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  #11  
Old 09-04-2018, 06:16 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Jim, my reply wasn't meant as a critique—I think it's interesting how different my internal experience is from the image I convey. (Not just in this regard, either.) And you are onto something about by writing: I am chasing a sort of perfection—chasing, not finding.

Andrew, Martin, thanks for stopping by. The suggestion to try something other than Sapphics for this is interesting. Right now when I think about it I feel completely lost: for me the poem feels perfectly at home in Sapphics. But I'm going to sit on your comments and see if inspiration might strike another day.

I'm not sure I could really justify my choice of Sapphics for this poem. If I had to try I suppose I'd say that I find the form very natural (and pleasing) in English, nearly as natural as iambic pentameter. And so I find the form available to be used to whatever end, just as IP is. I don't associate Sapphics with longing or nostalgia specifically (though, for what it's worth, I think this poem has a hefty dose of longing accompanying its cheek).

I've made two small changes. One is in S2, in the part Andrew highlighted. I find that part works really well when read aloud, and I've tried to use emphasis to convey how I want it read. The other is in S4, where I changed a transition that was bugging me.
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  #12  
Old 09-06-2018, 08:44 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Personally, I find Sapphics exceptionally hard too write. I like what you've handled here. I like the variations. I think if you explored a little further, not that this poem needs it, just in general, you might find a whole new form "American Sapphics". Poets are always bending, breaking, adapting to the language in which they work. Just thinking.
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  #13  
Old 09-06-2018, 11:23 AM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Aaron, after reading this again, I noticed that S2, L1 and L2 seem to diverge slightly from the sapphic rhythm.

“if you catch my drift, but arriving too late” could be heard as tetrameter

if you CATCH my DRIFT, but arRIVing too LATE

or, if you accent “if” then

IF you CATCH my DRIFT, but arRIVing too LATE

Either way, the last foot seems to want an accent on “late,” so it sounds more like an iamb than a trochee.

In the next line I hear the dactyl on the second foot instead of the customary third. I tend to accent “up.”

AFter SNOW has piled UP and LIFE has BURied

I do hear longing sprinkled amid the chutzpah. And I love the flow of seemingly random images that snake their way through the poem. Who says sapphics should be used only for certain types of moods? Not me! My earlier suggestion to try a different form was only because this is a workshop, and it never hurts to try things.
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  #14  
Old 09-06-2018, 02:13 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Daniel, thanks. I'm still getting a feel for sapphics, but as I do I'll undoubtedly start experimenting with it. (That's my usual progression with any form: start out trying to adhere fairly rigidly, then experiment once I've gotten comfortable.) Who knows, maybe an "American sapphic" will be the result one day.

Martin, thanks for coming back. I can see why you scan both lines in the way you do, but I chalk it up to individual differences and the notorious subjectivity of scansion. I definitely promote "if", and I hear "too late" as a spondee, which is one of the standardly tolerated substitutions at the end of a Sapphic line. For the second line, I stress "piled" and not "up" naturally. Thus, as I read the poem, they fit the meter perfectly.

But here's a question: when you read them and they deviate from it, does that bother you, sonically? Both of the variations (the ending iamb, and the alternate position of the dactyl) are variations that I suspect the sapphic form will tolerate, though I haven't yet played with either of them. So I'm curious how they sound, to you.
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Old 09-06-2018, 08:44 PM
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Mary Meriam Mary Meriam is offline
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Aaron, this is the ultimate self-referential poem. Here you describe your efforts in sapphics:

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.

though at least we get a few metaphoric
insights, maybe. Maybe all this will make sense
....later, I promise.


But this part is brilliant:

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



(PS: congrats on your post-doc and defending your dissertation!!)
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Old 09-06-2018, 10:30 PM
Erik Olson Erik Olson is offline
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Aaron,

There is much of this that leaves me with a shrug or makes me scratch my head. However, the imagery in the middle part is excellent. It is strange to me thus how I can be so completely uninterested in the rest yet compelled by the middle.

I am, nine times of ten, not so keen on these sort of non-sequiturs or snippets of dialog that seem to be a recurring feature in much of your work, such as starting the poem with:
Or else what?
It puzzles me but not in a way that I find advantageous, just weird. I know not what came before. Further, I am hard pressed to fathom what advantage could be aimed for by such. What it surely does do for me is afford a surface of singularity or weirdness while obscuring the sense of the disconnected turns in a dialog out of context. An air of the experimental is about all I can think. Just to speak my reaction unvarnished. I am not keen on much of this in consequence of what I just described, yet this part I find quite good indeed.
"... If you catch my drift." But, arriving late
after snow has piled up and life lies buried
underneath the glistening cold [sheets/frost/burr/freeze?], 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.
Although retrofit data sounds rather like dry technical verbiage, say, like what I would expect of a stale Statistics textbook. The bits I was less keen on are obviously those marked. They are more or less the interjections, the humming-and-hawing, and backpedaling tones that lurch rather too abruptly to a sound of casual apathy as if timid of letting would-be passionate images take their full emotional force and investment. What I thought, anyway. This is great find myself in the thaw, unclenching/ my stiff legs and piecing myself together. It reminds me a little of how Yeats described an aged man as A tattered coat upon a stick.

Cheers,

Erik

Last edited by Erik Olson; 09-07-2018 at 12:55 AM.
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  #17  
Old 09-06-2018, 10:45 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Mary, Erik, thanks.

Mary, I agree that the poem is self-referential: it performs what it describes, and performs it in part by describing it. I'm less inclined to take that as a criticism than I think you want me to, but I'm grateful that you've shown me what works for you and what doesn't here.

Erik, the same goes for you: I completely understand your complaints and recognize why you have them, but they don't make me dissatisfied with the poem as it stands. I hope you will continue to give me your "reaction unvarnished"—that's what makes this place valuable.

Mary, thanks for the congratulations. : )
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  #18  
Old 09-06-2018, 11:52 PM
Martin Elster Martin Elster is offline
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Quote:
But here's a question: when you read them and they deviate from it, does that bother you, sonically? Both of the variations (the ending iamb, and the alternate position of the dactyl) are variations that I suspect the sapphic form will tolerate, though I haven't yet played with either of them. So I'm curious how they sound, to you.
I don’t mind the slight divergences (if they really are divergences due to pronuncation). I’ve seen sapphics by well-known poets that don’t adhere strictly to the meter. In fact some even diverge quite a lot. (William Meredith noticeably. Marylin Hacker just a little. Timothy Steele quite a lot.)

On the other hand, in Measure for Measure the editors say

“Unlike all the other metrical patterns in this book so far, which can be changed through substitutions or expressive variations without destroying the basic meter, this particular pattern of trochees and dactyls is the definition of the Sapphic stanza.”

But then they contradict themselves with the examples in the book, many of which do not adhere strictly to the pattern. Some lines have the dactyl in the wrong place. Others start with an iamb, etc. I guess you could call it license.

So, it’s your choice as to how much license you want to use.
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