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  #11  
Old 07-30-2018, 11:54 PM
Bill Dyes Bill Dyes is offline
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Default The Discovery of Fire

John:

Is it unreasonable to assume that a man like an animal would move away from fire long before they became black and burned?

I like that the man who first discovered fire was also the first pyromaniac.

Interesting piece.
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  #12  
Old 07-31-2018, 12:21 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Bill,

Glad you enjoyed this! Yes, I find the N's state of mind broadly plausible in the circumstances. But I think you're right, maybe black and burned is a step too far. I could just delete black...

Cheers,
John
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  #13  
Old 07-31-2018, 07:22 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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I like this too. I'm afraid I don't have more to add to what Aaron and Mark have said. They stated the best of it well.
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  #14  
Old 07-31-2018, 07:52 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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x
One time,
a big, big fire
burned for days
to further than we could see.
We don’t know how that started.


As for the language of the narrator, I think you have the right measure. It suggests pidgin though does not burden itself with it.

The final lines do lift things to another level beautifully. Although I can see the pyromaniac interpretation, I prefer to believe the narrator at face value. In your scenario fire is new-found. Everyone is a pyromaniac. But the narrator is a philosophical sort. He is still in thrall of what fire is and can do. He knows he can start a controlled fire, but what about those wildfires that that burn not because of anything he did, but by the forces of nature yet to be discovered.
My view may be historically inaccurate. I know primitive humans were familiar with wildfire before learning how to control it and use it. In that case it would make sense that the N was covering up his own penchant for starting fires… But I like the idea, too, that he is genuinely perplexed, that he accepts the possibility that something else ultimately controls fire that he is unable to comprehend.

Or like Mark ferreted out and you confirmed, he’s a pyromaniac like the rest of his tribe. A Whodunnit!

"Heft" seems incongruent with "stick". "Branch" maybe, but a stick doesn't have much heft.
x
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  #15  
Old 07-31-2018, 08:01 AM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Here are the parts I think work as a whole poem. I don't think you need to keep repeating about the burned hand, and the caveman concept is hokey. This would bring the poem into the present, along with subtly suggesting the past.

When I discovered fire,
it hurt.
I burned my hand
on the burning branch.
It was my vision.
Fire is yellow and orange.
It pulls and scares you
like a cliff.
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  #16  
Old 08-01-2018, 06:39 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John, Jim, Mary,

Thank you for your thoughts and your nudging.
John: I'm glad you quite liked this, and hope to have addressed Mark's and Aaron's thoughts.
Jim: I love your read of the ending. It's one reason I didn't want to spell out my own take, because it limits people. And after all, I can no more tie this poem down than anyone else, at the end of the day. I'm glad the tone works for you; I do feel caveman-speak would only stress the hokiness that Mary senses here already. I've stuck with heft for now; I think maybe stick should be branch, but my image is of something not too small.
Mary: experience has taught me admiration for your editing of poetry, which is outstanding. You've done wonderful things with more than one of my poems by removing the dross and letting the idea shine out. Here, I believe I get your point about hokiness, and have chopped some drivel in hope of avoiding that. It may be that more needs to go, but I'm still at present wedded to the narrative as I saw it: we meet the discoverer of fire. He's done this and that - lots of I clauses. He recognizes the group. But not for long; he returns to I. He is understandably attached to his achievement. He states his love for fire, and his fear of it. And then, he notes the big fire that somehow got started in the neighborhood. Was it him? Was it, as Jim suggests, a wildfire? I hope to have kept that radical ambiguity, and I hope the N's psychology could be as interesting to others as it is to myself. I find the N fascinating, man or woman.
Anyway, that's why I've followed your lead and done some slashing but have not simply adopted you wholesale yet, as with other poems. I've also added stanzas in hope of better showing the storyline.
Revision posted.

Thank you all for making this better poetry -
John

Update: FWIW, the last line always makes me smile when I read it. But it could equally be scary.

Last edited by John Isbell; 08-01-2018 at 06:43 AM.
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  #17  
Old 08-01-2018, 11:20 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Excellent, John. four stanzas, four necessary movements, all clear in their expression and implications. Very well done.
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  #18  
Old 08-01-2018, 02:29 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I am delighted you like this! The movement you describe is what I was hoping might emerge for readers, so your finding it means a good deal to me.

Thank you for your visit,
John
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  #19  
Old 08-01-2018, 04:30 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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Well, tontoism is where the speaker seems to fail in mastering the nuances of communication. But everyone’s interior speech is perfect for that person. So, against the wind, I suggest that if the speaker is a University of Cambridge person as you are but 100,000 years ago, he or she could be most persuasive in your excellent English that is done well — or you could write it in the pidgin of “the other place” (Oxford) and it still might be interesting and even moving.

PS: it's clear from my post 22 below that I am not always the prose practitioner that I would like to be. I muffled my critique by not making it direct. I meant that it still seems simple-minded. Alley Oop (a caveman cartoon character of homo modernensis) might not have have had a fabulous vocabulary, but in his or her inner mind, he or she usually knew exactly the shades of meaning he or she intended (even if imperfectly expressed), and I think to translate his or her (hypothetical) Oopish thoughts for us who live in the 21st Century BCE, you should fully flesh out the nuances.

I ought to have said, brutally, something like "your excellent English when it is at its best, i.e., done well".

Last edited by Allen Tice; 08-02-2018 at 09:21 PM.
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  #20  
Old 08-01-2018, 08:46 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Allen,

I like your definition of tontoism, and am very happy that you find the speech I've chosen here appropriate. Thank you!
Oxford is a fine institution, but they did tend to resort to bringing in international rowers in their bid to win the boat race. Of course, I may have spent too long in the Fens to be unbiased.

Cheers,
John
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