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Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Prologue:

Pale and skinny Billy Jones
Breathing slow among the enigmatic Hmong
past the great Mekong River cutting Laos
like a gilded snake and here Garcia went
with the tight wrapped message from a colonel
wrapped in ribbons and medals
for skinny Billy, come back to us Billy
come back to reality back to riotous Saigon

Now Billy and Garcia they nibble bony fish
drink water that does not quench a growing thirst
people standing by the river there don’t die
bombs don’t burn their flesh
  
Billy Jones and his tall tales gave him
Garcia the gift of life

He has to follow the river
he must follow the river
climb the mountain, return to Saigon with this secret
Oct/13/2012, 6:37 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Z---


sorry, no dice.



Not very exciting:



Pale and skinny



Here, the poem bumps into an old cliché, the inscrutable Asiatic; you don’t want to go there.



enigmatic Hmong



mythical structure---bring me the head of alfredo Garcia---better---letter for Garcia.





 1899


A Message to Garcia



By Elbert Hubbard



In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.
What to do!
Some one said to the President, "There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.



bernie


Last edited by mojaveo1, Oct/13/2012, 9:37 pm
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Bernie,

You and I seem to be diverging dramatically in our poetic tastes. I don't find your review particularly helpful. In fact, there's a great deal of contempt and hostility in it. I got mostly positive reviews at another site, so I know there is some merit to this poem, both in content and construction. But you can keep your dice.

Your quote about the Garcia of the Spanish American War has no place here, and I find it disrespectful. I'm talking about the Vietnam War, a totally different reality. And about the Hmong being inscrutable: there is a difference between the cliched inscrutable someone like you would use and enigmatic as it is used in the poem. The Hmong lived in the mountains, were tribal, and not easily accessible even to other Asians. They are the indigenous people, but I suppose you're going to tell me you're an expert on Native Americans, too. You might want to read up on the Hmong, since you probably ducked the war and don't know anything about them. Zak

quote:

mojaveo1 wrote:

Z---


sorry, no dice.



Not very exciting:



Pale and skinny



Here, the poem bumps into an old cliché, the inscrutable Asiatic; you don’t want to go there.



enigmatic Hmong



mythical structure---bring me the head of alfredo Garcia---better---letter for Garcia.





 1899


A Message to Garcia



By Elbert Hubbard



In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain & the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain vastness of Cuba- no one knew where. No mail nor telegraph message could reach him. The President must secure his cooperation, and quickly.
What to do!
Some one said to the President, "There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by the name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, & in three weeks came out on the other side of the Island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.



bernie





Last edited by Zakzzz5, Oct/14/2012, 3:17 am
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


hi Zak,

I find the use of language here very effective, evocative. The story of these two characters-- Garcia, sent on a mission to find and bring Billy back--reminds me of "Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now"--so those associations are quite strong. For me, "enigmatic" works fine and the specific names, "Hmong/Mekong river/Laos," provide a powerful sense of place. I especially like, "gilded snake" and "riotous Saigon."

S2 is very mysterious. Why is the boniness of the fish emphasized? Why doesn't the water quench the thirst which keeps growing? Why don't the people die or get burned by the bombs? In short, what is this place?

I don't mind that I'm left to mull these questions.

One little nit: I'd leave out the "they" in
S2L1.

Chris
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Christine,

I think you got the gist of the poem. It's left unresolved in a dangerous and surreal, unreal, place because the experience has left Garcia mulling over what transpired. What transpired is partly real, partly imagination. Bony fish, it would be my guess, might relate to the scantiness of the actual facts after they've been sucked into the unreality of the place. Thanks for reading & commenting. Zak

quote:

Christine98 wrote:

hi Zak,

I find the use of language here very effective, evocative. The story of these two characters-- Garcia, sent on a mission to find and bring Billy back--reminds me of "Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now"--so those associations are quite strong. For me, "enigmatic" works fine and the specific names, "Hmong/Mekong river/Laos," provide a powerful sense of place. I especially like, "gilded snake" and "riotous Saigon."

S2 is very mysterious. Why is the boniness of the fish emphasized? Why doesn't the water quench the thirst which keeps growing? Why don't the people die or get burned by the bombs? In short, what is this place?

I don't mind that I'm left to mull these questions.

One little nit: I'd leave out the "they" in
S2L1.

