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Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


[Note: If you have the time, tell me if the revision is an improvement -- or not.]

The car was a shelter,
they lived in groggy sleepy
while their stalwart parents
with strong bones and something
stronger, age perhaps, went out
faced the cold, the dampness
of the dark before light brought
order to the chaos of the machine,
the machine that moved
rasping and grinding chains
and rolls of dirt breathing
down the sides and clods
the size of human heads
and potatoes the size
twice a man’s fist

the children huddled
like cocoons or white larvae
sheltered from the cold
that bit the bone
more than grinding metal
of the tractor and conveyer
chains grinding like some factory
breathing cold and the children
dragooned now to stoop
following the tractor
to pick the potato vines
with stumbling frozen
fingers and cold dust
frozen clods remove
-----------------------------------
ORIGINAL

dark dark car a moving cave
the darkness moving with
shadow car lights the cold
father caution mother answers
they are there we are there
caution caution a light the tractor
squeals the chains on conveyer
the children huddled hear the twist
of chain grinding on metal dust
older children have to go into the night
younger children sleep cocoons
then they squeal forced
into the darkness like white larvae
exposed to the outdoors fingers frozen
on frost covered the air breathing cold
covered dust breathing in
cold dust frozen clods remove
the potato vines fingers frozen
child crying but eventually stop
stumbling in the dark womblike
again into the dark


Last edited by Zakzzz5, Dec/25/2009, 4:48 am
Dec/24/2009, 10:56 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Well, f**k me running! When a poem forces me to stand up, shakes me down, makes me walk the length of my apartment a couple of times, THEN I know I am confronted with a poem.

Without question the revision is the poem, or closer to it, and the original is the germinal idea. A damn good idea but not yet a poem.

I don't know where to start or which lines to highlight or which parts to parse. The thing has got gestalt, it's got tension, it's got kinesis. How the hell did the poem come to you anyway? The whole thing is as grainy as a Walker Evans Depression Era photograph. Or a Diane Arbus photograph of sixties NYC. By grainy I mean textured. And what kicks me the hardest is how the narrative is centered on a car that is a home that is in a field that is a defacto factory. Your eye for the particular moment blows me away sometimes. And your way for bodying it out in images that predicate the moment. I am not sure I know of many poems looking to do what this one looks to do. Covering the hard pressed circumstance of poverty is one thing and easy enough to pull off. Covering it with the yeoman's sense of dignity is something else entirely. And that is the ethos that comes through for me: the yeoman sense of dignity.

I'll come back to the poem again, less enthusiastically, and get technical and all, and parse it to its bones. But, Zakman, I got to say this is poetry I can't pull down from a bookstore shelf because it ain't there. I'ld pay money for this.

Tere
Dec/26/2009, 1:27 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


The revision is terrific. Everything Tere said (but please don't f**k me running.)

Chris
Dec/26/2009, 9:43 am Link to this post Send Email to ChrisD1   Send PM to ChrisD1
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


It does get very cold in Idaho. yikes. I think you filled out the context of the poem well and that's what it needed in order to translate to the reader. Good Zak. You're on a roll.
Dec/26/2009, 12:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to dmehl808   Send PM to dmehl808
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


(Chrisfriend I hope I didn't offend you half as much as you made me chuckle)

Tere
Dec/26/2009, 3:06 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Hi Zak,

I agree with the others that the revision works. The content and language coalesce into a solid, down-to-earth (forgive the pun) poem about hardscrabble living.

P.S. My sister married a potato farmer. It's a family farm in a beautiful setting, but the work is not for the lazy or fainthearted. The best potato soup year round though.
Dec/26/2009, 3:33 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


What the others said, Zak. This poem is a treasure to read. I will be back to read it often, but I doubt I'll find a nit.

Thanks!

Pat

---
"Don't you worry--I ain't evil, I'm just bad".
~Chris Smither~
Dec/26/2009, 4:04 pm Link to this post Send Email to Patricia Jones   Send PM to Patricia Jones
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Terreson,

If you don't come back to it, it's ok, as I think you've explicated it well enough. It's been on my mind for some time, but had been working to bring it out properly. Have worked it in prose some too. I'm going to have to look up Walker Evans and Diane Arbus. Of course, we're all familiar with Depression photos, but it would be nice to connect one of them with a name. Good that you mentioned the dignity: It's one of the things I notice sometimes in articles, particularly, that they invoke pity without the resiliency of the working poor. Thanks, it's appreciated. Zak

quote:

Terreson wrote:

Well, f**k me running! When a poem forces me to stand up, shakes me down, makes me walk the length of my apartment a couple of times, THEN I know I am confronted with a poem.

Without question the revision is the poem, or closer to it, and the original is the germinal idea. A damn good idea but not yet a poem.

