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Old 08-24-2018, 05:51 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Default blank verse

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Woods (revision; new title, first stanza cut)

Hidden here, nearly lost in undergrowth,
are the remnants of a wall, its smooth stones
scabbed with lichens, driven apart by vines.
Mostly it stands, but here a fallen tree
has severed it into unequal portions
and now lies in a pool of its gray blood.
Beneath the spattered stones, larvae are carving
out a soft existence. It is the charm
of this place that you may watch this furious
yet slow repurposing, this fructuous rot.

And what about the tree? The story here
is much the same: the living eat the dead
and die. Crane flies and spiders now reside
behind its wall of roots, while scalycaps
convert
its trunk to loam. Peel back the bark
that feebly guards this soft religion: you
will encounter centipedes. Pick one up: you
will be aware of your finger for hours to come.
Yes, isn't it a comfort to hear old truths,
the same as ever, in unfamiliar words?



Edits:

S1L1: in the --> in

S2L4: fungi are --> scalycaps
S2L5: converting --> convert



Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood (original)

....after William Cullen Bryant

Stranger, if you have learned the omnipresent
truth, that the world comprises misery
and guilt and little else, and if you've seen
enough of all its sorrow and its outrage
to sicken you, enter this wild wood
and view the haunts of nature. The calm shade
is ominous, and the breeze is driving ghosts
through the leaves. Here, the sounds of struggle sing
with a strained beauty. Here, suffering is,
if not lessened, different, and that, at least, is something.

Hidden here, nearly lost in the undergrowth,
are the remnants of a wall, its smooth stones
scabbed with lichens, driven apart by vines.
Mostly it stands, but here a fallen tree
has severed it into unequal portions
and now lies in a pool of its gray blood.
Beneath the spattered stones, larvae are carving
out a soft existence. It is the charm
of this place that you may watch this furious
yet slow repurposing, this fructuous rot.

And what about the tree? The story here
is much the same: the living eat the dead
and die. Crane flies and spiders now reside
behind its wall of roots, while fungi are
converting its trunk to loam. Peel back the bark
that feebly guards this soft religion: you
will encounter centipedes. Pick one up: you
will be aware of your finger for hours to come.
Yes, isn't it a comfort to hear old truths,
the same as ever, in unfamiliar words?


EDITS:

S1L1: ineluctable --> omnipresent

S2L3: aside --> apart

S3L5: mush --> loam



(For the curious, Bryant's original is here)

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-25-2018 at 07:23 AM.
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Old 08-24-2018, 06:51 AM
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Michael Ferris Michael Ferris is offline
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Hi Aaron,

Well, I think you’re very good at blank verse. I didn’t count all the syllables, but I didn’t find a line I couldn’t scan. And I enjoyed this. Reading it and Bryant’s original, I thought of Blake: As the eye, such the object.

A couple of observations:

S2L3 – I like ‘apart’ for ‘aside’
S2 in its entirety I thought quite marvelous. Well observed and well written.
S3L5 – ‘mush’ seems wrong to me. Duff or dirt or loam or soil or something along those lines.
S3 – I love what you do with the centipede. That is an image that evokes feeling, literally.

Is this your own vision? Or ‘only’ a riposte to Bryant? Do you see the truth in Blake’s line?

I’d love to see more blank verse from you, not so much arguing with another poet as expressing what surges spontaneously from the soil of your heart. I mean that generously: I think you can go naked, without the cover of another poet.

M
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:13 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I agree, this is well-spun free verse that is foreboding in it's inspection of the forest floor and leads the reader to the claustrophobic thought of a life that is ultimately full of decay and entropy -- a depressing thought made less so by the beauty of it's playing out on the forest floor.

Though the opening stanza leans heavily on Bryant's poem (including the title) you then jettison from it and discover your own objects on which to ruminate in stanzas 2 and 3.

There are some beautifully constructed passages:

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThe calm shade
is ominous, and the breeze is driving ghosts
through the leaves. Here, the sounds of struggle sing
with a strained beauty. Here, suffering is,
if not lessened, different, and that, at least, is something.


and
its smooth stones
scabbed with lichens, driven aside by vines.

and
Beneath the spattered stones, larvae are carving
out a soft existence. It is the charm
of this place that you may watch this furious
yet slow repurposing, this fructuous rot.


and
Peel back the bark
that feebly guards this soft religion: you
will encounter centipedes. Pick one up: you
will be aware of your finger for hours to come.


And the sardonic final lines are coyly delivered so as to bring the reader back to your original proposition:
Yes, isn't it a comfort tohear old truths,
the same as ever, in unfamiliar words?


