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Unread 09-13-2019, 01:03 AM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2,112


I preface my response, which is part minority report, by saying that I do fancy the poem overall, but that some few particulars are not my cup of tea. Though I always welcome the chance to pick up a new word, I confess to having found myself less enthusiastic over the use of the dialectal word smur. Were the piece in Scottish dialect, from which smur is culled, I could raise no caveat as the word would be natural to it. To me, that particular epithet makes me see the hand of the author more than the object being painted. The way you use skulk seems to be in the second sense of the word, which, according to the OED, appears obsolete.
skulk, n.
1. One who skulks or hides himself; a shirker.
1320 Langtoft Chron. 248 The roghe raggy sculke Rug ham in helle! 1838 Knickerbocker XI. 448 Spotswood had told the middie that Tudor was a great ‘skulk’, and would probably be reluctant to turn out. 1847 H. Melville Omoo iv, ‘Where's that skulk, Chips?’ shouted Jermin down the forecastle scuttle. 1894 Blackmore Perlycross 107 You are an honest fellow, Jemmy, whatever skulks and sneaks may say.
†2. A number, company, or gathering (of persons or animals given to skulking). Obs.
Chiefly in echoes of a list of ‘proper terms’, and having at no time much real currency.
c1450 in Trans. Philol. Soc. (1909) 25 A Skolke of freris. A Skolke of thewys. A Skolke of foxys. 1486 Bk. St. Albans fvjb, A Skulke of Theuys [etc.]. 1502 Arnolde Chron. (1811) 90 Ony persone or persones‥that make ony sculke or be a receyuer or a gederar of euyl company. 1582 Stanyhurst Æneis 138 An armoure‥wheare scaals be ful horriblye clincked Of scrawling serpents, with sculcks of poysoned adders. 1594 O. B. Quest. Profit. Concern. 10 Notwithstanding all this, there remained a sculke of such, as neither care nor castigation could amend. 1706 Phillips, Sculk, (among Hunters) a Company, as A Skulk of Foxes. 1820 W. Irving Sketch Bk. (1821) II. 50 We say a flight of doves‥, a skulk of foxes. 1883 E. Pennell-Elmhirst Cream Leicestersh. 380 A cloud of foxes.
Or if you mean an act of skulking by with skulk, I cannot find precedent for the usage. But such idiosyncrasy of construction seeming inherent to this piece's very poetic, I suppose all of this fuss is neither here nor there.
[Edited-in: I think you mean with skulking by with skulk. I took it that way, then saw the other sense and wondered about it, but think after all that you meant the former sense. That said, I have not seen skulk used to mean skulking, only skulking to mean skulking so this must be your construction. On one level, I fancy the sound well enough, yet on another level, it gives me some degree of pause. Probably just me.

Obsolete and unusual acceptations of words which one cannot know before fetching them from a large dictionary, in my view, take from the immediacy and seamlessness of the read. All that being said, it appears this poetic is one of very deliberate and bold artifice, that inclines to a self-constructed lingua. So take for what you will. Notwithstanding these points of hesitation, I do like the poem, and find it effective on the whole. I do quite a bit for its deliberate and effective lineation that imitates the sense, for the sound itself, and for the merging of the sense of interior and exterior. I reckon the hyphen is crucial to convey the sense of within and without blurred or merged. I confess, I also read the sentence on first reading as an incomplete one, for lack of a predicate; since by the end of it, I asked myself the sky finds what? The end to me did not seem like an ending so much as an ellipsis, like text fragments of antiquity cut off where they would continue. For what it is worth, probably not much, but there you have it.

All the best,


Last edited by Erik Olson; 09-13-2019 at 05:22 AM.
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Unread 09-13-2019, 03:59 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
Join Date: May 2013
Location: England, UK
Posts: 3,443

FWIW, I'd read "skulk" in the first sense of the above definition, such that it could be paraphrased as "the sky with its skulking and faltering".

'smur', was new to me too, but it has a great sound and seemed to make sense from that, suggesting to me something between 'smudge' and 'blur', and since that seemed to fit very well, I confess I didn't look it up when I read the poem. (I have just done so).
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Unread 09-13-2019, 08:08 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 1,787


I think the phrasing is harder to parse than you're giving it credit for. You have to trust yourself, but it took a few readings before I got it and I'm not sure the parsing was fruitful; in short, I agree with Matt here, though I'll let it go.

Once it snapped into place, though, the poem works wonderfully. No other nits.
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Unread 09-14-2019, 04:42 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,494

I want commas after “overhead” and “within”. Just my quirk. I do like “smur”.
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Unread 09-15-2019, 11:56 AM
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
Join Date: Sep 2016
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
Posts: 1,899

Erik, thanks. I understand your concerns, but think that in poetry especially an author has the right to use language in unexpected ways.

Matt, thanks for the vote of confidence.

Andrew, thanks for the kind and critical words. I do understand the worry, but I can't bring myself to put in more commas; I just can't.

Allen, thanks. I confess your suggestion mystifies me: a comma after "overhead" is flatly ungrammatical and, without a comma after "finds", so is the comma after "within".

This can sink down now. Thanks all for your thoughts.
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