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:: Sunday, September 28, 2003 ::

I am so sorry that I'm only now making a reply to your generous and, as usual, right on-target comments. I have not been, as you might have imagined, brooding morosely over your comments,wondering why you don't sprinkle me with nuttin' but praise. No brooder, I.

In fact, I've been out of town the better part of the past week seeing cool stuff and wishing I had more money and less work to do. But I digress.

OK, yes, as I said, great comments, and you put your respective fingers on problems I had either worried over or simply hadn't been able to articulate yet, so this is great for me (and it is all about me, right?). I'm going to keep up with this one, and maybe later in the semester I'll repost the revision and see what y'all think.

Onward. Sean, I really like this piece you've posted. I love the dramatic situation, and I love the mythic tone it takes on without going all whimsical and surrealistic--I don't know a better way to say it, but it's mythic and muscular in that same way Heaney's Beowulf is (I do, of course, realize that you're talking about real history here, but it's hard not to take on the mythic when you're awash in this kind of subject matter). The title, however, might be a tad too much in the other direction. It doesn't, somehow, seem quite right for this poem, perhaps suggesting something lighter and less real than what you give the reader. Even something simple like "Silent Marble" might work better, but maybe Paul can give us some suggestions (or maybe he'll tell me to fuck myself; either is good).

As far as other "global" comments go, I would only say that there's a momentary stutter in the way I understand the poem when we move from "ribbed halls," which gives me that impression of a cavern of some sort, to "dead quarry." I eventually understand that the quarry is in a cave, but since that seems a little unusual, I initially get two different images in the first few lines. I don't know. You might try a really short epigraph to clear this up, but then again you know my problem: I'd put an epigraph on my dick "to help people understand what it means."

Smaller stuff: I really like the first two lines; their stength of diction launches the reader right into the poem, and I especially like "ribbons of bone." I'm not so sure about "speaks of the past" though. It's weaker than the first two lines, and the phrasing is a little cliched. But, it might be the simplest way to get the point across.

"Meat-colored" really great, especially considering what it's in reference to.

Also, I love "cragged teeth" and "shouldered forth" but grammatically it sounds like the teeth are being shouldered forth, and that juxtaposition doesn't quite work for me. I think you mean that the walls are being "shouldered forth," which would work perfectly; but, syntactically, it's not quite there yet.

If I'm reading the poem correctly, it also looks like there's a big sentence fragment from "The stones burned from within" forward to the end of the poem. I'm not necessarily against fragments, but in this case the lack of a main verb sets up an expectation that is never fufulled, perhaps making the resolution a little less satisfying than it could be. I don't think the "average reader" is really going to notice, but he might have an unconscious sense of something missing. But this could just be me, as Collins points out.

OK, I have a dirty mind, and while I like the idea behind the line "palmed and caressed this bone back to life," there's one reading of this section that might not be what you want. If you do want the sexual connotation, I think you need to set up that expectation a little earlier in the poem.

I do, however, love the Persephone echo in "what it means to be pulled /
from life beneath the earth to life above." It's a very light touch, but it still brings back the resonance of that story without beating the reader over the head with, "Get it? Get it? Greek myth!" Nice.

The resolution is fantastic, paced just right and framed so as to branch out to universal significance. Lovely and meaningful.

Overall, I think this is great. The language is distinguished, and the metaphorical content is more than merely ornamental--it's beautiful and significant all at the same time, you bastard.

Greece is evidently treating you well. Have you read any poems by A.E. Stallings? She's an American poet, about our age, who's first book was mainly about Greece, Greek mythology, and Greek geography (she was a classics major, I think). She lives now in Athens; if you like her poetry, you should look her up.


:: Rob 9/28/2003 06:08:00 AM [+] ::
:: Friday, September 26, 2003 ::

I haven't read the previous comments yet because I felt chastised by Sean's "where's Paul." So here goes.

The refrains box in the sign/signifier problem right good, and the poem works on an ideas level that you're really good at. I always have problems with idea poems--or, more truthfully, I don't really "have" "ideas"--, so I'm always amazed when people write them well. What kind of interests me is the speaker's hitch in stanza 3. He has no names for the typical furniture of love poems--no thrush, nightingale, rose, or visible worm that flies night and day--so he can't write love poems. "Your love is like that late-blooming, yellow flower over there with the slightly spatulate leaves forming a corona around the bud." The visible worm crashes and has no second flight.

Nevertheless, he does say about her lashes that they are "blurred / By wind to grasslands gold and brown," a line which, aside from the inverted syntax, is damn good and which also doesn't name anything, at least not locally. So he might have a song or two in him after all. I don't mean to turn this into something it isn't or that you don't want, so you can tell me to bugger off now. Sean, I don't know about Greek, so.....bugger off.

Anyway, I was also wondering about "tranquil," "lovely," "apt," and "futile." In some cases, such as "futile," the adjectives are superfluous. Elsewhere (and there's some of this in the general diction), there's a preciousness that I think you stay just this side of mostly. Of course you want to risk preciousness and even be guilty of it now and then, but. So, instead of "love-struck," you might want something more like, "very horny, discouraged / by her blank stare, he knows the haste / with which he wanders in her lovely field."

