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  #1  
Unread 03-25-2020, 06:47 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Default wood

The smallest wood (R2)


There is a wood I know – the smallest wood
I know – where I’ve worn paths that wind back round
until they have no end. And if I could
I’d take you there, to walk and be unwound
where feet on fallen leaves might startle deer
and put to flight the thousand calling birds;
their chorus briefly paused, they’d reappear
to saturate the air. Had I the words
a nature poet keeps, then I would name
each tree, identify each bird by song,
list fungus, flower and fern. But to my shame
I don’t. And if I tried, I’d paint it wrong.
But I can conjure it. And I traverse
its paths, its vast and gentle universe.

--------------
combination of original and R1

The smallest wood (R1)


There is a wood I know – the smallest wood
I know – where I’ve worn paths that wind back round
until they have no end. And if I could
I’d take you there, to walk and be unwound
where feet on fallen leaves might startle deer
and put to flight the thousand calling birds;
their chorus briefly paused, they’d reappear
to saturate the air. Had I the words
a naturalist might sow, I’d name each tree
each fungus, fern and flower. But a list
just nibbles at the edge of verity,
like rabbits at the treeline, glimpsed through mist.
You have to conjure it. Then you’ll traverse
its paths, its vast and gentle universe.

L4 "come unwound" -> "be unwound"
L9-14 lots of changes




The smallest wood

There is a wood I know – the smallest wood
I know – where I’ve worn paths that wind back round
until they have no end. And if I could
I’d take you there. We’d walk and come unwound
where feet on fallen leaves might startle deer
who'd put to flight the thousand calling birds;
their chorus briefly paused, they’d reappear
to saturate the air. Had I the words
a nature poet keeps, then I would name
each tree, identify each bird by song,
each fungus by its flange. But to my shame
I don’t. And if I tried, I’d paint it wrong.
But I can conjure it. And I traverse
its paths, its vast and gentle universe.


------
L6: and->who'd & singing->calling

Last edited by Matt Q; 04-01-2020 at 03:31 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 03-25-2020, 07:22 PM
Andrew Mandelbaum's Avatar
Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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This quite fine Matt. I wouldn’t change much. My laptop is broke and I can’t type on this damn phone but beautiful work.
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  #3  
Unread 03-25-2020, 10:12 PM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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I like it, Matt, but I think naming is overrated, and what the poem perhaps needs more of is the senses. It feels a bit generic to me, though I don't think it actually feels that way to you. I like the "vast and gentle universe" at the end. The sense of abundance is evocative. But "thousand singing birds" doesn't conjure much for me. Oddly enough, "their chorus briefly paused" is more vivid for me than the statement that there are a lot of them singing.

Susan
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  #4  
Unread 03-25-2020, 10:52 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Rhetorical questions:

If you're in a wood--and a superlatively small wood, at that--wouldn't a thousand birds flying through it have a lot of collisions with trees?

After the narrator's presence interrupts them, do the birds reappear to saturate the air, or does their song?

Am I the only one here who thought of definition 7 here when reading "the smallest wood / I know"?
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  #5  
Unread 03-26-2020, 07:29 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I pretty much agree with Andrew, Matt. I like this a lot, too, and I think, for the most part, it should be left alone. Perhaps something more interesting than singing, but I wouldn't jazz it up too much. The only thing I really paused on was paint. That seems to come out of nowhere, as if maybe you were fishing for words there.

And nah, Julie. I don't think wood here puts the poem in any danger. (Of course this coming from someone who once protested "plumage" in one of Matt's poems because I couldn't stop thinking of Monty Python.) You'd need "get/got" and "a little" for that to be a problem. (Though nothing wrong with "I got a little wood for the fire" etc. God forbid "I came upon a little wood.")

Sorry, Matt. Honestly, I don't think it's even close to being an issue. Fine work.
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  #6  
Unread 03-26-2020, 07:47 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I like this a lot, Matt. Especially the wonderful opening, which gives a sense of winding paths and nonlinear walking. And the conclusion. [Editing back to change my mind about a few lines I had questioned.]

Why, however, do they come "unwound" where the leaves make noise? That word reads to me like a choice more for the rhyme than for the content, though I might just be missing the point.

Late in the poem, I find it a little hard to believe “to my shame,” since a lot of people poets or not don’t know or remember the names. I think that that part of the poem could be heightened somehow, or made more vivid, still keeping the idea of naming vs. conjuring or evoking (which itself is an interesting contrast).