Chris



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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Z---

3 years going and doing whatever the Army asked during that era. i've raised three vietnamese children, now beautiful and accomplished young women. on a 1996 visit my flight was met by 26 vietnamese; i've sent three young people there through college, one through a PH.D program who now teaches at Saigon U. if you think it's because i'm rich, you'd be dead wrong.

here are two descriptions i greatly admire--the first about alexandria egypt; the second from---an action sequence that i greatly admire.


Durrell:


Streets that run back from the docks with their tattered rotten supercargo of houses, breathing into each others' mouths, keeling over. Shuttered balconies swarming with rats, and old women whose hair is full of the blood of ticks. Peeling wails leaning drunkenly to east and west of their true centre of gravity. The black ribbon of flies attaching itself to the lips and eyes of the children--the moist beads of summer flies everywhere; the very weight of their bodies snapping off ancient flypapers hanging in the violet doors of booths and cafes.... And then the street noises: shriek and clang of the water-bearing Saidi, dashing his metal cups together as an advertisement, the unheeded shrieks which pierce the hubbub from time to time, as of some small delicately-organized animal being disembowelled.


Action---

Cormac McCarthy---

“They’d had their hair cut with sheepshears by an esquilador at the ranch and the backs of their necks above their collars were white as scars and they wore their hats c ocked forward on their heads and they looked from side to side as they jogged along as if to challenge the countryside or anything it might hold.”


bernie








Last edited by Mojave01, Oct/16/2012, 1:07 pm
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Bernie,

The first description you provided I find a little over the top, a little too dense. It's not my cup of tea. The second one, Cormac McCarthy, well, he's one of my favorite contemporary writers, too. But he's into prose, and we're talking poetry.

As for your raising Vietnamese children, that's all fine and good. But it didn't in any way relate to your comments on my using "enigmatic" with regards to the Hmong. The Hmong are not Vietnamese. They are the counterparts to the Native Americans in Vietnam. The average Vietnamese detested them.

And raising Vietnamese didn't in any way punch your ticket so that you could bring in Garcia of the Spanish-American War into the Vietnam Conflict. I would have preferred it if you had somehow related it to either the mechanics of the poem or to the content. It came across disrespectful because before you put down the quote about Cuba and Garcia, you had dismissed the poem with your "no dice" comment. Zak

quote:

Mojave01 wrote:

Z---

3 years going and doing whatever the Army asked during that era. i've raised three vietnamese children, now beautiful and accomplished young women. on a 1996 visit my flight was met by 26 vietnamese; i've sent three young people there through college, one through a PH.D program who now teaches at Saigon U. if you think it's because i'm rich, you'd be dead wrong.

here are two descriptions i greatly admire--the first about alexandria egypt; the second from---an action sequence that i greatly admire.


Durrell:


Streets that run back from the docks with their tattered rotten supercargo of houses, breathing into each others' mouths, keeling over. Shuttered balconies swarming with rats, and old women whose hair is full of the blood of ticks. Peeling wails leaning drunkenly to east and west of their true centre of gravity. The black ribbon of flies attaching itself to the lips and eyes of the children--the moist beads of summer flies everywhere; the very weight of their bodies snapping off ancient flypapers hanging in the violet doors of booths and cafes.... And then the street noises: shriek and clang of the water-bearing Saidi, dashing his metal cups together as an advertisement, the unheeded shrieks which pierce the hubbub from time to time, as of some small delicately-organized animal being disembowelled.


Action---

Cormac McCarthy---

“They’d had their hair cut with sheepshears by an esquilador at the ranch and the backs of their necks above their collars were white as scars and they wore their hats c ocked forward on their heads and they looked from side to side as they jogged along as if to challenge the countryside or anything it might hold.”


bernie











Last edited by Zakzzz5, Oct/17/2012, 9:02 am
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Hi Zak,

 This is another poem by you in which I am not sure exactly what is happening, but that's not a problem. It's clear some sort of altered state of consciousness is being described. Are they on drugs and/or is it simply that the situation itself is so radcially consciousness altering? Did one or both of them die? I guess I read it differently than Chris did and than you intended, in that I thought it was Billy who lived and was hallucinating. IOW, I read:

Billy Jones and his tall tales gave him
Garcia[,] the gift of life

rather than:

Billy Jones and his tall tales gave him[,]
Garcia[,] the gift of life

But I don't think that ultimately matters?

I like your use of sparing but effective details throughout and the way the poem remains hauntingly unresolved.

