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Saturday, 8 December 2007

Of Grief in Dusty Corners, Take 2

The abstract halls of mathematics rise
in cool, high-ceilinged arches, every line
a segment of infinity, which lies
precariously, perfectly inclined.

Yet once it was a garden made for lovers,
a cornucopia of odds and ends
and evens, where unsteadiness recovers,
secure between co-operating friends.

And when I step through theorems again,
I fear that, in this subtle space, the scent
of grief in dusty corners will remain
to catch me where I thought to be content.

It's still not as good as Penelope, but who cares? I'm a lot happier with this version.


The Exterminator said...

It's great to be able to watch your artistic process from over your shoulder. I think Take 2 is a huge improvement over Take 1, and here are just a few reasons why.

(1) In Take 2, the language is natural and honest. I do miss that wonderful opening With slow and steady patterning we grew into each other's thinking, but I was glad to say goodbye to these stilted phrases: tore bluntly through us twain, the phantom limb of conversations played (what a mixed metaphor that was), remembrances continuously rent, and the obvious meter-rescue of the redundant for always and for ever. The new version can actually be read aloud quite effectively as the work of a poet who lives in the 21st century.

(2) The division into quatrains is quite nice. First of all, the new organization clarifies your meaning. Second, it instantly shows the eye of the reader the contrast between the lovers' garden of the central quatrain, and the "coolly" mathematical imagery of the quatrains before and after. Third, the empty space between quatrains gives the reader or reciter room -- and motivation -- to digest what has been said.

(3) Take 2 is personalized. While Take 1 could refer to anyone who has ever been disappointed in love, the new version contains enough quirky particulars to create that sense of an intimacy shared between the poet and the reader. Now I know that both the speaker and the lover shared a bond in both mathematics and seemingly trivial interests (a cornucopia of odds and ends/ and evens), and that the speaker will never be able to find complete solace by retreating into the subject she enjoys. In short, Take 2 seems to be about a specific person: you, the poet.

Great work. Keep writing your sonnets.

Lynet said...

Gaah! Highlight all the worst parts of my other version, why don't you? (I'll just go and cringe for a bit. They really are quite awful, aren't they?). Nevertheless, I thank you for mentioning them anyway, because I can learn something from the way you end up reading them.

The new version can actually be read aloud quite effectively as the work of a poet who lives in the 21st century.

I happened to glance at it on my Technorati page, where the post is collected without the line breaks, and in some ways I almost liked it more, there. It's kind of weird.

I do miss that wonderful opening 'With slow and steady patterning we grew into each other's thinking'. . .

Maybe I'll keep it and use it for another sonnet. Probably a Petrarchan, if I can stand to write it, but in the mean time I've got another idea . . .

Thanks, sincerely, for the feedback and the careful reading.

The Exterminator said...

I'll just go and cringe for a bit.

I thought this was a no-cringe zone.

But cringing is very good exercise for a writer. It keeps the mental muscles in shape. I do it myself two or three times daily. Those writers who never cringe at what they've published aren't serious about communicating ideas and emotions.

I'll tell you, though: Cringing works best if you follow four or five reps by saying a loud "F--- it," and then going on to the next thing.