I don't know where to start or which lines to highlight or which parts to parse. The thing has got gestalt, it's got tension, it's got kinesis. How the hell did the poem come to you anyway? The whole thing is as grainy as a Walker Evans Depression Era photograph. Or a Diane Arbus photograph of sixties NYC. By grainy I mean textured. And what kicks me the hardest is how the narrative is centered on a car that is a home that is in a field that is a defacto factory. Your eye for the particular moment blows me away sometimes. And your way for bodying it out in images that predicate the moment. I am not sure I know of many poems looking to do what this one looks to do. Covering the hard pressed circumstance of poverty is one thing and easy enough to pull off. Covering it with the yeoman's sense of dignity is something else entirely. And that is the ethos that comes through for me: the yeoman sense of dignity.

I'll come back to the poem again, less enthusiastically, and get technical and all, and parse it to its bones. But, Zakman, I got to say this is poetry I can't pull down from a bookstore shelf because it ain't there. I'ld pay money for this.

Tere



Dec/29/2009, 6:42 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


ChrisD1 -- Thanks for the comments and the joke. (;

Dmeh -- Your own series on the truck-driving life have been only the most recent inspiration. There's a series Terreson has done. Both of you have shown it's possible to dig deeper into something.

Katlin -- Yes, potato farming is hard; and in the beginning it was the farmer's family that that did most of the stoop labor. There's a history to all this. Thanks for reading, it's appreciated. Zak

Pat -- Thanks much for reading. I'm glad you liked it. Zak
Dec/29/2009, 6:48 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
deepwaters Profile
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


I am late to this party, but better late than never. This poem makes me pay attention, feel the tension, live the life it tells; most of all, it makes me read it out loud, more than once. Thanks for posting, Zak.

I have trouble parsing the ending though:
quote:

Zakzzz5 wrote:
with stumbling frozen
fingers and cold dust
frozen clods remove



The children stoop, following the tractor, to pick the vines, with frozen fingers, and then I get lost in the structure. Is and conjoining "frozen fingers" and "cold dust frozen clods remove"? but then the frozen clods are not really removing the dust. Is the conjunction between only "frozen fingers" and "cold dust"? But then that doesn't make sense either. You can see I am missing something here. Once, I can figure out the syntax, I will know whether two usages of "frozen" one line apart works for me - or not emoticon

-shab
Dec/29/2009, 12:36 pm Link to this post Send Email to deepwaters   Send PM to deepwaters
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


quote:

deepwaters wrote:

I am late to this party, but better late than never. This poem makes me pay attention, feel the tension, live the life it tells; most of all, it makes me read it out loud, more than once. Thanks for posting, Zak.

I have trouble parsing the ending though:
quote:

Zakzzz5 wrote:
with stumbling frozen
fingers and cold dust
frozen clods remove



The children stoop, following the tractor, to pick the vines, with frozen fingers, and then I get lost in the structure. Is and conjoining "frozen fingers" and "cold dust frozen clods remove"? but then the frozen clods are not really removing the dust. Is the conjunction between only "frozen fingers" and "cold dust"? But then that doesn't make sense either. You can see I am missing something here. Once, I can figure out the syntax, I will know whether two usages of "frozen" one line apart works for me - or not emoticon

-shab



shab,

I can't quite follow what you are saying. However, I will say that the syntax is a little unconventional, non-traditional to convey the impact on the senses of the children -- of the cold, the dust, the size and texture of the clods, the vines, all this swirling in on them. That's why I put it in that order and have "remove" as the final word, because that is the main thing that they are doing, removing the vines, removing obstacles. Sometimes moving the huge cold, hard clods out of the way in order to remove the vines, so in the end everything is cable of being removed.

Probably confused you even more. Thanks for reading and commenting. It's appreciated. Zak
Dec/29/2009, 1:39 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Hi, Zak, those last three frozen and confused lines are really something else. Seems like the poet didn't quite know how to deal with the reality there, and that that might be a signifier for the entire poem. Not that you don't know what to do with it, but that it might go somewhere where WE don't find it easy to get at. This is earthy and realistic, and it loses itself in earth and realism, I feel. It finds itself again in its inability to cope with those things. The reader finds him/herself once more in the bucolic dread that feeds through all this, as though the entire poem had an undercurrent of fate and dread, as though pulling potatoes were at once the most natural and the most meaningful thing in the world, and something that carried at the same time all of what we expect from tradition and all our nightmares simultaneously.

Poetry scares the crap out of me like this.

Thanks for this one,

Steve.
Dec/31/2009, 10:38 pm Link to this post Send Email to SteveParker   Send PM to SteveParker
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Zakk, the reviz has def improvement. Reads well & i'll have a few inline comments. But you have this no punctuation thing going on....it's a "breath as line" deal...the only problem is that halfway thru line you throw stray commas everywhere like you're peppering your salad...what gives? When it comes to this aspect I am always on the side of the fence that either you stick with all the way thru & not give a single lick of punctuation or you full on sentence structure. Just thoughts. There are many who say the opposite: punctuation is like anything & can be manipulated for maximum effect....they may be right. I think it tends to confuse the reader this way tho....too big of a distraction....a gimmick..


