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  #1  
Unread 01-14-2020, 05:42 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Asylum, revisited (R1)

I’ve come to view your body, all that’s left
outside of memory. And from afar
you look the same, that stately grand design,
the stone fašade, though now with half your grounds.
I heard about your death, and how they scraped
your insides out, how you were sectioned off,
the empty space within you filled with flats
and shoebox houses. Closer now, I see
the rows of new-cut doors that puncture all
your wings, the fringe of family cars, the toys
left out on lawns. And I'll admit, I feel
a twinge of – what? Of loss? You held me once
in ways I won’t forget. It's more than that:
it’s who I lost you to – these colonists
inside your corpse, this warren of the sane.
They know not what they have profaned. I do.


L8: "terraced houses"->"shoebox houses"
L13: "but it's not that"->"but it's not that:"
L13 shan't -> won't
L14: colon -> em-dash



Asylum, revisited

I’ve come to view your body, all that’s left
outside of memory. And from afar
you look the same, that stately grand design,
the stone fašade, though now with half your grounds.
I heard about your death, and how they scraped
your insides out, how you were sectioned off,
the empty space within you filled with flats
and terraced houses. Closer now, I see
the rows of new-cut doors that puncture all
your wings, the fringe of family cars, the toys
left out on lawns. And I'll admit, I feel
a twinge of – what? Of loss? You held me once
in ways I shan’t forget. But it’s not that.
It’s who I lost you to: these colonists
inside your corpse, this warren of the sane.
They know not what they have profaned. I do.

.

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-20-2020 at 07:48 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-14-2020, 07:57 AM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Matt,

This is excellent, and very evocative (not that I've spent any time in an asylum myself, though I'm sure there are those who think perhaps I ought to!).

But seriously, I think your treatment of the topic is very clever. I have only one nit, which is:
But it’s not that. To my ear, it's a bit bumpy, and not quite emphatic enough.

Just a suggestion, FWIW:

You held me once
in ways I shan’t forget. It's more than that:
It’s who I lost you to – these colonists...


Nice work.

Jayne
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  #3  
Unread 01-14-2020, 08:55 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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I agree with Jayne. Wonderful poem. But I'd locate my one quibble elsewhere in the line she singles out. At least to my American ear, shan't stands out like a sore thumb, out of step with the poem's overall diction. Can you make it won't?
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Unread 01-14-2020, 09:34 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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Yup, this is excellent, Matt. And applicable to many a place besides an asylum: it expands outward from its chosen target, always a good thing for a poem to do. It retains its specificity, yet becomes universal.

Jayne's suggestion is a good one, and I did, like Roger, notice that current-idiom-flouting word: shan't. I'm on the fence about it, but another word you could use to replace it is can't which will still have the same ear-tones.

Whatever you decide, the poem is working very well for me.

Nemo
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Unread 01-14-2020, 09:47 AM
Simon Hunt Simon Hunt is offline
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Another thumbs-up from me. I want to note "sectioned" and "warren of the sane" as particularly striking. And to agree with Roger that "shan't" was jarring to my ear. Strong work.
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Unread 01-14-2020, 12:52 PM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Brilliant, Matt, truly brilliant. I love "shan't." You use the word over there today, don't you? I like its touch of British accent. I love the last line, how swiftly you turn centuries of madhouses around, and take the side of the inmates, and make them sacred. I believe that asylum inmates are often the most sensitive, kind, and artistic people.
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Unread 01-14-2020, 03:23 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is online now
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Jayne, Roger, Nemo, Simon, and Mary,

Thanks everyone. I'm very pleased with how well this is going down.

Something that non-Brits might not know, though I think Simon did, is that in the UK, "to be sectioned" means to be detained (involuntarily) under a section of the Mental Health Act (various sections, of various durations, can be applied).

Jayne,

I'd been shifting that phrase back and forth, and one of the options I was considering is the one you've suggested. Another was "It's not quite that", which is probably closest to what I want. The N is trying to pin to down a slightly elusive feeling. I do want to suggest that there's loss, which the current version perhaps risks discounting, but at the same time I also wasn't sure how the phrase works if it's not preceded by "But", given that there's an intervening sentence. I'm still switching it around, so I'll give it time to settle.

Roger,

I originally had I "won't", and "shan't" was a last minute change that I'm not completely set on. It seemed better, metrically more heavily stressed, and more of a vow somehow (as in when Hardy has the schoolmaster say "I shan't forget you, Jude"). Googling, I see it's not a word that tends to be used in U.S. English. It is a little formal in UK English, though and "won't" would be more usual.

Nemo,

I'm pleased you found a universality here. I hadn't thought about that.

I think "I can't forget" perhaps suggests less sense of agency that "shan't" or "won't", whereas I was hoping for more of declaration of intention. It also perhaps tips toward suggesting an inability to forgive, whereas I'd like to be more ambivalent as to what sort of holding he won't forget, being held in the positive sense, or being held against his will.

Simon,

I was surprised you picked up on "sectioning". Is it used in the US or did you come across it elsewhere?

Mary,

Yes, we use "shan't" here, though as I said above it's a little formal/old-fashioned. But then again, so was the building. As to the inmates, well we were a mixed bunch

Thanks again everyone.

-Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-14-2020 at 03:32 PM.
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  #8  
Unread 01-14-2020, 03:45 PM
Simon Hunt Simon Hunt is offline
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Just answering your question: I'm not as American as all that (born British in Rhodesia; raised all over the place). I don't think most Americans would recognize "sectioned," but it is in some Brit movies and television...
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  #9  
Unread 01-14-2020, 04:00 PM
Phil Bulman Phil Bulman is offline
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Matt,

This is terrific.

"Sectioned" is used in the same way here in the States, at least in Maryland, but it's not in common usage. I only know it because I have a relative who was recently sectioned. He is happily out now.

As for "shan't"...not sure about that. It was a bit of a surprise, but it also works if you want to portray N as elderly. Americans will read and hear it as archaic.

Phil
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  #10  
Unread 01-14-2020, 06:50 PM
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R. S. Gwynn R. S. Gwynn is offline
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I just heard "sectioned" in Criminal and again in Tabula Rasa. It was new to me.

I wonder if the use of apostrophe is better than a third person account. Apostrophe sounds more intimate but ushers in a tone of curious nostalgia. Isn't the repurposing of this building somehow better than what it once was? N seems slightly disdainful of the new occupants. I used to hear "asylum" to refer to an orphanage as well as a mental institution.
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