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  #1  
Unread 11-15-2021, 04:16 PM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Default Reading Walcott In a Storm

The night is light and black and argues with itself.

I am reading Walcott by stormlight, the wattage
juxtaposed with a sun that splinters

off the chessboard of the sea: Caribbean, Saint
Lucian sea, where the gulls tall as deadmen's dreams, dream

of the savage logic of feathers, each, a metred scrawl
the schooner Flight relinquishes in its wake.

England is an old man's bones, Viriconium, littered with the spars
of rusted language, a junkyard in the throat, England is

an old book opening and closing, its pages torn
out and sellotaped back in. Walcott storms

the house in music, reel upon reel of history laid bare
and white as bone, or bone-bleached sand, and I search

with him, the pages shivering into sense.

Notes:
viriconium - the decaying city of
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viriconium

Last edited by W T Clark; 11-21-2021 at 11:33 AM.
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  #2  
Unread 11-16-2021, 03:25 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Cameron, I like this very much and find it a powerful and honest read, which makes it tricky to say useful things about the poem.

I think the formative point I'd have is that although I like/enjoy the power in 'splint/ers' I'm not sure that it's landing properly - first in position - it's very early on in the poem and these kinds of powerful SFX (layout + image) often need to gain a reader's trust before they work properly.

I'm also not sure that the single meaning of 'splint' as something that holds together a fracture works in this context, and that draws me off slightly - partly because of the placing of the broken word. So, although I love the technique, I'd maybe save it for another poem, where you can really, really use the power of it.

Things I love - 'tall as deadmen's dreams/dreams of the savage logic of feathers' and 'rusted language, a junkyard in the throat'. I also love the sellotaped book page image. I think that this very tangible tactile image adds much to the poem.

And I like that this reads real, like the lived experience of reading poetry and the story of the poetry intersecting with the lived moment of the reading.

Sarah-Jane
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  #3  
Unread 11-16-2021, 04:59 PM
Jim Ramsey Jim Ramsey is offline
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Hi Cameron,

I just want to touch this with a finger for now and maybe explore more when I have a better foothold. I glossed over the Walcott poem before commenting but even the glossing was rewarding. I know from past comments that you exchanged with Ann that the Virconium series by M. John Harrison is something you admire. I've never read any of it. Not sure I would be up to it at my age.To put the obstacles of my aging in perspective, I did well in college calculus fifty years ago. Then, three years ago, I tried to brush up on basic algebra so I could take the GRE and apply to an MFA program. I couldn't fathom it. It was a shock that my brain was as frail as my body. This is a circuitous route to saying your allusions and depths here put me to the test with the homework and lab class requirements. What I will recommend is that you italicize Flight as a ship's name, and do not capitalize schooner since you are not using the poem's title as a poem's title in your piece, except in allusion. It seems confusing as it is. I like the way you pose the lightning in the first line. I like also the same lines that Sarah-Jane did, plus the last with the pages shivering into sense. How it all ties together with race and the decay of empires and the ars poetica touches of the Walcott poem, I can't fathom yet.

All the best,
Jim
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  #4  
Unread 11-18-2021, 11:22 AM
Susan Morris Susan Morris is offline
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Cameron,
I really think your first line here is excellent. "The night is light and black and argues with itself." What a great description. I didn't really have anything to contribute other than to say that I did enjoy this.
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  #5  
Unread 11-19-2021, 12:21 PM
John Riley John Riley is online now
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Cameron, this is very good. Others have mentioned that great opening. "England is an old man's bones" is just as good, as is "a junkyard in the throat." Those are brilliant lines that indicate to me you should write poems. My one hang-up and this may be just me is the break between S2 and S3. It strikes me as being overly obvious--splintering splinter at the stanza break. The originality is not comparable to the lines I've mentioned and others. But I'm willing to admit that is close to being a subjective take on it. It'd be interesting to see what others think.
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  #6  
Unread 11-21-2021, 11:31 AM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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Well, thank you, Sarah, John, Susan, and Jim for commenting on this. I have always wondered what a poem on poetry is called. Is it another, more consequential form of ekphrastic? But, of course, I think, this poem, at least hopefully, reaches out of just a commentary on poetry, to something, something in the culture we breathe, something of two islands, and their gyring juxtapositions. There is so much advice floating around about how a poem never stick with the thing it started with; well, as unlimiting as that may seem, I wonder where this poem ends up.

Jim, I have indeed capitalised Flight and decapitalised schooner. Poor schooner.

