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Unread 01-17-2021, 01:30 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Thanks, Allen, for suggesting the comma. I'm hesitant to put it in, however, as I don't think it's grammatically necessary.

After pondering Andrew’s comments, I wrote three new stanzas for a current total of six. Is it too long now? I’m hoping the additional stanzas (2, 3, and 4) give it a bit more substance.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 01-17-2021 at 01:45 PM.
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Unread 01-20-2021, 01:59 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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I've bumped this thread (before it sinks too far down) to see if anyone would like to stop by and let me know how the new stanzas are working (stanzas 2, 3, and 4).
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Unread 01-20-2021, 03:16 PM
Michael Cantor Michael Cantor is offline
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They're not working (which is quite possibly why no one is responding). Go back to three.
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Unread 01-20-2021, 03:50 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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You might be right, Michael. I'm really not sure yet. (I guess I'm still a bit too close to the material.) I'll wait to hear from one or two other folks before I make a "final" decision. Although I'm curious to know what specifically is not working in those added stanzas.

If someone will come and point out the flaws in the 6-stanza version, I would be happy to go back to three stanzas.
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Unread 01-21-2021, 03:18 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I, too, prefer the shorter version, and I'll try to state why.

Stanzas 2-4 are ok but do not add anything essential to the experience of the poem. In that stretch, there is one light stanza about their images persisting in cave paintings, one about their last appearance in a zoo, and one about tourist-photographers seeking out their images for snapshots. None of this matters for the poem or its subject (we don't get to know the creature better, and it's unnecessary and uninteresting to restate the different facets or signs of its extinction), so the shorter, quasi-epigrammatic draft is better.
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Unread 01-21-2021, 05:59 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Martin

I also think this needs to be shorter. It's a weird tone at the moment. Too much of it seems silly. I can't reconcile the seeming concern for species extinction with lines about shivering penguins and cricket teams. I like the darkness of the original ironic ending: the sense that even if science could bring the animal back, the destructive human urge would continue. Of your latest revision I would keep stanzas 3, 4 and 6, but with some changes: get rid of the penguins and restore the original ending.

The last one died in Hobart Zoo
during a night so bitter,
even a penguin would’ve shivered,
or any other critter.


The last one died in '36
in Hobart Zoo, unmourned...
etc etc...warned?

Now back of the beyond, we search
with cameras and phones, (missing a beat?)
and sometimes glimpse a ghost, a shadow,
imagination’s bones.

Wouldn’t it be grand to clone
a modern specimen?
Wouldn't it be a thrill to see
him go extinct again?
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Unread 01-21-2021, 01:36 PM
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Kevin Rainbow Kevin Rainbow is offline
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The first two lines seem a bit clumsy to me. You have "is" thrice, so closely together, and the last I think should probably be "has been" since you are referring to the past too.

Do you really need to specify a number of years? Perhaps:

The hope that he might still exist
**For decades has been scant.
So why then don’t we say goodby,
**you ask? We simply can’t!
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Unread 01-21-2021, 02:08 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Andrew F., Mark, and Kevin - Thanks for stopping by! OK, I’ll go with the shorter approach. What got me pondering other possible paths for this poem was Andrew Mandelbaum’s comments, in which he thought that the poem wasn’t addressing some more interesting themes like the species’ importance in the biome and their relationship with the indigenous people, as well as the numerous sightings that thylacine enthusiasts claim of late. (From all I’ve read, I believe the poor animal is extinct.)

The thylacine, by the way, had already vanished from the mainland long before the settlers arrived. But there were lots of them on the island of Tasmania. They might have even then been on their way out, due to a lack of genetic diversity. But the main cause of extinction was the superstitious belief that they were doglike vampires and the false assumption that they preyed on sheep and other livestock. The fact is that the thylacine’s jaws were not strong enough to hunt big animals. The other cause of extinction was the dingo, which competed for the same food sources.

Andrew - Aside from the stanzas you mention (the rock art, the last appearance in the zoo, and photographers trying to catch a glimpse of a wild one), I also had composed a descriptive stanza about the thylacine’s looks and that it was the largest marsupial carnivore in the world. But I didn’t think it was necessary and not as interesting as the description of the night the last captive one died.

Anyway, I think you are right about the poem being better as a quasi-epigram.

