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  #1  
Unread 05-12-2021, 01:41 PM
Sarah-Jane Crowson's Avatar
Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Default Labyrinth

Labyrinth/Establishment

Imagine you’re a labyrinth, your veins
stone passages draped velvet-wet with moss.
You hear the ring of footsteps, then these stop

and voices whisper that they’ve found a key
that turns into a snatch of song, a breeze
of fade and shimmer squeezing to become
a wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood doors.

An amber warmth (a breath? a flare?) unlocks
a box where secrets carved from games of chance
are trapped in spotted maps of mirror glass

and then uncertain candle shadows drip
their molten wax on golden threads that lead

to yet another wall. Dear Visitor,
I must inquire why you explore these layers
that built up over years, secreting spiral
trails which split and merge like pools of liquid

mercury. I offer – what? An arch
of palimpsests, a history, a vague
attenuated frayed half-world where past
imperfect paper monsters fold themselves
into the safety of this – passť simple – abyss.

In case anyone is interested, a very early draft of how the words and pictures might come together with audio (or might not - I am not great at reading poetry) is here.



Edits to S3, was:

to yet another wall. Dear Visitor,
what brought you to these layers of fractal spaces
built up over years, secreting spiral
trails which split and merge like pools of liquid

Edits to version 2 (three en-dashes in place of hyphens - thank-you Fliss & WB)

Version 1
Imagine you’re a labyrinth, all vast
stone passages draped velvet-wet with moss.
You hear the ring of footsteps then they stop.
Thin voices whisper as they find a key
that turns into a snatch of song, a breeze
of fade and shimmer squeezing to a single
wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood panels.
An amber warmth - their breath - defrosts that niche
where secrets carved from games of chance are hidden
in foxed and spotted maps of mirror glass.
I watch a candle flutter shadows, drip
soft molten wax on golden threads that lead
to yet another door. Dear Visitor,
what brought you to these secret snail-shell spaces
built up over years, secreting silver
trails which split and merge like pools of liquid
mercury. I offer - what? An arch
of palimpsests, a history, a vague
attenuated frayed half-world where past
imperfect paper monsters fold themselves
into some warm and comfortable abyss.

Last edited by Sarah-Jane Crowson; 05-18-2021 at 01:46 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 05-13-2021, 01:49 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi Sarah-Jane,

I'm pleased to see your poem on Met :-) :>) (as is W.-B.)

The beginning is a surprise; I'd expected, 'Imagine you're a traveller'. Well, I'm happy to imagine I'm a labyrinth instead.

I like the experiences you describe of the travellers within my vast stone passages. The changes are thrilling; I particularly like 'a single / wing-like thing'. I also appreciate the mystery of the 'secrets carved from games of chance'. I wasn't sure what 'foxed' meant in this context, but I googled and all is well.

The line beginning 'I watch' marks a shift from 'Imagine you're'. Should 'I' be something else here, or am I on the wrong track? I think I, Labyrinth, am addressing the viewer with 'Dear Visitor' and everything that follows, which I, F.F., like very much.

Once I know how to read the poem properly, I'll return with (I hope) some highly useful musings.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #3  
Unread 05-13-2021, 03:29 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi Fliss, and thank you so much for your sympathetic reading.

Yes, I’m trying to use metrics a little better. It’s not a strength of mine, but I’m getting better with practice.

I was worried about whether the ‘I’ in this might not be clear enough. Yes, your reading is right. I want the reader to locate this as being narrated by the labyrinth (& to imagine they are the labyrinth-narrator) and the ‘they’ to read as the visitors, and the labyrinth/reader is addressing the visitors.

I’m wondering if breaking up the poem in some way might make this clearer, or isolating the first line and adding ellipses. I’ll have a think. But in the meantime I am very happy that you and w/b find the idea of the labyrinth as narrator not so strange as to be completely offputting!

