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Old 08-17-2018, 11:40 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Default tetx2, trix2

Lemon Chiffon text

(The deathless poem will be made of words)


The deathless poem will be made of words,
and those words of letters, and those letters,
....in their turn, of indelible
....atoms suitably mixed
with void. There is the trouble, the void,
the emptiness that leaves room
....for motion. Give an atom
....room and it will swerve,
unpredictably. It may
not seem like much, a single atom
....swerving, but it compounds
....faster than you’d think.
That is why nothing fashioned from matter
lasts forever, not even the goddess
....who has so kindly given
....me these few words.
Do not be afraid, Felicity.
Death is nothing to us—nothing.


Edits:

L14: the goddess --> you, goddess, --> the goddess
L15: has --> have --> has

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-19-2018 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 08-17-2018, 03:13 PM
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Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Aaron —

Well crafted and well stated.

I found myself quibbling with the poem's metaphysics, basically that of Lucretius. But my quibbles are neither here nor there.

For almost the entire poem I was carried along by the stately clarity of statement even though what is said seemed to me prosaically commonplace.

But the closing 5 lines or so came to my rescue with poetic effect, reminding me, perhaps illogically, of the close of Hopkins's Spring and Fall.

So I like the poem.

— Woody

P.S. I think the final line states a truth, about as well as it can be stated.

— W

Last edited by Woody Long; 08-17-2018 at 03:21 PM. Reason: added the postscript
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Old 08-17-2018, 03:29 PM
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Rick Mullin Rick Mullin is offline
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... indelible atoms suitably mixed with void?

I feel a sermon coming on.

Rick
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Old 08-17-2018, 09:37 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Hi Aaron,

This one’s not working for me: its just a restatement of (if I’m getting this right) Democritus’s atomist theory, applied to written letters and words. There is no sense of discovery or surprise in it, once the basic concept of it is grasped, which is in lines 4-5. Add to that that it is a poem about poems, where the bar tends to be set higher—the poet has a harder task to justify the poem—and I just don’t feel this one takes off.

Sorry about that. Your last poem was so good, and that was because your imagination was really engaged with it. This one’s cerebral and overly deliberate.

Best,

Andrew
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Old 08-17-2018, 09:47 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I knew a guy who wrote his entire Ph.D. thesis on the topic of the clinamen. So it does seem to provide food for thought. But I'd say with Andrew that this poem of yours engages me less at present than various others you've posted. It does sound a bit like lectures I've attended.

Cheers,
John
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:18 AM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

I too think this is clinical. The issue is content, not sound. I like the irony of the last couplet, and think you want to find a way to make that bit surprising by pulling out of the Lucretian lecture that leads up to it.

A few thoughts:

- are letters made of atoms?
- atoms "swerving" may be dead for a bit thanks to Stephen Greenblatt.
- I wonder if you may want a distance between the final couplet and the four that precede it; as it is I think the four come across too didactic. Earlier in the poem they may not.
- I'm often pretty happy to find, all of a sudden, and interlocuter; still, Felicity here seems is afraid of death, and that seems like an avenue for surprise rather than lecture. I want concrete language of something besides atoms and void, and then a turn to this couplet. Maybe we are aware of a "you" before this, maybe not, but right now I'm not feeling it.
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:23 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Well, this is not a poem I expected to be dragged like this.

Let's just let this one sink down. Thanks all.
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:31 AM
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Sounds like Horace to Leuconoe. That’s not so bad. Why is everyone so afraid of molecules? Of course, molecules in bunches set up just right can fall deeply in love with other bunches of the right stuff. Stalin, Lord help us, declared that language is an epiphenomenon, that is to say, it depends on matter to develop. But what did he know? Thought makes things happen! What, exactly, does your thinking? That’s “the hard problem”. No sermon. Just an observation about content and context.
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Old 08-18-2018, 12:46 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Well, I'm hesitantly walking back my desire to see this sink. I believe in this poem, and I believe in it because I believe it is doing more than Rick, John, and the Andrews see in it. I've made a small change that should make a crucial feature of the scene less obscure. Wondering if that changes things for folks.

Allen, thanks for commenting.

P.S., Woody—the comparison to "Spring and Fall" is a great honor. That is among my favorite poems. Thank you.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-18-2018 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 08-18-2018, 01:13 PM
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Woody Long Woody Long is offline
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Aaron —

Well, your revisions at the end do punch up the poetic effect. And it is the ending that makes this poem poetry.

I don't believe much should be done at the beginning to foreshadow the ending. That would weaken the final effect.

But you might, nevertheless, consider some small tweaks at the beginning.

As it stands the phrase The deathless poem will suggests that there will be a deathless poem. This is paradoxical (not always bad) in the context of the whole poem. The specific article The suggests that it is unique. Both implausible.

So maybe something more general and human and true. Something along the lines of, e.g.:

A mortal poem must be made of words,

With, no doubt, any number of other possibilities to similar effect.

— Woody

Last edited by Woody Long; 08-18-2018 at 01:17 PM. Reason: clarification
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