Wellcome, Susan, to the sphere. First lines can be vitally important, can't they. Like the first shot of blood that a body forms around.

Sarah and John, you raise, to my mind, the same point. Though the poem may have achieved that rarefied state of form mimicking content with "splint-/ered", that state here comes more as a gimmick, too easily mimetic, that it does not hold. For the moment I have recovered the whole of "splintered" onto one line. You know in a previous draft I had "bursts" but that seemed entirely too dull a verb. It did not 'burst' itself.
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  #7  
Unread 11-21-2021, 10:02 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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What Susan Morris said. That first line is very good.

(For Jim Ramsey. It’s not fair because I taught math for many years and still run the ropes and we do lose what we don’t use, but one of my daughters sent me this parody of a Beatles verse. I hope you smile.

When I find myself in times of trouble,
Regression models come to me
Speaking words of wisdom:
y = mx+b.

Best.)
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  #8  
Unread 11-21-2021, 10:06 PM
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Seree Zohar Seree Zohar is offline
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Hi Cameron,

Love that you got “sellotaped” in there. And I love S5’s opening and closing with “England is” in that very English way.

The ref to Viriconium took me to the link and some background reading; the question is, does it really add anything or is it going to make the majority of readers hiccough and stop and wonder why it’s in there and then discover that basically, if you remove the word/ref, that S contains the images needed anyhow, the question is.

Having the first person references at the start of the 2nd, and close of the penult, are valuable balance points to the piece; good that they don’t open and close the po.

Can there be a metred scrawl…? A juxtaposition that can exist in a dream, and in the schooner’s wake. A catchy description. Is the schooner’s name necessary? Meant to emphasize “feathers” no doubt but I'm not certain anything’s gained by having it there.

Your opening and closing lines are also tight and purposeful and strong. Overall, I enjoyed this.
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  #9  
Unread 11-22-2021, 07:16 AM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
Hey Cameron, Your poetic voice in this is soaring in spots. I could be wrong, but I read that the N is on holiday in the Caribbean, St. Lucia. He is having an epiphany. Good holidays can do that. They open you up. Of course, it could just as easily be that the N is sitting at home in an easy chair immersed in the words of Walcott and having something of an out-of-body experience.

I love the abstractness of the images. I don't know much of Derek Walcott's poetry but assume much of this poem plays off what you're reading. A few lines are poems in and of themselves.

As is, the couplets remind me of the verse Sarah-Jane is turning into vispo of late. Full of emotion and a surreal "between the lines" sense of what is happening.

Because I'm prone to toying with the way a poem presents itself on the page, I wondered if this might cohere better in a more consolidated form. Something like this:


The night is light and black and argues with itself.
I am reading Walcott by stormlight, the wattage
juxtaposed with a sun that splinters
off the chessboard of the sea: Caribbean, Saint
Lucian sea, where the gulls tall as deadmen's dreams, dream
of the savage logic of feathers, each, a metred scrawl
the schooner Flight relinquishes in its wake.

England is an old man's bones, Viriconium, littered with the spars
of rusted language, a junkyard in the throat, England is
an old book opening and closing, its pages torn
out and sellotaped back in. Walcott storms
the house in music, reel upon reel of history laid bare
and white as bone, or bone-bleached sand, and I search
with him, the pages shivering into sense.


I think the juxtaposition is more pronounced if it's not scattered in couplets.
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  #10  
Unread 11-22-2021, 07:44 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is offline
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I think the poetic form, Jim, is meant to echo Walcott's own. Yet it is that need to echo which perhaps complicates this for me...the overpowering sense of homage.

It has, overall, a partial feel, as if I'd entered the room of the poet's thought, passed through, and then exited again, neither hearing him begin nor end. As such, it is hard for me to get a full impression, but the enjambed "...and I search/ with him..." near the end makes that seem alright.

I don't get the impression that you are on-site geographically, but only intellectually, through the reading. And given Walcott's more tactile sensibility that seems a tiny bit uncomfortable for me: as if this is a learned landscape rather than a real one.

But if I focus on the Storm, as the title instructs, then the poem coheres better for me. I wonder if the Walcott in the title isn't too erudite a titular style, too Wordsworthian. I think I would enter the poem more gracefully open with just the Storm, while the Walcott might appear instead in a brief epigraph.

Neverthless, Cameron, the poem keeps beckoning me back.
(I spent a lot of time reading Walcott years ago, and will one day return to him.)

Nemo
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