I saw something about parry and thrust, so I'll let this float out there.

Oh, Emerson ain't got nothing on you.

:: Paul 9/26/2003 02:27:00 PM [+] ::
You know, I made a mistake and didn't even see her in the poem at first. I wonder if there's a way to have her come back one more time near the end? I have really fallen for the line "her lashes, blurred / by wind to grasslands gold and brown" that's so lovely. Nature's blank stare is really good now, that I've read it better. Disregard the other comments and I'll try just to do this when I have free net. It's better, the stare, to me now because nature now becomes sort of an interloper, a third wheel in a funny way. Have you been revising this? What is up? "goes unheard" still doesn't quite work for me, but I can't find something for it--dirt, turd, purred etc.
"his love song, lifeless as a turd"??? Maybe? Nope. The count's wrong. And where's Paul?

Anyway, "to say how he feels" not "to tell her"?? for count or "to detail" I don't know. Are you doing a anapestic substitution in that line? Tell me.

"to try describing her lovely" isn't as smooth as the rest to me. Can you fix it? "to try to paint her lovely face" That's kind of funny. I'm trying though. "to annotate"? I really don't know, man.

I've rambled on enough. My job here is through.

:: Sean 9/26/2003 09:05:00 AM [+] ::
:: Wednesday, September 24, 2003 ::
I don't want to move on from Rob's poem. I'm interested to see what you think, and Paul of course I want to hear your thoughts on Robs poems, Rob's counter, your parry, his thrust etc., but I also am bored, and am sitting here with some free time (not paying for it) and thought I'd go ahead and stick mine up. Perhaps it would be better just to have more of a free for all since the "I think it's your turn" slowed us down? Also, I just want to post this of course. I've been thinking about it too much. Hope this is all right. If not please let me know, and I'll take it down for awhile. Later.

The Silent Breath of Marble

Great ribbed halls beneath the earth
buried ribbons of bone under Paros
speak of the past. The dead quarry’s
meat-colored walls, the cragged teeth
tell of being shouldered forth
into four-thousand years of sculpture
and light. The stones burned from within
through the blinding light of day,
in the Cycladean starlight while slaves
stacked the earth’s bones to be sailed—
heavy burden carried by the wind—
over the Aegean northwest to Athens
and the carvers who chipped and smoothed
palmed and caressed this bone back to life
back to breath and back to stillness
as a frieze, cornice, pediment, goddess
where they loom still and silently
whisper of death, permanence
and what it means to be pulled
from life beneath the earth to life above,
mute witness to this spinning world
of sorrows and light.

:: Sean 9/24/2003 07:16:00 AM [+] ::
:: Tuesday, September 23, 2003 ::
I'm scared of epigrams (perhaps 'cause I can never remember if they're epigraphs or what), and I like the first bit of this here--is it too much to cut it down to "words are signs of natural facts"? I'm on the clock here, paying for this, so sorry to be so brief.
"to take to his poetry" perhaps in line 13 (sorry, can't figure out the right count, but maybe one word would work?
"nature's blank stare" seems familiar to me
"for apt comparison" feels like it's alread been said to me. Can you use this space for more?
maybe "he feels the waste" seems more of the moment to me. (14)
is it true there will be "no embrace"? damn.
And the final thing you might mess with is the "song goes unheard" I know you've got to find a rhyme, but he hasn't been able to say anything, right? I mean, it's not that it can't be heard, but he can't speak it.

But, Rob, this is a beautiful start, and I think a very strong one. I hope you throw stuff you don't need from my post, and know I was in a hurry, but there may be some things you've been saying to yourself that I'm backing up. Anyway, can't wait to see more of this. Beautiful subject for a villanelle.

:: Sean 9/23/2003 10:49:00 AM [+] ::
:: Monday, September 22, 2003 ::
OK, I'll put my head on the chopping block first. Like I said, I've been working in form almost entirely--something new for me--so here's a villanelle.


Words are signs of natural facts. The use of natural history is to give us aid in supernatural history: the use of the outer creation, to give us language for the beings and changes of the inward creation.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Chapter IV

Without the names of the flowers, trees, or birds
That populate this tranquil, foreign place,
He walks the autumn fields, devoid of words

To tell her how he feels. It would be absurd,
He thinks, to try describing her lovely face
Without the names of flowers, trees, or birds

For apt comparison. Her lashes, blurred
By wind to grasslands gold and brown, grace
Their walks in autumn fields. Devoid of words,

He smiles and talks of nothing, hopes she’s heard
What’s not been said. There will be no embrace
Without the names of flowers, trees, and birds

To make his poetry. Love-struck, deterred
By nature’s blank stare, he knows the waste
Of walks in autumn fields, devoid of words

To touch her heart. His love song goes unheard,
He talks in circles in his futile chase.
Without the names of flowers, trees, or birds,
He walks the autumn fields, devoid of words.

:: Rob 9/22/2003 11:09:00 AM [+] ::
I'd love to buddy. I just thougt I'd check in. Just to see. I'm at sbchapm@yahoo.com Hope England is grand. Athens is. Talk to you soon. (josh sucks)
:: Sean 9/22/2003 07:22:00 AM [+] ::

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