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Old 11-27-2018, 02:56 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Default Straw Men and Sane Rivers

REVISED-RELINEATED

At each rough nuzzle the Myrrh tree trembles;
tusks thud and shudder into her bark;
her wounds cannot weep; she splits
and the wild god screams his birth.
Man creates the power in the hand of a god
then schemes to steal it.

The rivers are caught and tamed
and hydraulic civilisations rise and fall
Salt fills the fields and fields become deserts,
horizons stretch round, ground grows rock
and the earth bleeds out as rivers cut deep.

There are no birds and our backs bend
with the burden of flies.
There were trees here once
whose fingers had gripped down
and cracked through stone.

Hungry to take the high ground,
a host erupts from the salient;
the straw men take point and charge
with green branches waving like an ocean.
They cannot see that in making rivers sane
the rivers will always run red.



REVISION:

At each rough nuzzle the Myrrh tree trembles;
tusks thud and shudder into her bark;
her wounds cannot weep; she splits,
the wild god screams his birth.
Man creates the power
in the hand of a god
then steals it.


The rivers are caught and tamed
the hydraulic civilisations rise
and fall as salt fills the fields.
The fields become deserts,
the horizon stretches out
and ground grows rock.
As rivers cut deep,
the earth bleeds.


There are no birds
and our backs bend
with the burden of flies.
There were trees here once
whose fingers had gripped deep
and cracked down through stone.

...and now
hungry for high ground,
a host erupts from the salient;
the straw men take point and charge
with green branches waving like an ocean.
Blinkered by their remit they lock onto the heavens
and cannot see that rivers made sane will always run red.




ORIGINAL

At each rough nuzzle the Myrrh tree trembles;
tusks thud and shudder into her bark;
her wounds have no time to weep; she splits
and the wild god screams his birth.
Man hands power to his gods.
then schemes to steal it.

The rivers had been caught and tamed
the hydraulic civilisations had risen
then fell as salt filled their fields.
The desert seemed larger.
The horizon furthered
and ground shrank.

There were no birds
and our backs bent
with the burden of flies.
The trees whose roots had once
gripped deep and cracked rock are gone.

A host erupts from the salient;
the straw men take point and charge
with green branches waving like an ocean
In their compass there is little that is real;
hungry for high ground, they look to the stars
and cannot see that rivers made sane will always run red.

Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 12-06-2018 at 08:22 PM.
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Old 11-28-2018, 01:38 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Default

Slight revision/addition.
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Old 12-04-2018, 05:51 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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An unashamed bump in hope of some comment.

180 hits and no cigar.
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Old 12-04-2018, 06:50 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I've been trying to decide what to say. I don't think the poem is successful. It's too abstract. The impression is that more focus is on it fits on a page than it is style, clarity, or content. I'm not an ass. I focused on laying out the theme for several readings and then realized I was out there without a net. I don't think this one is successful as it is now constituted. (It isn't easy for me to write this when I know it will be the only comment for who knows how long. It looks as though non-met has been deserted and is no longer viable.)
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Old 12-04-2018, 07:18 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Jan,

Interesting shape, but so far it isn't a clue to the content for me (say, like the hour-glass shapes of Fern Hill stanzas).

This feels like Eliot’s Hollow Men and Waste Land terrain, but apparent shifts from barren and sere to rivers (wet) causing the earth to bleed (wet) seem to contradict a hollow land of straw men (dry). Okay, the rivers are the main thing, both dry and bloody, but I’m not yet appreciating that apparent dry/wet paradox.
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Old 12-04-2018, 08:09 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Riley View Post
I've been trying to decide what to say. I don't think the poem is successful. It's too abstract. The impression is that more focus is on it fits on a page than it is style, clarity, or content. I'm not an ass. I focused on laying out the theme for several readings and then realized I was out there without a net. I don't think this one is successful as it is now constituted. (It isn't easy for me to write this when I know it will be the only comment for who knows how long. It looks as though non-met has been deserted and is no longer viable.)
Thanks John,

Given both your comment and Ralph's together with the lack of Comment since posting shows that the layout detracts completely. The layout arrived organically and seeing it I played with neatening it up and that was a mistake. I've only tried a couple of concrete layouts for a 50% success rate. It would appear to be a path that needs to be less trodden, for me.

