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Unread 08-19-2019, 04:11 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,448

Hi Mark,

Coming back to say that I do have a small nit. Here:

but distant, brooding, picking at the thing.
Something. My own grand project undermined,
my own facade — protector — wavering.

So, when I get to 'Something', I see the N worrying away at this feeling or set of feelings, troubled by them, but not quite being able to pin them down it. But then immediately after he seems pretty clear as to what the issue is. I do like the Gaudi parallels of the grand project and the facade, but I wonder if there's a way to make this slightly more equivocal. Even a question mark or two might do that.



Last edited by Matt Q; 08-19-2019 at 05:03 PM.
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Unread 08-20-2019, 06:08 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: California
Posts: 781

I'm not sure I like the poetry (just little quirks), but I absolutely adore the poem. Absolutely adore. I know that family-salvation well and it's perfect here. The sense of dying with the dying man in a dream, almost lost matrix-like and in real danger of death, were it not for the salvation of the family in the real world. Really nicely done.
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Unread 08-21-2019, 02:01 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Northern New Jersey
Posts: 7,925

I love this! I had my wallet stolen in Barcelona, and I went through the same mood cycle. You capture the feeling of the day after perfectly. As well as the urgent immediate response and the surrounding city that I still kind of hate.

I hated Gaudi before I got there.

It's a very good poem.
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Unread 08-21-2019, 03:48 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 2,258

Hi Mark,
Having caught wind of your being on holiday in Barcelona from your mentioning it a few days earlier on another thread, reading this was especially enjoyable. It occurred to me that it could serve as your own poignant, dark twist on the back-to-school first assignment that greets students here in the States: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation".
Now you can go back to the classroom and blow away the students with it. Seriously, I think you should do it. Introduce it as something you wrote about what you did on summer vacation. (Perhaps as a segue, ask them what they did on summer vacation.) Begin by giving them something of an introduction to the poem. Tell them about Gaudi, about how he died, what Sagrada Familia means in English, etc. (If one should stay after class and say, "I liked it Mr. McDonnell" give him/her extra credit.)

The poem is a homage to Gaudi (and to your family). He would have been proud to have read it and honored to meet you. The final stanza is perfection in its brooding synergy. But it's the striking progression of the first three stanzas that sets you up for the transcendent final stanza. I think Larkin has rubbed off on you.

Do you need the emdash to end L5 in the final stanza?
In fact, if there is one aspect of the poem that gives me pause it's the liberal use of them throughout (there are eleven). I can see how you might use them to create a sense of panic and dread that the picked pocket precipitates, but just wondering how you might achieve it without so many.

Btw, I had my pocket picked in Rome. On the subway headed to the Colosseum. The car was packed and I was standing holding on with my arms over my head. The pair that fleeced me I'm certain had also sold me an umbrella on the platform just a few minutes before the train whistled into the station. They boarded the train with us. An easy mark : )

We are headed to Scotland tomorrow for vacation. Can I trust the Scots to keep their hands outta my pockets?

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 08-21-2019 at 07:36 PM.
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Unread 08-22-2019, 07:47 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,193

Thanks for the feedback everyone, I'm glad this seems to be working. I wrote it over a few days, on my phone on a sun-lounger mainly, which was a weird but pleasant writing environment, and posted it when I was still there. Back now. Older, wiser and slightly tanned. Spent an hour today applying for a new replacement driving license.

Roger - thanks, that's very kind.

Thanks Erik - when we got back, there was actually a story about Barcelona's petty crimewave being out of control on the BBC website! I had no idea. Don't know if it made me feel better or not haha.

Thanks Duncan

Hi Martin - Hmm. I sort of don't care ha. But, the line was an oversight, metrically, in that I can't claim it was deliberately tet for any reason, so I have changed it. Cheers.

Susan - I'm glad it felt authentic to you, and that the Gaudi added something. About the Spanish, I'm a bit surprised by the reaction against it, from you and others. Apart from 'sagrada' and 'familia', which together make the name of a pretty famous building, the only Spanish is the two word phrase 'lo siento' ('I'm sorry'). I don't speak any Spanish, and had to look up the Spanish for that phrase. But it felt right for a narrator who is attempting and failing to 'blend in' and feeling this possibly self-aggrandising connection to Gaudi in order to work through his own mini trauma.

Hi Matt - that's a poem-worthy story! First time I've been pickpocketed, though I've been burgled a couple of times. I'm glad you like this and thanks for your perceptive reading of it. As to your nit, I get your point but I thought the single word sentence 'Something' here encourages enough of a pause to indicate the speaker coming to a realisation about the nature of the thing nagging at his mind.

but distant, brooding, picking at the thing.
Something. My own grand project undermined,
my own facade — protector — wavering.

Andrew - I feel like there's a certain kind of attitude that could be described as guile which tourists are encouraged to have in these situations — a cunning and even a level of non-malicious deceit: keep your wallet in a hard-to-reach place, look like you know what you're doing even if you don't — don't look like a tourist basically. The double simile felt natural to me: the N is stressed, looks up at the extraordinary facade of Gaudi's building and thinks 'it looks like a brain...Gaudi's brain!' The feverish mind making quick connections like that. Well, that was the idea.

Thanks Nemo, that makes me happy. I was worried it was too narrative, but then I couldn't think of what to leave out. I needed the place, the people, the building, the before and after of it. Glad you think it works. I genuinely needed to write it to make myself feel better. My wife was next to me on the beach reading John Fowles' 'The Collector' again, and I was writing this.

Yes, I'm glad you like that line and saw its dual function. I'm naturally all those things, yet somehow also this 'family man' and the poem is a tribute to them for putting up with me as much as anything ha. Cheers.

Thanks for the kind words, Daniel. Is your distinction between the poem and the 'poetry' a metrical concern? Language? I'm not sure.

Rick - that makes me happy, cheers. (The love. Not you getting your wallet stolen...)

Hey Jim - Oh god no, my students don't get to see the poems. I'm glad you like this, thank you. Larkin hmm? Well, I do love him and relate to him, which is both an English cliché and true. He said that reading Thomas Hardy showed him you could write about very ordinary things in your own voice and still elevate them, and I think many people came to the same conclusion after reading him. I did. I read Blake and the Romantics and Whitman and the beats as a teenager and loved them all, but it was grumpy Phil in my late 30s who was the revelation and got me writing. I'm a little cheerier haha. I was able to embrace the world and la familia!

Em-dashes, yes. I probably overuse them. When I'm in the zone where the poem seems to be writing itself they feel like the all-purpose punctuation mark for me. I'll take a look at possible alternatives in places.

Enjoy Scotland! Don't want to worry you but are you familiar with this scene from 'Trainspotting'?

Cheers folks. One tiny change, following Martin's comment.
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Unread 08-26-2019, 07:21 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Staffordshire, England
Posts: 3,193

Hi folks,

Coming back to Matt's small nit in post #11. I've made a small change to S4 that might make the description of the N's leap from worrying but unsure about his feelings to suddenly pinpointing them feel more natural. Basically, I've cut 'brooding', which is probably already covered by 'quiet' and 'distant', and added a 'perhaps'. Does it help, is it any better, or was it not a problem in the first place? Cheers!
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