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  #1  
Unread 01-23-2021, 05:10 PM
Andrew Mandelbaum's Avatar
Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Subnivean


Last night standing at the door
I saw the messiah, a boy still at home
in his body, celebrating the company of his breath
as he coaxed it out into the cold.

He lay on winter ground just
beyond the reach
of the smoldering burnpile
ear pressed to a soup can
pressed to the snowpack.

Beneath the drifts he knew of dark passages
full of the little people
keeping faith through the night
witches of the world where warmth
awaits its return to the winds.

In the metal his receiver he heard
the cadence of jumping mouse
and vole song.
The angel that boys kill here
to become men was watching
had offered to translate
the music into word.

Veil over us, you saltless sea
one season long.
Quiet our footscrape
in owl’s ears,
scrub our scent
from coyote’s path,
slow our fitting for the under
for today we would taste
the curve of the passage,
the crossing together
and a biting through ropes that bind.

The boy stood and bowed his head to the maple.
Ten times round, under the stars
crisp with the cold
the boy marched, repeating the words
braiding them into the holdfast
of his stir and dream.
He pinched a bit of moonwort
from the safety in his pocket and dusted the snow
to unlock the doors and unshoe any horses
that might trample the tunnels.

As the cold made its way through his damp clothes
he turned to come inside.
In the doorway he lingered and found cheer
in who he had just become.
Maybe he had bought the world another day.
Last night standing at the door.

Subnivean

From beneath the boy’s pillow
one night mid-winter
Mouse came and gnawed through
the holdfast of his heart.
Set loose from the semblance of himself
he followed her across
the creakboard floor
through the doorway, over
the threshold and down
into the tunnels between
the snowpack and the black earth
to the world where warm waited
a return to the winds.

Witch of this warmth, Mouse smiled
as the boy bowed his head to pass.
She stood on her hind legs,
and laughed aloud when, giving in,
he placed his palms into fall’s final grass
and refound his fours. She took him
to where the sheltering drifts grew thin
and moonlight made the ceiling
a baudekin aglow. To that light she spoke:

Veil over us, you saltless sea
one season long,
quiet our footscrape
in owl’s ears,
scrub our scent
from coyote’s path,
stay our fit for the under
to which we must go
for today we would taste
the curve of the passage,
the crossing together
and the biting through ropes that bind.

A shadow passed overhead.
Mouse froze and looked over her shoulder;
the boy froze and looked over his.
Forgetting fear at the sight
the tail that trailed feral from his form
Their sky brightened and Mouse smiled again and the boy smiled back.
He thought of the changeling
left in his place and hoped
whatever he left would find some happiness
in a place without
He himself, he hoped, would never wish to turn back.

Last edited by Andrew Mandelbaum; 03-25-2021 at 06:57 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 01-28-2021, 01:19 PM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

First, thank-you for introducing me to a new word; ‘subnivean’ is lovely.

I enjoy a great deal of this, but I think there’s room to trim - it’s a little overly descriptive and at points this reads a little as if you’re belabouring the point. For example, I wonder if whether,’ between/the snowpack and the black earth’ might be a stronger way of ending S1?

I read the alliterative verse patterns in here, but am not enough expert in alliterative forms to know how they work in terms of that landscape, so can offer only how well they work for me subjectively. I recognise that this isn’t the bob and wheel, though, so think you’re using this as a technique to evoke a feeling of oral tradition/ folk knowledge somehow.

I like some of this, but in other patches it glares a little (reads a bit SFX). I like ‘holdfast of his heart’ but I think it loses me a little in S3’s ‘saltless sea/season’, which again repeats the idea of subnivean. S3 and the last two lines of S2 read to me a little redundant in terms of progressing the poem. They are charming, however, but I get the sense you want to evoke more than charm in this writing.

I enjoy S4 although I think ‘tail that trailed feral from his form’ is a little bit of a mouthful of alliteration - a bit SFX. I’d consider ending on ‘back’ if this is to be read as a discrete poem although I understand that it might be part of a wider narrative. Alone, however, the changeling loses me.

I enjoy very much the central idea, the half-imagined dreamlike quality to the poem, and some of the alliteration. I’m enjoying the avatar/boy idea the more of these I read, and I enjoy how in each one of them I’ve read so far there is a hidden/hinted at darkness/predatory aspect (in this one, the shadow).

Sarah-Jane
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  #3  
Unread 01-28-2021, 04:40 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Thanks Sarah-Jane. I usually post things that are further along than this but I just got stuck on it and needed some other voices to jump in. It does need a great deal of shift still. There is a major missing element that I can feel but not find yet. This crit will be helpful during revision. Thanks.

Last edited by Andrew Mandelbaum; 01-28-2021 at 04:42 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 01-28-2021, 06:46 PM
Sergio F Lima Sergio F Lima is offline
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Andrew:

Strictly speaking, mice do not have a shoulder. The clavicle articulates directly with the scapula due to the absence of the humerus (upper arm bone). It is the absent humerus that allows a rat to squeeze through the diameter of a small coin.

In poetry horses fly, but absurdities such as this are considered poetic license, and therefore acceptable. But we should be careful not to offend scientific knowledge, in this case, rat anatomy.

I know I am throwing a fit for nothing, so let me get to the poem itself. There is a detectable element of cuteness, a big spoiler when it comes to serious writing. The mouse spends a lot of time smiling, even when circumstances call for a bit of caution. It laughs aloud, as if there was such a thing as silent laughter ( is there?).

The child leaves a semblance of himself behind because for whatever reason the mouse gnawed on his heart's anchoring. That would instantly kill anybody, so we must assume the boy has died and it is his ghost who is now frolicking around with a female mouse.

