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  #11  
Unread 09-13-2019, 07:53 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Actually, Andrew, I think that's great. The core of the poem was my discovery that this extinct ram species survives for us only because it's on the head of an Egyptian demiurge. The rest is mostly noodling. I'm going to look carefully, but I think I can cut half the piece as you suggest and get more bang for my buck. As Pascal wrote, "Please excuse this long letter, i didn't have the time to make it short."
Yeah, I love that Eluard epigraph. I don't have space right now for a separate page, but i like how it opens the MS., it seems apt. He never quite said it, from the research I've read, but "Attributed to" sounds clunky for a volume of poetry as opposed to a monograph. So I'm leaving that out.
Thank you, thank you for another inspiration.

Cheers,
John

Oh - I'll right justify the epigraph and left justify the location, maybe that will separate them out a bit.
Update: OK, I've now put the epigraph after all on the title page. I've also changed "since" to "for," so that the key word "fashioned" is not quite so alliteratively isolated.

Last edited by John Isbell; 09-13-2019 at 08:23 AM.
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  #12  
Unread 09-13-2019, 08:39 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Hello, John. I, too, prefer the tet version.

"still" + "remain" = redundancy.

I would suggest something like:

In Egypt, where his devotees
remain, the smoke of sacrifice
rises to Heaven.
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  #13  
Unread 09-13-2019, 09:17 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Nice to see you!
I agree 100% that "still remain" is redundant. It's got to go - thank you very much! OTOH, I like having an off-rhyme there for the wheel-reveal rhyme that closes each stanza (I have a bunch of them). Plus, my private joke is that it's not Khnum's devotees who are offering burnt sacrifices these days, it's Muslims at the Eid al-Adha feast Julie pointed out. So devotees sadly won't work for me. However, I think i can do "will / remain," per an earlier incarnation of the line, and solve the problem you rightly note. What do you think?

Cheers,
John

Update: just changed silt to soil, for that off-rhyme.

Last edited by John Isbell; 09-13-2019 at 09:37 AM.
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  #14  
Unread 09-13-2019, 11:45 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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By losing (sacrificing?) the stuff about the crowd and coldness of the British Museum, you lose the notion that this god has been removed from his original context, both geographically and chronologically.

Personally, I find those contrasts important, because they emphasize that even restoring this statue to Egypt could not restore him to his former glory, and what does that imply about the immortality of gods?

In the two-stanza version, there are no people until "we," and even "we" are more like birds than people. I miss the version of the poem that let me reflect more on how "we" are like gods. And thus how gods (and their representations) are inevitably like us, too.
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  #15  
Unread 09-13-2019, 03:03 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Julie,

A cool thing about surgery on poems is that it is generally reversible. You make a compelling case for what I excised, and I've restored Version I as Version III with a variety of tweaks - the epigraph remains on my title page now (thanks Andrew), and word choices have changed - for instance, I replaced surfaced and that tongue, in the restored stanzas, for what i hope are more interesting options.
I do like the short version to open the MS., but Julie, you have I think done a good job of underlining what gets lost in the mix. Thank you. I'm trying this out.

Cheers,
John
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  #16  
Unread 09-13-2019, 06:46 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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John, Hi. I did an Internet search on "is crowd singular or plural." I found the guidance below on dictionary.com. If I read the guidance correctly, it indicates that "crowd wear" should be changed to "crowd wears" (at least if one is using American English). And, to my ear, "crowd wears" sounds correct. Mark

**********

A collective noun refers to a type of noun that encompasses "a whole group as a single entity" as well as the members of that group. It is considered singular in form.

For example, words like faculty, herd, and team are collective nouns—they’re singular words but represent a group. There are collective nouns for people, animals, objects, and concepts.

Collective nouns differ from mass nouns (water, electricity, happiness, referring to an indefinitely divisible substance or abstract notion) in that mass nouns nearly never take indefinite articles (a/an; we would almost never say "a happiness") or generally don’t have plural forms.

So, do I use a singular or plural verb with a collective noun?

Generally, in American English, collective nouns take singular verbs, e.g., The government is intervening in the crisis.

In British English, however, collective nouns are often treated as plural in form and so take plural verbs, e.g., The government are intervening in the crisis.

Nevertheless, the use of a singular or plural verb can depend on the context of the sentence. If you are referring to the whole group as a single entity, then the singular verb is best.

For instance: The school board has called a special session or the faculty eats the donuts. When a group noun is used with a singular determiner (a/an, each, every, this, that, etc.), singular verbs and pronouns are common, like in this sentence: The team is away this weekend; it has a good chance of winning.

There are other contexts where the plural verb is more natural: My family are always fighting among themselves. When the individuals in the collection or group receive the emphasis, a plural verb (and pronoun) works well.

Are there any other useful guidelines?

The collective noun number, when preceded by a, takes a plural verb: There are a number of reasons why I didn’t go. When preceded by the, number takes a singular verb: The number of dogs in the park was incredible.

Couple and pair, when referring to people, favor a plural verb. For instance: The new couple showed off their fabulous wedding pictures.

What are some other common collective nouns? Here’s a handy shortlist for your quick reference:

audience
class
crowd
family
flock
committee
corporation
group
panel
staff

**********
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  #17  
Unread 09-13-2019, 08:51 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

Thank you for that very thorough review of collective nouns! I do hesitate with them, and I see from your text that this is common in the UK, where I spent twenty-odd years. Anyhow, I've updated the verb there - thank you! - and tinkered a bit elsewhere over the past hour or two. I think the poem is settling into place. I've also been endlessly editing the MS. this opens, Ice Cream and Talmud, to the exclusion of all others, and I'm ready to send it off to contests again. It's made a couple of semifinals in past years, but is I think much improved.

