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Old 09-01-2018, 04:40 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default Glass

"Glass" is the Manx word for both green and grey

Shades of green and grey. We have one word
for both, suggesting either colour-blindness
of an unassuming nature - not the sort
that blackens skies and paints the cornfield red -
or a mild disinclination to distinguish
between two cats of a similar complexion.

Was it the world turned down a notch or two,
simmering over a moderate heat without
rightly coming to the boil, or did they view
the landscape differently, through eyes
attuned to all the subtle interplay
of glorious greens and polychromatic greys?
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Old 09-01-2018, 06:44 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi David,

That's an interesting fact worthy of a poem. I like the idea here.

An issue I have with the execution is the logic of it. S1 tells us that the existence of the word "glass" suggests two possible explanations. But then S2 seems to contradict S1 by offering what seems to me to be a third and different possibility suggested by existence of that word. So, S2's "the world turned down a notch or two" potentially covers both of S1's explanations: unassuming colour-blindness and a mild disinclination to distinguish. Maybe I'm missing something, but "eyes / attuned to all the subtle interplay / of glorious greens and polychromatic greys" struck me as different from either of these.

I do like the cats line, but it did also have me wondering how often one would be called upon to distinguish a green cat from a grey one in the first place.

In S2L5, "the subtle interplay" is abstract and also rather familiar combination of words. I wonder if you can find something fresher or less abstract to go here?

It struck me that S1L1 could be "a single word" instead of "we have one word". I think perhaps it emphasises the existence of a single word more strongly. We already know the "we have" from the epigraph. Plus "single" picks up on the sibilance of "shades"

On the metre: S2L3 "RIGHTly COMing TO the BOIL, or DID they VIEW" is hex and S2L4 "the LANDscape DIFFerentLY, through EYES" is tet.


best,

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 09-01-2018 at 07:07 AM.
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Old 09-01-2018, 12:31 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thanks Matt.

I didn't mean to suggest, in S1, that there are only two possible explanations for the phenomenon, but I see - with your help - that the "either ... or" construction does imply that. So I'll have to think about that.

The cats line is a reference to the saying "all cats are grey in the dark", which I thought was vaguely apposite. (Actually I thought the saying was "all cats are black in the dark", so it's even more apposite than I thought.)

Yes, you're right about "subtle interplay". That's lazy. Will think on.

I think "We have one word" is what I want, as it's important and interesting - in my view - what we have that others don't (and vice versa). "We", for instance, don't have an indefinite article, whereas I discovered recently that Swedish doesn't have a definite article (or, rather, it is embedded in the noun itself).

I agree with you about the metre. Hex + tet = 2 x pent, though? I might rearrange that accordingly.

Thank you very much for your helpful comments.

Cheers

David
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Old 09-01-2018, 12:56 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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David,

Would it work to simply change "either" to "perhaps"? "Perhaps" seems a lot more open-ended.

Shades of green and grey. We have one word
for both, suggesting, perhaps, colour-blindness
of an unassuming nature - not the sort
that blackens skies and paints the cornfield red -
or a mild disinclination to distinguish
between two cats of a similar complexion.

-Matt
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Old 09-01-2018, 02:06 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Yes! I think that would work pretty well, Matt. Thank you! (I'll put it in the mixer. Or, as they say on the terraces on a Saturday afternoon - just to be old-fashioned for a moment - in the mix-ah.)

Cheers

David
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Old 09-02-2018, 03:33 AM
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Ann Drysdale Ann Drysdale is online now
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I speak from Wales, where the word is "glas". I worrited about the lack of specificity a lot till I came to an accommodation with it. Who says the two are incompatible? Certainly not the sea - I asked it once.

You have captured its perceived imperfection perfectly, subject to a little gentle smoothing, along the lines Matt suggests.
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Old 09-02-2018, 11:33 PM
John Jeffrey John Jeffrey is offline
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This post is too damn long. I know and I apologize. I really only have a few points of comment, but I wanted to clarify them because I think the poem takes off when you start to muse on the why of a single word with multiple related meanings. I stumble, though, getting to the point where I can join you in the flight.

