Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.



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Saturday, June 8, 2013

"Never the Twain" by Partridge Boswell -- Verse Daily, 6/8/2013

from Some Far Country (Grolier Poetry Press)
poem found here
 

First lines:
Perfect pearl suspended
           in the crosshairs of my apotheosis

 

text and form: an exploration of organic vs. conventional nature

— reformatted, with some editing 8/2/2014
 

Short one today, one that follows out of the three on contemporary poetic convention just previous.

Simple question: Does the form of this poem (i.e., arbitrarily broken lines in three-line, progressively indented stanzas) add to the poem, subtract from it, or accomplish nothing?

What I'm hoping for you to do is look at the poem, look at the line breaks, look at the lines, and decide if this form succeeds, or if this poem is a text forced into a structure that really doesn't fit the words. Do the words and form find organic unity, or is the structure merely a result of following contemporary poetic convention? You must notice also that there is almost no punctuation in the poem except for the period at the end. Yet both "Perfect" at the start and "You'll" near the bottom are capitalized; and "Memphis," near the middle, being at the start of a line, seems to signal a third place where a 'sentence' starts.

To get you going, let me point out a couple of moments in the poem that are problematic. (I say "problematic" in the sense that, if given the poem to edit, I would ask for justifications for these moments.) First, here:

           your finger on something irresistible
                        & not to be trusted in his johnnyroy

elvisjerrylee swagger & Lansky's

Notice how that single word — "johnnyroyelvisjerrylee" — has been broken in two. Is there a reason why that had to happen?

Earlier:

not with the sun there
            glaring you have to be-
                        have under winged

My want here from Boswell would be: justify the hyphenated word when (1) there's no apparent restrictions on lines to force it, and (2) it leaves me constantly reading the next line as "hav" (as in "I have a box") not "heyv" (to use Dictionary.com's phonetic spellings). There's a second hyphenated word later, with "juxta-posed."

Another:

            babelsong our safe house
                        roof now googlable from space—

remember that place? frozen

My issue: does not the line ending eliminate the need for the em-dash? (This one is half about form and half about punctuation, but the two are interrelated.)

Finally:

funambulist arc across
            summer's final panel
                        the only clue to loss her

Here, I wonder if the form is getting in the way of the reading of the last line in the stanza, the cluster of words on the line do not seem to gel, and I want to misread "loss" as "lose," especially in that "lose" rhymes with "clue."

As I said: they are problematic, and if put in a questioning duty I would ask for answers. But I put them here not as spot things to question, but as issues to be used to develop the question that involves the whole poem: does the form work for or against the poem? Is the form in natural engagement with the words of the poem, or are the words forced into an arbitrary structure? Or, what degree to either side?

 

Let me throw in one more question on form: do you find those indents to be workable, or too large?

 

Ok, one spot I absolutely do not like, just to bring it up. But I'll ask it as a question: Does the second line really work? Is this a moment of apotheosis? Does the moon being in the "crosshairs of my apotheosis" make sense in the context of the poem? Or is this just a pretty thing that you're not supposed to actually think about?

(Can something be "suspended in the crosshairs"? Or is that a problem created by the absense of punctuation, in that "suspended, in the crosshairs" makes more sense?)

By happenstance, the day after writing this, I came upon this usage of the word apotheosis while reading Moby Dick, in the paragraph closing the brief chapter on — the "six-inch grave" of — the helmsman Bulkington. For the coincidence, I put it here. But also to ask a question: should it be that some words can only be used in a context that itself speaks the word? and without that context, can the word only suffer bathetically?

But as in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God—so, better it is to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee, even if that were safety! For worm-like, then, oh! who would craven crawl to land! Terrors of the terrible! is all this agony so vain? Take heart, take heart, O Bulkington! Bear thee grimly, demigod! Up from the spray of thy ocean-perishing—straight up, leaps thy apotheosis!

(Chapter 23, pages 97-8 in the 1967 Norton edition.) —- added 6/9/2013

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