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Old 6th Oct 2011, 13:31   #101
amner
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Default Re: National Poetry Day

...and, because the Nobel Prize for Literature falls on the same day...

Allegro - Tomas Tranströmer

After a black day, I play Haydn,
and feel a little warmth in my hands.
The keys are ready. Kind hammers fall.
The sound is spirited, green, and full of silence.
The sound says that freedom exists
and someone pays no tax to Caesar.
I shove my hands in my haydnpockets
and act like a man who is calm about it all.
I raise my haydnflag. The signal is:
“We do not surrender. But want peace.”
The music is a house of glass standing on a slope;
rocks are flying, rocks are rolling.
The rocks roll straight through the house
but every pane of glass is still whole.
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Old 6th Oct 2011, 14:23   #102
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Hastily-scrawled poem in honour of both poetry day and trainee teachers I have known:



Trainee Teacher

Your cheek is warming up a gain.
Your lips wear spittle like the splash
Of blessings, ready to swear, defame
The lot that left you here, awash
In a holy sea of uncertainty.
I only stand on ceremony
And books, half-read, remembered as
Through glasses, badly. “It’s like jazz,”
My supervisor said. “Improvise.
Tell stories. Find a melody.”
But you and I have little use
For similes. We are unwise.
“What do you want?” I ask. “A ‘C’.
Can you get it me?” Where’s the booze?
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 4:25   #103
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Everyone has heard of a "school" of fishes, but how about an"exultation" of starlings, or a "murder" of crows? Well then,
I'll see you one, and raise you one --just for fun:
A Modest Proposal of Feline Taxonomy
by DR. Prof. Erwin Fuzzwinkle, Ph.D. of the Humane Society
The gluttony of kittens Littered all together,
In gastronomic terms, is not to be denied.
And we all know; when hungry lions hunt in tether,
Regardless who eats what, their union’s called a Pride.
But amidst all this feline blood and bone relation,
And putting taxonomic subtleties aside,
There is a moral fact of minor consternation:
And it is one that begs our Conscience to decide.

What should we call the mangy clutter whose survival
Is put at risk upon the passing of the stray,
Who took them in against a lonely night’s arrival
And fed and nurtured them through each long, empty day--
Until they grew into a procreative nation—
And, maybe, claimed that they were needed for “the rats”?
This is a clan without relation now, or station.
This, I propose, we call a “Tragedy” of cats.
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 15:24   #104
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Default Re: National Poetry Day

Back online after 36 hours of bust internet:

Atlas


There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring;
Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.

UA Fanthorpe
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 19:52   #105
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Hi Fanshawe,
I've enjoyed the poem "Trainee Teacher" and I thank you for sharing it. Not only did I get to enjoy an authentic effort from a fellow Palimpsester, but it encouraged me to share one of my own. After mulling it over a few times, I thought I might try a critique, if that's all right. But I wouldn't do it without express permission. Criticizing poems, especially self-described "hastily written" ones can be a dicey business, but it intrigues me to follow up on our discussion of the use of argument in criticism.
I promise to be careful of ascribing intents that may not be present.


Amner,
Thanks for the Transtrømer poem. I found very little available to quick on-line searches yesterday. It seems like something I will like looking into.

Col, I liked the Fanthorpe poem well enough, but, honestly, not as much as Fanshawe's! I think I like irony more than less! But thanks still for the heads-up. I was not aware of her work --'til now.
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Old 7th Oct 2011, 20:41   #106
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kjml, if you feel like it, give it a bash. I wouldn't have posted it if I wasn't prepared for criticism, whether positive or negative. I've been a member of a local writer's group for a couple of years now and have grown a thick skin when it comes to accepting criticism. I take any response as a compliment - readers are precious in this age of literary glut.

[And as for your kind suggestion I write a story about Schopenhauer's cleaner - I love the idea but I think that's more your area of expertise. I'm currently researching John Bunyan for a story and haven't really the time to take on another project.]
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Old 8th Oct 2011, 0:03   #107
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I'll join the looking for criticism movement with this:-

Listen, not with your ears
Listen from your heart
Seeing, use not your eyes,
Look from your soul
Love not with your heart
Love with your soul
Touch with yourself
Not with your hand
Taste with your soul
Not with your tongue
Believe with your being
And love with your all.
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Old 8th Oct 2011, 22:40   #108
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Thanks for playing along, Fanshawe. And, I’m sorry about the delay, but I did get side-tracked!