We have had major problems with the destruction of land. Ours is an old continent in the very thin layer of soil. Any change in the hydrologic regime causes massive problems. There are some breakthroughs but unfortunately they do not enjoy universal acclaim. When the seeming haphazard regime of nature is disrupted the land suffers. Destruction of the land by seeking to tame it goes back to the dawn of history. Peter Andrews an Australan farmer and horse trainer has turned the ruin of properties around by reverting to older regimes. There should stuff on the net about this rxtraordinary visionary.

The straw men are the assumers of moral high ground who have little true understanding and rivers made sane is a loose quote from a treatise written by a Russian hydrologist.

I go a long way back with the 'sphere and non met has gone through doldrums before. Hopefully with a new mod here this will start to change.

Regards

Jan.

Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 12-05-2018 at 02:37 AM.
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Old 12-04-2018, 08:14 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RCL View Post
Jan,

Interesting shape, but so far it isn't a clue to the content for me (say, like the hour-glass shapes of Fern Hill stanzas).

This feels like Eliot’s Hollow Men and Waste Land terrain, but apparent shifts from barren and sere to rivers (wet) causing the earth to bleed (wet) seem to contradict a hollow land of straw men (dry). Okay, the rivers are the main thing, both dry and bloody, but I’m not yet appreciating that apparent dry/wet paradox.
Hi Ralph,

As I said to John above the shape appeared organically and has militated gainst the piece. I have addressed content to John above that I hope addresses your concerns in content. The 'bleeding' of the earth is the red dust in the water, the erosion. The straw men are those of little true worth. Rivers made sane have all the 'kinks' taken out of them

I will relineate. My thanks

Regards,

Jan

Last edited by Jan Iwaszkiewicz; 12-04-2018 at 08:40 PM.
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Old 12-05-2018, 11:54 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Jan,

I do like the idea -- assuming I've understood it -- and a fair bit of the execution. At the same time I had a fair bit of difficulty making sense of parts of this poem, in particular the first stanza. I think I got there in the end, but I'll tell you what confused me in some detail as it may help.

I do think it looks better without the previous formatting/arrangement, river-like though it may have been.

At each rough nuzzle the Myrrh tree trembles;
tusks thud and shudder into her bark;
her wounds cannot weep; she splits
and the wild god screams his birth.
Man creates the power in the hand of a god
then schemes to steal it.

A tusked animal is attacking a Myrhh tree. This maybe places us in Africa or Asia (I assume we're somewhere where Myrhh trees are native), and also for a "rough nuzzle" to do so much damage, even to a small tree like the Myrrh, it's got to be a big animal I think, so maybe an elephant? (a boar seems unlikely to nuzzle down a tree). Why the tree's wounds cannot weep -- at the literal or metaphorical level -- I don't know. No sap? A drought?

Is the wild god in the tree, escaping as it splits? The opposite genders of the tree and god might suggest not. So, who is the wild god? The closing lines suggest the wild god might be human-conceived, but I see no humans in the scene. I quite like -- or at least agree with -- the final sentence in isolation, but for the same reason, I can't connect it to a scene in which a large animal splits a tree with it's tusks. Unless perhaps humans observe the animal destroying the tree and make a god of the animal?

So, coming back after some rereading of the poem, I think what's is happening here here is that humans are using elephants (or other tusked animals) to clear woodland. And this is a contributing factor to the land drying up. I'm still clear who the wild god is that's born or what part he plays in the poem. Perhaps its Agriculture somehow (but he wouldn't be the wildest of gods). Or how relevant religion/gods are to the poem in general: there also seems to be very little, if any, reference to gods/religion in the rest of the poem.

In terms of suggestions: As it stands the stanza reads like an animal knocking down a tree, so maybe there's a way to place humans on the scene? This seems important to making clear what's going on I think (assuming I've read it as you intend). Also, I'd be inclined to lose this final sentence. It's quite a weighty statement that doesn't seem to be picked up on later in the poem (as far as can see). And even if it were, I could be shown rather than spelt out I think.

The rivers are caught and tamed
and hydraulic civilisations rise and fall
Salt fills the fields and fields become deserts,
horizons stretch round, ground grows rock
and the earth bleeds out as rivers cut deep.


I found this stanza far easier to follow, I like the ways "rise and fall" plays of "hydraulic" civilisation, and literal changes in water levels. Also the double read on rivers cutting deep to revealing rock and soil (earth) in the process ("earth bleeds out"), a phrase that at the same time also suggests drought.

