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Old 03-19-2003, 06:14 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Phenomenon

This was the scar the old nurse recognized . . .
You are Odysseus! (trans. R. Fitzgerald)

Trying to prove the purity of gold,
Archimedes learned how in the bath;
his knees and shanks and soapy water told
him more than months of beakers, books and math—
specific gravity!
..........The unintended
gurgles up on you, surfacing where
you’re wringing out a sponge, your search suspended
for the nonce. Did anyone prepare
old Eurykleia? No; the basin rang
a high bronze peal, curvetting to the floor
amazed, and up the startled water sprang.
The thing you want discovers you when you’re
washing a thigh, and the phenomenon’s
a shock—a sudden flood—a clang of bronze.
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Old 03-19-2003, 09:07 AM
Roger Slater Roger Slater is offline
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Since the publication of this poem was recently announced on Erato, along with a link to the webpage of the prestigious journal in which it appears, many of us will already know who wrote it.

As displayed on the journal's webpage, there are no dots before "The unintended." The ordinary line 5 is simply broken up into two left-flush shorter lines. I don't know if the poet prefers the line to be indented, and I haven't yet seen the print version, but it worked for me just fine without the indent. It could be that the people who laid out the journal's website tried for an indent and failed. A small point, perhaps, but worth clarifying.

The sonnet itself is quite wonderful. I love the natural yet fancy rhyme of the couplet, gimmicky without being funny or deflating.
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Old 03-19-2003, 09:31 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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That was my clumsy attempt to indent. Yes, this is a wonderful sonnet, and just when you think it can't get any better, you get the couplet, one of the best off rhymes I ever saw!
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Old 03-19-2003, 09:24 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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This poem would be a good antidote for the tendency, rampant among so many poets, to deal with ideas through abstractions and simply "put them out there" for the reader. This one is full of things, and the things do all the work: knees, shanks, soap, sponge, noisy basins and what they do, conveyed in quirky verbs, constitute the poem, which is the idea! Intelligent, funny, and persuasive.

Tim, why do you consider the final couplet an instance of "off rhyme"? Sounds like perfect rhyme to me. An imperfect rhyme would have been a weakness in the closing couplet of such a precisely executed poem.
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Old 03-20-2003, 01:59 PM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Sorry, Rhina. And Author. To me the "phenomenon's" last vowel is a schwa, and very unlike the "clang of bronze." I grant of course, that it is a very NEAR rhyme.
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Old 04-07-2003, 10:50 AM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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To go by the book, here's what Webster's says about the pronunciation of "phenomenon": the second syllable gets the primary stress, the final syllable the secondary stress and the final vowel is an "o" (Tim, perhaps yours is the Midwestern vowel).

A sonnet about epiphanies in baths is an exquisite idea that piques my curiosity as to whether Deborah began it in the bath. The liquidity of thought is echoed in the enjambment between octet and sestet, and the effect of a question there is marvelous in this.

Much admiration for this subtle playfulness:

"months of beakers, books and math—
specific gravity!"

(which I don't even understand, i.e. the final phrase, as it must have a technical connotation) and to follow that with

"The unintended
gurgles up on you, surfacing where
you’re wringing out a sponge, your search suspended"

focuses all and gathers momentum brilliantly. Brava for Deborah's notion then to bring in not just Eurykleia but the fact she was unprepared. This is an essential strand of creativity: to find in an ancient image the one characteristic needed for the poem in spite of the fact it is a previously unrecognized characteristic of the image. Bingo! And then the sheer sound and metaphor take off, become more musical and onomatopoeic:

old Eurykleia? No; the basin rang
a high bronze peal, curvetting to the floor
amazed, and up the startled water sprang.

This is sensuous yet light and airy, and startles me with its synesthesia and beauty. The couplet playfully follows through (playful because of the inclusion of the simple "thigh"), but those three lines emit waves of pleasure.

The juxtaposition in one sonnet of such words as "gold," "sponge," "clang," "soapy," "Archimedes," and "bronze": uniquely Deborah's, uniquely trenchant.

Terese



[This message has been edited by Terese Coe (edited April 07, 2003).]
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Old 04-07-2003, 02:45 PM
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FOsen FOsen is offline
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I agree with Terese - the plural "phenomena" would be a schwa, the singular is right on. Also, thanks for updating the thread because this is wonderful. My one question (which if space permitted would come only after a few pages of gushing)- I loved the curvetting, the startled water - but the amazed basin(?) I find the sound-sense of the couplet wonderful.

Frank
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Old 04-07-2003, 03:29 PM
Terese Coe Terese Coe is offline
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It's the peal that is amazed, not the basin!

T.
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Old 04-07-2003, 08:36 PM
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FOsen FOsen is offline
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Oh. As Emily Litella used to say . . . .
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