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Old 11-16-2017, 08:09 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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JR: "In this one, there is a narrator and other people who are banking an outside fire, a big fire. Their leader is convinced he knows the solution and leaves them to make sure. There is a crow and a dragonfly that flies around the boss all the time and he says he wants to destroy them. In the second stanza the narrator is upset because he and he alone has seen the crow and dragonfly flying around without the boss. Because he knows they are critical to the boss's well being he is frightened and upset."

Even with that explanation (which is what I had discerned from my readings already, for the most part) There are still too many questions that the story doesn't answer. Chiefly, why is this happening? What is the significane of it all? Is it fiction? Do you mean to create a post-apocalyptic atmosphere?

I want to know:
Where are they?
Why has this group of people gathered? It appears as if they have spent the night and it is now morning.
Why have some of the group left? Where did they go?
Where did the straw boss go? Why is he the boss?
etc., etc.

Could it be that you are telling an interior story? One that mirrors what might be going on inside the N's head? That this is all metaphor?

One thing that I've overlooked until now is the thread title. Is this a legend of North Carolina woods? Perhaps "Legend" holds the key to this but it's not doing enough to orient the reader. Dragonfly and Crow has such a mythological feel to it that I can't believe it has no other significance than that of being annoying to the straw boss.

I enjoy this discussion, too. Poetry is storytelling.
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  #12  
Old 11-16-2017, 12:43 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hi John,

I'm impressed by the to and fro that your poem has generated! Not sure whether to read it all or take the poem fresh and unprejudiced by all that's been said.

I'll try that. Apologies if I just repeat what's been said already.

Actually, perhaps I should have read what's gone before, as I'm scratching my head a bit. The straw boss, the dragonfly and the crow (which made me think of Zarathustra, with his eagle and his snake), the whole scenario ...

Did somebody say already that they don't know what's going on but they enjoyed the ride anyway? I would endorse that.

And now I'll turn to the critical commentary.

Cheers

David
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  #13  
Old 11-16-2017, 04:25 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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First, I made what I'll call the corrections John and Mark pointed out in their comments. I can always use help making what is in the poem more accessible. I don't strive to confuse or baffle people in the use of language. What I'm not sure about is what those fixes had to do with the poem being too obscure. It may have been a little confusing because of them--and I'm very grateful for the notes to fix it--but they didn't make it too obscure to comment on the poem. That's what we do here. Help each other make their poems better.

As regards what I'll call the obscurity--although I don't think that's the specific word--of story in the poem, there isn't much I can do about that except write more poems. I can do a series in which the boss and the narrator and other characters play parts. The problem as I see it isn't that the poem is obscure, but that it would be more satisfying if the reader had more information about the world the poem occupies. I'm seriously considering providing it in other poems.

This poem to the side for a second, I have to state I generally disagree with the "what is happening here" type of reading. I shouldn't say I disagree. That makes me look much more of a codger than I am. What I mean is I've been working on removing expectations when reading a poem or fiction and to accept everything that can't or won't be understood at that level--what I consider a more superficial level. One of the most memorable nights of my life was when I was in school. I worked a full-time second-shift job in a machine shop. When I clocked out I went back to my apartment exhausted, showered, and then picked up Kafka's Metamorphosis. I don't know why, probably as a way to avoid my actual work. I opened it up and began reading and I don't think I looked up again until it was over. No legal or illegal drug has ever made me as excited as I was at that moment. I'll never forget it.

Over the years, when I've enticed other people, economic professors, doctors, and other educated types with better careers than I have, to read it--it is short, after all--I've been puzzled by the response. They all wanted to know what it meant? Why was Gregor transformed into a bug? What did it symbolize because it has to symbolize something why else would Kafka write it that way? And so on. The economics professor, highly respected in his specialty, didn't like it much because he said it was obviously just a weird, self-conscious way to talk about alienation. It wasn't until then that I understood why I had studied literature and history instead of the social sciences or medicine or such. I never had hindered my reading of it, or other Kafka, or other fiction and poems, by being stumped on "What Does It Mean?" I don't think knowing why Gregor is a bug would help my understanding one bit.

I so hope someone doesn't respond and remind me I'm no Franz Kafka. I know that. What I'm saying is it helps to let Kafka lead you by the hand instead of him having to drag you and your dug-in-heels down the lane. What does it mean is the obvious, and the worst, question to ask oneself while reading him. After reading it an embarrassing number of times I can say one theme is "What Makes A Human A Human?" Pretty obvious choice of theme because I'm convinced that is all, if he even had that, and I don't think he did, Kafka had in the top-level of his consciousness when he wrote it. I think he hit on this idea and ran with it and never once stopped to ask what it all meant. It simply was and he described what happened the best way he knew how.

Again, I'm not Kafka or have his genius. I have however come to think my best work happens when I invent a world a little--when I write my own mythology--and have no idea "what it really means."

I have much more clarity on what I did in this poem now. Believe it or not this sort of long-winded discussion has helped me to sort out a great deal. Outside of making the corrections John and Mark discussed there isn't much more I can do to this poem except expand it, which wouldn't work, or wait to see if other poems in this world reveal themselves. And yes, there is a fictional aspect to this type of thinking. Like a good jazz soloist I like to tell a little story.

Thanks for indulging me with the comments. Perhaps someone else will read them and benefit. I certainly have.

John
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Old 11-17-2017, 08:09 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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We could question until the cows come home and are milked, fed and put to bed, but your defense of the poem and it's humble intention to tell a story and be understood is the answer to all the questions, I think. Well said.

It will hopefully impact going forward my approach to reading poems here in order to provide crit and praise. The single question I always want to ask myself is, "Does the poem coalesce?" I think now, finally, this one does -- always did. My "crit hat" was pulled too low, obstructed me from reading it as I would any poem I pick up.

Though this is a place of crit...

Now I think it's the N that has provided the clarity for me. The N asks for meaning in a world that seems to have been abandoned by the "straw boss". That's my reading and I like the thoughts it leaves me with, including the questions that linger.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 11-17-2017 at 09:13 AM.
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Old 11-17-2017, 12:32 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Thanks Jim. I hope what I wrote doesn't seem defensive. I was trying to avoid that and give what I think of as my anti-English teacher pov on reading lit. Themes, meanings, if there are any, emerges from between a poem's cracks. That has to be my approach.

I'm happy you have changed your opinion but I want to caution that your previous one isn't invalidated. It and the others will help when I go forward in whatever direction.

Thanks again,
John
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  #16  
Old 11-17-2017, 02:43 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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T.S. Eliot was once asked what he'd meant by the line "Lady, three white leopards sat under a juniper tree." And he said "I'm glad you asked me that. What I in fact meant was: Lady. Three white leopards. Sat. Under a juniper tree."
So I agree with your reading of Kafka.

Cheers,
John
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  #17  
Old 11-17-2017, 04:17 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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That doesn't mean I should apply it to this poem though, does it?
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