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  #1  
Unread 11-02-2019, 09:56 AM
Mary McLean Mary McLean is offline
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Default Sailing

Centreboard (revision 1)

My parents took me sailing on the river
in late November. The boat was built for two:
as usual, I perched out on the bow,
curling my adolescent form to fit
the narrow triangle of orange plastic,
slithering beneath the jib each time
we tacked. The boat tipped perilously far
at every turn, so that I had to clutch
the grab-rail tight, my pony-tail tip skimming
the freezing water. I was terrified,
exhilarated. Back at the dock at last
we realized that the centreboard was shot.

Providing drag against the Swinging Sixties
as if they were the gales of the Southern Ocean,
Dad acted as the family's centreboard.
He never understood (or knew too well)
the young will always want to feel the wind.

edited: L15 was L13 and briefly had boring centre for centreboard



Centreboard (original)

Mom, Dad and I went sailing on the river
one late November warm and sunny day
in our boat for two. I perched out on the bow
as usual, slithering beneath the jib
each time we tacked. The wind was strong and gusty,
making the boat tip perilously far
at every turn, so that I had to clutch
the grab-rail tight to keep from falling into
the freezing water. I was terrified,
invigorated. Back at the dock at last
we realized that the centreboard was shot.

Dad dug in hard against the Swinging Sixties
as if they were the gales of the Southern Ocean.
He never understood (or knew too well)
the young will always want to feel the wind.

Last edited by Mary McLean; 11-09-2019 at 01:07 AM. Reason: revision 1 posted, then edited L13, then reordered
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  #2  
Unread 11-02-2019, 12:56 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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That's quite a jump, S1 to 2. So maybe it needs to land harder. I'd go with "swung hard" instead of "dug in hard," though I'm messing with meter. It can be read two ways, and I like that, and, for me, it's more visceral. I like swinging and swung knocking against each other there. Fwiw.
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  #3  
Unread 11-03-2019, 05:24 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Mary,

I like the way this unfolds, naturally and without fuss and with believable, lived detail.

I think the opening line is metrically cramped at the start ('Mom, dad and I') and so feels like a moment of unnatural voice. What about "My parents took me sailing…"

Mostly, I agree with James. The dad 'digging in hard' against the Swinging Sixties and against the more free-spirited daughter is potentially a great thematic idea, but it seems to come out of nowhere. The dad has hardly been mentioned. I think the poem needs to be longer. Without laying on the theme and metaphor too thickly I think the relationship needs to be fleshed out a bit more.
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  #4  
Unread 11-03-2019, 09:29 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Mary, my first thought on encountering "one late November warm and sunny day" was, "Oh, dear, that's rhyme-driven." But the rest of the first section made me think, "Oh, dear, this is just lineated prose"--and not just because of the lack of end-rhyme.

It was very odd to have those two thoughts in the same poem.

Transport me into your experience! Don't tell me "I was terrified, invigorated." Show me! Make me feel terrified and invigorated!

Robert Frost often used straightforward, matter-of-fact language in his blank verse, but those pedestrian qualities generally served as a matrix for more poetic elements, such as vivid imagery and sonically lovely bits. The un-poetic setting made his sprinkling of poetic gems more credible and real.

I need a little more of that poetic stuff before I can feel as if I am inhabiting the narrator's skin and brain for the space of the poem.

Length-wise and division-wise, this looks like this is trying and failing to be a poem because it is being shoehorned into a sonnet-like format. I would advise taking whatever space you need to make the whole thing more magical and "poetic" (and I mean that last term in a positive way.) Even if you are envisioning this as part of a sonnet series, better to have a good poem than something that fits nicely in a set but doesn't have the beauty and power it could.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 11-03-2019 at 09:34 AM.
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  #5  
Unread 11-03-2019, 07:13 PM
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Jan Iwaszkiewicz Jan Iwaszkiewicz is offline
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I am with Julie on this one Mary it is indeed quite prosaic. 'Show don't tell' has a degree of currency here.
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Unread 11-03-2019, 07:50 PM
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RCL RCL is offline
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Like Mark, I like the idea. At first, I assumed a child with her father, so the sixties business of S2 was abrupt. I'm also puzzled about the centerboard, never a sailor. Did it cause the mayhem described in S1? Is it meant to be an echo of the threat of the sixties to dad?
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  #7  
Unread 11-07-2019, 04:00 AM
Mary McLean Mary McLean is offline
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Apologies for being absent from the Sphere since posting. This turned out to be my busiest week ever at work – crazy time to try to workshop a poem. Anyway, I’ve posted a revision now which I hope addresses some of the issues, and I’ll try to make up my critiquing deficit when I can. Thanks everyone for the comments, and do please let me know what bits of my revision work better or worse than the original.

