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:: Thursday, December 18, 2003 ::

This Poem is a Passing Train

This is the poem about the boy on the passing train.
This is the poem about the girl in the pretty dress.
Here's the part where she looks up from her book
to see the most lovely boy on the opposite train--
his eyes blink past like coins falling through air
and her irises swell like the darkened lip of a well.
In the book in her lap, the characters stop
and watch the boy on the train--they fix a pot of tea
and smile to each other remembering how they first met
on page 24, the Countess with a knife to the young man's
throat. A shiver playing through the tendons of his neck
told her he was not the intruder she thought him
but the man she would one day marry in a field
by the River Seine. And you've read this poem before, right?
The boy on the train doesn't see her, the train keeps moving,
the boy is lost to the young girl in the pretty dress,
but just as the boy's face blurs into a bright ribbon
the couple in the book kiss not knowing, either of them,
that the intruder has a heart of darkness and evil
and that try though she might to avoid it, she will be destroyed
with unbearable pain over the next 249 pages which flutter
in the tunnel light in the lap of the pretty girl.

:: Sean 12/18/2003 07:11:00 AM [+] ::
...
Yeah, the title is shit. So fix it. Damn. What are you people doing out there!!! Thanks for all your good work on this. I'll do all that stuff you say. The title used to me "The Last Thing I remember" but I dropped the bit about the blood, so she's just there at the end, and I never knew what that meant anyway. So, I'm really stumped right now. I have a poem I really like right now, so I might put it up in hopes that you'll just do a quick read and drive-by comment and move on to your own stuff. Sorry if I've been too productive--sue me. Damn.
:: Sean 12/18/2003 07:11:00 AM [+] ::
...
:: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 ::
Sean,

I’m impressed again, and I think you’re hitting some kind of stride. This poem has a strangeness about it that’s not identical to the previous one but still is in the same field. The poem “works� for me on the whole, and I can’t think of much right now to offer as a large revision suggestion. The tone is more or less consistent throughout, and this sort of fear that the speaker obviously is fascinated by gets expressed all the way through. As the first stanza suggests a genesis of this kind of fear and apprehension, you might consider coming to back to that, not in imagery—no need to bring out the shattered bowl and its shards—but maybe in some nod to the original idea, just for a sense of closure. I like that the lover’s back shines emanates light at the end, which is reminiscent of the bowl, so maybe you are thinking about echoes. So now that your poem has my approbation, let me dispense some minutiae.

It may sound like a minor detail, but the dash in stanza 1, line 5 seems unnecessary but desired in the next line after “eyes.� Switch comma and dash and see if anyone notices. Line 1 of stanza 2: Does the speaker dream fits in the transitive sense, or is it something closer to “in fits�? In the 3rd line of that stanza, a comma after “stairs� would clear up confusion since we’re watching the speaker walk up the stairs THAT he knows he will soon trip. I don’t know whether to laugh, cringe myself, or turn the lights off and let these two get busy in the third stanza. Nice work there.

So there’s my belated half-penny’s worth. I’m digging it phat, though, and I wish the speaker many more nights of scary cuddling.

Oh, one last thing. I'm not sure that "Electric River" is working. I get the sense that, like a river, the fear flows and flows for the speaker, but the concept doesn't quite transfer to the poem.

Paul

:: Paul 12/17/2003 02:53:00 PM [+] ::
...
:: Friday, December 12, 2003 ::
Ok, as I said before, I like OBHCJFK&YOU quite a bit, mostly I think because it has a little bit of the “deep aha” in it: I’m not sure, not in a linear or prosaic sense, how the personages in here connect, but they do somehow on a level I can’t quite articulate. Maybe it’s a taste thing, too; the slightly ominous, portentous beginning (“husk of locust,” “sun swings”) and the absurdist juxtaposition take a risk that I don’t think is either calculated or incoherent. Finally, I think what holds the whole thing together is that there is some kind of revelation or coming into being at the end of each stanza, as if we’re at that moment, or just before, when something or someone is about to turn into something that it wasn’t before. Of course this happens all the time (never in the same river twice, etc.), but in this poem the moments are, well, more momentous than “this or that.” But enough about me. Let’s move on to your lovely poem.

