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Old 07-29-2018, 11:49 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Default The Discovery of Fire

The Discovery of Fire

When I discovered fire,
it hurt.
I burned my hand
on the burning branch.
It was my vision.

We learned
to heft a burning branch,
to make a new fire live.
But I had the burned hand.
I had confounded the predators.

I love fire.
It is yellow and orange.
It pulls and scares you
like a cliff.

One time,
a big fire
burned for days
to further than we could see.
We don’t know how that started.


Edited: I roasted the meat.
I scared the cats.
to pick [...] up [...] stick
My hand was black and burned.
I had roasted the kill.
, big

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-01-2018 at 07:19 AM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:00 AM
Edward Zuk's Avatar
Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi John,

I’ve edited this post so that the Gary Larson cartoon is just a link. That way it won’t be too distracting, I hope:

http://chaka4612.blogspot.com/2009/0...is-genius.html

As for the poem, I don’t know how I would try to capture the voice of this character, but I’m not sure that clear, simple modern English sentences work, quite. You could bypass the problem by recasting this in third person.

At any rate, this is quite a departure from your travel poems.

Last edited by Edward Zuk; 07-30-2018 at 12:29 AM. Reason: Changing a post of the cartoon to a link to keep the thread serious.
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Old 07-30-2018, 12:02 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Edward,

That's a very nice Gary Larson. Thanks for sharing! You know scientists like Larson so much that he got an unknown insect (?) species named after him.

Cheers,
John

Update:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strigiphilus_garylarsoni
Strigiphilus garylarsoni is a species of chewing louse found only on owls.
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Old 07-30-2018, 08:17 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi update Edward,

You're probably right just to link to the Larson, more's the pity.
I have a couple of paleolithic narrators, and they both speak in clear, simple English. You could be right, they may need a different voice. But the word I is very important to this N, so the third person would be a challenge. I hope people also get the point I was going for in my last line, which again relies on an imperfect narrator. I guess we'll see.
Also: "At any rate, this is quite a departure from your travel poems."
That is very true! I write a lot of stuff, and it varies. :-)

Cheers,
John
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Old 07-30-2018, 02:39 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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John, I like this poem more than a lot of your recent ones because there's more here than is simply on the page—the last few poems you've posted have been exactly what was on the page, no more.

I'm still figuring out exactly what to make of it, but one quick note. "to pick a burning stick up", while perhaps not incorrect in separating "pick" from "up", doesn't sound good.
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Old 07-30-2018, 02:58 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you quite enjoyed this, and agree that the page does not contain everything happening here. I like that too.
Perhaps I've spent too long speaking German. My ear is not bothered by pick and up being so far apart. I don't like the rhythm of "to pick up a burning stick", but could perhaps change to "lift" or "heft" if folks feel it's needed. Though "heft" is a bit highfalutin.

Cheers,
John

Update: mind you, he does say confound. Maybe heft is OK.

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-30-2018 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:25 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John,

Yes, I quite like this. Is the importance of 'we' in the final line to illustrate the beginning of the idea of blame or collective responsibility? If so, you should get rid of the 'we' in L9.

'Confounded' is definitely too much. In fact, given the inherent absurdity of representing a Palaeolithic N speaking any kind of English, you might as well go full caveman.

When found fire,
it hurt.
Burned hand
on burning branch.
My vision.
I roasted meat.
Scared cats.
My hand black and burned.


etc
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:35 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

Thank you for your visit and for your thoughts.
My N loves fire. He's a bit obsessed with it. His group have done this and that, but he focuses on what he did. So he's a fundamentally compromised and untrustworthy N. Hence the last line. I like your idea of having we only once, but i think i need it both times.
He could speak Tonto, Larson's cavemen do, but I think that changes the tone and our read of the N, which is complex (I hope). Maybe heft and confounded are too much - I'm still liking their changeup.

Cheers,
John

Update: ok, so, the ending. Somehow that big scary fire got lit. Our N saw it too. But he says, not I, but we don't know how that started. I find it a bit suspicious.

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-30-2018 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 04:53 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Quote:
But I had the burned hand.
I had roasted the kill.
I had confounded the predators.
I love fire.
Ah, so these are the important lines, are they? N started the big fire because he was annoyed that the others were taking credit for his ideas?

'Tontoism' is a description of a poetry faux-pas isn't it? The omission of articles for metrical expediency. If the N is a caveman it seems appropriate for once. There would be a way to do it that wouldn't sound comical.

Btw, I really like 'It pulls and scares you / like a cliff.'

Last edited by Mark McDonnell; 07-30-2018 at 05:10 PM.
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Old 07-30-2018, 05:20 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Mark,

I was hoping someone would get my intention with the ending! Thank you! Yup, my theory is that the N has ended up a pyromaniac if you like. At least, that he very likely started that fire, one way or another, and is not ready to fess up to it. He loves fire and seems quite taken with himself. But there his use of the I word abruptly stops.
You're right about Tontoism. Larson uses it brilliantly. I'm open to experimenting with it here - will take a look.
Glad you like the cliff image!

Cheers, thanks for catching my implication at the end,
John

Update: just tried the Tonto version (I'm back on the computer); it works pretty much fine structurally if not tonally until the last two lines, where the thought is not readily expressed in that pidgin. Interesting experiment in any case. Do most people feel that clear simple syntax is less apt than pidgin for my N? If so, I may need a closing solution.

Last edited by John Isbell; 07-30-2018 at 07:52 PM. Reason: added a detail or two
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