Thanks again,

Sarah-Jane

Last edited by Sarah-Jane Crowson; 05-13-2021 at 03:33 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 05-13-2021, 04:44 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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After reading this a few times what I like very much is how you've done a metrical poem that reads a bit like prose. I understand that in the world of formal poetry calling something prose-like is considered an insult, but I don't think that way. That the meter is so smooth and unobtrusive is very skillful. There is a narrative, an intriguing narrative, and it isn't bonged out. It slides right down the page and that is impressive. I do wonder about the abundance of sibilant alliteration, particularly toward the end. I used to joke that sibilant alliteration should be illegal because it is so easy to slip into. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it is more something that bothers me in particular and it isn't a major issue. I want to return to this poem more. Right now I have to get ready to go to my birthday dinner. Tomorrow I finally turn twenty-one and I'm so excited.
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  #5  
Unread 05-13-2021, 05:35 PM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Hello Sarah,
There is much here that is clever and threaded expertly through the whole. The progression from a movement along the labyrinth (in a song or a breeze) to the final voice, which I imagine as a kind of more urbane minotaur-like figure, or at least centred observer., speaking both (it seems) to the "traveller" and the reader. In my experience, the poem not only allows me to inhabit being a labyrinth, but also simulates moving through it, gliding down branching paths of stone until finally I reach the centre of something that might be a labyrinth, universe, or history, and the centre speaks to me.

The poem seems particularly adept at producing one or two-line phrases, such as "An amber warmth - their breath - defrosts a nitch" or "imperfect paper monsters fold themselves
into some warm and comfortable abyss."
At times, I think, the whimsy of the poem seems to grow labyrinthine without purpose, I mean that it can seem rather snarled into a kind of exploration of its own lovliness, instead of progressing the poem or really adding anything to the line that came before. For instance:
that turns into a snatch of song, a breeze
of fade and shimmer squeezing to a single
wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood panels.
is modifier heavy. The snatch of song is a breeze of "fade and shimmer" (so already we have two a of b type phrases in close proximity) and this squeezes to a single wing-like thing that scrapes. All the subjects of each phrase I think are a little too walled-in by modifying clauses.
I don't think I would have a great problem if this passage was unique, but the poem kind of repeats this technique again:
where secrets carved from games of chance are hidden
in foxed and spotted maps of mirror glass.
(we get information about what the secrets are carved from, and then "foxed and spotted" maps that are mirrored glass -- here in this line particularly it seems a little like the modification is meant to get the metre and syllables right, not for the good of the poem generally). I'd also think "secret" and "snail-shell" are unnecessary together, cut secret, imo.

I think this has much strength to it, a whimsical and labyrinthine trek through something that resolves itself into a version of reality and history. Maybe kill your darlings a little, cut unnecessary fat, tone down the sibilance, and this will be intricately beautiful.

Hope this helps.
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  #6  
Unread 05-13-2021, 07:22 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Hi Sarah-Jane, I really like this. I love the way it feels to say the words, even when I’m not 100% sure what a given phrase means, e.g., “an amber warmth - their breath - defrosts that niche.” I don’t mind the sibilant alliteration. I like the imagery and progression as well. I will confess to not grasping everything that the last sentence is getting at - I get jumbled imagery that in general amounts to a sense of labyrinth as eternally traversed fractal, if that makes sense. That’s not a criticism - there’s no need to spell everything out, just admitting that my own (often unhelpful) desire to “figure out” the poem is stymied there. I’m still pondering how I feel about the final line - something about the “warm and comfortable” feels a little jarring for some reason in relation to everything else, but I’m not sure why - sorry, not very helpful, I know.

I do agree that it would be helpful to somehow convey that the “you” as labyrinth of L1 becomes the “I” of L11. Maybe a line like “Imagine you are me, a labyrinth”? That would require other shifting things, but it might make transition clear.

I haven’t been on here much lately, so my crit-brain is pretty rusty - hopefully I can come back with some more helpful comments later.
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Unread 05-14-2021, 02:55 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Sarah,

I find a fair bit like here in the sonics and imagery. I like the image of a key as a wing-like thing, and the visual and auditory image of it scraping hardwood panels -- the sonics/assonance of that "single/ wing-like thing" too. Love the word play of "past / imperfect paper monsters", and the "warm and comfortable abyss".

My take is the N is the Labyrinth. So that the first section is the Labyrinth saying imagine being me and having visitors. So I assume this is addressed to the actual visitors. So the Labyrinth is saying: Imagine being me and finding you lot visiting. Then I'm a bit wrongfooted when the Labyrinth addresses the Visitor, singular. It would seem neater to me if the number of visitors that Labyrinth asks the visitor(s) to imagine was the same as the number of actual visitors, if that makes sense.

