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Old 08-29-2018, 01:20 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Default Sympathies

Revision 2

Powder of Sympathy

There is a man
sitting on a packed
train like a drop of oil
in water. Two seats
on either side stare blankly out.
You stand and imagine
the story of his isolation.

In the Tuscan hills a Carmelite monk
ground and mixed green vitriol with sea.

The king’s gangrenous gashes stunk,
but wholly healed by the dust, supposedly.

Then with boats and bleeding dogs, others pursued
powder-based solutions to longitude.

Train doors open and a woman,
twenty-ish, hair with a streak
of purple, left forearm
tattooed with a compass rose,
boards. You start imagining
where her life went wrong,
but before your boring story
even gets going she sits
next to the man
and they begin to talk.


Revision 1

Powder of Sympathy


There is a man
sitting on a packed
train like a drop of oil
in water. Two seats
on either side call for you,
but you stand and imagine
the story of his isolation.

Your mind meanders off now to that monk
who ground and mixed green vitriol with sea:

The king’s gangrenous gashes stunk,
but wholly healed by the dust, supposedly.

Then with boats and bleeding dogs, some pursued
powder-based solutions to longitude…

Train doors open and a woman,
twenty-ish, hair with a streak
of purple, left forearm
tattooed with a compass rose,
boards. You start imagining
where her life went wrong,
but before your boring climax
she sits next to the man
and they begin to talk.

Original

Powder of Sympathy

There is a man
sitting on a packed
train like a drop of oil
in water. Two seats
on either side call for you,
but you stand and imagine
the story of his isolation.

But now you’re on to a Carmelite monk grinding
green vitriol, mingling it with water, heating it
in the sun. They say he cured a king’s gangrene

dipping the bandages in this powder. They even
tried to solve longitude: wound a dog, ship him off,
pour the powder, coordinate the yelps.

Two stops later a woman,
twenty-ish, hair with a streak
of purple, left forearm
tattooed with a compass rose,
boards. You start imagining
where her life went wrong,
but before your boring climax
she sits next to the man
and they begin to talk.

So now a host of stories crowd your head:
each full of faux oraculous outpourings,
each a brick baked for your sepulcher.

***

S4L7: but before the clichés

Original Final Stanza

So now new stories crowd your head,
full of faux oraculous outpourings,
each a brick in your sepulcher.

Last edited by Andrew Szilvasy; 09-01-2018 at 08:34 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-30-2018, 08:32 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I love the first stanza, Andrew. And really like the fourth. Except I might avoid the word cliche and instead put something there that essentially means/does the same thing. I'm still thinking about the rest. Oh, and like the title too. I might consider the title (which I googled) and the two stanzas I referenced a good, nearly completed poem. My initial thoughts and might be back.

JB
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  #3  
Old 08-30-2018, 06:30 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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James,

Thanks for your thoughts. I'm wondering about the last stanza. Is it necessary, or too much? I like it, but I wonder if it's grasping after an ending too much.

I sort of see the middle two stanzas as necessary for a bunch of reasons, though they may need to be pared down or tweaked.
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  #4  
Old 08-30-2018, 07:20 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Andrew,

I think the poem here is S1 and S4, both of which I liked a lot.

The various places the N's thoughts take him in S2 and S3 don't really add all that much for me. I think it's enough to know that the N imagines the story of the man's isolation, without giving us those imaginings. Perhaps it would be different if the substance of those imaginings tied in with or played off of -- either in content or imagery -- what follows, but they don't as far as I can see. S2&3 and could be exchanged for any far-fetched story and the poem would be essentially unchanged.

If you keep S2&3, I'd certainly still lose the last stanza. That they start to talk to each other, as opposed to speculate about each other as the N does, seems to be the ending to me. S5 doesn't add anything that I can see.

So, I'd say consider just going with this:

There is a man
sitting on a packed
train like a drop of oil
in water. Two seats
on either side call for you,
but you stand and imagine
the story of his isolation.

