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Unread 01-10-2021, 12:25 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Default first seven stanzas from a longer poem

wheat text

poem of changes

....let it begin....then
undertaking furthers itself....and nothing
blooms itself to the tepid dripping
sounding there....beyond the enclosure....outside
what a concept....easily disappearing
in the nothing new that salutes the new year

....also....the darksome
crows seem up to something nefarious....and
no one is quite sure what it is....yes....certain
....over and over
....pecking the dead rat
....haunting the alley

block that is eternity....seizei sits then
....crossing the water wonders
is not seizei drinking the wine with mouthflesh
moistened....clouds like ghosts in machines are passing
through uneasy then

as for garbage....sometimes it craves it....other
....times it disclaims it
like a fish's stomach....or like a lichen
....stones....too....are garbage
....pleasing....but garbage
words as well....detritus....a world of flotsam

....what it expected
....thunder arousing
three wavering flames in a glass cage gotten
what to do....inquesting answer
....smelling of shipwreck
....sea salt and driftwood

....came this directive
let each word mean one thing and one thing only
song immerges....countercommanding....saying not pound....o what a fool....however
seems its time to chow down on okraschoten sirocco
....written....dust throated
....deathly....what pearl
....earned for its mouth....none
as the odes explain old joke says so
....better believe it


S1L3: languid --> tepid
S7L4: eyes --> mouth

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 01-11-2021 at 08:00 PM.
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Unread 01-11-2021, 06:45 AM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi Aaron,

A simultaneously metaphysical and psychological medition, which takes some meditating-on to get to the bottom of. I feel a sense of a creation description, not a creation myth, in the way that consciousness seems to emerge into this poem.

Many of my reactions are likely to be idiosyncratic: this is your only warning. :-)

The first couple lines brushed across E.E. Cummings for me, I wanted to read: let it begin then/undertaking furthers its unself.../

L3 "nothing" carries an unfortunate ambiguity-- I believe you mean "nothingness" rather than what would essentially equate to nothing more than a negation of the verb "blooms".

L4 "languid" to me, a bit overdone. There are a few items like this that stretch too far. e.g. "nefarious" and "bedewing". Perhaps non disputum.

{I realize now that I'm not going to be able to get past the first stanza, really, because there's so much to address. Really does require meditating on. }

Understanding that it is a mediation allows the first stanza to be imageless, and appropriately imageless. Or non-concrete anyway. Not using my words particularly well there, but I hope the gesture is still clear.

The "blooms itself to rain" felt a great deal like Lucretius. Was his spirit hovering about at time of composition? "Beyond the" "enclosure". This must mean non/existence simultaneous to meaning no/mind. If there is "outsideness" then one is not one with it. How'd that happen? One settles back into it "easily disappearing" into the [world]. Not exactly world, because as soon as you immerse in it, it's not there, since there's no distinction; thus, it could not be either new nor old, because, for example, "new" implies something outside, not yet here, that is to come. The construct is not possible however, if one has re-immersed or re-become one with the world. (but what a concept! heh. )

"salutes the new year" - snapped me out of the poem. It's a very different sort of construct and comes to me out of the blue.

Back to the creation notion, "the first seven..." seems to me a deliberate parallel of the first seven days of creation and yet the 'poem of changes' title subsumes that "seven days of creation" into a zenmind, "Let it begin" roughly equalling "Let there be light".

There is an intelligence run wild through this piece; it's very challenging. As a poem, I only vaguely intuit a meter, partly simply because I've read your work for some time and the degree of detail in which you work warns me before I even start reading to look for things I might not ordinarily look for or notice otherwise. Poetically, you might anticipate that this doesn't work for me sonic-structurally. I'll mention only this to describe my position, which in the end, might or might not be only taste. One test, to me, for "Is it a poem?" is to lay it next to, or in among, prose: could a listener (or a statistician) tease them apart? In this case I think not. In no way does that address the value of a work of art, it only addresses taxonomizing it.

Hope my dull thoughts and windy spaces are somehow useful,

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Unread 01-11-2021, 01:28 PM
S.R. Little Stone's Avatar
S.R. Little Stone S.R. Little Stone is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I feel like I may be a little underqualified to offer much useful comment on this poem, as stylistically and semantically, I find it difficult to follow and comprehend. (I avoided much of the poetry of Ezra Pound and Hart Crane for the same reason.) Perhaps this poem is meant for a very specific kind of audience, or for an anticipated "audience of the future," who will have access to different kinds of data processing tools than most people have today (e.g. as the internet has made it easier for readers to research and appreciate subjects that would have once been more arcane to the broader public of previous generations).

I'm going to give my own close reading of the first stanza and then point out some trends I notice in the rest of the poem.