To begin with I wasn't clear why the earth bled out, and it almost reads like this is a result of rivers cutting deeper. Making the deforestation clearer in the first stanza would help with this I think, again, assuming I've understood it correctly.

There are no birds and our backs bend
with the burden of flies.
There were trees here once
whose fingers had gripped down
and cracked through stone.

Now we have drought and desert. The absence of trees may be a clue to what's going on in the first stanza and how humans are involved: The clearing of forests. Which would give (another) reason for the drought: why the "earth bleeds out".

Hungry to take the high ground,
A host erupts from the salient;
the straw men take point and charge
with green branches waving like an ocean.
They cannot see that in making rivers sane
the rivers will always run red.


The last two lines are very telly and really spell out a "moral" at the close. I don't like them for this reason. There's also there's the cliche of rivers running red (with blood) -- I guess there's the contrast with green, but I don't think this does enough to redeem it. I'd be inclined to just drop the closing sentence and end on the image of the ocean of green branches held aloft by the straw men. It's a great image.

I take it that the straw men, are straw because of the drought, and literally hungry due to the drought as well as hungry in the sense of having a strong desire. That they hold branches seems to suggest they are causing more destruction in the process. Why literally would they want the high ground. Does it have more water? Presumably, they are also after the moral high ground in some way, but I don't get why. Perhaps in both respects it links back to the god(s) in some way? Perhaps holding the branches is intended as having some religious/ritual meaning?

The use of "salient" seems an odd choice. I had to look it up: "a piece of land or section of fortification that juts out to form an angle". OK, that's my ignorance, but do you want a play on "salient" meaning "noticeable or important". If so I'm not following it. (typo in line 2, capital "A".)

I hope that's useful.

All the best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 12-05-2018 at 12:08 PM.
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  #9  
Old 12-06-2018, 08:32 PM
Jan Iwaszkiewicz's Avatar
Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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Hi Matt

Quote:
I do like the idea -- assuming I've understood it -- and a fair bit of the execution. At the same time I had a fair bit of difficulty making sense of parts of this poem, in particular the first stanza. I think I got there in the end, but I'll tell you what confused me in some detail as it may help.

I do think it looks better without the previous formatting/arrangement, river-like though it may have been.

At each rough nuzzle the Myrrh tree trembles;
tusks thud and shudder into her bark;
her wounds cannot weep; she splits
and the wild god screams his birth.
Man creates the power in the hand of a god
then schemes to steal it.

A tusked animal is attacking a Myrhh tree. This maybe places us in Africa or Asia (I assume we're somewhere where Myrhh trees are native), and also for a "rough nuzzle" to do so much damage, even to a small tree like the Myrrh, it's got to be a big animal I think, so maybe an elephant? (a boar seems unlikely to nuzzle down a tree). Why the tree's wounds cannot weep -- at the literal or metaphorical level -- I don't know. No sap? A drought?

Is the wild god in the tree, escaping as it splits? The opposite genders of the tree and god might suggest not. So, who is the wild god? The closing lines suggest the wild god might be human-conceived, but I see no humans in the scene. I quite like -- or at least agree with -- the final sentence in isolation, but for the same reason, I can't connect it to a scene in which a large animal splits a tree with it's tusks. Unless perhaps humans observe the animal destroying the tree and make a god of the animal?

So, coming back after some rereading of the poem, I think what's is happening here here is that humans are using elephants (or other tusked animals) to clear woodland. And this is a contributing factor to the land drying up. I'm still clear who the wild god is that's born or what part he plays in the poem. Perhaps its Agriculture somehow (but he wouldn't be the wildest of gods). Or how relevant religion/gods are to the poem in general: there also seems to be very little, if any, reference to gods/religion in the rest of the poem.

