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Unread 02-12-2019, 09:20 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Default anepikrita (thread title)

Wheat text


Pyrrho

I do not know you, Pyrrho, who you were,
the things you stood for, how you got along,
but let us nonetheless be friends. I’ve heard
the stories, how you would not halt for cliffs’
edges (your handlers scrambling to prevent..............................5
disaster), how you passed by Anaxarchus
trapped in the swamp (for which the man forgave,
even admired you), how you fled the dog
(so hard it is to cast the human off)—
but I know better than to trust the shrouds..............................10
of undecidable events. And I,
I’m similar: I cannot tell you all
the times I’ve tripped through inattention, missed
the glaring (you'd rejoin that nothing’s so),

nor all the times I’ve failed my friends, or cringed.....................15
in sudden, needless fear. Perhaps you’ll tell
me what absurdity it is to plague
myself with recollections (memory is
so unreliable a chronicler)
,
and you’d be right, as usual. And yet….....................................20

I can’t stop thinking of that word, the one
preserved third-hand, of doubtful origin,
and yet the nearest I can come to you.
It’s tricky: undecidable. Suggesting:
the fault in us, our judgment ill at ease....................................25
and always wavering. Or was your meaning
indeterminate? The fault in things
that natureless commit to no one form.
But now suppose (as I suppose you did)
that only what’s decidable is real—..........................................30
what then? Time passes, and each trace of you
decays, and with each loss your substance shrinks
to nothingness, until you are your name,
no more, with all it has accrued, the myths
so many mouths have spun, uncertainties.................................35
piled on uncertainties. And I know better
(do I?) than to trust them. What’s this trust?
The stories miss the mark, but there’s no mark
to miss, no Pyrrho to mistake, and who
you really were is neither here nor there..................................40

The question’s metaphysical, I guess,
whether our friendship is a figment—no
relations, as they say, without relata—
or something more. Just here I get confused:
there’s sympathy between us, or, at least,................................45
that’s how it strikes me, but you’d be the first
to caution me about appearances
were you around for cautioning. You’re not,
and that’s the thing—and not because you’re dead.
Hoping necessity will furnish me...............................................50
the demonstration I’ve been seeking, I
recall the people that I pushed away,
material and irrefragable,
the unforgiveable forgotten crimes
that drove them off, inconstant for their substance...................55
Can need conjure its own satisfaction?
Maybe, or maybe not, I’ve no idea,
except for this: I’m lonely. Do I know
that friendship can fix love to empty space?
I do not know, but I maintain the search..................................60



EDITS:

L3: for all that --> nonetheless

L11-14 was:
I’m similar:
I cannot tell you all the times I’ve tripped
through inattention, missed the glaring (though
I guess you would rejoin that nothing’s so),
L18-19: memory / being a most mendacious chronicler --> (memory is / so unreliable a chronicler)

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 02-12-2019 at 06:56 PM.
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Unread 02-12-2019, 09:40 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

A long poem! I'll have to come back, but while it's fresh in my mind, let me invite you to consider "even so" for "for all that," which I find a bit stilted (or Burns-y), and "I'm much the same" for "I'm similar."
I like it so far. Lots to read, though.

Cheers,
John
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Unread 02-12-2019, 06:40 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

Post-Socratics now, huh? I do like skepticism in general, and do think you lose something by not having anepikrita in the text before your start teasing out the meanings.

I'm going through this slowly, as it deserves. I'm picking up some metrical nits in S1 that hurt the rhythm to my ear:

L11: of undecidable events. I’m similar:

I'm getting six beats here.

L18-19 myself with recollections, memory
being

I don't love a word like "memory," where the natural impulse is to syncopate into "mem'ry" when spoken to both (1) need the 3 syllables (in and of itself no big deal) (2) to be followed followed (after a enjambment) by a trochee. It just doesn't hit my ear right. Obviously trust your own, but it is clanging for me.

The rest of the poem poses no such problem.

I don't like the last line.

As someone interested in philosophy, I enjoyed the voice and "conversation" of sorts your speaker has with the philosopher. Still, I think it might benefit from some more music. Some ragged rhyme might be something to try, for instance.

I'm going to keep reading and thinking, though.
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Unread 02-12-2019, 07:08 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks John and Andrew. A few quick fixes in light of your critiques. Andrew, yours obviously raises some larger issues I need to reflect on, which I will do.
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Unread 02-12-2019, 07:52 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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Anepikrita does need to be in the poem's text somewhere. The philosophy described here sounds close to existentialism, a word you cannot use. I guess my question is whether it's a poem or philosophy.
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Unread 02-12-2019, 08:07 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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My ragged rhyme may not be the solution, but I do share Sam's fear it's well-stated metrical philosophy rather than a poem.

