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Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: November 21, 2004 05:04PM

Hi.

I got this in an email from a friend today. I will respond to it when I can work through the questions Jill asks about "Middle Ground" and "The Way South," two poems I posted in the forum and which I sent her recently. I was wondering if anyone would help me begin to think of a reply to her questions about these poems.

Be well, and


Love


Peter

Now on to your poems. It’s hard to speak of the middle ground, yet an interesting project to try to do this. I felt your poems from the middle ground needed more work -- I didn’t really (yet) get a clear enough image of the topography of this mental/emotional place. I think in the beginning you are trying to say how it’s a place where the odd random little nice thing keeps one going -- but only for a moment, because then the nice thing turns out to be not so nice at all (“parcels in the mail / from the wrong place”). But I just didn’t get the sense of the landscape of the middle ground clearly enough. Perhaps you were too caught in it at the time you wrote the poem -- and going back to this theme with some (more) ironic distance and humor could help. It may also be that it’s hard for the reader to go there -- it’s a hard place to be in (though that’s the normal daily place we learn not to speak about so as not to be “boring” or “complaining”)--; I would have liked to be able to hold onto the nice packages for a couple of lines anyway, before finding that they were not so nice after all.

The imagery in the lines “wooden desks with metal legs / little girls on roller skates” tickled me.

The reference to Jesus, the idea of incantation, of taking a drink, of lighting a light -- imagery of light and shadows -- these might be keys to the topography you are delineating, though I didn’t quite get them, felt if they are important they could be brought out more, built to. “jesus lent his lanthern out” -- although I should perhaps know this reference, I don’t, yet feel there is a lot here -- what could this mean? Are you, the poet, in darkness because you lent your lantern out? Could that be why the middle ground is so dark and hard to see? Could that -- lending out, letting go out, silencing, not feeding -- one’s own vitality, perceptiveness, “light” -- could that be what pulls one into the murky place “between abyss and bliss”?

In the fourth poem of this series a new imagery starts to emerge -- the idea of “swimming against the night” (and if the night, darkness, is the absence of the light that Jesus gave/the poet gives away, then, if this were brought out more, the poems would hang together more) -- anyway, I got this image and related to it, liked it; and the landscape now starts to become clearer, I can imagine it: “I made my turns and watched sincerely / while rocks and shore floated by.” (And I like your use of the word “sincerely” here -- that’s sometimes all we have to go on, but it’s a lot.) And I like a lot the 3 stanzas that follow after this. It’s where you emerge from the middle ground, the blindness, murkiness; where you can see the stars, can see, can think. Things become clearer. And you are able to make one of those statements of yours that are so important and moving yet quiet, understated, soft-spoken at the same time: “The world’s a swirling place below / and every moment flows and rises / with what we forgot and what still matters.” Coming to this part I think of Wallace Stevens, both for echoes I seem to hear in the rhythm and because he also came to philosophical and moral ideas quietly, through careful and patient observation of the things of this world.


“The Way South” I liked, and it intrigued me, and also I felt I missed some of the references. First, a couple of minor and specific things: “and plant” -- I thought it might be better to say “and planting”; well I guess that would be “joined in with hunting / and planting” -- just that I was wanting to hear an echo with “the howling.” Secondly, grammatically, it seemed to me the 5th to last line should be “the voice awoke”, with the “where” deleted, because I read the sentence as saying, “before . . . the voice awoke to ask ...” and the “where” just seems to confuse, for me, the logic of the sentence.

I guess my question about the reference for this poem is this. Okay, “before the Southern towered murmuring,” makes me think of the Tower of Babel, which seems to correspond to the poem’s being about a transition, a “before” and “after” a migration that’s “The Way South.” Then I ask, but wasn’t there hunting and planting in the South? (i.e., in Babylonia &/or Mesopotamia)?

To me the poem is about getting back to the South, the journey of going from North to South, where South may be Mesopotamia before the Tower of Babel, may be the Garden of Eden, the place before people had to work and suffer (hunting and planting); and that in Eden, when one is happy, one doesn’t need to ask those questions, “where do I belong?” “who am I?”