First off, I like your handy use (and abuse) of slant rhymes and metrical anomalies. It is tapping the modern vein, to be sure, but more than that, it suits the sardony of the voice, which carries so much of the poem's meaning. The poem, I think, presents a comical episode of conflict between a trainee-teacher's professional ideals and a student's brazen mediocrity. This much was clear generally, from the first reading, but it got to be tricky accounting for the pronoun references. There might be two characters present and referred to in the first 12 lines, before the student (a third presence) adds his (or hers) in an answer. This amount of ambiguity at the beginning of a poem presented this reader with real problems. It got me off the track before I was, I hope, rightly on it!

So, I had an early notion that this poem involved a conversation between two teachers, maybe one older (the speaker) and one younger, which was prompted by the ambiguity of the direct address* ("Your cheek . . ."), but, finally, I opted in favor of another interpretation. The interpretation I opted for was, that of one trainee's interior monologue at a moment of confrontation with a student, which monologue is interrupted by a question-and-answer ("What do you want?" . . . "a 'C'") and concluded, somewhat ruefully (comically), by another question: "Where's the booze?".
The scene is actually a classic one, an eternally recurring moment of truth – the head-on crash of ideals with reality - and the poet knows this, apparently instinctively. (Wait! What ideals? What are you talking about? Hold on, I'll get to that!)

The trainee seems, at first, to be assessing the student as one might size-up an opponent in a showdown of some sort, noticing the uncouth spittle and the readiness to swear, etc., (= cheek). One notes the ready empathy – a trainee is also a student of sorts, after all - but at the same time, one begins to wonder whether the speaker is not really also (or only?) projecting his/her own perplexity. Naturally, this raises the question: why? An answer is then given in lines 6 – 10, where the speaker admits to an insecurity and alludes to a proffered remedy, in his memory of a mentor’s reassurances; “It’s like Jazz . . . “. etc. So far, the scene is engagingly and concisely set for battle. It is a battle the trainee won’t win! Ha! S/he capitulates at once . . . because they are both unwise.

Why are they unwise? One of them (the student), presumably because he is just a kid, and the other, the trainee, because s/he has yet to find his Supervisor's consolation in ‘similes.’ i.e. he has not (yet) found a way to see beyond - or 'euphemize' - the mediocrity ("A 'C'"), or to reconcile it with his ideals; though he has found other remedies! This disillusionment or (momentary?) capitulation has made him, essentially, just like the student (Empathy has become actual sympathy.) --at least in this respect: he, too, is ready to forsake similes and settle for a lesser option.

It is important to note the ambiguity of reference here. ‘Simile’ as used in line 12, stands in for mere platitude – in relation to the supervisor’s encouragement, on the one hand, and putatively boring studies in rhetoric, for the student, on the other. This brings me to my one moment of true puzzlement: it is at lines 11 and 12. Obviously, everything takes a turn here, since the overt statement
But you and I have little use
For similes. We are unwise.
is at odds, not just with the mentoring platitudes of the Supervisor, but with the similes employed so frequently and freely, by the speaker himself, in the earlier lines (LL2 -3), "spittle like the splash of blessings"... and, "remembered as through glasses" (LL7-7+1). The ironic intent is clear, but I wonder, do these lines now carry a too-heavy load? Doesn't the ambiguity of "similes" – his own use of them? the Supervisor's? or both? - somewhat diffuse or spoil the real focus of the irony? If so, can the poet get around this? (If not, we are left with this conundrum: why does a guy/gal who uses so many similes explicitly claim to have no use for them?) Given the plentitude of employed similes, and the direct and crucial reference to simile in the poem, this is a point that cannot be glossed over!

Hence, I think this is a weakness, but not an insuperable one. The poet can disentangle this by tweaking these two lines, probably easily enough, and bringing to focus the irony while avoiding the apparent self-contradiction. (I even have a substitution in mind, but that would be making this my poem, and not yours!)

Now back to Ideals: One might say, ideals are extraneous to the poem, the poet never mentioned ideals --but one would be wrong! (That's right. I said it: people can be wrong about poems!) The notion (and the drama) is implicit in the selection of and reference to a teacher. It flows logically from what a teacher is in our culture, and what "teacher" really means in our language. For teaching is, even now, not merely a job, nor even a career, but a Profession. And, a Profession is still defined (by this poet, at least!) by relation to Ideals, and to the expected commitment to and faith in those ideals. We share this assumption and definition.The evidence for this is implicit in our own initial reaction to the poem! Before we know exactly what, and while we think of an individual situation only, we know, seemingly instinctively, that there is something more at stake; something engaging. That something is what makes the perplexity, and the resolve, of a trainee a matter, not only of some minor drama, but also of real interest! (Otherwise, why would we care?) Without this awareness, the whole thing would be non-sensical. The fact that it isn’t nonsensical – and that it is engaging - even before we know why, makes this clear.

