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Old 02-22-2002, 12:57 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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The Dusk of Horses

Right under their noses, the green
Of the field is paling away
Because of something fallen from the sky.

They see this, and put down
Their long heads deeper in grass
That only just escapes reflecting them

As the dream of a millpond would.
The color green flees over the grass
Like an insect, following the red sun over

The next hill. The grass is white.
There is no cloud so dark and white at once;
There is no pool at dawn that deepens

Their faces and thirsts as this does.
Now they are feeding on solid
Cloud, and, one by one,

With nails as silent as stars among the wood
Hewed down years ago and now rotten,
The stalls are put up around them.

James Dickey

(Here's one for Curtis. This poem tells us quite a few things...and none of them likely to be true!)


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Old 02-22-2002, 04:51 PM
Curtis Gale Weeks Curtis Gale Weeks is offline
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(Here's one for Curtis. This poem tells us quite a few things...and none of them likely to be true!)
------

Here's one that tells us many things, speaks w/ hyperbole, but is much, much better; it's relating something else without telling us, however: something beyond the apparent telling.
<u>Ixion at Mud</u>

I have succumbed to the smell of sweating
mud thwacked by hooves and fresh-sawn
lumber oozing pine sap, yellowing alfalfa

bricks, a snap, a whinny, and a mallard’s
whack. I want to stand in the pen now,
barefoot in the steaming mud; among

the foals I want to buck. I know that clay
will pack and harden between my soft
winter-toes. In the mud, I’ll make amends

for the many mistakes I’ve made this year:
wearing my elbows red, bleating my knotty
stomach at the absent green—cramped—

my heart turned to liver, my heart turned to spleen.
For months, the brittle moth wings in my throat
have been swallowed, crushed or clipped.

I must be leaving for the mud now, sidling
up to the pent mares in the open where they
neigh. I will mount white-bellied Hylonome,

and she will bear our children; they will be
centaurs; not one will ever know the feel
of mud on soft soles, but four hooves

caked with piss-clay and sullied fetlock tufts,
the heft of horse, the mind of man. Burdened by
two livers, they will be too bilious, but also by

two hearts, too good. I will keep their quivers clean
and soap their bellies until they act like men,
and then I will free them from the pen.


--Evan Eisman

(Evan, if you're about: I hope you don't mind my using yours as an example...)


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Old 02-22-2002, 11:06 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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Well...this was a good example. Although there are some things I admire about it, I don't personally like the poem very much. I assume that my admiration is more the objective part of my judgment, and that the lack of sympathy is more a matter of my personal taste. I have no reason to launch a fault-finding mission, or build a case against it. On the contrary, I'd prefer to perceive the genuine virtues I can detect here.
Most important, it is an ambitious poem. An ambitious failure is a better use of my time than a trifling success, and this poem's hardly a failure.
My reservations go mostly to the quality that, chances are, you (Curtis) find attractive-- the dissonance and cacophony of the rhythms. I'm sure every approach has a legitimate employment, but I'm not much fond of that "metaphysical" tonality anywhere, and I can't see how it's apropos here...but then I'm biased.
I'm still puzzled. Why did you choose an example you yourself won't whole-heartedly endorse? Is your notion of successful poetry so restrictive?
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Old 02-23-2002, 03:57 PM
Curtis Gale Weeks Curtis Gale Weeks is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by MacArthur:
I'm still puzzled. Why did you choose an example you yourself won't whole-heartedly endorse? Is your notion of successful poetry so restrictive?
I like your answer; but it also goes to show why "free verse mastery" is so hard to discuss. Everyone can agree on the basics of meter; but this kind of poem has perhaps fewer defining rules.

Actually, I can whole-heartedly endorse this poem. I think my problem with your two examples is the lack of correspondence between images, assertions, and reality. S1 of Dickey's poem, for instance, seems rather meaningless to me...and this would be okay if elsewhere in the poem the realities of "something fallen from the sky," "the green...paling," etc., were better drawn. I don't know how a pool at dawn deepens their faces and thirsts. I don't believe stars are silent, either. Etc. Maybe as you've said, there's so much subjectivity involved. My offering here--for me, at least--presents images which are substantially real and uses them to draw hyperbolically vis-a-vis the man/horse breeding metaphor.

Curtis.
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Old 02-23-2002, 06:28 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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Curtis, did you understand that Dickey's extended imagery concerns the gradual onset of winter snowfall, and the transfer of the horses from summer pasturage to winter boarding? It's tongue-in-cheeek from the horses (presumed) POV. Let's say horses don't think this way...but perhaps we might, if we were horses?
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Old 02-23-2002, 06:40 PM
Curtis Gale Weeks Curtis Gale Weeks is offline
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Quote:
Originally posted by MacArthur:
Curtis, did you understand that Dickey's extended imagery concerns the gradual onset of winter snowfall, and the transfer of the horses from summer pasturage to winter boarding? It's tongue-in-cheeek from the horses (presumed) POV. Let's say horses don't think this way...but perhaps we might, if we were horses?
That still doesn't explain these lines:
There is no cloud so dark and white at once;
There is no pool at dawn that deepens

Their faces and thirsts as this does
or the final stanza.

I could read these lines as being a description of the horses' deaths because they stayed out in the snow, thirsted, etc., the "nails" are from their hooves, and the stables have been built around where they've died (and maybe where they've been buried?)--This makes it sad, if so.

Again, why "dusk?" instead of "winter" for the title? Are the nails "among the wood/hewed down years ago," or are the silent stars there?--Putting up the stalls, building them, suggests a correspondence between the rotten wood and the nails, perhaps an unnecessary (and, regrettable) correspondence?

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Old 02-23-2002, 07:40 PM
MacArthur MacArthur is offline
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The cloud refers to the snow on the ground-- whiter than the grey sky, but more opaque. The nails are the silent stars. The wood in the stalls isn't rotten-- only not the living wood of trees. The pool is the snow the horses must poke their snouts thru as long as they feed in the pasture...which makes them feel the length of their "faces". And, of course, eating snow makes mammals thirsty. Any warm=blooded creature depletes more energy melting the snow, than they gain from the h2o.
Actually, the imagery of the poem is quite tidily logical.
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