I tripped a bit on understanding what "its" was in this line:
and now lies in a pool of its gray blood.

The stone's blood or the tree? (it's the tree)

I agree with Michael that there is a better word than "mush".

What the poem offers is a weakly consoling observation that at least the sanctuary of the woods provides a different language/imagery for expressing what is inescapably true. In a strange way I think this poem is relating a similar message to John Riley's "Bottle" poem on non-met.

Great read, Aaron.

---
Editing back in to note that there may be better words than "calm" and "ominous" in S1L6-7.

Last edited by Jim Moonan; 08-24-2018 at 08:24 AM.
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Old 08-24-2018, 08:47 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I enjoy this, Aaron. I used to walk by Bryant’s house in Cummington, Mass., when I lived in that area.

I’m short on time right now so I’ll just comment on a couple metrical questions.

I think the opening two lines are problematic, because a steadier meter there would help to establish the meter overall. Robert Frost does this, and no one does BV better:

When I see birches bend to left and right

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall

He saw her from the bottom of the stairs


to give just three openings of his.

Your

Stranger, if you have learned the ineluctable
truth, that the world comprises misery

is rocky. Line 1 has the IP with the trochee start, but then a couple unstressed syllables thrown in—or 6 stresses, if the reading is forced to be IP to the end. And the opening enjambment makes the metrical statement that much fuzzier. After the unstressed two syllables of line 1, “truth” has to get a stress, which means “that the” are both unstressed. “Misery” in normal unaffected speech is a dactyl. So I get

TRUTH, that the WORLD com-PRIS-es MIS-er-y

I think you will say that you accent that last syllable, but that would be an unnatural non-speech way to pronounce it, so you’re veering off the conversational feel that makes BV so appealing.

I’d take a look at Frost and consider another way to start your poem

Also, line 5 of S2 has 4 beats:

has SEV-ered it IN-to un-EQ-ual POR-tions

Pretty rocky, even allowing for substitutions and whatnot to give the BV a loose feel.

I’m working on some BV myself, noticing these very things in my draft, so it’s on my mind, fwiw.
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Old 08-24-2018, 10:48 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Michael, Jim, Andrew, thanks. I'm gratified by your positive responses to this, and grateful for your helpful suggestions.

There's more to think about in your posts, but I've made a few quick changes:

a) to the first line, to make it a bit more regular

b) aside --> apart as Michael suggested (I might go back on this one, but I'm trying it out for now)

c) mush --> loam. Another one I'm trying on. It does become mush before it becomes soil, and I do want to capture that "fructuous rot" that can actually be seen, not that that can only be anticipated. So this might be jumping the gun. But it does sound nicer.


Andrew, I hear your point about "misery", but I think the promotion happens naturally because of the enjambment. If you read it conversationally, then you'll get "MIS e RY and GUILT", where the last syllable is promoted because of its context, without being artificially emphasized. Hopefully with the change to L1, this is less jarring for you. The "severed into unequal portions" line was one I wondered about going in (it can scan as IP, but requires a little forcing)—I'll have to think more it.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-24-2018 at 12:41 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 08-24-2018, 12:40 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Novick View Post
Hopefully with the change to L1, this is less jarring for you.
Yeah, that makes a big difference Aaron.
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Old 08-24-2018, 09:38 PM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Hi Aaron, I don't think you've solved L1 with "omnipresent." I do agree with your metrical take on "misery." I'm not sure why you would re-write Bryant's poem. It's ok, but I agree with Michael that you don't need to do a cover.
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Old 08-25-2018, 05:30 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Mary, thanks. I "rewrote" the poem because I loved the title and premise, but found his take on the woods very unsatisfying. So I wanted to imagine a more accurate answer. Accurate, of course, for myself, in keeping with Michael's citation of Blake. As the eye, so the forest.

Perhaps the first stanza is just scaffolding I used to get there, and the heart of the poem is the last two stanzas, where I've departed from Bryant. Maybe titled "wall". What do yinz think of that?
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:49 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I wouldn’t miss stanza 1, Aaron. The poem very well might be better without it, and less 19th-century sounding.

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 08-25-2018 at 06:57 AM. Reason: word missing
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Old 08-25-2018, 07:03 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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Thanks, Andrew. I put that revision up—we'll see how it goes.

The only bit of stanza 1 I really miss is:
with a strained beauty. Here, suffering is,
if not lessened, different, and that, at least, is something.


EDIT: a couple changes to the remaining text made, for the sake of meter in S1L1 and for many reasons in S2L4-5.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 08-25-2018 at 07:24 AM.
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