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Unread 01-11-2020, 01:28 PM
Clive Watkins Clive Watkins is offline
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Yorkshire, UK
Posts: 2,398

A most attractive poem, Nemo. I have one very small suggestion.

My ear hears the sequence “ring … thing … encompassing” as a jangle. (I imagine you do not or you would not have written it!) What I hanker after is something like this: “It’s not, I swear, a riddle. It’s a ring, / tiny – yes – but all-encompassing” or “tiny, perhaps, but all-encompassing”. For me this has the double advantage (apart from avoiding the jangle) of underpinning the contrast between “tiny” and “all-encompassing” and of maintaining the exploratory, self-correcting tone set up by such expressions as “no doubt mass-produced”, “my nose pressed to the window, I’m observing”, “It’s the ritual, not the riddle, of the hearth”, “It may be age”, and “It’s not, I swear, a riddle”.

Fine piece! Good luck with any revisions.

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Unread 01-11-2020, 06:40 PM
Allen Tice's Avatar
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,734

Quite nice. I’d prefer yearly. Ouroboros is good.
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Unread 01-13-2020, 01:14 PM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Halcott, New York
Posts: 9,085

Thanks for the general approval here, all. I had some moments of anxiety about this one as I really let myself go in the center (when I went "inside my head"). This is part of the series on "ordinary objects", and I keep trying to outwit the tendency toward the ploddingly descriptive in evoking them. I have found, also, that ending a poem early, before I have squeezed all my ideas into it, is a great way to make sure it remains wide open to a reader. I made the same discovery about steaming vegetables: turning off the heat before I think they are fully cooked results in the perfect consistency, for they continue to cook for a bit more with the heat already accumulated inside. Likewise, the poem continues thinking on its own for a bit after I have withdrawn my own mind. This one seems to have cooked itself to an intriguing blend of the abstract and the tender.

Martin, Susan, for the use of the word annually (as opposed to yearly), I confess that I was not consciously punning there—although I do deliberately try to open myself up to unconscious inspiration when I am composing. It was really the sound of the word that I liked, and melting together its innards comes quite naturally to my tongue and ear: an/ny'lly. I just don't like the texture of the word yearly in this case.

Since, Sam, you have bestowed one of your gnomic drive-by quips on my poem I should tell you that the "literal" sense of the line is all I had in the front of my mind. And it is, literally, true: once a year my mother would re-attached all the rings that had fallen from the curtains during the past twelve months. It seemed to be, as the years went by, a silly task, almost childishly naive—hence the word toyed. Richard Wilbur was nowhere in the room.

The riddle lines, Andrew, were not really delivered as schematically as you have received them. The protest against riddling was originally a self-conscious defense mechanism to excuse my elliptical approach to the object, my un-plain-spoken-ness. It's to remind both the reader and myself that identifying the object is not any sort of answer to the mystery animating the poem. It's relation to ritual in that line is to posit experience as an end in itself. Nothing is concealed; everything is revealed, even the state of being hidden. I guess I have a slightly negative association to the word riddle: it seems profane, mundane somehow. It is answerable allegory, as opposed to untranslatable symbol.

I don't have your dread of the jangle, Clive, though I think of it more as...well...a ringing! In addition, since the series this is a part of is very much about "things" I have tried to use the word periodically in them.

Those step-down lines, Simon—I confess I am quite fond of them, preferring a few nuts in my oatmeal. But I will review them again.

Oh, and Rick, the Ouroboros pops up everywhere for me. I'm a full turn sort of guy.

And thanks, Jan.

And Cally, my ever-deep-reader.

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Unread 01-13-2020, 10:22 PM
Mary Meriam's Avatar
Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: usa
Posts: 7,408

"annually" next to "toyed" makes the toying felt. It's a multi-syllabic word like many fingers toying with a thing. Also, I didn't hear a jangle in ring/thing/encompassing because your rhymed couplets are so masterful. The voice of the poem is present--not loud, not too intense--but masterful. All these years later, I feel I've learned enough to read your poems better, Nemo. Is it that, or is it that they just keep getting better and better?
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Unread 01-14-2020, 12:15 AM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Beaumont, TX
Posts: 4,477

"Annually" has a precision to it that "yearly" doesn't. It makes it sound like this curtain-mending event took place on the same day every year. That's my only complaint about a good poem.
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Unread 01-14-2020, 09:27 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Halcott, New York
Posts: 9,085

Well, Sam, since I refer to it as a ritual in the next couplet, I don't think the same-day-every-year possibility is an inapt one.

Mary, we have grown together as poets.

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Unread 01-16-2020, 08:19 AM
Ann Drysdale's Avatar
Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is offline
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: Old South Wales (UK)
Posts: 5,074

"how memory, once prodded, grows and grows
and lines up rings in tidy little rows

and hears them scrape along that metal wand..."

.. like beads on the rails of an abacus, adding and subtracting over and over again.
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Unread 01-19-2020, 08:27 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 2,130


I admire this gem of a poem. I love, among many other things, the eloquent lucidity of these verses, not to mention how they are so seamlessly rhymed. Without nits to share, I had a mind to register a few observations for the road. This image proved gripping and poignant:
a vision of my mother taking shape
adrift on waves of bland white cotton drapes,

with needle and with often-tangled thread,
re-attaching rings.
I appreciate the epigrammatic quality embedded here to advantage:
It’s the ritual, not the riddle, of the hearth.

It may be age, its notion of time’s motion,
that has me lately struggling for completion.

I fancy you effectively balance I and it statements, as well as uncertainty and discernment. Well done!


Last edited by Erik Olson; 01-19-2020 at 08:40 PM.
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Unread 01-20-2020, 10:09 PM
Siham Karami Siham Karami is offline
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Florida, USA
Posts: 3,245

Nemo, this poem resonated so deeply with me, I was in tears at the final line. I’m actually working on a piece of writing, not exactly a poem, and this poem zoomed right into it so I’m quite amazed. Maybe it has that quality of zeroing into things & conjuring up the collective consciousness, but one of the things I‘m writing about is rings. Regardless of that, the poem is to my mind so profound it will be forever satisfying and keeps on giving. Yes to stopping early, before things overcook!! It relates that object to everything and I feel the poem itself is in some way all-encompassing. I’m so glad you posted this - such a valuable piece!!

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Unread 01-21-2020, 07:15 AM
R. Nemo Hill's Avatar
R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Halcott, New York
Posts: 9,085

Well, here I am up top again. It's been very quiet round here! I've already thanked Erik privately, but I can do so again, now that I've gone public once more. Annie, this poem has amazed me with all the countless associations that people have brought to it, all of which seem to be contained quite effortlessly within the ring. It's quite gratifying, as it was precisely that all-encompassing boundary that I had in mind. And Siham, yes again to not over-cooking, to getting out of the way of the recipe, of the poem, of letting it perform its own magic trick with the mysterious perimeter of its own magic ring.

Thanks, again, all.
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