The tacit assumption upon which all else depends - and the one we barely notice for its being so obvious -is that teaching is a profession, replete with its idealism and its challenge to mediocrity. It only follows from that, that there is at stake a confrontation between mediocre reality and the trainee's faith in his/her Ideals. His or her comical resolution of the conflict supplies the fun. The fact that s/he reaches for the bottle is a comical testament to the fact that, the ideals are still with him! (If you don't care, you can't be offended!) Interestingly, this parallels what I said above: If you don’t assume ideals, there would be no 'moment of truth,' and the poem would fall flat.
Instead, we laugh and hope that the trainee's survival tactic is a temporary crutch and not an enduring strategy. (But we are invited to wonder by the sardonic tone of voice that infuses this poem: is it really worse than - or is it just different from - the supervisor’s artful dodge?)

So, Windbag, at long last, is that the meaning of the poem?
Not quite: though it is a big part of. However, I think, the voice is the other (or another) part: specifically, what I earlier called the sardony of the voice. This crash of cultures has occurred many times before , and has been written about before, so what is special about the present case? The voice: What makes it wry and surprisingly pleasant is the presentation of the actual idealism of the teacher, its being reflected – in the body of the poem - only indirectly by his (mental) reaching for the bottle. That’s how we know that this trainee is really of that caste. The title alone, which names the trainee as a teacher, cannot assure us of that. What makes it Art, is that we get to witness, or experience, it for ourselves. And, we are guided to a wry, but generous, view of it by the poet’s own 'generosity.'

There has got to be a good reason for all that empathy, which is poured into and put on display in so few lines. Consider the speaker’s earliest assessment of the student: it is both sympathetic and generous. Consider the advice of the Supervisor: it too, though ultimately unconvincing, is clearly meant generously, as encouragement. Finally, consider the eventual capitulation of the trainee: it is a bald statement of unity or identification. Everything about this focus of tone (After all, there were other options!) militates for a compassionate, though wry view of the trainee’s present circumstance. This too we can 'get' by looking closely, asking 'why?', and trying, in our answering, to be as broad-minded as we can be about the poem.

Ultimately, I’ll say, that the ‘meaning’ cannot be paraphrased merely as a proposition. 'Meaning' is an accomplished understanding of something that has its own reason for being, that communicates in a voice with a distinct tone and register, and that presents us with a possibility of accessing and understanding that reason. That’s worth one’s while.

Good job, Fanshawe! . . . now, please, clear up the ambiguities!


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*The initial ambiguity, btw, is compounded by the ambiguity of "cheek". If I assume a physical interpretation, the scene requires bodily contact; but if I assume the British slang for what Americans call "attitude" - meaning either feistiness, or presumptuousness, because we just won't use the word "impudence" (too undemocratic) - then "cheek" becomes an interpretive reading of the other's mood or intent. But this is mostly a matter of local or national idiom.
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Old 9th Oct 2011, 9:52   #109
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Kjml, I am unnerved by the accuracy and generosity of your reading and can only conclude that you are a far more skilled reader of poetry than I am poet. Thank you.

You have it perfectly, even down to the 'similes' weakness. I saw that that particular line conflicted with what had gone before, but as my two year old son was beginning to stir from his afternoon nap, I posted it like that anyway (reasoning, perhaps unfairly, that most visitors to palimpsest would either avoid a self-written poem like the plague or give it only a cursory glance).

Yes, I intended 'cheek' in both the senses you identified.

The confusion of the pronoun references at the beginning could also be a weak point. I regularly receive the criticism that I make it too difficult for the reader at the beginning of pieces (like here and in the 'Lambs' story). A lot of people find it alienating.

The scene described in the poem took place last Wednesday, when I sat watching a trainee in conflict with a student and it took me back to my own training days. It made me think about the advice I had been giving him and whether I'd thrown him to the lions in a certain sense. So the empathy you identify might actually just be guilt, because I suppose now, if I were to place myself in this poem, I would be the supervisor with the impractical advise.

Thanks again, kjml. This is only the second poem I've ever written, and it is hugely gratifying to get such a response to it.
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Old 9th Oct 2011, 10:35   #110
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Hello Fanshawe,
If that is only number two I say, write on, Boy, write on!
With all due respect, and I mean this completely, you have a talent, a knack and a gift.

Too often, the best poets are those who don't know or imagine that they are gifted. (Try searching your memory; how often in life and in literature is it said, that they who were gifted were also muted, by circumstance or self-doubt.) It, literally, took me years to compose the merely satirical verse I posted. I think mine is "weightier", but yours is better! That's the difference between a philosopher and a poet!

Thank you for allowing me the chance to spread my wings, so to speak, and to say "out loud" what I do believe.
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