Now it occurs to me maybe the “day of the desert” is the day when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, and you are talking about trying to get back to a time before we needed rules and laws.

So I guess if my reading is right, then the poem gathers meanings about what “South” means, but if “South” means Mesopotamia/Eden, then to refer to the Tower of Babel as “Southern” seems to confuse things, at least for me. Perhaps there’s, then, a way to make the topography of North and South, Tigris/Euphrates alluvial plain and Babylonian tower, clearer before getting to that third stanza.

(i.e., Tigris/Euphrates alluvial plain - Eden - South; tower - South but not South? middle ground again, in different terms?; - place of hunt and plant - North)

(And now I understand why you wanted the more harsh and Germanic feel of “hunt / and plant”.)



Be well, and

Love,

Jill





PS You also might enjoy writing some poems that draw on all the research yo've done about Gilgamesh and the Flood and those early times. Also, reading "The Way South" made me think (in an oblique way) of Eliot's "Journey of the Magi."

--------


Middle Ground Poems [note: gathered from an earlier thread]

I.


Middle ground: finding what will do.
Sure, small things matter, parcels in the mail
from the wrong place --
chocolate, camomile teas,
raw mint leaves,
a book of poetry.

trying once too often
to line it all up…
Trying too hard.
Not even a child to hug available,
like tiny steps, one by one.
Kind folks so …
discontinued line.

Too hard.


II.


Trying to find a middle ground
losing footing in the street
cars pass by
pass by
children pass by
damnation passes me by.

Gone up the stair
close the door
the air so close
fur coat on the floor
code got my goat
parents pass me by

wooden desks with metal legs
little girls on roller skates
scraping laughter
chewing gum
gone to incense
rolling drum

incantation spirits cling
spit tobacco in a ring
light the torcher
make the shadow
word on words away from meaning

come round at last:
forgetting is no jar of salve
jesus lent his lanthern out
driveling dogmatist pollute our soup
take a drink, light a light, turn away

between abyss and bliss.

III.


not meant to be easy
live, I guess
properly divided
earned and deserved
each for each

an uneven murmur
backstage beyond the light
fantasies disintegrate
reflect something deeper

we take assurance where we can

IV.

"the scheme is fixed
by unexpectedness and mixed
with what man calls his doom and fate."

I heard while swimming against the night
I made my turns and watched sincerely
while rocks and shore floated by.

I took a breath and raised my head
to see the stars above. The lode star
itself seems to move as water bobbed my ears and face

and every point in my universe went down.
When water blocked my ears and eyes
I saw below the night's disguise:

The world's a swirling place below
and every moment flows and rises
with what we forgot and what still matters.



Post Edited (11-17-04 21:19)

-----------
The Way South

(written for Ian Beaumont)

perhaps,
as we go
or get where we are
going, the getting,
the way,
is all we may have.

and we carry
the need for joining
as
our ancestral burden,
since the day of the desert
before the southern towered murmuring,
our laws and our gathering
behind walls

to keep for ourselves
the howling
and the naked skin
the pleasures of the water
before we finally
joined in with hunt
and plant
and before
in the Northern
plains and forest
where the voice awoke
to ask:
where do I belong?
before it asked:
who am I?

I am in advance grateful to any of you who might feel inclined to share her/his thoughts on a reply to this email.

Peter



Post Edited (11-22-04 03:36)


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-03rh16rt-04rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.ne)
Date: November 22, 2004 11:35AM

For one, I am reluctant to read, much less respond to private e-mail sent to you from someone else. Do you have that person's permission to share it?


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: November 22, 2004 03:39PM

Huigh,

I would never post anything I considered private correspondence from anyone on this thing. I understand your trepidation. Yes, I have. And I have included only the half of the original letter having to do explicitly with my work. You reluctance is were taken, and I am glad you stated it explicitly7, so that none of the younger writers in this group will take my audacity as precidence to just submit their private correspondence for public discussion. Jill and I are both trained as literary critics (she was the editor of a multi-lingual magazine here for about ten years), and it is in that spirit I offer this discussion between us. I hope to illustrate through her response the kinds of things people can talk about in interpreting a literary text, here a series of poem submitted to this forum. She has critiqued work privately for me for about thirty years now and taught it occasionally during the last five years in New York.