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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


dear zak

great lyrics! for me it's a song! one that bob dylan could have sung!

i cannot read the lines without singing! altho i'm a bad singer!

but i can just hear this being sung to the strum of a guitar & harmonica!
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


This is a beautiful story! It has the layered texture and simplicity of a truly great short film. Thank you.
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Katlin,

I think your reading is an effective one. You must know I subscribe to the theory that the poem, the meaning of the poem, probably belongs as much to the reader as to the writer. Thanks much. Glad the sparing details worked for you. Zak
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


queenfisher,

There was, in fact, a section where I did have that feeling of a running jingle of some sort. Glad there was something there for you. Zak

quote:

queenfisher wrote:

dear zak

great lyrics! for me it's a song! one that bob dylan could have sung!

i cannot read the lines without singing! altho i'm a bad singer!

but i can just hear this being sung to the strum of a guitar & harmonica!



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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


libramoon,

Yeah, though the narrative was not clear in a conventional way, I'm glad it provided other elements that conveyed a story from it. Thank you for reading and commenting. Zak

quote:

libramoon wrote:

This is a beautiful story! It has the layered texture and simplicity of a truly great short film. Thank you.



Oct/19/2012, 8:37 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Zak: This poem does a lot for me, as do your explanations (in comment thread) about the Hmong. A poem like this, from a time and place so fraught with meaning and so very charged (as is evident by parts of the thread as well), tends to awe me a little. The subject matter, plain and simple, is beyond the ken of one who can never know. But I am grateful to poets and writers who take the courageous course to work with the material in spite of it all. So thank you.

I am curious that no one has commented on the title: Fiction: A Phantom Novel, nor on the subtitle or header: Prologue. They bring to mind, as someone mentioned, the whole Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness thing. The poem as prologue to a novel.... Or memoir?

I agree that the line:
quote:

cutting Laos
like a gilded snake

is not only gorgeous, but the epitome of simple evocation. I see it exactly -- or think I do.

The strophe about drinking without quenching, and people not dying or being burned -- somehow when I read that at first I did not even think of a hallucination as much as a bubble in time and space that I fantasize one might come upon in a land so full of history and spirituality. A bubble in which one is not hurt but neither is one healed. Time stops. The fish feed them but the bones stick. The water can be tasted but it won't quench. Bombs fall but don't burn. I imagine a silence in the bubble until time starts again and the journey continues.

Thank you for posting this.
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Ultimately the poem is not working for me. This in spite of so many fine touches, images, lines. Poem's pathos relies too much on the Heart of Darkness story line, what is ruined for us all by the Coppola movie. Yeah. Will need a different slant.

Tere
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vkp,

This is an impressive analysis. Better than one I could have done myself. The bubble in time observation is probably closer to what I had in mind without being able to articulate it. The other things, hallucinogens, exhaustion, could play a part in it, but the bubble probably encapsulates it all.

Yes, your reference to a novel is close to the truth of it. I do play with fiction, and there is a relationship. Thanks much for your careful read and thoughtful response. Zak

 
quote:

vkp wrote:

Zak: This poem does a lot for me, as do your explanations (in comment thread) about the Hmong. A poem like this, from a time and place so fraught with meaning and so very charged (as is evident by parts of the thread as well), tends to awe me a little. The subject matter, plain and simple, is beyond the ken of one who can never know. But I am grateful to poets and writers who take the courageous course to work with the material in spite of it all. So thank you.

I am curious that no one has commented on the title: Fiction: A Phantom Novel, nor on the subtitle or header: Prologue. They bring to mind, as someone mentioned, the whole Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness thing. The poem as prologue to a novel.... Or memoir?

I agree that the line:
quote:

cutting Laos
like a gilded snake

is not only gorgeous, but the epitome of simple evocation. I see it exactly -- or think I do.

The strophe about drinking without quenching, and people not dying or being burned -- somehow when I read that at first I did not even think of a hallucination as much as a bubble in time and space that I fantasize one might come upon in a land so full of history and spirituality. A bubble in which one is not hurt but neither is one healed. Time stops. The fish feed them but the bones stick. The water can be tasted but it won't quench. Bombs fall but don't burn. I imagine a silence in the bubble until time starts again and the journey continues.

Thank you for posting this.



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Terreson,

Well, I would have wanted to bring you in under my umbrella of approbation, but I suppose you can't win 'em all. The overall response to the poem on both sites has been positive: Overall 9 positive, 2 negative and 2 neutral. The overall response is welcomed, as I wondered about the topic, still a sore point with a lot of people inspite of the 1980's Welcome Home parades. I don't believe the wounds will really heal until our generation is all dead, kind of like the Civil War generation (War Between the States).

