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  #1  
Unread 09-16-2020, 04:23 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Default river poem

Upriver (R1)

In the sanctuary of the churchyard
where he took a childhood beating
by the tomb of the gypsy king,
there in the grass, a silver penny

dislodges from the dirt and rises,
regains its crooked edge and rolls
eastward along the paving stones,
clatters down the proclamation steps

then through the tunnel past the café
where he spent the stolen money,
across the supermarket car-park
to the parting of two rivers

and the bridge with the copper plaque
to one who discovered oxygen
somehow in this town. It’s here
it’s swallowed by a mallard

that swims it with the current
down beneath the belly
of a half-remembered factory
and its pig ghost herds

to the bramble-tangled edge lands
and the green slope of a weir,
then onward, outward, onward
beyond the fringes of the town.


-----------
Added punctuation.
S1L2 added "childhood"
S6L1&2 are new.
S6L4 "fringes" -> boundaries -> fringes


Upriver

in the sanctuary of the churchyard
where he took a beating
by the tomb of the gypsy king
there in the grass a silver penny

dislodges from the dirt and rises
regains it crooked edge and rolls
eastward along the paving stones
clatters down the proclamation steps

then through the tunnel past the café
where he spent the stolen money
across the supermarket car-park
to the parting of two rivers

and the bridge with the copper plaque
to he who discovered oxygen
somehow in this town.......it’s here
it’s swallowed by a mallard

that swims it with the current
down beneath the belly
of a half-remembered factory
and the pig ghost herds

then onward..outward..onward
beyond the fringes of the town

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-24-2020 at 04:53 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 09-16-2020, 04:51 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Matt, I like this. I like the mythology, or the elements that provide that mythological feel. I find that is powerful. I like the mystery and how it gives rise to the sensations one feels when in contact with what isn't known and perhaps never will be. The poem does ask a lot from a penny on its edge and the unintroduced "he" in a way, maybe only to me, seems like the only hint of unnecessary mystery. I don't know, off the top of my head, where Priestly, who I assume you are referring to, discovered oxygen was a gas and not an element. I should, considering how much I read science history, but I don't remember.

I genuinely like this poem. I know this may sound strange coming from me but the one thing that doesn't totally convince me is the lack of punctuation. I don't think it's because I tend to avoid it myself by writing one-stanza poems with a run-on sentence. I asked myself that and don't think it's a style thing. Merwin did some wonderful punctuation-free poems with stanzas. I feel the lack of a comma after "rises" in the S2L1. The use of space instead of punctuation is something Merwin does but for me here it doesn't smooth the abruptness as much as it adds to it. The spaces work great in the closing couplet.

I don't know that you need "it" in the first line of the penultimate stanza.

Those are all my nits, FWIW. You can easily ignore them and please do if you don't find them helpful. I don't mean to "workchop" your poem, which is often the unfair thing said around here when someone offers their praise. I'm merely offering my nits as I hope people do on my poems. Again, I very much like the poem. I like what I don't know and what I do know and it's sense of time and appreciate of the unanswerable.

Best
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  #3  
Unread 09-16-2020, 04:57 PM
W T Clark W T Clark is online now
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I always liked this one, Matt! It seems publishable to me. The stream of consciousness narration seems to reflect the ever changing, recycling and revolving modern world we live in, especially with the vast amounts of junk we amass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Q View Post
Upriver

in the sanctuary of the churchyard
***** Why not go all in and remove the "the"?
where he took a beating
by the tomb of the gypsy king
there in the grass a silver penny
***** "there" I think doesn't suit the streaming movement of the narrative
dislodges from the dirt and rises
regains it crooked edge and rolls
***** Shouldn't it be "its"?
eastward along the paving stones
clatters down the proclamation steps

then through the tunnel past the café
where he spent the stolen money
across the supermarket car-park
***** "supermarket car-park" is sonically ugly for me, because of the tripple repetition of "ar" in such a short space of syllables. Re-phrase?
to the parting of two rivers

and the bridge with the copper plaque
to he who discovered oxygen
somehow in this town.......it’s here
it’s swallowed by a mallard

***** I do not think that the stanza should break on mallard, let the image be "swallowed" by the surrounding lines.
that swims it with the current
down beneath the belly
of a half-remembered factory
and the pig ghost herds

then onward..outward..onward
beyond the fringes of the town
Nice work. I'm off to the mandala.
Hope this helps.

