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Old 08-31-2018, 07:51 AM
Aaron Novick's Avatar
Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Default maundering sapphics

PaleTurquoise text

Free-Floating Clouds
for Sam Francis
Or else what? The dripping of thirty faucets
banters of irregular hours (muddled
measure of a muddled idea), perplexing,
....slowly, our clamor.

"... if you catch my drift," but, arriving too late,
after snow has piled up and life lies buried
underneath the glistening cold, well, no, I
....never do catch it,

rather find myself in the thaw, unclenching
my stiff legs and piecing myself together—
badly. Pardon me. I'm still learning how to
....retrofit data.

Now the crows have settled, like homes erected
on misgiving ground, in the trees. They've started
cawing, densely now, now in isolation,
....certain of something

which, I will admit, is most likely true, but
which I find I can't disentangle from that
which most likely isn't. For instance, this caw,
....which is—both? neither?

Wait. I'm told my methods all lack sufficient
rigor, told my efforts to date are voided,
having been engorged by the sinkhole that I
....should've seen coming.

Nothing happens, nothing is settled—nothing,
though at least we get a few metaphoric
insights, maybe. Maybe all this will make sense
....later, I promise.


Edits:
S2L3: no --> no
S4L2: trees, and --> trees. They've
S5L3: here --> caw
S6L2: that --> told

Initial S6 cut. Was:
Instantly, another event, which changes
everything and causes a traffic stoppage
in the heretofore unassuming flow, cars
....skidding on black ice.

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 09-04-2018 at 06:17 PM.
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Old 09-03-2018, 03:22 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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Aaron,

The painting this is based off is excellent. For those who don't know, here's a link to an article on Francis, the painting is on pg. 2.

I almost like this poem better if you cut it to three and rearranged it:
Now the crows have settled, like homes erected
on misgiving ground, in the trees, and started
cawing, densely now, now in isolation,
....certain of something

which, I will admit, is most likely true, but
which I find I can't disentangle from that
which most likely isn't. For instance, this here,
....which is—both? neither?

Or else what? The dripping of thirty faucets
banters of irregular hours (muddled
measure of a muddled idea), perplexing,
....slowly, our clamor.
There's some worthy stuff in the other stanzas, but I find some of them weak (S6-7). S3 I find funny, and I do enjoy the promising a maybe to end the poem, but I want the images to be centered, as they are here.
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Old 09-03-2018, 03:50 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Thanks for rescuing this one from oblivion, Andrew. Yes, the Francis is marvelous. None of the images online capture its grandeur in person. I spent a long time sitting in front it when I saw it this summer. Took a while for thenpoem to gestate, though.

I see your point about centering the images, but I am committed to the poem remaining in something like its current format. There is a logic to them that gets lost if it’s radically cut down. But I will see if I can do a better job with S6. Maybe the poem could do without it entirely, but I’m not sure. I am glad the humor came through.

I’ve changed one word in S5 for now.
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Old 09-03-2018, 04:05 PM
Andrew Szilvasy Andrew Szilvasy is offline
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No worries. I think you do enough to give the reader's what they need to find the piece, but it can't hurt to have it more accessible on the board.

I largely see the logic, and I know I'm breaking it in doing this: it's a different poem just with your words. But those were my favorite stanzas, and they do work together. As a sympathetic reader, I started zoning off midway through S2, until the crows perked me up.

Then, the "Instantly, another event" (tied to the cold above) just wasn't really cutting it for me. It almost had a "The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out / When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi" effect for me, but not in a way that ended up working.

There are other things to consider: how closely do you want to follow the sapphic stanza model? A number of these have moments that don't quite follow it, even in the good stanzas. That doesn't particularly bother me provided there's the dactyl somewhere in each line and five stresses. Even a line like "cawing, densely now, now in isolation" doesn't quite work for me since the comma and repetition means I can't really read it without there being a stress on both "now"s.
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Old 09-03-2018, 11:42 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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I'm convinced: S6 had to go. So now it's gone. I think the poem is more unified without it.

