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Old 08-19-2018, 05:32 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Default Bottles

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Minutes

My minutes will be twisted
into a bottle with no shore,
never reckoned by a gazer,
to sail the shadows cast
by the buildings that creep
into and out of our days,
left to roll along the street,
a jingle of glass uncracked,
stopped with a piece of old sheet
pulled from a bed that sat
deep among the loblolly pines.

No one reads such stories today
and God knows I have days
when I can't bear him, the subject
of the words. Yes, I'm on to him,
I think now, crossing the street,
my hands grimy from wooded sleep,
my thoughts pursuing themselves,
cars speeding by as though invisible.

***

Minutes

Then my minutes are to be twisted
into a bottle with no shore,
never reckoned by a gazer,
to sail the tall shadows
cast by the buildings that creep
into and out of our days,
left to roll along the street,
a merry jingle of glass uncracked,
stopped with a piece of old sheet
pulled from a bed that sat
deep among the loblolly pines.
No one reads such stories today
and God knows I have days
when I can't bear him, the subject
of the words. Yes, I'm on to him,
I think now, crossing the street,
my hands grimy from wooded sleep,
my thoughts pursuing themselves,
cars speeding by as though invisible.

Last edited by John Riley; 08-21-2018 at 10:37 AM. Reason: fixed typo on penultimate line
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Old 08-19-2018, 09:48 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I do like the word loblolly.

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Old 08-20-2018, 05:14 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Is that all you care for?
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Old 08-20-2018, 06:46 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hmm. Well, I like from "No-one reads...", and I like the pines line and this one: "a merry jingle of glass uncracked." I don't understand the opening, and it has a couple of impossible things, like the, oh, Red Queen: the creeping buildings and the bottle with no shore. Of course, I don't have to understand the opening, but I'd like to and tend to prefer that. I'm no fan of the surrealists. So that's about where I'm at. You do write a lot of things I love.

Cheers,
John

Update: yup, the Red Queen.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:24 AM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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John, thanks for coming back. I'm glad you like other things. If you have anything to suggest about what you don't like I'll listen. I have to confess though that I have no idea what surrealism is and to the best of my understanding and reading no one else does either. I don't think this is surreal. It may take a moment to understand what is happening, or even better the reader will realize surface understanding is a dead end, but I don't intend anything to be surreal. I don't think there is anything surreal anywhere in the world and its a word with no meaning.

But that's all to the side. I do appreciate your input on what you like.

Best,
John
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:48 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi John,

I'm not sure, with you, that there's such a thing as surrealism. Ism ism ism, says John Lennon. But there sure were surrealists, like Andre Breton. Not my favorite French poets. With your poem, I don't understand the opening, as I note, and it has what seem to be a couple of impossible things, which I also note. Such things are not unknown in your art. Here they get in the way of my eye, FWIW, as again I also note. You have plenty of poems I love, doing this sort of thing. For me, this one is not among my favorites. My 2c.

Always happy to drop by,
John
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:56 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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John, the rhythm and imagery of this are superb. I like how you throw us into the feeling of the motion with the rich metaphor of the opening sentence, conveying the feeling of the twisted minutes before giving us a window into what is twisting them. I love "him, the subject of the words" as a way of introducing the figure who I take to be, to at least some extent, the cause of this twisting. And the final lines mix outer and inner reality beautifully: the "wooded sleep" brings us back to the pines, while the "cars speeding as though invisible" give us both the scene outside as the N crosses the street, as well as functioning as a vivid metaphor for the "thoughts pursuing themselves". In general I love the poem's conceit where the inner and outer travel align.

I get tripped up at the beginning by two things:

1. "never reckoned by a gazer" --> Whatever significance you intended for this isn't coming through for me, and so the main effect it has is to slow the poem's otherwise easy (yet uneasy) movement.

2. Grammatically, line four is ambiguous. Is it the bottle or the minutes that are "to sail the tall shadows." The grammar at least somewhat suggests that it's the minutes, but the subsequent lines make it clear that it's the bottle (since it's the bottle that is "left to roll along the street"). I don't see that this ambiguity helps you.

Also, I think you want a comma, not a period, at the end of the penultimate line.
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Old 08-20-2018, 06:23 PM
John Riley John Riley is offline
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Thanks, Aaron. Perhaps the idea of a note in a bottle is gone or hackneyed. The narrator wants his minutes twisted into a bottle and set loose to roll down city streets.

The gazer bit may be too much. I was referring to the stargazer on ships when they navigated by the stars. His minutes will never go to sea.

In line four the minutes and the bottle are essentially the same things. The minutes are twisted into the bottle.

Thanks for catching the typo.

I very much appreciate what you say about the poem and am grateful for your close reading.

John
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Old 08-21-2018, 07:41 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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John, while it's true that the minutes and the bottle are conjoined in their fate (if one sails the shadows, so must the other), I don't think that justifies the grammatical ambiguity. They are still distinct referents. The ambiguity didn't confuse me as to sense—I just found it grating as such.
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Old 08-21-2018, 09:25 AM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi John,

I found the sense of a mind's movement in this piece to be very compelling. I couldn't help but think of the thoughtful comments you made on my thread about autobiography in poetry. The metaphor here seems to have the N making a 'message in a bottle' of his 'minutes' (his memories? his sense of himself in the present?), knowing they are doomed to remain unread, to reach no shore. The central

No one reads such stories today
and God knows I have days
when I can't bear him, the subject
of the words.

blurs the distinction between the real stated 'I' and the fictionalised self of autobiography and leaves the N in pursuit of himself, back in wooded sleep under the loblolly trees, looking for something real.

That's my take. It's very good. (The poem that is. My take might be all over the place)
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