In line 2, I’d do something with “round his dusty bend of road.” Descriptively, that phrase works just fine, but I’m waiting for tumbleweeds to round the bend also, or maybe someone to hum “She’ll be comin’ round…..” Oh, a good thing in the next line, though, is that the sun swings instead of spins or moves or some other such predictable verb. I like swing, not only because it’s more surprising than other choices, but also because it suggests that, like an object swinging, Oedipus is never very far away (or not as far away as revolving would take him) from his, dare I say it, fate. As for other choices in this stanza—there aren’t enough goats in poems anymore.

I get confused in stanza 2 about a couple of things. The break from line from line 3 to 4, “too bright so see through / but ring the door open,” would be clearer with a comma after “through” to more clearly begin the imperative in the next line. Second, Billie is talking to shopkeepers in the noon brightness about the price of bananas (another odd, nice detail), but we can’t see her through the window behind which she is undeniably sexy.

In stanza, get rid of “quaint scene.”

Give me a bit more time for “The Electric River.”



:: Paul 12/12/2003 03:50:00 PM [+] ::
...
:: Tuesday, December 09, 2003 ::
Sean,
I really like this one, I think. The idea of fear and reticence when faced with the world is pretty universal, or at least they feel that way to me most of the time. The idea that everyone is watching you and that everyone will be “inconvenienced” by your mistakes or inactions speaks to an emotion that, I think, is pretty powerful yet overlooked.

I also like the turn from that kind of public fear to the private fear of the speaker with the lover in bed. That, of course, is the more important fear in many ways. However, I’m not entirely sure what I’m supposed to make of what happens in the final stanza. I’m with you up until right after the point where the speaker is both relieved and scared that the lover has turned to face the wall—I think that’s a great moment. But I’m not sure how to read what happens afterwards. Other than the fairly clear image of the freckled back, I don’t quite get the resolution of “blood” and “light.” The metaphorical language seems to come out of left field here, and I’m not quite prepared enough by the rest of the poem’s language to interpret this part. If there were some more obvious metaphorical foreshadowing, I might know better how to read those final two lines and get more resonance from them.

Otherwise, this one seems to work all of the way through. I especially like the line, “but you’re blowing / in my ear so brave and dirty.”

:: Rob 12/09/2003 07:07:00 AM [+] ::
...
:: Monday, December 08, 2003 ::
Sean,

If it's worth anything at all, I got back from England last week, and after all the fucking off that diamond geezer Rob and I did, I've been catching up on grading. I will say that I too like less the language lesson poem. I remember reading "Oedipus, Billie Holiday, Charles Foster Kane and You" and thinking that it was really something. You can ask Rob because I told him so. At any rate, I have some more stuff to do right now, so I'll check back later with some better stuff about that poem and "The Electric River."
:: Paul 12/08/2003 09:48:00 AM [+] ::
...
:: Thursday, December 04, 2003 ::
Sean,
Unfortunately, I head back to the States next Wednesday. I'd love to come visit, but cash is short to non-existant at this point. How long will you be over there? Coming home for any visits? If so, come stay in Evansville for a few nights. We can actually put you in your own beds this time, and there's a good place to go drinking within walking distance of the house.
:: Rob 12/04/2003 10:18:00 AM [+] ::
...
Wait. You mean our Paul was there? Damn. I wish I could've come over. I'm just now getting a tiny bit of extra change. When do you leave Rob? Maybe we could meet in Paris or something. I don't know. You can't get here can you? So, fellas, sorry I missed you. I was just thinking that last year, we had a good time the weekend before Tgiving when I shot through on my way home. I did miss being home this last week. Looking forward to yinz upcoming poems.
:: Sean 12/04/2003 08:16:00 AM [+] ::
...
:: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 ::
"Oedipus, Billie Holiday, Charles Foster Kane and You"
OK, I'm finally getting back to it--end of the semester crap here has been getting in the way of doing good things like writing or reading poems. Also, Paul was here until yesterday, so we've basically been fucking off for a week, which was great. If I hadn't had to teach this semester, this trip would have been about perfect.

Anyway, the poem: I like this one alot, but the long lines don't seem to cohere somehow; they want to break somewhere in the middle. This may be way off base here, but I imagined that you were using the long lines as some kind of analog to Homeric lines--long, narrative, etc. However, they don't seem to work here. Really, the only suggestion I have is to try breaking these differently--if you do, you might generate a little more energy in the poem and stave off the prosiness that they're creating right now.

I'll get back to you on the new one.
:: Rob 12/02/2003 05:55:00 AM [+] ::
...

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