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  #1  
Unread 06-18-2019, 09:00 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Default The Physics Professor Uses Ziggy Stardust as Metaphor for the Existential Cris

The Physics Professor Talks Hazy Cosmic Jive
--for David

I always wonder who’s watching
after the outer skies now
that Bowie has left us to fend
for our devices. Sirius has replaced

our singing but we always come back
to stars. Bowie knew that. In bed,
we count on them to light our prayers

and wishes, our love letters
from the Id. If cars were stars,
stars would be oncoming traffic.
Radios in every one.

It’s hard not to expect too much from stars.
They prove our eyes can see
into the past. Sometimes I think

some saint might keep starlight aloft—
to avoid asteroids, the debris fields
of our phone conversations. To understand

the stars, we send up machinery we’ll never see
again. I wish I understood the physics
of annihilation. Its data. How to pray again.

The Physics Professor Uses David Bowie as Metaphor
for the Existential Crisis of All Matter


I always wonder who’s watching
after the outer skies now
that Bowie has left us to fend
for our devices. Sirius has replaced

our singing. We always come back
to stars. Bowie knew that. In bed,
we count on them to light our prayers

and wishes, our love letters
from the Id. If cars were stars,
stars would be oncoming traffic.
Radios in every one.

It’s hard not to expect too much from stars.
They prove our eyes can see
into the past. Sometimes I think

some saint might keep starlight aloft—
to avoid asteroids, the debris fields
of our phone conversations. To understand

the stars, we send up machinery we’ll never see
again. I wish I understood the physics
of annihilation. Its data. How to pray

without a David Bowie reference.



The Physics Professor Uses David Bowie as Metaphor

I always wonder who’s watching
after the outer skies now
that Bowie has left us to fend for
our devices. Sirius has replaced

our singing. We always come back
to stars. Bowie knew that. In bed,
we count on them to light our prayers

and wishes, our love letters
from the Id. If cars were stars,
stars would be oncoming traffic.
Radios in every one.

It’s hard not to expect too much from the stars.
They prove my eyes can see
into the past. But they don’t give PhDs

to people who say some saint must
keep starlight aloft—
to avoid asteroids, the debris fields
of our phone conversations. To understand

the stars we send up machinery we’ll never see
again. I wish I understood the physics
of annihilation. Its data. Maybe then

I could pray without using
a David Bowie reference.


The Physics Professor Uses Ziggy Stardust as Metaphor for the Existential Crisis of All Matter

I always wonder who’s watching
after the outer skies now
that space is nothing new. Bowie
says there’s a Star Man waiting
in the sky. On Earth, the radio
has replaced our singing,
but we always come back to stars.
How we count on them to carry
out our prayers and wishes, our love
letters from the Id. A cell call
drops, and we suspect the worst;
we’re being disconnected
from the stars. Their patterns
tell our eyes we can see
into the past. I think some
saint must keep starlight aloft—
to avoid asteroids, the debris fields
of our phone conversations.
To understand the stars we send
up machinery we’ll never see
again. I wish I understood the physics
of annihilation. Its data. Maybe I could
pray without using
a David Bowie reference.

Last edited by Ashley Bowen; 06-25-2019 at 09:06 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 06-19-2019, 12:42 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Ashley,

I enjoyed it, especially these lines:

To understand the stars we send
up machinery we’ll never see
again.

It feels as though you might consider regularizing the meter. My other thought was that the stars can't really carry out love letters - is there another way to phrase this that would work for you?

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 06-19-2019, 04:43 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Ashley,

I like the idea here, and I really like where this poem ends up -- the last nine lines of it.

