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  #1  
Unread 07-02-2022, 11:31 AM
Rose Novick's Avatar
Rose Novick Rose Novick is offline
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Default blank(ish) verse (long poem part four of four)

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This is the fourth and final part of the poem.


The Censor Reading Finnegans Wake

....for Mel

........(IV)

Good morning! Have you heard the story told
Of Humpty-Dumpty? Oh, it’s quite outrageous—
Let me tell you. He thought he was a stone,
A permanent thing, or near enough. He liked
To sit atop this wall beside the ocean,
Watching the waves caress the rough-hewn stones,
Making them smooth and beautiful. He wanted
To be beautiful. The stones in the wall
Were rough and ugly, but they supported him,
And that, in its way, was also beautiful.
But the stones in the waves he always loved best.
He thought they knew a kind of eternity,
Neither static nor ephemeral,
But cyclic: each day the same tides,
The same hard caresses from watery hands,
With each caress becoming just a touch
More beautiful. He thought he was a stone,
And felt himself, and found his surface rough
And pockmarked and ugly. He watched the waves,
Longing to yield to their overwhelming power,
Their hard love. He thought he was a stone.
He wanted to be beautiful. He jumped.
But he was something far more delicate
Than stone, and none could put him back together.
His jagged fragments lay among the stones,
Until the waves carried him, piece by piece,
Out to sea. But listen: I will say this
Just the once: I love you.
Let the waves dissolve
In air, the moment un-
Repeatable, the instant
Gone. Let my words
Fall, and crack,
And be no more.
They are no more.

Last edited by Rose Novick; 07-02-2022 at 02:05 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 07-02-2022, 11:40 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Rose,

My favorite bit is this:

I will say this
Just the once: I love you.

I like that a good deal. I also liked your explanation of Humpty Dumpty, though I could imagine it shorter, and I also wondered how this ties back in to your overarching premise. It does connect neatly with Part III, though. BTW, why is this part labelled III?

Cheers,
John
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  #3  
Unread 07-02-2022, 12:49 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Hi, Rose. I’ve read the full poem several times, and it’s a hard egg for me to crack—yet another train to an Eskimo or caviar to the man on the Clapham omnibus. The Saturday afternoon I spent on Cameron’s “Angel of History” rewarded me handsomely, and this one promises no less, but Finnegans Wake is more than an afternoon’s enterprise, so the brashful poem declines to yield. There are many gorgeous passages, and perhaps I should be content with that, but I can’t help trying to get a conceptual grip, and the poem, ungraspable, slips away …

Carl

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 07-02-2022 at 02:33 PM.
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  #4  
Unread 07-02-2022, 03:20 PM
W T Clark W T Clark is offline
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This has a linguistic power reminiscent of Joyce or Carroll, two writers I constantly think about, am worried by, in the early hours of the morning and night. Consider idioms: the informality and immediacy, and, slightly, intimacy, of "Good morning", leads me every time to think "Have you heard the news", instead of the more archaic, more formal "Have you heard the story told". Here, I am not thinking of the need for syllables per line; but your lines are flexible enough to take a shortening. You might also consider, as John says, a slight compression of the humpty-dumpty story. Joyce is always a compressor, despite the size of his works, and I think this narrative could do with a little shortening, a little firming up.

Anyway, this is glorious work as I say, the best work from you I've read. Could you pm me the whole poem, I would like to have it in one place. Brilliant work. I am, frankly, in admiration — you have got my favourite writer into poetry before me! — if not envious.

Hope this helps.

Last edited by W T Clark; 07-03-2022 at 04:39 AM.
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Unread 07-03-2022, 03:03 AM
Jonathan James Henderson Jonathan James Henderson is offline
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I read this, and then went back and opened parts 1-3 in tabs to read the whole thing from the beginning. I agree with W T Clark in wanting to be PM'd the entire thing. Whatever issues I may have with style they mostly lie in my personal aesthetic preferences, but there's still a mysterious power to the work that more than overcomes them. I often say "give me provocation over perfection any day," especially when I'd just be inclined to shave the rough-hewn stone into my own image, as it were.

Like Carl I lack a full conceptual grasp, though unifying concepts come in "fragments... among the stones." There's the push/pull of being so "ephemeral" one cracks on one end of the spectrum, and being so hard one never changes. The image of the ocean rescues this with being cyclical, ever changing but eternal (or close to it) in its way. This in itself recalls us back to Joyce's title: with "Finnegan" evoking both the end (fin in French) and its recurring (egan = again). There's the dichotomy of what I might call words and life, of words not being a substitute for love and whatever else we might miss or lack in life. If one could be a stone, maybe one could easier face such harshness better, but that longing for love and those we love always seems to penetrate, as does our insecurities and self-criticism of our own imperfections.

My biggest failure is not quite being able to sew the reading of the book together with these themes, beyond the idea of the book being a kind of key to the unconscious, unlocking these concepts and feelings and the idée fixes the speaker is obsessed with. I also wondered at the various forms employed, from tercets to 10-line stanzas, back to tercets (in a brief section), to a single paragraph for the finale. I can't say I sense a reason for it, though it almost reminds me of a classic symphony in sonata form: the stately first movement, the slower moving second, the lighter third (menuet or scherzo); but then you'd need a fast finale, and a solid stone wall of a paragraph isn't that.

On this particular part, I do agree with W T Clark that starting out with the rather colloquial "Good morning" but immediately slipping into another register with "story told" is a bit awkward. I won't harp on repetition anymore, though I here I do feel the second "He wanted to be beautiful" feel superfluous. I also feel like the ending with its shortening line dissipates some of its power with so many of them: there's 8, with a 9th as a transition. Shortening lines have an effect of compacting and intensifying through that compaction. Use it too much and it quickly just becomes another mode of writing rather than an effect of form by contrast. I would like to either see some of these trimmed or holding off on the device until the very end; perhaps consider a slower descent, a decrescendo rather than this quicker transition.