James, Ralph, a centreboard is a flat rigid length of wood that sticks out of the bottom of the boat to provide drag acting against left-right tipping. So yes, the damaged centreboard was the cause of the careening. The ‘digging in hard’ was meant to be a metaphor for that, which ‘swung hard’ wouldn’t capture. Probably there is a better sailing term out there somewhere, but I haven’t sailed in years and don’t know much of the lingo. My revision lets me get ‘drag’ in, which is wordplay that appeals to me. The old man was such a drag, Dude!

James, Mark, Julie, Ralph, The abrupt change between stanzas was partly because I originally rejected the new L13 as too ‘telly’, and partly because I had in mind that the form was fitting the content: it was meant to be a sonnet, but one that veered wildly in the middle with an out-of-balance length (15 lines). But I guess that didn’t work. Do you think L13 is needed?

Julie, Jan, yes, fair cop, it’s a bit telly. The problem is this incident happened so very long ago that all I remember clearly is the emotion, not the sensory detail. My mother doesn’t remember it at all, but it presumably made a less vivid impression on someone sitting inside the boat than someone trying to cling on to the bow. I’ve added some probably invented details, but for now I’m keeping in the terrified/exhilarated juxtaposition. I don’t think the second stanza would work without it, but correct me if I’m wrong.

Mark, this poem is a reflection on my family in general rather than exclusively my own relationship with my father. Yes, there were tensions and rebellions, but I think that’s understood without needing to rake up particular arguments. If this ever is published, it is likely to be alongside at least one other poem in my boat series, which mostly explore different aspects of our relationship, so there would be some context at least which is absent here. I took your suggestion for the start.
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  #8  
Unread 11-07-2019, 02:01 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Mary, Hi.

1. I really like the first 10 lines, since they make me feel like I’m right there on the boat with you.

2. Although I understand the appeal of the double meaning of “drag,” I wonder if that is the proper word to use. I think of “drag” as some something on the outside of a car, boat or airplane that slows it down because of the air or water resistance. Although I took one sailing class as a teenager, I don’t know that much about sailing. However, my understanding is that it is the centerboard that enables a sailboat to sail, i.e., to move in a direction other than the way the wind is blowing. I checked the Internet and it says that the centerboard creates “lift.” Here’s what I found on “Wikipedia – Centreboard”:

Function. A centreboard (often called a lifting foil in a modern racing dinghy) is used to provide lift to counter the lateral force from the sails. This is required for sailboats to move in directions other than downwind, since the force of the sail is never closer than 45 degrees to the apparent wind.

3. I know you’re happy with L15, but I just feel an urge to put it in IP:

as if they were the Southern Ocean gales.

4. Because of its double meaning, and because I can picture the young enjoying the breeze on their faces, I think the final line is quite strong.

Best wishes,

Mark
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  #9  
Unread 11-07-2019, 04:23 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I looked up centreboard, Mary, before I commented, not familiar with sailing. *Dug in is a kind of general expression and risky to assume the reader will pick up on that specificity. The reason I suggested swung is because that can be active or passive. I think the revision is off, explaining what we need to know. I prefer the original. More and more I think the leap between those stanzas is a strength. But there's a lot of pressure on that second stanza, I think.

*Sorry, you changed that to drag.

Last edited by James Brancheau; 11-07-2019 at 04:45 PM.
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  #10  
Unread 11-07-2019, 06:58 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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In such a small boat, wouldn't the centerboard have to be inserted before sailing? And that sounds like a small boat for two sails.
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