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  #11  
Unread 01-23-2019, 09:05 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Jim, thanks. Sorry it isnít working for you. Can you say more about where the thoughts falter? Regarding the title, the poem is in present tense, so it seems to me most natural to read the title the same way. You donít need to know Wang Wei to get the poem, though if you do read him youíll know what the N means when he says Weiís words are full of stillness. I highly recommend Hintonís translation, first recommended to me by Szilvasy.
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  #12  
Unread 01-24-2019, 04:15 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Aaron,

I really like this. I like the way it conveys and evokes the N's numb/aimless/detached state. Whatever he's done, or left behind, he knows it was an error, though the emotional force of this hasn't (fully) hit him. He may not be feeling it -- or very much at all -- but the poem makes it clear that this is different from the stillness he's shown to be disconnected from when he tries to read. It's not there yet, but the full weight of the error [i]is[i] coming for with him; it doesn't get left behind in the snow. And there's also a sense of it coming for him, getting closer: at first its on the ground -- he can see it though the window while he's waiting for take-off -- then, it's in the aisle. The plane lands and it still hasn't got him, but I knows it's going to, and so does he.

Actually, at first I though the weight of his error had yet to hit him: he'd made the error, and is numb preceding feeling the full force of it. But the enjambment of the first line seems to call attention to the double meaning of "rest". So I can read that the weight is in temporary abeyance, that he's felt it already. It's resting now, regathering its strength. It'll come back.

I don't know about the title. I read this before it had one, and I had already assumed the still words to be poetry (or even prose), and import being that something that N's usually found something calm, and maybe even beautiful, now seems lifeless -- which I'd found an effective way of conveying the N's emotional state, his detachment. So I wonder if you need to name the poet? Maybe this places too much emphasis on one part of your poem and also on the specificity of this particular poet. You might consider just "Afterwards" as the title. It works well to suggest that something has happened before, and works well with to keep the emphasis on the error rather that Wang Wei.

takeoff goes smoothly: words full of stillness
lie corpselike in my hands. The full


I do like the way that "stillness" plays uneasily off of "rest", the latter's sense of peace and relaxation and recuperation.

It occurs to me that this would imply something a little different if it were, "words full of stillness lie / corpselike", with the emphasis on the double meaning of "lie" (misleading, falsehood). Of course, it might well not be a meaning you want, and perhaps it'd be too heavy handed anyway.

tugs on the string that raises hand
to forehead, what I don't know, I'm tired.


I really like the string tugging the hand, again suggesting numbness/disembodiment. I'm reading the second line as "what it is that is doing the tugging, I don't know", but as written it reads more like, "what I don't know is that I'm tired". If you want the former meaning, maybe a comma after "what". Or maybe:

tugs on the string that raises hand
to forehead. What, I don't know. I'm tired.

The plane lands. The light brown earth
shows through the lollygagging snow.

I think this is suggestive of thaw; the N's detached/frozen state thawing. I like "lollygagging". The aimlessness indicative of the N, the thaw being the full weight of the error emerging, or threatening to emerge, from beneath it. In which case, the "light brown earth" is the weight. I wonder a little about how the light brown earth works as a metaphor for the weight of error. Perhaps as barren bleakness. Though the image of earth emerging from snow might be indicative of spring, new growth, renewal, which are the opposite of what I imagine the N to facing.

best,

Matt
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  #13  
Unread 01-24-2019, 04:39 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks as always, Matt, for your excellent comments. Really happy this one is working for you.

I'm going to keep thinking about the title. This was initially intended as part of a series (starting with the previous poem I posted) that would all be untitled (or perhaps titled with the dates they were drafted), though now I'm toying with titling them. Still not sure what I want to do. Thanks for letting me know that you got the "words full of stillness" bit without the title, since the obscurity of that was the main reason I went in for naming Wang Wei. More thinking to be done...