In terms of suggestions: As it stands the stanza reads like an animal knocking down a tree, so maybe there's a way to place humans on the scene? This seems important to making clear what's going on I think (assuming I've read it as you intend). Also, I'd be inclined to lose this final sentence. It's quite a weighty statement that doesn't seem to be picked up on later in the poem (as far as can see). And even if it were, I could be shown rather than spelt out I think.
The wild god is Adonis, from Wikipedia:

The myth of Adonis is associated with the festival of the Adonia, which was celebrated by Greek women every year in midsummer.[9][27] The festival, which was evidently already celebrated in Lesbos by Sappho's time,[9] seems to have first become popular in Athens in the mid-fifth century BC.[9] At the start of the festival, the women would plant a "garden of Adonis",[9] a small garden planted inside a small basket or a shallow piece of broken pottery containing a variety of quick-growing plants, such as lettuce and fennel, or even quick-sprouting grains such as wheat and barley.[9][28] The women would then climb ladders to the roofs of their houses,[9] where they would place the gardens out under the heat of the summer sun.[9] The plants would sprout in the sunlight,[9] but wither quickly in the heat.[29] Then the women would mourn and lament loudly over the death of Adonis,[30] tearing their clothes and beating their breasts in a public display of grief.[30]

Adonis is said to be a revamped Dumuzid, so we go back to the inceptions of civilisation. The start of ‘hydraulic’ civilisations.

Mankind created the gods out of need and gave them divine power and then spent its growth in trying to wrest divine power back, seeking control of its environment. Unfortunately the crucial divine faculty is wisdom and is in short supply.

Interestingly we once had a young wether that we found in the bush and brought home as a pet he took a dislike to certain young trees and would butt them until they were laid low.


The rivers are caught and tamed
and hydraulic civilisations rise and fall
Salt fills the fields and fields become deserts,
horizons stretch round, ground grows rock
and the earth bleeds out as rivers cut deep.


I found this stanza far easier to follow, I like the ways "rise and fall" plays of "hydraulic" civilisation, and literal changes in water levels. Also the double read on rivers cutting deep to revealing rock and soil (earth) in the process ("earth bleeds out"), a phrase that at the same time also suggests drought.

To begin with I wasn't clear why the earth bled out, and it almost reads like this is a result of rivers cutting deeper. Making the deforestation clearer in the first stanza would help with this I think, again, assuming I've understood it correctly.

Yes you read it rightly Matt.

There are no birds and our backs bend
with the burden of flies.
There were trees here once
whose fingers had gripped down
and cracked through stone.

Now we have drought and desert. The absence of trees may be a clue to what's going on in the first stanza and how humans are involved: The clearing of forests. Which would give (another) reason for the drought: why the "earth bleeds out".

Hungry to take the high ground,
A host erupts from the salient;
the straw men take point and charge
with green branches waving like an ocean.
They cannot see that in making rivers sane
the rivers will always run red.

The last two lines are very telly and really spell out a "moral" at the close. I don't like them for this reason. There's also there's the cliche of rivers running red (with blood) -- I guess there's the contrast with green, but I don't think this does enough to redeem it. I'd be inclined to just drop the closing sentence and end on the image of the ocean of green branches held aloft by the straw men. It's a great image.

I will think about the ‘telliness’ of the last two lines..

I take it that the straw men, are straw because of the drought, and literally hungry due to the drought as well as hungry in the sense of having a strong desire. That they hold branches seems to suggest they are causing more destruction in the process. Why literally would they want the high ground. Does it have more water? Presumably, they are also after the moral high ground in some way, but I don't get why. Perhaps in both respects it links back to the god(s) in some way? Perhaps holding the branches is intended as having some religious/ritual meaning?

Straw men are of little intrinsic worth and revel in extrinsic value. The moral high ground is often seen as the seat of power and those who aspire to it often do not seek the inherent morality but the power position gives. The green branches give the appearance of trees, the trappings only of environmentalism, but are dead waiting to shrivel.

The use of "salient" seems an odd choice. I had to look it up: "a piece of land or section of fortification that juts out to form an angle". OK, that's my ignorance, but do you want a play on "salient" meaning "noticeable or important". If so I'm not following it. (typo in line 2, capital "A".)

It has become a battle but one about power and not the environment. Thanks for the heads up on the typo and many thanks for your in depth read it has given me points to ponder.

I hope that's useful.

Most definitely.

Regards

Jan
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Old 12-07-2018, 09:09 AM
Jason Ringler Jason Ringler is offline
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Hi Jan, I really wanted to like this and when I saw the strawmen title, I got excited, but the only satisfaction I got was near the end with the waving of branches like an ocean, which is a great image. The middle seemed so barren and flat that I really had to search around for meaning and I came out with nothing.

The comments were helpful, though lengthy. I did enjoy the opening lines about the mrryh tree. The first stanza actually was nice.

I’ll try and post more later
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