L1: The poem starts with a sort of Genesis opening of "Let it begin" (which echoes God's edict, "Let there be light"), which is followed by "then," apparently as an intentional self-contradiction, with "then" referring to the past or future, in contrast to the present moment command "let it begin".

L2: This next line follows suit, with "undertaking" having the auto-antonym quality of being an "initiatory effort" while also having end-of-life connotations (i.e. "the undertaker"). "furthers itself" gives us a suggestion of a subject "itself," but is followed by by the counterbalancing "and nothing". By the end of L2, I was already starting to feel a little frustrated with the apparent intentional directionlessness of this poem.

L3-4: Here we get our first examples of concrete imagery in the poem, with visual and auditory images of rain dripping beyond the enclosure (which is followed by its opposite "outside"). I like the phrase "blooms itself to rain". The enclosure image still feels very vague to me, though, and I'm left desiring more detail and clarity.

L5-6: I'm not sure what "what a concept" is referring to. And is the concept that's "easily disappearing"? I tried to visualize how "nothing new that salutes" and felt confused -- I just picture a gray blur with a hand emerging and rising to a salute. I'm not sure why it's saluting a new year -- this image strikes me as an odd personification of "nothing new". By the end of this stanza I'm again left feeling a sense of despair in the midst of the abstract and vague imagery.

There are some interesting images in the rest of the poem (e.g. the crows picking apart the dead rat), as well as some interesting shifts in tone and register of diction. On the whole though, I felt I was very outside of the poem and could not illuminate and explore the world you're describing very well.

Do you have a specific audience in mind with this poem? Do you mean to convey messages clearly in this poem, or is it meant to be appreciated in a less rational, linear way?

-Little Stone
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Unread 01-11-2021, 05:26 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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I think for a variety of reasons things are going to be opaque in this poem. Any opening cut short will do that.

I understand and applaud the movement in spacing to make the adonics and hendecasyllabics. The rhythm is important and it's pretty much impossible to misread in this way. Really only "three wavering flames in a glass cage gotten" cannot fit the rhythm, but there is classical tradition—particularly in Greek—that allows a spondee (though I wonder if you might space "three" and "wavering" just to ensure the reading).

I'm less convinced of the lack of capitals. Again, this comes from only seven stanzas, but a word like seisei leads me to 精々 (せいぜい), which cool as it was to see since I've been learning kana and kanji, didn't help me. What did is that I know you, so I assumed some Eastern philosophy, and that helped me more. Sure, it is obvious it is a noun, but I do question whether the exclusive use of lower case letters helps the poem. It took me more reads than it should have to read

sounding there....beyond the enclosure....outside
what a concept....easily disappearing
in the nothing new that salutes the new year

as Outside—what a concept!—easily disappearing in the nothing new that salutes the new year....which I quick liked.

I got there in each case, so perhaps much ado etc, but I wonder if you might try that on to see how it looks.

Are you married to "darksome"? Do "crows" have to be the bird? I wonder in each case if you can be fresher. They felt easier than the rest.

"like a lichen / stones" didn't work for me sonically.

" not pound" just continually makes me laugh. Each time I read it. And it's indicative of the subtle use of allusion throughout. In it's own way incredibly Poundian (sans the fascism, of course). I get savors of Stevens as well. "Man on the Dump."
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Unread 01-11-2021, 05:30 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Daniel, thank you for your careful read. I appreciate your pressing on points that strike you as potential infelicities (I have gone ahead and revised one of them). In addition, while we will likely never quite see eye to eye on meter, that does not mean I do not appreciate your pushback on the issue. This is another of my experiments in naturalizing sapphic and adonic lines in English. While that is the strict pattern structuring things, I do hope that it—when read aloud, slowly and naturally—allows for rhythms as varied and expressive as our old friend iambic pentameter. Whether it succeeds in that or not, others will have to judge. As always, I appreciate your sensitivity in critiquing. I know this, especially, is a difficult poem, and I am grateful you took such care with it.

Little Stone, nice to meet you, and thank you for your excellent critique. You have asked some very good questions of the poem. This is still a poem in progress, and, truth be told, I do not know exactly where I am going with it. My poems are normally conceptually tight and closed—sometimes successfully, sometimes not, but generally tidy. This is an attempt at writing in another, more open-ended mode. As it grows, a network of connections forms between the stanzas, but in more of a weblike than linear fashion. I am very grateful to know the ways in which that is not working for you. It is just the sort of feedback I need at this early stage. Thank you, again, for taking such a diligent stab at this strange fragment.
I am mostly going to resist giving clarificatory notes, as I hope the poem will speak for itself—even to the reader who checks no sources. But I cannot resist giving just this one. Having been trapped inside for most of the last ten months, the very idea of the world "outside" has become strange to me. Thence "what a concept".
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Unread 01-11-2021, 05:47 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Andrew, we cross-posted. Thank you for your critique, careful and useful as always. I am glad that the rhythm (and occasional humor) came through. A few brief comments by way of reply:

Capitals. Hmm. The lack of capitals has forced me to avoid the first person singular pronoun, as I find "i" visually painful. Perhaps, now that I have grasped the principle, I can dispense with the means of discovery. I will be mulling on that. For now, though, all lowercase feels right.