My view on Sapphics is that they are ill-served by the attitude, which I've sometimes seen, that they are so unnatural to English that they need to be followed to the letter or they'll be lost. I find their rhythm very natural, and I trust my ear to hear which variations are natural. So, for instance, I twice follow a – / / pattern to open a line instead of the usual / – /:
or else what
my stiff legs
And I think the two unstressed syllables leave a lot of room for play. In the line you highlight, I hear both "now"s as stressed (/ / –), but both are lighter than the other stressed syllables in the line, so it doesn't bother me. In the second line of the final stanza, I hear a similar secondary stress on "few" (giving / – /, or at least a dactyl that gets heavier at the end). I think such substitutions work in the (English) Sapphic stanza because, to my ear, they sound right. I don't have a deeper justification, but I don't think I need one.
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Old 09-04-2018, 10:24 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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Hi Aaron,
Sometimes you take aim with lofty, cerebral expression and other times (especially of late) you have found a more casual, thoughtful, warmer way to say what you want to say. This is the latter. But your subject matter is always of thoroughbred material.
I hadn't heard of the artist nor seen the piece of work you are writing about and so couldn't grasp much of the meaning in it. Then I googled it (thanks Andrew) and much of the poem then fell into place. Though I still am trying to put it all in context. Some lines (like the opening line) are wonderfully visual. But in the end you seem to lose interest in trying to find something to take away from it all. I don't know that "I promise" is the best way to leave the reader, though...

You are unquestionably adherent to form and intellect (for lack of a better word). All of your work starts and ends with a determined effort to be perfect in form and unquestioned in knowledge (again, not sure that's the right word). It would stand to reason, then, that you don't begin to write a poem on a subject until you've thoroughly absorbed and understand it. That's a good thing. But it is also restricts you. And that might be the thing you can take on to expand your field. Find a subject not conspicuously poem-worthy -- like the adirondack chair I'm sitting in right now --and look for the poetry in it.

Are clouds ever free-floating?
The crows feel forced into the poem, though I'll go back and look at the painting again.
"Misgiving ground" refers to sinkholes, right?
Is there such a thing as abstract poetry?
I cannot, for the life of me, understand sapphics.
x
x
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Old 09-04-2018, 11:02 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Thank you, Jim. One of the things I am learning from reading Ashbery, to my benefit I think, is how to do the intellectual warmly and casually. I'm glad that came through here.

It's interesting that I give the impression of seeking to be "unquestioned in knowledge" through my poems. From the view inside my head, my poems are my attempts to feel my way around in areas I find obscure, to discover what I don't know. This poem in particular was not premeditated: the experience of seeing the painting gestated within me for months before I finally sat down and wrote it, not because I had a vision for the poem but because, for a reason unknown to me, that day when I sat down, the words came. Still, your point about looking elsewhere than my usual places for poetic inspiration is well-taken.

Yes, the misgiving ground foreshadows the sinkhole to come, though the N, bad methodologist though he is, doesn't see it coming.

One day Sapphics will open up to you and you will feel their pull. They have a magical rhythm, and are a nice departure from ye olde iambes.
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Old 09-04-2018, 01:26 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I get a kick out of the content of this, enjoy its images and the self-deprecating tongue-in-cheekness of it.

But I’m not getting why it’s in sapphics. Not sure where you stand with this, but would you consider recasting it? To me, the form is getting you to say things that don’t quite fit, such as “cold, well, no, I” at line 7 or “how to / retrofit data” a bit lower down.

For me, sapphics creates a nostalgic or longing sense that seems out of place with the content here, which is cheeky and ironic and slackerish. The contrast, if it’s intended, doesn’t work for me.

Anyway, there’s lots of interesting stream-of-thought in this which could be better set to music, imho.

Best with it,

Andrew
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Old 09-04-2018, 02:01 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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I knew I was walking on thin ice in my attempt to characterize your writing: ) I was referring more to your robust defense of your own poems and the ambitious way you critique others. Your writing has taken on a warmer tone and most always does dig, poke, search for something.
Sapphics aside, more formal, metrical poetry is suddenly my friend. Thanks to here.

X
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Old 09-04-2018, 02:21 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Hi Aaron,

There are a lot of interesting things about this. I love the flow of images mixed with humor and philosophical injections. I also like how the poem repeats certain words, as well as the friendly and informal diction in general.

Regarding the form, I tend to I agree with Andrew F. I like Sapphics, but I propose a challenge to you. Have a go at a different form, as an experiment, and see what results. You’ll never know till you try!

On the other hand, the counterpoint between the sentences and the Sapphic lines produces a kind of complexity that seems to echo certain features of the painting.

Martin
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