I could say more on this (and the others), but I'll leave it here for now. Thanks for sharing this and the entire work. It's been a pleasure.
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Unread 07-16-2022, 05:17 AM
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Rose Novick Rose Novick is offline
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Hi John, Carl, Cameron, and Jonathan.

Thank you all for your comments, which I will be be keeping in mind as I continue trying to perfect this poem. I apologize for posting and then vanishing for two weeks. I have PMed those of you who requested a full copy.

Now that the full thing is posted, a few notes that may be helpful and/or interesting:

• The poem centers on two major figures, each of whom appears in multiple guises: (I) the censor/she/I/humpty dumpty and (II) finnegans wake/he/you

• Basic conceit: the lover (the censor/she/I) is tasked with making sense of an inscrutable other (finnegans wake/he/you). The poem traces the lover's relation to her feelings through several turns: sheer inscrutability (I), dim recognition of the loved's importance (II), full admission to herself (III), and admission to the other (IV).

• Beneath the surface love poem is a second drama: the lover's feelings for the loved are also inextricably wrapped up in the lover's feelings about her own gender. The way she sees the moon in §1, her wish to be a stone in §2—these are attempts to capture something of one's relation to the world and to oneself, respectively, when one lives as an inauthentic gender. The imagery of "eggs" and "cracking" in §§3-4 are elaborations of fairly common terminology in trans communities. And that I suspect is enough to make clear "He thought he was a stone. // He wanted to be beautiful. He jumped." That relation of the N to herself develops in parallel with her feelings about the person she loves.

• Beyond that, there are a handful of Finnegans Wake easter eggs for those who enjoy hunting down such things (I do not believe that doing so is necessary to appreciate what the poem is up to): the tree/stone pairing; a few borrowed words in §1; the appearance of humpty dumpty; "no thunder sounds here"; the number of stanzas in each section (8/4/4/1), which matches the number of chapters in the corresponding sections of the Wake; the poem having 111 lines total (a recurring, significant number in FW).
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Unread 07-16-2022, 09:08 AM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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I think the insight I've most enjoyed in this sequence was the pun "fin-again," pointed out by Jonathan I see, which I for one have never heard mentioned before in discussion of the title.
This is an ambitious piece and the ambition seems realized. Nice. I like the multivalence of the egg.

CHeers,
John
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Unread 07-17-2022, 12:37 PM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Thank you for your notes, Rose. They helped with Humpty Dumpty and the egg imagery, but I’m still baffled by the stone theme that runs through all four parts of the poem. Google did yield some references to Joyce’s tree/stone pairing, but not enough to make sense of. I’m not qualified to critique your poem, but since I’ve invested some time in grappling with it, I’ll at least give you an idea of the difficulties I faced.

The following are stones or stony: the waning moon, a Midwestern home, daybreak, nightfall, Humpty Dumpty (thinking he’s a stone) and the lover (restless as a stone, lying as a stone, wishing to be a stone). Stones may softly yield or never yield, they crawl, scamper and squirm, and they are nearly permanent, cyclic and neither static nor ephemeral.

In part II, the stoniest part, I found two images especially odd: 1) day breaking like stones on a home with a stony countenance; and 2) night falling restlessly as a stone on restless, squirming stones. Stones on stones.

Finally, the ending: Humpty met a tragic end, but I’d expect your “second drama”—breaking out of an inauthentic gender—to be positive even if the love story was not. Maybe the ending here is happy, but I don’t get that.

Oh well. I’ll just have to deal with the fact that this poem is a huckleberry above my persimmon.

Carl

Last edited by Carl Copeland; 07-17-2022 at 02:32 PM.
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  #9  
Unread 07-17-2022, 04:12 PM
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Rose Novick Rose Novick is offline
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Appreciate it, Carl—this is very helpful stuff. And you are of course qualified to critique it; this poem is not meant only for people who have read Finnegans Wake. The helpfulness of your comments across all sections speaks to this qualification.

A few notes by way of reply:

The poem was written at the intersection of two moods: heartbreak (the friend turned me down) and what I guess I'd call "gender despair"—the part of me that knew what I had to do on the latter front was engaged in a struggle with the part of me that was terrified about what that entailed. That terror is part of why the Humpty Dumpty story fits: acknowledging my womanhood to myself felt like a final end, an irreparable breaking. At the same time, what emerges from that is the ability to tell the person I love that I love them—there's a competition there. I take it that the despairing aspect of this competition dominates your read of the poem. Totally fair! It dominated me when I wrote it!

I intend the stone imagery to be a point to which multiple shifting meanings attach, an attractor in the narrator's thought (a "palimpsestal myth"?). So there is the desire to be a stone, embodying a desire for smoothness and beauty (IV), but also insensate existence and a certain relation to time (II). This is in tension with the "restlessness" of the narrator, which she can't help but project onto the stones—it is, of course, the lizards that are moving, but she, in her restlesslness, perceives the stone itself as moving. — If you try to fit it all into a single consistent image, it won't work. But then, the stones are restless, aren't they? And the narrator is, after all, not a stone at all: she's an egg...
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Unread 07-18-2022, 04:47 AM
Carl Copeland Carl Copeland is offline
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Thanks, Rose. I’m relieved that I at least got the unhappy ending right, but I still expect later acts of your second drama to be happy ones.

Carl
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