The last two lines are epiphanic and wonderful.

So yes, this is intriguing and lovely, with the need, I think, of some fiddling in the areas mentioned.

Best,

Andrew

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 03-26-2020 at 08:04 AM.
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  #7  
Unread 03-26-2020, 10:55 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Your voice is so comfortable in its own skin I find it hard to question it — even if there are a couple of word choices that sound a bit quirky ("wood" vs. "woods", "...but to my shame")
I like all of Susan's observations including relying more on the senses (it would give more credence to "unwound", I think) and Julie's point of the throng of birds is something that occurred to me, too.

I hear a hint of Frost in "There is a wood I know".

The opening line doesn't ease me into the poem (I think the two dashes and the repeated words "know" and "wood" throw my sense of rhythm off) and I wonder if you might want to find a way to smooth it out... (There is a wood I know, so small,)

I suggest changing "nature poet" to "nature lover" or "naturalist" since it seems all you're referring to are names for the different kinds of flora. In any event, I think if you could avoid using “poet” then this would not teeter on being meta and I think that would be bettah : )

My reckless thoughts, that's all.
x
x
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  #8  
Unread 03-26-2020, 01:34 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Yes, Matt, this is good. I'm not bothered by the thousand birds. It's a revery, not an affidavit. My only nit is "saturate." I don't have a firm reason. I think of liquid when I read saturate. Substantial. I'd prefer a windy word. Not permeate. No one else has mentioned it. What do I know? Well, I know this is damn fine. Even beautiful.

Best
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  #9  
Unread 03-27-2020, 06:12 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Andrew, Susan, Julie, James, Andrew, John, Jim

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this. Much appreciated

Andrew

Sorry to hear about your lap-top. Not a great time to have limited access to the outside world.

Susan,

Yes, naming can be over-rated, though the N may be one of those who over-rates it. I guess it does also tend to happen in nature poems (along with other things). Without the naming thing, the N bemoaning his lack of ability in this department, the closing couplet wouldn't quite get set up in the same way. That said, I'm not quite sure I'm doing enough to hint at what 'conjure' is intended to mean. And maybe there is a way to have the N bemoan his lack of capacity to describe the wood with words, whilst at the same time, having him do a better job of evoking the wood more vividly. Or another way to set up the close. I'll give it some thought.

Julie,

Don't startled birds normally fly upwards, where space is relatively unlimited, rather than through the wood? Also, is this a literal wood?

The birds reappear to saturate the air with their song. So I think the answer to the question: "do the birds saturate the air, or does their song?", is "yes"

I don't think that definition of wood is that prevalent over here. I'm not sure I've ever heard anyone here use it in that way anyway.

James,

I guess "paint" as in "paint you a picture", meaning to depict/evoke. But maybe there's a better word. Maybe 'calling birds'? I guess singing is a bit predictable (though I like the sibilance with "thousand ... birds"), plus I use 'song' later. 'Calling' has, maybe, the implication that they are calling to us, calling us in.

Andrew F,

I wasn't sure if I understood your point about "unwound". What I intend is that the addressee, were they to visit the wood, would unwind (relax rather than unravel). "unwound" seemed to play of the winding of the paths. Is your concern that startling deer isn't very relaxing?

I did think that "be unwound" might be better than "come unwound" -- less likely to imply losing it/unravelling, and perhaps making it clearer that the wood is acting on the walker.

I do feel a little, I don't know, inadequate or ill-equipped when I try to write about nature, because I don't know the names of many things: flora in particular. I've read poems by those who do. Seamus Heaney for example. I don't think I'd heard of sedge until I came across it in one of his poems (and several other poet's poems thereafter). So, I guess that's what "to my shame" comes in. I take your point that this section might be improved though.

John,

Yes, maybe there's a better word that 'saturate'. It is normally used with liquids. I guess I went for it because it was a little unexpected. I quite liked the idea of liquid song.

Jim,

I don't know "nature lover" has the same connotations. And he is a nature lover, I guess. Just one who doesn't know what things are called!

Thanks again, all.

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 03-27-2020 at 06:50 PM.
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  #10  
Unread 03-27-2020, 06:25 PM
Alex McMillin Alex McMillin is offline
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I feel like the transition from L6 to L7 doesn't flow very well. Other than that, this is quite a strong poem. I do feel that it is a tiny bit too derivative of nature poems by Frost the like. I noticed that you made some word choices ("flange") that most nature poets wouldn't make. Maybe add a few more idiosyncratic word choices?
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