Two stops later a woman,
twenty-ish, hair with a streak
of purple, left forearm
tattooed with a compass rose,
boards. You start imagining
where her life went wrong,
but before your boring climax
she sits next to the man
and they begin to talk.


Though I wonder about "but before your boring climax". In part, I think, because the N wouldn't have much time to spin a tale between her getting on and sitting down, so I don't expect the climax to be reached in this time. Could be more along the lines of he's barely started rather than he hasn't finished yet? In part, perhaps, it's also the word "boring", which is a bit "telly". If the idea is to contrast the boring speculation with the more engaging conversation, I think the poem does that anyway.

If you keep S2/3 you have two consecutive "They"s that refer, if I read it right, to unrelated groups of people: "They say ... They even". It confused me for a moment so that I had to reread and it took me out of the poem.

best

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 08-30-2018 at 07:54 PM.
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  #5  
Old 08-31-2018, 02:27 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Hi Matt,

Thanks for your thoughts here. I took you advice and axed the last bit. I like a lot of it but you're right that it probably is too on the nose, and doesn't really add.

I also edited the middle section. It was important to me that there was a distinction between the scenes that are in the character's head and those that are in the present world; I edited it from loose iambics to stricter ones with rhyme.
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  #6  
Old 08-31-2018, 03:10 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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Your mind meanders off, etc, are stage directions. The idea of drifting off in transit is fine, I like it. But maybe work on the transition, or dump it. Honestly, I have no idea what's going on in those other stanzas, especially the close. I know you've thought this out, but it doesn't connect, for me, as it sits.

Last edited by James Brancheau; 08-31-2018 at 03:42 PM. Reason: Meanders from wanders
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  #7  
Old 08-31-2018, 07:07 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is online now
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Hey Andrew,
As James said, This struggles to escape the stage direction jargon.
The first stanza is where I am most involved. The isolation of the stranger. The "Like a drop of oil in water" image of isolation is powerful.

I realize what you are doing in stanzas 2/3 but am more interested in the man and woman. My sense is, as the poem comes to an end and the two engage in conversation, that you (the N) are now the one that is in isolation. I like that. It's happened to me before as I people-watch and imagine...

But the poem seems to depend on the transitional stanzas (2/3) where the N's thoughts wander and I am struggling to figure out what's going on... I haven't google the title yet, but I will : )
x
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  #8  
Old 09-01-2018, 04:25 AM
David Callin David Callin is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Q View Post
Hi Andrew,

I think the poem here is S1 and S4, both of which I liked a lot.
Exactly. But there's a lot in what you've removed - and in the middle six lines, which you should remove - that I'd like to read in a wholly different poem.

I like the first simile a lot. I don't like "call for you" for the seats - that doesn't seem quite right. And I seriously question the use of "climax".

But it's a good piece (albeit one still in need of further shortening).

Cheers

David
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Old 09-01-2018, 05:23 AM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I should have been able to put together what you're doing with those middle stanzas, given the title (which is just great). I'm still thrown by the fourth stanza (of the revision) though. I am, however, becoming convinced that you can keep them. Instead of saying your mind is meandering, why not just do it, you know? Maybe, maybe put them in italics, I dunno. But just go right into the daydreaming episode (or whatever you what to call it). For sure the climax part needs to be addressed. But I'm liking this, and the idea, more and more.

Last edited by James Brancheau; 09-01-2018 at 05:26 AM.
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Old 09-01-2018, 06:02 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Andrew,

For what it's worth, I don't see how the revision to the middle stanzas has made a difference.

In the original, these lines show us what the poem has already told us -- that he imagines stories of the man's isolation -- but the lines don't move the poem forward in any way that I can see. In the revision, these thoughts are no longer connected to imagined stories of isolation, the mind merely meanders. So, he has has some random thoughts. Again, how do these stanzas advance the poem? Or, if you want to say his thoughts are meandering, if this is what's relevant here, do you need to give us six lines of his random thoughts to show this?

So, I'm interested, what, for you, does the poem lose if you cut these middle stanzas?

best,
Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-01-2018 at 06:11 AM.
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