Thanks for the thoughts on "what I don't know". I do intend the first reading, and see the danger of the second reading, which is definitely not what I want: the N knows he is tired! My use of commas is usually driven by rhythm more than sense, and it feels like too heavy a pause there (plus, as is, the commas separate distinct thoughts; if I put a comma within one of the thoughts I might need semicolons to bracket it...). I think I'm going to trust that the isolated "Something" enjambed at the end of S4 is enough to guide the reading of "what".

Regarding the ending, I actually had in mind the new growth/renewal reading when I wrote the poem. In S1, both the snow and the full weight of error blanket the earth; the diminishing of the former by the end is meant to suggest the same for the latter. ("lollygagging" was in part meant to push in the direction of levity.) BUT— I think your reading is equally legitimate as a reading of the poem. I can see why you read it that way, and it's an ambiguity I'm okay with.
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  #14  
Unread 01-24-2019, 07:22 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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There's something you've got a hold of here. I think you can get a better hold of it though.

The full weight of error rests
--I like this line a lot

on the earth, mingles with the remnants
--don't like the enjambment on an abstract/non-concrete word

of yesterday's snowfall, its black slush.
Asphalt duly salted and clear,
--"duly" seems a bit sarcastic and a tonal mismatch for a zenlike poem

takeoff goes smoothly: words full of stillness
--but for the comments above, this was a well-done development from concrete to abstract
lie corpselike in my hands. The full
--I agree with Allen 'corpselike' is problematic

weight of error rests in the aisle,
--nicely done that 'full' comes full circle, but connecting it with resting in the aisle was a stretch I'm not sure I made.
threads through the whiteblue carpet. Something
--this enjambment on an abstraction works better than the previous IMO, because this one is deliberately mysterious

tugs on the string that raises hand
--from planes and snow and runways and words to strings and puppets...I dunno... I like the imagery to stay in-theme

to forehead, what I don't know, I'm tired.
--for reasons I can't explain I imagined the back of the speaker's hand, perhaps because I can't imaging puppet strings pronating the speaker's wrist, and the gesture came out with artifice instead of the earnest weariness a palm to forehead would indicate. Perhaps change 'hand' to 'palm' ?
The plane lands. The light brown earth
shows through the lollygagging snow.
--I was musing that 'the flight ends' might sift in a little better, since it's both a literal flight and a flight of fancy, if you will.

I think there's opportunity to play with contrasting fullness and emptiness more than is done. This work is very tight so small changes will have huge impact. I muse over your aesthetic, btw, so very careful, so very demanding with individual word choices and references, but meter...sometimes yes, sometimes no. Occasionally it seems back-extrapolated as if to fix error by renaming. Here for example, what demand keeps it accentual instead of clean and regular? Is it trying to import rules for other languages? Not sure. Open to corrections and explanations: It's clear I've not caught everything in this deep piece.
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  #15  
Unread 01-24-2019, 02:03 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Having the title makes this a different poem for me. 'Adolescent' was a bit of a cheap shot, I realise. There was just something about the bleakness of those lines hanging with no context. But now I connect them to something specific -- a book of poems -- I can connect the dots of this poem better. Some won't have that problem anyway -- Matt seemed not to.

I do enjoy it overall, yes.
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  #16  
Unread 01-24-2019, 04:07 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Aaron.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Novick View Post
My use of commas is usually driven by rhythm more than sense, and it feels like too heavy a pause there [...] I think I'm going to trust that the isolated "Something" enjambed at the end of S4 is enough to guide the reading of "what".
I'm not sure how the reader is supposed to intuit your intentions and read the missing comma as instruction on how long to pause after "what". I just saw what looked like a typo or a punctuation error, worked out what you'd actually intended from the context, mentally inserted the missing comma, and then paused there just as much as I would have were it there in the first place. Maybe if this weren't the only place you deviate from standard punctuation, it wouldn't look like a mistake, and I might read it differently.