The Physics Professor Uses Ziggy Stardust as Metaphor for the Existential Crisis of All Matter

The title seems a little unwieldy to me, and over-explanatory: What's in the title that we don't get from the poem? It takes away some of the potential surprise of the poem to be told in advance what's going to happen. (Plus, a pedant might point out, he uses the song Star Man, not the song Ziggy Startdust, or the persona, since it's "Bowie" in the poem, not "Ziggy")

I always wonder who’s watching
after the outer skies now
that space is nothing new. Bowie


'watching after' confused me a little here. I'm not sure if means something like "watching over/looking after the outer skies", or it's more a distal thing, meaning "who's watching (from) beyond the outer skies", beyond the outer skies being space. Rereading, and knowing this to be a prayer of sorts, I suspect its the former.

says there’s a Star Man waiting
in the sky. On Earth, the radio
has replaced our singing,
but we always come back to stars.


Bowie being dead, I wonder a little at the present tense here. In the Bowie song, the singer is listening to the radio when the Star Man breaks in to the broadcast with his "hazy cosmic jive". This sentence "On Earth ..." seems to relate to that, but I'm not sure how. I think I'd initially read it as implying that radio had replaced our singing since Bowie sang this about there being a Star Man, but this had (presumably) already happened when Bowie released the song in the Seventies. Also I might argue that more recently, the internet has replaced radio. Anyway, I hope you can construct a coherent point from the above, as I'm not sure I did!

How we count on them to carry
out our prayers and wishes, our love
letters from the Id. A cell call
drops, and we suspect the worst;
we’re being disconnected
from the stars. Their patterns


I don't really follow this part: when a call call drops, do we suspect we're being disconnected from the stars -- from our wishes and prayers? I don't think the poem has done anything to set this up.

"From the Id" strikes me as a little out of voice (or off topic) or something, but I can't give you a coherent reason why. Maybe it's the use of psychodynamic terminology by a physics professor?

tell our eyes we can see
into the past. I think some


It seems odd to me that it's our eyes that are told this by the stars' patterns. Our brains maybe. It seems to me we see the stars as being here and now, and we have to think, reflect, ponder to "see" the present light as emanating from stars in the past. But maybe I'm being over literal.

saint must keep starlight aloft—
to avoid asteroids, the debris fields
of our phone conversations.
To understand the stars we send
up machinery we’ll never see
again. I wish I understood the physics
of annihilation. Its data. Maybe I could
pray without using
a David Bowie reference.


These lines are easily my favourite part of the poem. Love the idea of the stars being kept up and out of the way of asteroids and other things by a saint. I like that I can read "debris of our phone conversations" as satellites and radio waves, and also less literally. The "machinery we'll never see / again" has a poignancy and a great line break. The last sentence, I take it, is intended to mean, "maybe then I could ...". Is that right. Maybe that could be made clearer. As it stands, it can be read as independent of what precedes it. A more general statement.

best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-19-2019 at 05:37 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 06-20-2019, 01:08 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Ashley,

I like the tone of this and I want to like the whole thing more than I do at the moment. I agree with a lot of what Matt has said, so I won't repeat those points. I do find parts that are confusing, and not in a pleasingly ambiguous way, or because the language is odd or heightened, but in a way that takes me out of the poem because I'm trying too hard to work out what you're saying. The poem is full of declarative statements that the reader is invited to agree with:

space is nothing new

On Earth, the radio / has replaced our singing

we count on them to carry
out our prayers and wishes, our love
letters from the Id

A cell call
drops, and we suspect the worst;
we’re being disconnected
from the stars


but I don't feel the poem does enough to oblige me to agree with them.

I'm guessing you might be using Ziggy Stardust in the title as a shortened form of the album on which 'Starman' appears.

I agree that the close is the strongest part but, for me, the last sentence is a bit too cute. I would end the poem on 'data'.

I did enjoy it, though. And it's fresh and good to see here.