"three wavering flames" -- My ear is still trying to figure out what substitutions are workable in English-language sapphics. I think I am sold on the viability of the double trochee to start a line. I do want to be quite strict in ensuring that each blank space corresponds to what would be a punctuation mark of some kind in prose—the poem is difficult enough to parse as is.

"seizei" is a name, an allusion to a figure in a particular Zen koan. I may eventually choose to present the poem with endnotes detailing the allusions; that may be an essential kindness to the reader. I am waffling.

Thanks for pressing on these and other points. It would be tedious to respond to them all, but I do appreciate each one of them.
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Unread 01-15-2021, 02:59 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi Aaron,

This poem is interesting - probably one of the most interesting things I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t offer itself to easy reading, and doesn’t fit into a genre (which I like).

At points it reads like melodrama (which I like less) and/or like a contemporary version of The Wasteland (I’d say if this reading is anything like what you’re trying to achieve, then you might want to consider including more contemporary allusions).

Also please know that I’m not particularly scholarly, and my more recent academic background is Arts/Education rather than Literature so if you have alluded to multiple classics in the poem I am probably not going to pick up on them.

I read S1 as a disenfranchised idea of rebirth - not ‘Spring’, as in Eliot, but there are echoes of his reflection of Chaucer in there - the ‘rain’, the fractured new-ness. There’s also something of Brave New World in there for me - I think because of the word choice of enclosure.

I enjoy S2 - the nefarious crow, the use of space and the death-in-life. I also really enjoy the stanza break between alley/block.

‘seizei’ loses me. I google and then understand the concept and why it’s here, but it illustrates how the poem requires specific understandings and education in order to function. I ‘read’ seizei as a character/ a personification. I’d consider thinking about how you enable the reader to bring their own meanings or infer from context at this point. Or consider other signposting methods.

I love ‘clouds like ghosts in machines’ with the echo of Descartes - and the idea of uneasy mountains. There’s a tumbling together of images that potentially evoke different philosophical ideals from different epochs in my reading of this stanza.

From S4 onwards I read lots of The Tempest; the personification of seizei becomes transformed to Caliban, then although the rhythm remains in clear patterns, the space and sense of the poem breaks down and fractures, but still meaning-makes within the fracture as snatches of songs and phrases. I wonder what phrases like ‘what it expected/thunder arousing’ add to this - for me, they bring in a note of melodrama which detracts from the intriguing image of ‘three wavering flames’.

The interpolated directive voice of ‘let each word’ I think I read as another mirror to The Tempest - an echo of our contemporary universe/cultural worlds mirroring previous cultural upheavals. The directive voice becoming fractured/taken over by dissolution/chaos. I really enjoy ‘inquesting around’ as a play on the idea of journeying. I”m not sure you need ‘countercommanding’ or or ‘directive’ as the poem already shows us this tension in the change of tone and italicisation of the lines. The last line drifts too far away for me to be able to read it. This might also be because ‘chow’ isn’t a word I feel familiar with so it’s difficult to place it.

On a word-level, ‘deathly’, for me veers on the melodramatic.

I enjoy reading this -it’s always difficult to take something out of context and I’m intrigued by the wider project. I think the sense of fracture and assembly/reassembling is something that works very well for me - the poem keeps a sense of identity and a kind of rhizomatic narratie even as it breaks down, which is skilfully done. Across some of the images it lets the reader find their own lines of flight.

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Unread 01-16-2021, 12:53 PM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Sarah-Jane, thank you for your sensitive and detailed critique. Mostly, I am just happy to see it being read along the lines I hoped: as rhizomatic, following out its own lines of flight. (I wasn't thinking of Deleuze when writing it, though I count Deleuze among the friends of those I was thinking of.)

This is meant to be a highly allusive poem, but my hope is that it will be meaningful even to readers who do not care to track down all the allusions (this would be nearly all readers, I imagine). So it's very helpful to know which ones don't work on that level for you, thank you. I am compiling notes as I write, though, to aid the reader who does desire to do so.

Thank you as well for pointing out moments of possible melodrama—I will attend to these as I revise.

It's interesting that you picked The Waste Land and The Tempest as touchstones for this—the former I have not visited in a long time, the latter I have never visited. I genuinely love how common it is for my poems to get compared to poets/poems that did not influence them: a nice sign that my actual influences aren't overpowering me!

Thank you again. What a lovely and helpful critique!
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