I thought about your comment that it was derivative of the Heart of Darkness and how Apocalypse Now had ruined it. I guess for you the newness of the poem wasn't new enough. I would propose that Billy "breathing slow among the enigmatic Hmong" is somehow different from both Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse now. Heart of Darkness is African, and this is Asian. Apocalypse Now is intent on murder, and this is intent on the delivery of a message. The current poem diverts into an experience or unreality that the other two stories only touch on. Ultimately, all war stories are derivative of Biblical stories, which themselves might be derivative of Sumerian stories, etc. Or derivative of the Illiad. Shakespeare was know as a great pirate of everything printed. So your objection to it being derivative can only balance on your sense that that derivation is not made new enough for you. I can buy that. But your response is too skimpy for me to determine what it was that was too stale. Maybe it's better not to know!!! Thanks, and forgive this long gyration. Zak

  
quote:

Terreson wrote:

Ultimately the poem is not working for me. This in spite of so many fine touches, images, lines. Poem's pathos relies too much on the Heart of Darkness story line, what is ruined for us all by the Coppola movie. Yeah. Will need a different slant.

Tere



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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Zak, my comment of a couple of nights ago were entirely too terse. You know I'm recovering from major surgery. Energy level challenged long before I get home from work. But that is no excuse.

You bring up a good point. Yes, all stories are, ultimately, derivative. War stories can be drawn back as far as the Bible, Homer, Babylon, Sumeria, etc. And the list of derivations goes on, as you point out with mentioning Shakespeare's piracies. I for one think the themes available to literature are severely limited. There only being a few. Practically all of lit's themes can be grouped and parsed as belonging to love, life, or death. That pretty much covers it.

What makes a new treatment of a theme worth the telling is the telling itself. The story line is not enough. Your poem has one. It touches on a story line but that is all. It does not give narrative, what I call the glorious detail. The poem relies on the logic of a theme. As such it reads like an algebraic equation. What I want is the story to convince me of both place and characters. I want the glorious detail. In brief, I want texture. You mention Homer's Illiad thing. Read again his section devoted to describing the shield of Achilles, really a poem complete in itself. That is texture. That is the glorious detail. That is what makes Homer's epic stand out as great literature.

It is always the same, Zak. Great literature does not stand as such because of the logic of its themes. Great literature stands out because of the poet's inventiveness when it comes to narrative, the glorious detail, texture, or whatever else you wish to call it. Shakespeare proves my point. His story lines were not great, being derivative. But his story telling is all but unparalleled.

So what about a full blown story involving Billy?

Tere
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Re: Fiction: A Phantom Novel


Terreson,

Good points. Some people did like my "gilded snake" detail. The driver for this poem, or the origins, of this poem rest on a novel I've worked on on and off for some time. I doubt that it will ever be published, but I do get a certain joy out of working on it. Perhaps if I had concentrated more on the Billy character as you suggest I would have been more successful with it. I do understand what you mean by texture. I hope you continue to improve your situation, and thank you for coming back. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Zak, my comment of a couple of nights ago were entirely too terse. You know I'm recovering from major surgery. Energy level challenged long before I get home from work. But that is no excuse.

You bring up a good point. Yes, all stories are, ultimately, derivative. War stories can be drawn back as far as the Bible, Homer, Babylon, Sumeria, etc. And the list of derivations goes on, as you point out with mentioning Shakespeare's piracies. I for one think the themes available to literature are severely limited. There only being a few. Practically all of lit's themes can be grouped and parsed as belonging to love, life, or death. That pretty much covers it.

What makes a new treatment of a theme worth the telling is the telling itself. The story line is not enough. Your poem has one. It touches on a story line but that is all. It does not give narrative, what I call the glorious detail. The poem relies on the logic of a theme. As such it reads like an algebraic equation. What I want is the story to convince me of both place and characters. I want the glorious detail. In brief, I want texture. You mention Homer's Illiad thing. Read again his section devoted to describing the shield of Achilles, really a poem complete in itself. That is texture. That is the glorious detail. That is what makes Homer's epic stand out as great literature.

It is always the same, Zak. Great literature does not stand as such because of the logic of its themes. Great literature stands out because of the poet's inventiveness when it comes to narrative, the glorious detail, texture, or whatever else you wish to call it. Shakespeare proves my point. His story lines were not great, being derivative. But his story telling is all but unparalleled.

So what about a full blown story involving Billy?

Tere



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