What removing a syntactically necessary comma here does do, though, is wrong-foot the reader, at least initially, and leave them having to figure out what you intended. This will take them out of the poem and probably add a far bigger pause than you wanted, at least on their first read through. That was the case for me anyway.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-24-2019 at 04:13 PM.
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  #17  
Unread 01-26-2019, 08:57 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Daniel, thanks for pressing on a few weak spots. You make many good points. Not sure how to revise yet without disrupting other things, but I'm working on it.

Regarding the error on the carpet, the idea is the N is projecting the sense of error onto the ground on around him. On land, that's on the earth outside the window (rather, its covering of snow). In the plane, it's on/in the carpet.

Regarding meter, I've chosen accentual tetrameter because it gives the lines a palpable equality while still allowing for highly varied rhythms as context demands. Sometimes I want to slow things down with clashing accents, other times stretch them out with anapests. This lets me do that.

Mark, thanks for coming back. Alas with the title I seem to be in the situation where those no consensus and I'm forced to use my own judgment. Thanks for helping me think it through.

Matt, thanks. I see the worry you're raising, but whenever I put in the comma it feels horribly wrong. It makes it feel like a question and answer, rather than a unified thought: "what (it is) I don't know" not "what? I don't know." I'm at a loss for how to signal that clearly. Maybe taking Nemo's title suggestion...
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  #18  
Unread 01-27-2019, 04:55 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Aaron,

If your concern is that "What, I don't know" sounds like a question and answer, I genuinely don't see how removing the comma changes that. As I say, once I've understood its sense, I mentally reinsert a comma when I read it, and sounds the same as if you'd put the comma.

On the conventional use of punctuation, "What, I don't know" is very clearly not a question. In fact, the comma makes that clear. Reading it on the page, I'd need to see the a question mark to think it was a question; you'd need to write: "What? I don't know".

Even if I know that the absent comma is intended to affect the length of the pause, shortening or lengthening the pause doesn't, to me, seem to make it sound any more or less like a question. I can say "What? I don't know" with a short or long pause. Likewise "What, I don't know".

So maybe the issue is that it's hard to hear the difference between "What, I don't know" and "What? I don't know" when read aloud. If that's the case, I don't see that removing the punctuation helps. However, I guess you could write "I don't know what". This is the phrase you are inverting to get "What, I don't know". The purpose of the comma is to show the inversion. If the inversion risks sounding like something you don't want it to, maybe not inverting it gets around that?

.....................................Something

tugs on the string that raises hand
to forehead, I don't know what, I'm tired.


Not inverting gives you the three separate thoughts you want. Plus "I don't know what" is flatter, I think, and so seems more indicative of the tiredness and the N's mood: he's too tired to invert the phrase for a rhetorical flourish.

If you went with above, you might consider an em-dash after "forehead", I guess.

best,

-Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-27-2019 at 05:01 AM.
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  #19  
Unread 01-27-2019, 07:59 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Matt, thanks for coming back. I guess what I really want is for the reader to trust me: if I didn't put the comma there, I don't want it there, so don't "correct" it. The inversion doesn't sound right to me. It puts the anapest in the wrong place in the line.

I do appreciate your insistence on this. It's valuable to see where failures of translation can and will occur after the reading leaves my head and is trusted entirely to the words on the page. I just can't accept any solution where the failure occurs before it leaves my head.
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  #20  
Unread 01-27-2019, 01:09 PM
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Felicity Teague Felicity Teague is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Well, I don't know Wang Wei, but I think 'full of stillness' is enough here. As 'full' is repeated in 'full weight of error' I find a contrast between two types of fullness and a sense that the N might derive some comfort from reading Wang Wei. There's a lot of heaviness in the poem, in 'corpselike' and in the tone of L10. I feel my own gaze is directed down to the earth, the carpet, the earth again, and I like 'tugs on the string'. I like 'lollygagging' too!

Best wishes,
Fliss
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