Mark - I like your suggestions for which stanzas to keep and modify. I’ll try to keep it to three. Regarding the light tone in most of it, I was trying to keep it to address Andrew M.’s comment:

Originally Posted by Andrew Mandelbaum View Post
I think any of the above could be transformed into the light-ish tone of the work ...
But I think I’ll try a more “serious” approach, working with the stanzas you thought were worth keeping (3, 4, and 6). By the way, as I said to Andrew S. above, I wrote a stanza describing the physical characteristics of the thylacine (largest carnivore with a pouch, chic stripes, amber hair), but decided not to include it, as anyone can google the Tasmanian Tiger and see many pictures and descriptions, and even videos of thylacines in zoos, especially “Benjamin,” the last one in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania.

So I posted a three-stanza version that incorporates your suggestions.

S1: The year Benjamin died and the coldness of the night which I compare to the “frosty[ness]” of the men who mercilessly hunted the wild ones across Tasmania.

S2: The fact that numerous people are still searching for any sign of the animal. Incidentally, I was pronouncing “camera” as “cam-e-ra.” But I know it’s more common to say it with two syllables, so I changed it to “camcorder.”

S3: I’ve gone back to the original (ironic) version of the last two lines. I’m hoping the reader will understand the irony and not deem the N to be a callous creep.

I liked your suggestion of the rhymes “unmourned/warned,” but I’ve come up with something else I think may work better to get a sense of how cold the night probably felt when “Benjamin” died. (He was accidentally locked out of his enclosure on that wintry night, and nobody thought to check on him.) (I put his name in quotes because he was actually named years later by someone who claimed he had worked at the Hobart Zoo.)

I found a great website, by the way, about the species — just about everything there is to know. Here is the link for anyone who may be interested.

Kevin - I agree that having “is” three times is a bit strange. I’ve never seen that before. It was Julie’s idea and I like it. It’s quirky, which is what I like about it. But your suggestion is also very good (including the point about “has been”). And you are also right about the number of years of “hoping” not being crucial. I appreciate it. Having said that, I’ve decided to try Mark’s suggestion of starting with S3. So now it’s no longer a problem. But if I decide to go back to S1, I may try out your idea.

Last edited by Martin Elster; 01-21-2021 at 02:26 PM.
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Unread 01-21-2021, 02:58 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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I hope you don’t mind a very quick dive-in to comment. It might be helpful as I’m a fresh pair of eyes.

Your latest revision works well for me on the whole - it reads pithy and tightly wound. S1 is great, scene-setting with the concrete image, although I wonder slightly at the ‘frosty’ men and wonder if the simpler ‘cold’ might work better - I realise that this wouldn’t scan, though.

S2 makes me wonder if you could do a bit more with ‘back of the beyond’. I’m used to seeing this as ‘back of beyond’, too, but that might be my accent/particular place.

I also wonder where the men are searching - and what this means, and whilst I like the idea of a hopeless lost ghost-hunt I think you could make more use value from a good idea - equally ‘imagination’s bones’ I really enjoy as a phrase and idea and it leads nicely into S3. But I maybe need more of a lead-in. It makes me wonder what the men are trying to illuminate, with their camcorders and phones. Are they trying to redress wrongs, or retrace the steps of the hunters in a less violent way, or is there image-taking just as violent as an appropriation of the tiger in its own way?

This is effective in how it echoes S1, though - the sense of capture as in photographic image - and how this leads into S3.

The ironic voice of S3 works very well for me - I notice you’ve swapped ‘fine’ for ‘grand’ which I think works, but I’d maybe consider swapping ‘thrill’ for ‘fine’ - as then you get the building up of the faintly archaic grand/fine word-use and the dual meaning of ‘fine’ might add irony/a synchronous reading of the final question as a moral statement/rhetorical question. ‘Thrill’ works too, but not in the dual way in my reading.

This latest revision works for me in a way the others’ didn’t though, although I enjoyed patches of all of the revisions!

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Unread 01-21-2021, 10:48 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is online now
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Hi Sarah-Jane,

Thanks for stopping by and the excellent feedback. It’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes.

I’m pleased to hear that the poem is starting to jell. I’m glad S1 sets the scene well. I hear you about “frosty.” I didn’t really care for it as much as “cold,” either. So I rewrote the stanza keeping the double meaning of “cold.”