Cheers, and thank you all for improving this opening poem!
John

Update: a fair bit of continued tinkering has gone on here. This has involved me restoring "the crowd wear coats" and "that is the deal," because at the end of the day I think those choices sound better in context. Thanks all for making me think about this in depth.

Last edited by John Isbell; 09-14-2019 at 03:00 PM.
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  #18  
Unread 09-15-2019, 04:39 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I think I'll bump this up. It's been fairly extensively revised since the last comment in this thread.

Cheers,
John
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  #19  
Unread 09-16-2019, 01:50 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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It seems you’ve settled on the poem’s more or less final form, but I wanted to comment one last time to clarify my experience of this poem, which I agree is apt as an opener for the collection you’re working on.

Julie makes good points in her post #14, and there is no arguing her and others’ experience of the poem. The middle two stanzas do fill out the portrait and encourage reflection on the themes Julie mentions.

For me, however, “the notion that this god has been removed from his original context, both geographically and chronologically” (Julie’s words) is implicit even in the poem’s title: the exotic name of a god most people will not have heard of, in a form (a ram) most contemporary religious people will not associate with a deity. The addition of British Museum under the title completes the stage set-up.

I also get from the two-stanza version alone that “even restoring this statue to Egypt could not restore him to his former glory”--again, I’m already there with the title and the italicized place name. Clearly, an Egyptian statue in the museum of the British Empire has been torn out of context, to say nothing of this god’s loss of status even in contemporary Egypt (the chronological aspect Julie mentions).

Julie’s last point does raise a difference, for me as well, between the two versions:

Quote:
In the two-stanza version, there are no people until "we," and even "we" are more like birds than people. I miss the version of the poem that let me reflect more on how "we" are like gods. And thus how gods (and their representations) are inevitably like us, too.
However, I see matters differently. I don’t think human beings are especially like gods, though we do make the gods like us. We represent the gods in our own images (a potter, etc.) or the images of other creatures (rams, etc.), but what the gods are in themselves can never be grasped by our representations. Which is why the representations don’t last more than a couple millennia or so. The longer version of the poem reverses this emphasis, so the numinousness of the god is lost or relativized, diminished and domesticated.

I think the shorter version captures the paradox of immortal gods / mortal representations better or more succinctly.

In effect, the four-stanza version of the poem downplays the numinousness of the gods in relation to our mortality, while the two-stanza version preserves the transcendent dimension more and at the same time does show that gods come and go in their particular culturally and historically conditioned forms. Plus, it leaves more to the imagination, is more enigmatic, like the gods themselves.
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  #20  
Unread 09-16-2019, 11:48 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Good morning Andrew,

There's an old joke in which a guy goes to see a psychiatrist and says: "Doc, I've got a big problem. Sometimes I think I'm a tipi, sometimes I think I'm a wigwam. Tipi, wigwam, tipi, wigwam - I go back and forth!" And that's kind of my position here. You'll see that I've adopted your suggestion for Version IV, and since I earlier went back on it, after Julie's argument, I think people deserve an explanation.
To begin with, I think the middle stanzas are weaker as poetry. They do, as you note, raise some interesting philosophical or theological points - as Julie cogently argued - but as you say, the theme of displacement and (imperial) appropriation is already there in S 1 and the epigraph, and all the better for being succinct. In general, I would say that less is more here. You go on to suggest that the theme of how “even restoring this statue to Egypt could not restore him to his former glory” is implicit in title and epigraph, which I think is so. And lastly, Andrew, you have I think a quite fruitful engagement with Julie on the question of whether humans are in fact like gods in some way or unlike them. You argue, "I don’t think human beings are especially like gods, though we do make the gods like us. We represent the gods in our own images (a potter, etc.) or the images of other creatures (rams, etc.), but what the gods are in themselves can never be grasped by our representations." You go on to suggest that this "is why the representations don’t last more than a couple millennia or so. [...] the four-stanza version of the poem downplays the numinousness of the gods in relation to our mortality, while the two-stanza version preserves the transcendent dimension more and at the same time does show that gods come and go in their particular culturally and historically conditioned forms. Plus, it leaves more to the imagination, is more enigmatic, like the gods themselves."
At some point, I have to decide between tipi and wigwam, and in this specific argument, I come down on Andrew's side. We represent the gods as we imagine them, with ram's heads and so forth, but they are fundamentally alien and unknowable to us; as Rudolf Otto argues, "Ein begriffener Gott ist kein Gott," a god understood is no god. That is a theme of my book, and it's likely better not to sap it in my opening chords.
Further, I think the tet version, with its fairly heavy rhyme and off-rhyme, has a spell-like quality well suited to the topic (Khnum) and the location (opening Ice Cream and Talmud). Spells are by their nature enigmatic and mysterious, and the more of that I can pack in, the better IMO. Tactically, in conclusion, I think a fairly weighty MS. does well to open on two stanzas rather than four, so as not to discourage the reader at the outset. There will be theology to follow!
So, Andrew (and Julie), after some thumb-sucking and navel-gazing, some dilly-dallying even, I've gone back to the two-stanza version, with a few tweaks along the way.

Thank you both and all for this very interesting (to me!) discussion, which I think continues to improve this piece.
John
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