— Is the first line, "'Glass' is the Manx word for both green and grey" just a bit of information for us Eratosphere readers or is it an epigraph? Because if it's just for us, then there's not enough information in the poem to clarify that the title is a Manx word; also, for most readers, the title conjures up an immediate and completely different image and so starts the poem on the wrong foot. And if it’s an epigraph, then the first line of the poem is mere repetition.

— Like Matt, I, too, thought of the phrase, "A single word," in place of "We have one word" in S1L1, though I understand your reasoning for preferring your choice. Still, that leads to a problem of emphasis, since the line’s iambic rhythm actually de-emphasizes the word "one." That’s a problem because, in this context, it's the central word: "We have ONE word for both [green and gray]". This is the crux, the point of liftoff for the poem, but in the current construction, it's forced into an unstressed position (or else the pentameter is off).

— Speaking of the current construction, shouldn't it be "Shades of green or grey" to kick things off? Aren't you musing on the fact that the one word defines two different things—green OR gray—not that it defines one thing that has shades of green AND gray, like an iguana's skin. (I realize this is one of those writer-type points that are based mostly on "feel.")

— Complexion refers to skin. Are you talking about the cat's skin or their coats?

— "Was it the world turned down a notch or two,/simmering over a moderate heat without/rightly coming to the boil…." I like this line! Though I'd like it much better as "coming to a boil." Using "the boil" always makes me pause and wonder: "THE boil? I wonder what boil he’s talking about?"

— And, again, I’m with Matt regarding the line "or did they view/the landscape differently, through eyes/attuned to all the subtle interplay…?" It a good line, but it makes me think, if they really were that attuned, wouldn't they have come up with multiple words to describe all the subtle interplay? The fact that they came up with just a single word implies that they ignored or never saw the subtlety and just lumped all that interplay into one.

— S1 uses "We" and S2 uses "they," which creates a sharp distinction. I think I know what you’re intending—"they" are ancestors, the “they” who created the language. It's a bit too much of a distinction for me, though. “They” feels too impersonal, as if they are not your ancestors. Even just using "you" would soften it up for me, as if you are speaking directly to the elders.

In all, I quite like the idea of the poem, though some tweaking would really improve the execution. I actually think a bit more would improve it, some further information or reflection about the history, the place, the language, more musings on the possible reasons. etc. I’m not sure, but perhaps something that smoothly and poetically incorporates the information in the epigraph into the poem.

Regards,

— John J
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Old 09-04-2018, 11:17 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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David, I find it hard to enter into this one. I think the single word for two colors that English, the language of the poem, distinguishes, is a worthy poetic subject. But the poem's central conceit, of explaining why there's just the one word, leaves me cold. I'd rather see something that uses the non-distinction and makes the case for it that way, rather than treating it abstractly. I do like a lot of the imagery you have here, but the poem as a whole doesn't satisfy me.
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Old 09-04-2018, 12:40 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I’ve had a similar reaction to Aaron’s, David. The poem is well written enough, but it feels a bit like “the world turned down a notch or two”--too lukewarm or noncommittal for it to draw me in. I’ve often liked your poems but this one leaves me shrugging. I think it's important to say more than "I like it" or "I don't like it," so to add something about the why of my reaction, I'd say it's because the content feels inconsequential and blasé.

I shrug about my own quite often as well, so no offense intended. Actually, I hope there's something useful to you in these comments.

Best,

Andrew

Last edited by Andrew Frisardi; 09-04-2018 at 01:03 PM. Reason: wording
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Old 09-05-2018, 01:01 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Thank you, all - Matt, Ann, John, Aaron and Andrew. You've made me doubt - not the central premise of the poem, but what I've done with it. I shall go away and read some Michael Longley, in hope that it enables me to do better.

I'll let you know if it does.

Cheers

David
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