Cheers.
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  #5  
Unread 06-20-2019, 01:42 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I need to love this poem. I also need time- my first thought, fresh off the you will regret this post shelf, is to put Bowie and space together, perhaps even matter-of-factly? "now that space and Bowie are nothing new.." etc

Last edited by James Brancheau; 06-20-2019 at 01:54 PM.
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  #6  
Unread 06-22-2019, 01:46 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I don't think it should be matter-of-factly, but I'll stick with keeping Bowie closely knit with space/stars. I agree with Matt on the best lines, really great riff there. It seems to hit a moment that maybe calls for looking at how the poem got to that wonderful place. Also agree with Q about Id, and radio doesn't seem right to me. A little dated?
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  #7  
Unread 06-23-2019, 07:12 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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There's a revision up. Thanks for all of the useful feedback.

James: I took your advice and tugged Bowie more into the poem. Thanks.

Mark: Thank you. I hear what you're saying about that cute factor at the end. I hadn't read it that way, so that's something to consider. In my posted revision, I've kept most of the lines you objected to but I'm hoping my revision earns those lines this time around. Fingers crossed.

Matt: Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generous commentary. Your feedback gave me so much to consider. I really appreciate your taking the time with this to kick the tires. I've revised and I'm not sure that it's changed so much as I think I've adjust the tone a bit (?).

John: Thanks for the suggestion on regularizing the meter. I wasn't thinking of this poem with a regular meter, but maybe that would bring new opportunities to fore that I hadn't considered. Great suggestion!
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  #8  
Unread 06-24-2019, 03:27 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Hi Ashley,

I think the revision is very good. It seems to address pretty much all of my previous reservations/wonderings.

That said, in the latest version, I did wonder about the "PhDs" line, in part because the Physics professor already has one, so this seems to be about his students not him. And physics PhDs seem to small a group to represent those for whom the idea of a saint looking after the skies would be rejected. And finally that "they" give PhDs, seems odds, as the physics professor is very much part of that process, "we don't give PhDs" maybe? I did wonder if you might go with something like "But we are never satisfied / with ..." (or alternatively "But we are no longer satisfied with"), for the way the enjambment isolates the phrase "but we are never satisfied" , which seems to speak to an existential yearning as well as playing off "it's hard not to expect too much". For example:

It’s hard not to expect too much from the stars.
They prove my eyes can see
into the past. But we are never satisfied

with saying that some saint must
keep starlight aloft—

Or some variation on that. Anyway, just a quick thought, and maybe not a great one.

I'd still think there's a better title out there. I see this one simply describing what's about to happen in the poem. I don't see this really adding anything to the poem, and it makes the use of Bowie less surprising, although having "Physics Professor" clearly adds something, since we otherwise don't know who the N is. I did wonder if you could do something with the lyrics of Star Man: "The Physics Professor Leans Back on his Radio" maybe? or maybe you could do something with "When the loud sound seem to fade"? Thinking back to the original title, something like "The Physics Professor Ponders the Existential Crisis of All Matter", since the "existential crisis ..." part also seems to add something that's not explicitly in the poem.

best,

Matt
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  #9  
Unread 06-24-2019, 08:52 PM
Ashley Bowen Ashley Bowen is offline
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Hi, Matt,

Thank you for coming back to this. I appreciate the second look and the generous comments. So kind.

I agree that there is a better title out there. I do miss the "existential crisis" part because I thought it added a dimension to the poem that's missing now. Thanks for that suggestion.

I do wish I could incorporate some of "Star Man" back into the poem. I've been trying to write an acceptable Bowie poem for about ten years now. Maybe I'm getting close.

Thanks again for the generous comments.

A.B.
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  #10  
Unread 06-25-2019, 04:53 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Ashley,

I agree this is an improvement. Those assertions I complained about do feel more earned now. We tell ourselves not to explain in poetry, but here I feel it has helped. The N is trying to work stuff out after all, so they should sound slightly tentative, maybe. Does that make sense?

I do still wonder about bringing the word 'Bowie' back at the end after he has already appeared in the title and the first two stanzas. It feels like labouring the point a little to me. Could you incorporate 'I fear it might blow my mind' or similar at the end, for a little extra lyrical reference? And what about The Physics Professor Talks Hazy Cosmic Jive as a title?

Just thoughts. I'm liking this now.

Cheers.
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