What would you add to the discussion of these particulat pieces, if you were so disposed, and if you deemed it appropriate? I would me most interested in any reading you might offer.

Yours,

Peter



Post Edited (11-22-04 14:48)


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-01rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: November 22, 2004 05:50PM

Sorry I doubted you. Couched in such humility, how can one refuse the request?

First - some nits.

Punctuation. Sometimes there is punctuation but sometimes it is missing. Same thing with capitalization - confusing to this reader, as I cannot tell if they are errors or intentional.

Lanthern - sb either lantern or lanthorn?

"the scheme is fixed
by unexpectedness and mixed
with what man calls his doom and fate."

Why is this in quotes? If it is something famous in history, I do not recognize it. Again, we do not know why 'the' is not capitalized.

I took a breath and raised my head
to see the stars above. The lode star
itself seems to move as water bobbed my ears and face

Change of tense from past to present to past is again confusing.

Not even a child to hug available,

I stumble on this line & personally would reverse available and hug. I.e. available to hug. Sounds like the child is hugging available, whatever that might mean.

As far as responding to the other person's notes about the works, one gets from poems what one gets. Once poems appear on the page, they mean whatever the readers interpret them to mean. Whether a reader interpreted them as you intended, it is too late. Robert Frost surely did not intend his 'Acquainted With The Night', or 'Road Not Taken' to convey every single one of the myriad of meanings folks get from them, but ... too late to change things now, even might he want to (and I feel sure he wouldn't).

About all one can do is to compare the response to the intent, and make changes, assuming the response was not the one desired.

My own take is that the author intended some insightful statements on 'moderation in all things', but I found the meanderings too random to follow. Others will disagree, of course. Such is life.


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 10:19AM

from another thread:

Well, Post Edited can mean many things.....It may be an allusion to Emily Post and then from there Emily Dickinson, and how brevity is so apparent in many of ED's writings.

It could also be a reference to The Saturday Evening Post, known for its Norman Rockwell covers, and how that aspect of Americana has been "edited" out of our lives by the fast paced modern world in which we live.

or Wiley Post, pilot of the airplane that Will Rogers died in when it crashed, effectively "editing" his life

ya see....THIS is why I don't generally "interpret" poetry !!



Post Edited (11-23-04 09:21)


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 11:38AM

But Johnny, you just expanded the venue of the poem threefold beyond the author's intent, which is why you should "interpret" poetry even more.

Peter


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 12:03PM

(singing)
It was masturbation, I know
And it might have ended right there at the wall
Just a passing glance, just a brief romance
And I might have gone on my way empty-balled

It was masturbation, I know
howling at the moon with the sunlight above
Then I slapped my head shoulda stayed in bed
masturbation turned to love


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 12:24PM

`Where the boundary between prose and poetry lies, I shall never be able to understand. The question is raised in manuals of style, yet the answer to it lies beyond me. Poetry is verse: prose is not verse. Or else poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books.'

Tolstoy
(who could either work at his writing or not work at his writing)


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: drpeternsz (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 03:58PM

Poetry may even be more than that, Johnny. Versifiers, I have a hard time believing otherwise, are not among those who write what effects me as poetic. The tedium and predictability just either bore me or giveme a head ache.

But we've been through all of that to no avail in this forum, and I am afraid I must appear as pig-headed as others about that. I prefer dialogue.

Peter
end of communique
that's it
I'm right
don't bring it up again
case closed

ow! right on my finger!

open minded
but not anything goes



Post Edited (11-23-04 21:36)


Re: Be well, and Love, Jill
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (---.nycmny83.covad.net)
Date: November 23, 2004 05:09PM

I consider that Horse and Buggy thinking !

(ahhhh....Bach ! )




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