I think this is because it's shorn of images. A place like:

the times I’ve tripped through inattention, missed
the glaring

Is wonderfully sonic in it's own right, but this might be a place to concretize rather than abstract.

This is a poem that years for human connection and is fully of emotional pain. A surprising and powerful image would really bring this home. I think to what I find the most powerful concrete image of suffering, of a line Macbeth speaks to Lady Macbeth: "Oh, full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife." I think this just needs something arrestingly visual.
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Unread 02-12-2019, 09:48 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Sam, thanks. I'll work in "anepikrita" somewhere in the next revision. Maybe the title. I don't see how it has anything to do with existentialism—it does draw heavily on Pyrrho's skepticism (as filtered through his later interpreters). I take the point about it needing more as poetry. I think Andrew (thanks for coming back) is right about needing more imagery. Something to work on as I revise.
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Unread 02-13-2019, 11:40 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
Hi Aaron, I like the line numbers for reference, especially with longer poems. I sometimes cut and paste a poem just to number them myself.
I remember Pyrrho. I don’t know why because I could not claim that with 90% of classical (?) philosophers. (Ok 95%. Ok 98) But still, I didn’t know much so I googled.

Thoughts
  • As I’ve said before, the progression in warmth of expression is noticeable from earlier pieces I’ve read of yours. I've said it enough so that I won’t say it again, promise : ) You are still writing about complex ideas and abstract thoughts but you are doing so more as a storyteller now than before. Just an observation. (I’m looking for similar progress in my writing in an inverse kind of way - less smoke more fire : )
  • I think you could do more with the title. You establish in the opening line this is about Pyrrho so better to let the title do some embellishing... I think you could use the thread title (Anepikrita) as the poem title.
  • I like the enjambment in L4
  • L10-20 shadow beautifully Pyrrho’s own shortcomings (which were his strength?)
  • This is wonderfully expressed: “I cannot tell you all the times I’ve tripped through inattention” though I miss the enjambment of the original lines.
  • I did love the word “mendacious” but it could be that I like finding new words. You are probably better off with the revision.
  • I was enthusiastically onboard after the first stanza but became mired from then on. I think the achilles heel is that it comes off as perseverating vs. quizzical . Though I may be overstating it a bit. The remedy could be to shorten this and, as others have said, add more rhythm and perhaps off rhymes.
  • I do think you can come up with a better identifier than “undecidable” unless that is in fact his handle. I will quickly plead ignorance if something’s gone over my head. The word feels so clumsy as to evoke an echo of George W. Bush (“I’m the decider”).*
  • *And it looks like it did go over my head : ) I see it now, mentioned in wiki. What about “unjudgeable”?

I’ll come back. I think your conversation with Pyrrho is a good one. I’d just like to see it fine tuned, shorter and less perseverative.
x
x
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Unread 02-13-2019, 12:51 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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I guess what I'm saying is that the poem should be more about the speaker and less about Pyrrho. We understand that the N. has problems for which he is seeking an answer, but is N. a contemporary of Pyrrho or of us? At the beginning is sounds like the former, but it becomes more the latter as we go on. Since Pyrrho never speaks (he never did in writing) all we know about him and his beliefs is second- or third-hand at best. Obviously this presents a difficult problem for the poet. Browning made convincing personae for his artists and thinkers on the basis of biographical scraps and hearsay. But there's little of that for P.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 02-13-2019 at 06:07 PM.
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Unread 02-13-2019, 12:53 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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And I,
I’m similar: I cannot tell you all
the times I’ve tripped through inattention, missed
the glaring (you'd rejoin that nothing’s so),
nor all the times I’ve failed my friends, or cringed.....................15
in sudden, needless fear

Hoping necessity will furnish me...............................................5 0
the demonstration I’ve been seeking, I
recall the people that I pushed away,
material and irrefragable,
the unforgiveable forgotten crimes
that drove them off, inconstant for their substance.

These are the two passages where N. lists his transgressions and causes for self-dislike. They are given in a very general way, and the language is abstract. Wouldn't two specific cases, well-documented, stand for the whole? Unfortunately, I can't think of any poem offhand that does this to offer as a model. But I do think that these things are stated as philosophy (general) when the poem calls out for poetry.

Last edited by R. S. Gwynn; 02-13-2019 at 01:00 PM.
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