Beyond that I don't really have too much sense of what this poem is about -- what it's for. A labyrinth could be a metaphor for a variety of things, I guess, but if the labyrinth is a metaphor for something perhaps that could be made clearer -- or I'm just missing it. I can see how the poem corresponds with the image you have up in the Art section: the flickering candle, the two visitors, but that image isn't presented here, so I'm looking at the poem on its own -- or trying to (and not always succeeded: I initially imagined two visitors because I'd seen the image, though the poem doesn't specify the amount we are to imagine)

The title does give us "Establishment", so maybe the Labyrinth is a metaphor for "the Establishment": "a group in a society exercising power and influence over matters of policy, opinion, or taste, and seen as resisting change". The visitors have entered the establishment, somehow, and its mazelike? Though I don't really get a sense that that's it. Or I guess it could be "establishment" in the sense of "the action of establishing something" -- the labyrinth perhaps, or the visitors' journey .

Perhaps the labyrinth is the unconscious (though I may be being steered by a recent conversation we had), with it's snail accretions and mirrors, perhaps it's the past, history. Or the self. Or an old library maybe, full of paper, palimpsests. Perhaps its just a labyrinth? But as above, I'd like more of a hint (abeit, maybe it's clear to others and I'm missing something).

I think there's something odd about the "I" sentence: "I watch a candle ...", because we move from the Labyrinth addressing the reader to the Labyrinth seemingly addressing itself. Why does the Labyrinth want to tell the visitor its watching a candle flutter. A simple fix (if you agree that this is a problem) might be just to change that the "I" to "you", since, at present the "you" is imagining being the Labyrinth anyway. So it'd mean, "Imagine that you are me watching a candle ...."

You watch a candle flutter shadows, drip
soft molten wax on golden threads that lead
to yet another door. Dear

A formal note: It seems like the poem starts out in rhyming couplets, and then stops rhyming. I'm not seeing an obvious reason for this. I like the opening slant rhymes: vast/loss, key/breeze, single/panel, but I'd like to see them be more consistent, or not there at all.

I'd agree with Cameron that the whimsy sometimes seems overdone/overlong and could be reigned in or cut back, and in the places he singles out. For example, perhaps this:

Thin voices whisper as they find a key
that turns into a snatch of song, a breeze
of fade and shimmer squeezing to a single
wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood panels.

could become:

Thin voices whisper as they find a key
that turns into a snatch of song, a breeze,
a wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood panels.

or even,

Thin voices whisper as they find a key,
a wing-like thing that scrapes at hardwood panels.

A few more specific points.

In L4, what is the referent of "they"? Can voices find a key? Do you want 'they' the owners of the voices? Or is it a musical key that they find? Voices could do that I guess, and it does turn into a snatch of song. So maybe it's the song that's being sung that turns into a wing-like thing. But if so, is the "key" misdirection/wordplay serving a purpose?

A similar question with "their breath"? Who/what at is 'they' here. The voices still? Their owners?

If wax is molten -- in liquid form -- can it be soft? Or if molten wax is soft by virtue of not being solid, does that make "soft" redundant? I reckon there might be be a better modifier.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 05-14-2021 at 03:02 AM.
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  #8  
Unread 05-14-2021, 08:46 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Hi Sarah-Jane,

Just coming back to quickly say I think I put my finger on what’s niggling me about the final line. It’s that the rest of the poem is so intricate and sharp that “warm and comfortable” feels like a fade-out / lens blur / unfocusing rather than the sharp ending I’d expect. Maybe that’s the effect you’re going for (and maybe I’m the only one perceiving it that way), but wanted to clarify where I was coming from in my first comment.

-Coleman
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  #9  
Unread 05-14-2021, 12:08 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi again Sarah-Jane,

My understanding is that this poem will appear alongside your image somehow; is that right? It might help people to provide a link to it, unless of course you're posting the poem separately so it can be assessed on its own merits, so to speak.

Re. 'I', is the sentence beginning 'I watch' part of I-Labyrinth's address to 'Dear Visitor'? I suppose, yes, you could separate the two parts of the poem; or you could italicise the address, or insert quotation marks (might look a bit bulky), or change the text in some other way.

I've read everyone else's comments and I don't think I've anything to add at the moment. However, we'll continue to watch this thread 8>) (W.-B. wearing glasses)

Best wishes,
Fliss
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Unread 05-14-2021, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Riley View Post
Tomorrow I finally turn twenty-one and I'm so excited.
Happy Birthday, John!
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