Unread 08-19-2019, 07:00 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is online now
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Hi Ashley,

OK, I'll return to my confusion. I think it begins with the title, which leads me to expect some focus on the research papers in the body of the text; it does not prepare me for the poem to have a quite different addressee, namely, and unexpectedly, her husband. The research papers seem to fall by the wayside thereafter.
Please put me with your hands, to my mind, in no way means "that I wanted to be surrendered to," empty palms or not. I'm afraid, for all Mark's clarity, that I cannot parse that equation. That I wanted to surrender to you, maybe.
Other details confuse me: "I’m scared / I’ll seduce the second world too soon and empty / this first one out before I’ve finished it." What does this refer to? Death perhaps? Is she talking about an afterlife? She's a scientist, and I'm not expecting God to make an appearance here. The second world seems a pretty categorical expression.
OK, those are my confusions. Pace Mark, I don't think your poem, Ashley, as yet resolves them with the simplicity that you, Mark, evidently find there. I do OTOH think it's very nice work, and a good topic for poetry to boot.

Cheers,
John

NB notice, Mark, how I did that without calling your reading sloppy.

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-19-2019 at 07:04 AM.
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  #10  
Unread 08-19-2019, 08:54 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Ashley,

I read and enjoyed this when you first posted it, sorry it's taken so long to get around to commenting.

I think this is rather lovely: effectively evoking with the sentiment without (for me) lapsing into sentimentality. I think the sonnet is an appropriate form for the subject matter. I knew enough about Marie Curie to know about X-rays, and saw this as Marie addressing her husband and reflecting on her love for him in the face of her approaching death (the second world). I hadn't known that he died first, but that was the sense I got from the poem -- that she was addressing him in his absence.

I found the line of poor French to be an effective device -- an attempt at first communication, a reaching out to him which maybe reflects more generally the difficulty of clearly communicating what she felt (I presumed, perhaps wrongly, that she wrote these before having told him how she felt). I also like that the line opens the poem and then is repeated later. For me the poem explains the line's meaning pretty clearly, and I like the way that the explanation occurs after it's been repeated, allowing some mystery on its first appearance. I can also read the line as relating to being reunited with him on her death, a wish to be with him again.

I like the way the poem takes a slightly more philosophical turn towards the close -- the way the subject is more just love, but also intertwined with reflections on death and life. I particularly liked, "The cells and circumstances we liken to / living are what slough away.",

The title offers a second reading, something like: in her research notes, her love still burns/glows after all these years: the hearts, the line of poor French. I quite like it read this ways, though I also wonder about it; not sure if I can explain this fully: if I paraphrase it as "still hot after all these years", then this seems too, I don't know, sensationalist, tabloid, over-dramatic for the voice of the poem, and 'radioactive' can have this sense too.

I'd find it hard to categorise this as free verse, given that each line is pretty much pentameter and many are straight IP -- the first three lines are strict IP, for example. Though I guess categorisation is only really an issue in an apartheid situation like the Sphere, so I can see why you posted it here.

At first I thought that 'it' seemed a weak word to rhyme on -- or to enjamb on -- especially as it's an identity rhyme too, and particularly L8's single foot ending "And it". "to" also could be stronger. Against this, though, on rereading, I think this rhymes/words being weak potentially adds something to the voice here. Makes it plainer (more directly plaintive?) somehow, less forceful/dramatic, less adorned by rhyme. Does that make sense? Even so, I'm still not a fan of "And it".

I kind of want the close to be: "Grows long as bones. And as white". Partly to echo the "long as" and partly because it's hard to parse "and white"; in context it seems to read "We’ve seen the light that hides inside us, and white".

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 08-19-2019 at 09:04 AM.
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