In S2, you are right about “back of beyond.” I rewrote the stanza.
Added in: I like your suggestion for "fine" in place of "a thrill" in the penultimate line. I've made the tweak.

Regarding your question about what the people are searching for: Since 1936, Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service has investigated more than 400 reported sightings. But none have yielded any definitive proof. People desperately want to see some sign of the creature still existing. A lot of folks are fascinated by the species. Here is an article I just found, written in 2017, about people trying to find proof that the thylacine still exists. They were offering more than a million dollars to anyone who finds a living Tasmanian Tiger. Nobody has so far claimed the prize!

There's A $1.75 Million Reward If You Can Find A Live Tasmanian Tiger
by tentree on october 22, 2017

Some exciting news came out of Australia this past March! The Tasmanian Tiger, thought to be extinct, has reportedly been sighted by a park ranger and a tour guide on the Cape York Peninsula, a remote, isolated area near Queensland. It is one of the largest wildernesses in Australia, as well as, one of the last known, untouched, wildernesses in the world!

Tazmanian Tigers, also known as Thylacine, have been thought to be extinct since the last known wolf-like carnivore died in a Tazmanian zoo in 1936. Since the recent sighting, 50 nature cameras are being set up with the hope that one of them will capture an image of the animals.

William Laurance, professor at Cook University in Australia, is heading a team to search the isolated area for the animals. He told the Telegraph: “All observations of putative Thylacines to date have been at night, and in one case four animals were observed at close range, about 20 feet away, with a spotlight." He went on to say, "We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eye shine color, body size and shape, animal behavior, and other attributes, and these are inconsistent with known attributes of other large-bodied species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs.”

Although sightings of the animal are often reported, they mostly go ignored.

Of course, since the animal was thought to be extinct, the reports are disregarded as being a wild dog or feral cat. However, the most recent sightings by an experienced park ranger, Patrick Shears is being taken more seriously. Locals have also reported seeing the creatures.

Park Ranger, Shears, told the Telegraph, "They call it the 'moonlight tiger.' They're curious. If you're not moving and not making a noise they'll come within a reasonable range and check you out then just trot off.”

Tazmanian Tigers are not actually related to dogs or cats at all. Rather, the animal developed its striped back and carnivorous teeth through evolution in adapting to its environment. Thylacine can been seen in Aboriginal rock art dating back over 3,000 years ago. But, by the time Westerners began exploring the area, Thylacines were already extinct on the Australian Mainland and sightings were few and far between in Tazmania. The animals' extinction is thought to be due to hunting and the introduction of dingos, which competed for food and introduced diseases.

Stuart Malcolm, a Tasmanian tour operator, is offering a A$1.75 million (£1 million or 1.3 million U.S. dollar) reward for any proof that the Tazmanian Tigers still exists. However, Professor Laurance believes that the chances are slim that any of the animals will be found.

I'm hoping they do find proof that some Thylacine are still alive! How amazing that would be!
I composed a new stanza which briefly describes the creature (“Kangaroo recast as wolf!” — a spectacular example of parallel evolution) and gives a hint of why people might wish to see one alive.

Kangaroo reshaped as wolf,
**he’d cast a spell. We ache
to spy the jet black stripes, to feel
**less sad for our mistake.

I don't think I should stick that stanza into the poem. But I could change my mind.

The mistake, by the way, was that the government of Tasmania had put a bounty on the creature's head (because of the misconception that they were killing sheep) and it was hunted to extinction. Ironic how, now that it’s extinct, they celebrate it and have made it into an icon. I’d like to include that sentiment in the poem, but then it will end up being too long again. Besides, it might already be implied.

Here is a link to another good article (from 2016) about Benjamin and thylacines in general:

Here’s an even better one from 2004:

Thanks again, Sarah-Jane, for your feedback.

Revision 5 posted.


Added in: I've decided to add a modified version of this stanza back into the poem as the penultimate, which I think sets up the ending better.

Portrayed on stamps, beer bottles, buses,
**badge of the cricket team,
symbol of Tasmania,
**he rouses us to dream:

Last edited by Martin Elster; 01-22-2021 at 12:23 AM.
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