Last edited by W T Clark; 09-17-2020 at 02:10 AM.
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  #4  
Unread 09-17-2020, 12:00 AM
Ron Greening Ron Greening is offline
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Hi Matt,
This is an experiential response, for it is worth to you.

Reading this, memories of Tom Robbins novel, Skinny Legs and All, joined me and I fell in for the story of the silver penny. "it’s here" (line 15) that I began waiting for an allegory but maybe Jim Moonan’s crystallization thread caused that. To point at the poem as a construct, steps me out and I remain out, but read on with interest.

"discovered oxygen, somehow, in this town". If I was that town, I’d feel my puzzlement shift to a slow uncertain burn.

I tried to decide which, if any, of the three he's (how do you pluralize he?) in the poem referred to the same guy, but I let that go with a small dissatisfaction.

down beneath the belly
of a half-remembered factory
and the pig ghost herds
...that’s a meatball in the sauce.

Then the final two lines kind of left town without me.

The silver and the tomb carry a scent of Judas.
beaten in a sanctuary
clatter of silver down proclamation steps from a churchyard onward and outward.

I think a dark satire lurks in this. I will refrain from trying to dissect it, frog like, as I seem to like to do.

I like WT Clark’s suggestions.
Ron
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  #5  
Unread 09-17-2020, 05:42 AM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Matt, I reread this seveal times and my comment and think that what I said about the punctuation is more of style thing than it is fundamental. The abruptness I mentioned are an issue to me only because I don't do it and it isn't a good critique for me to not see that. I think it hit me because you have a penny rolling on its edge and I felt in fall over in those spots. I still don't know about "it" in the line I mentioned but that's about it. A fine poem.

Best
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  #6  
Unread 09-17-2020, 08:18 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
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I feel uneasy about the "he" in line 14, because my head wants it to be "him".
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  #7  
Unread 09-17-2020, 10:30 AM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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This is one of those poems where things can mean almost the opposite of what they appear to mean, and only those who know how can get the full monty. I do like it, surface value or not. Or most of it. You’re very good at this kind of thing, or I’m seriously mistaken. If so, well, I’m having my delusions for lunch. I’m currently not at all good at that sort of thing, and people tell me so. At the moment I agree with Ann.
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  #8  
Unread 09-17-2020, 12:33 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I'm not crazy about the closing couplet- my first impression is that it sells the poem a little short. I like the percussive "supermarket car park," and the almost rude "pig ghost herds." I'd say stop there, but I still need a much better grasp of the poem. Like Ron, I get a biblical vibe at the start, and the rather stilted "to he who." I like it a lot, but, again, could probably use a bit more time with it.

Last edited by James Brancheau; 09-17-2020 at 12:42 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 09-17-2020, 03:53 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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“its” in line six.
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  #10  
Unread 09-18-2020, 06:37 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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John, Cameron, Ron, John, Ann, James, Allen

Thanks everyone. I've posted a revision.

John,

I'm pleased you like this one. I think it owes something to having read a lot of your poems. I've added punctuation to the revision.
I was thinking not having it made it more river-like, but wasn't completely sold on it.

Cameron,

Thanks for the thoughts and suggestions and flagging the typo, which I've fixed it.

Ron & Annie,

I've changed the errant "he" to "the one", which addresses the grammar and the possible confusion of having more than one "he" in the poem. Changing to "him" would sound odd to me, Annie, though I can see that "he" is the wrong case.

Ron,

I'm intending a narrative here and the penny as a metaphor, but I can see that the poem could be doing more to hint at what that it is, at the same time I don't want to over-determine it or spell it out. I've added "childhood" to the beating, but I don't know that does quite enough. I've tweaked the close; I wasn't happy with "fringes", but there's likely still something better that suggests more of the significance of leaving the town. Again, I'm struggling to find a way to do that without being heavy-handed.

Useful that you flag up the Judas connection to silver coins, which I hadn't thought about. I do want the coin to be bright and precious. Maybe it could be golden.

James,

I'd agree the close could be stronger, but I've not yet found a way to do that. I do want to show it leaving town, I think, but maybe I need to do more to hint at the significance of that.

Allen,

Thanks! I do wonder if tying down the meaning a little might be helpful, but I do like that it's open to being read in different ways.

Thanks again all,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-18-2020 at 06:41 AM.
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