Here area few thoughts:



The car was a shelter,-----slice the comma
they lived in groggy sleepy
while their stalwart parents--stalwart tells a bit...I want specifics
with strong bones and something
stronger, age perhaps, went out
faced the cold, the dampness
of the dark before light brought----slice "The"
order to the chaos of the machine,
the machine that moved
rasping and grinding chains
and rolls of dirt breathing
down the sides and clods---good!
the size of human heads----really good!!
and potatoes the size
twice a man’s fist

the children huddled
like cocoons or white larvae----we're rolling along now. Great images!!
sheltered from the cold---slice "the"
that bit the bone---I would go with something like "bites clear to bone" this feel plain-ish for the previous images
more than grinding metal
of the tractor and conveyer
----in instances like these: tractor and conveyer...I like to use the ligature "&" as it tends to enumerate better than the phrase

chains grinding like some factory
breathing cold and the children----more cold? Maybe chill or freeze or blue
dragooned now to stoop
following the tractor
to pick the potato vines
with stumbling frozen
fingers and cold dust
frozen clods remove


It has nice monstrous effect at the finale...works rather well...the language could be ratcheted down or up...either way...I am always in favor of up tho!


JR
Dec/31/2009, 11:42 pm Link to this post Send Email to JRPearson   Send PM to JRPearson
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


Steve,

Interesting perspective on it. Your comments aren't entirely clear to me, especially the meaning of signifier. But that's ok, I probably get most of it. You might be the first one to mention fate and dread. This was packed with information. Zak

quote:

SteveParker wrote:

Hi, Zak, those last three frozen and confused lines are really something else. Seems like the poet didn't quite know how to deal with the reality there, and that that might be a signifier for the entire poem. Not that you don't know what to do with it, but that it might go somewhere where WE don't find it easy to get at. This is earthy and realistic, and it loses itself in earth and realism, I feel. It finds itself again in its inability to cope with those things. The reader finds him/herself once more in the bucolic dread that feeds through all this, as though the entire poem had an undercurrent of fate and dread, as though pulling potatoes were at once the most natural and the most meaningful thing in the world, and something that carried at the same time all of what we expect from tradition and all our nightmares simultaneously.

Poetry scares the crap out of me like this.

Thanks for this one,

Steve.



Jan/1/2010, 8:18 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Pulling Potato Vines from the Rows (Revision #1)


JR,

I rewrote my original response. First, thanks for reading and commenting. Basically, I'm processing the comment about the commas. I say this because I get that comment from a couple of good people over at TCP. They say either don't use punctuation or use it uniformly. My dear friends making those comments are also into what is generally called post-modernist poetry (forgive the label, please). This means that they basically have thrown out all conventional, traditional rules of poetry.

But then, here they are introducing one of their own. I don't get it yet; but maybe I will later. I tried ridding the commas, and it hasn't worked for me yet. I do continue to look at the problem. But honestly, until I work it out or understand it better, I continue to look at the situation with a skeptic's eye that says it might just be another convention.

Yes, and I did read the rest of your comments and appreciate them. Zak

quote:

JRPearson wrote:

Zakk, the reviz has def improvement. Reads well & i'll have a few inline comments. But you have this no punctuation thing going on....it's a "breath as line" deal...the only problem is that halfway thru line you throw stray commas everywhere like you're peppering your salad...what gives? When it comes to this aspect I am always on the side of the fence that either you stick with all the way thru & not give a single lick of punctuation or you full on sentence structure. Just thoughts. There are many who say the opposite: punctuation is like anything & can be manipulated for maximum effect....they may be right. I think it tends to confuse the reader this way tho....too big of a distraction....a gimmick..


Here area few thoughts:



The car was a shelter,-----slice the comma
they lived in groggy sleepy
while their stalwart parents--stalwart tells a bit...I want specifics
with strong bones and something
stronger, age perhaps, went out
faced the cold, the dampness
of the dark before light brought----slice "The"
order to the chaos of the machine,
the machine that moved
rasping and grinding chains
and rolls of dirt breathing
down the sides and clods---good!
the size of human heads----really good!!
and potatoes the size
twice a man’s fist

the children huddled
like cocoons or white larvae----we're rolling along now. Great images!!
sheltered from the cold---slice "the"
that bit the bone---I would go with something like "bites clear to bone" this feel plain-ish for the previous images
more than grinding metal
of the tractor and conveyer
----in instances like these: tractor and conveyer...I like to use the ligature "&" as it tends to enumerate better than the phrase

chains grinding like some factory
breathing cold and the children----more cold? Maybe chill or freeze or blue
dragooned now to stoop
following the tractor
to pick the potato vines
with stumbling frozen
fingers and cold dust
frozen clods remove


It has nice monstrous effect at the finale...works rather well...the language could be ratcheted down or up...either way...I am always in favor of up tho!


JR





Last edited by Zakzzz5, Jan/1/2010, 10:14 am
Jan/1/2010, 8:29 am Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 


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