I should stop. I am being mean and unkind, but really, this is well bellow your unquestionable talent.

Please forgive me, and let stay friends.

Regards:

S
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  #5  
Unread 01-28-2021, 07:19 PM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Hi Sergio.
I don't know where I am going with this yet but I don't hold to some of your rules here. I think certain types of mouse-ness may be compatible with shoulders despite the expectations of standard rodent anantomy. Yet some of what you find weak I was frustrated with as well. Other points not so much but it doesn't bother me that you stand by your own taste. I only feel defensive of poems that have fully come into being. This one hasn't yet so I am fairly unattached. Feel free to be as critical as you like. I will say that there are world's where the severing of a heart's s holdfast does not always result in death. I promise. This is helpful. Thanks.
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  #6  
Unread 01-29-2021, 05:06 AM
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Andrew Mandelbaum Andrew Mandelbaum is offline
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Sarah-Jane,
Subnivean is a cool word/place. It was new to me too (from Heinrich's book Winter World) and I now see that this was just an exercise playing around with the word and my dead end on this was because, aside from the word/place there is nothing here yet. I am going to let this draft go completely and take some time with this place. No need for anymore comments on this. It isn't more than a prompt that I wasn't able to find a poem in. Thanks.
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  #7  
Unread 01-29-2021, 05:14 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi Andrew,

As always I find lots to like, and enjoy the magical-mythical feeling here. There are some great phrases and moments in the poem. Among others, I really like "Set loose from the semblance of himself", "refound his fours", and the boy surprised to find he has a tail. I got a bit lost in the final S -- largely I think because of missing/inconsistent punctuation.

S1

I'm not sure if the opening is intended to read:

"From beneath the boy’s pillow one night, mid-winter Mouse came ...", or
"From beneath the boy’s pillow one night mid-winter, Mouse came ..."

I also got bit confused because Mouse's gender isn't initially revealed, and three references which could refer to either boy or mouse ("his", "himself", "he") before I get to "her", and I realize that Mouse is female.

S2

L4: I don't think you need "aloud", I'd say "laugh" on its own implies it's out loud, and to me "laughed aloud" has a slightly "stock phrase" feel.

L6: Maybe "she led him" for "she took him"? It seems to me to have more image to it.

L9: I like the image of "baudekin aglow" now that I've googled "baudekin". I wonder if the word isn't a little too specialised (my spellchecker's also never heard of it) given the simplicity of the language / word choices in the rest of the poem. It stood out a bit for me anyway.

S3

L4 "in owl's ears" seems like it should be "in owls' ears" if you mean "in the ears of owls". Or if there's one owl called "Owl" (like the mouse is called "Mouse") then I'd go with a capital letter.

L7 I don't really understand "stay our fit for the under to which we must go". I think something like: we fit the under (the under-the-snow), and we want to keep that fitness? But I'm not sure. I get a sense also that the "under" might death (the underworld -- to which we ultimately must go), so I could read "stay" as "keep away" (our fitness for death).

L8 I'd say there's a comma or something missing after "go", unless you do want "to which we must go for today"

S4

Here:

Forgetting fear at the sight
the tail that trailed feral from his form
Their sky brightened and Mouse smiled again and the boy smiled back.


Because there's a capital letter and no full stop, I'm not sure if this is two sentences or one. If it's two sentences, the first (L1&2) is a fragment, and seems like may it should be joined to the preceding sentence. ("... the book looked over his, forgetting fear at the sight ...). If it's one sentnece, the shift from "his" to "their" seems odd. Unless, maybe, they're both surprised to see the tail?

Also, is there an "of" missing from the second line?

I have a similar issue with the closing line. Is it a sentence on its own, or joined to what precedes?

He thought of the changeling
left in his place and hoped
whatever he left would find some happiness
in a place without
He himself, he hoped, would never wish to turn back.


And/or is there maybe a word missing after "without"?

I also wonder who "he" referred to in "whatever he left", as the changeling is male, and what "whatever he left" refers to. I think it might refer to the changeling, but with "whatever" it reads like an object rather than a person. And if "he" is the boy, it doesn't seem to me like he actively left the changeling there (i.e. provided it and placed it in his bed). Though "left behind" would make more sense to me

best, Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 01-29-2021 at 05:56 AM.
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  #8  
Unread 01-29-2021, 10:00 AM
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Jane Crowson Jane Crowson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Mandelbaum View Post
Sarah-Jane,
I am going to let this draft go completely and take some time with this place.
That makes sense. I hope you return to it, though, in future. Even in early draft form, it reads as if it could develop into something lovely.

Sarah-Jane
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  #9  
Unread 01-29-2021, 10:14 AM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Mandelbaum View Post
I am going to let this draft go completely and take some time with this place. No need for anymore comments on this. It isn't more than a prompt that I wasn't able to find a poem in.
Darn, I should have read that first before I wrote a long crit focussing on the small stuff.

Still, I reckon there's a lot of really good stuff here. The whole subnivean setup, the boy's transformation into beast -- and how he comes to notice it, the idea of leaving a changing behind, and so on. I hope you don't lose too much of it.

Matt
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Unread 01-29-2021, 11:14 AM
Sergio F Lima Sergio F Lima is offline
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Andrew:

I am happy others liked you poem. Again, I apologize for being rude and unhelpful. My comments were meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but they came out as tasteless as a witch's brew. Your elegant reply shows your high degree of maturity, and that you are able withstand harshness without letting yourself being provoked by it. I thought about PM you, but then I decided I owed you a public apology.
Admiringly:
S
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