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pjouissance Profile
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snail of a tale


rev'n 2/23/10

The moon was a white bell the night she came
a curse with a box of cornmeal who plucked us...


a snail of a guy was I, though the sticky trail I left
dried quickly when I took an unexpected fall.

Sometimes even divine processes fail.
Reborn a snail, this human brain remained.

At first all I felt was rain upon my infant shell
clustered with others at the well of a lime-tree

then came hunger, which would gripe through my whole
short snail-life. I began to crawl and found the new leaves

of spring were crisp as celery, the yellow fruit a zesty dessert.
Night-pangs brought me out smooth on my foot. My tentacles

reminded me of arms, but these had eyes; I saw
through dim prisms, sailed stately on slime, explored

with my slow fellows, was neither unhappy nor happy, ate
and deposited my black scat, and even got to mate.

...with subtle fingers, closing the lid...
We squirmed and bumped and tried to climb out—

next thing I knew, hideous sun harassed me
I heard the cackle of monsters and a hard red-

tongued maw gobbled me down. But even
from the limbo of a bowel I found renewal—

wedged in the vent, a luminous fertile egg
the shell so thin my spirit easily nuzzled in.

'
'
'
_________________________________________________
rev'n 2/18/10

A snail of a guy was I, though the slime-trail I left
dried quickly when I took an unexpected fall.

Sometimes even divine processes fail.
Reborn a real snail, my human brain remained.

At first all I felt was rain upon my infant shell
clustered with others at the well of a lime-tree

then came hunger which griped through my whole
short snail-life. I began to crawl and found the new leaves

of spring were of a greeniness crisp as celery, the new fruit a zesty dessert.
Night-hunger brought me out smooth on my foot. My tentacles

reminded me of arms, but these had eyes; I saw
through dim prisms, and sailed stately on slime, explored

with my slow fellows, was not unhappy nor happy, ate
and deposited my black scat, and even got to mate.

The moon was a white bell the night she came
a curse with a box of cornmeal who plucked us

with subtle fingers, closing the lid.
We squirmed and bumped and tried to climb out—

I had heard tales by now of snails being carried
away, perhaps to eat holes in a new garden.

Next thing I knew, hideous sun harassed me
I heard the cackle of monsters and a hard red-

tongued maw gobbled me down. But
even in the limbo of its bowels I found renewal—

wedged in the vent, a luminous fertile egg
with a shell so thin my spirit easily nuzzled in.

'
'
'
_________________________________________________

original





a snail of a guy was I in life; the slime-trail I left
quickly dried, though, when I took an unexpected fall.

sometimes even divine processes fail.
re-born a snail, my human brain remained.

at first all I felt was rain upon my infant shell
clustered with others at the well of a lime-tree

then came hunger which griped through my whole
short rebirth. I began to crawl and found the new leaves

were like celery and of a crisp greeniness
the new fruit a zesty dessert. night-hunger

brought me out smooth on my foot. my tentacles
made me remember arms, but these had eyes; I saw through dim prisms,

and sailed stately on slime; quarreled in bumps with my slow fellows
was not unhappy or happy, ate, deposited

my black scat, with a vague desire developing to mate.
the moon was a white bell the night she came

a cursing woman with a box of cornmeal
plucked me with subtle fingers, closed the lid.

we squirmed and bumped and tried to climb out
I had heard tales by now of snails being carried

away, perhaps to eat holes in a new garden.
next thing I knew, hideous sun harassed me

I heard the cackle of monsters and a hard red-
tongued maw gobbled me down live. now,

Deities, from limbo I beg. do not remake me
human or escargot next time, make me the chicken.

I'm called. it is a call. it is a call. calling. calling.
pulled in. corraled. melded. recalled. folded. relayed.

afloat in the effluvium I detect an egg forming
luminous, colossal. my little wet self cries, let me in.

'
'
'

Last edited by pjouissance, Feb/23/2010, 1:01 pm
Feb/17/2010, 5:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


My goodness. The natural history of a snail. To pick it apart I'll have to come back on a day not a work day. But I'm really taking to this.

First impression. Couplet structure is done well, and couplet poems are so hard to do effectively. Voice comes through. Language is clean. And I think this tale of a snail is not so little. I'll be back, Auto. You got a poem in hand.

Tere
Feb/17/2010, 8:31 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


Auto,

Another compelling read, and in just the same way your invisible man story was. OTOH, you have all the little details, the concrete specifics, which are engaging in themselves. Then, OTOH, you have the larger narrative arc, which is also engaging and takes a few unexpected (oh no! lol) turns. Also, lots of fun playing on words & sounds that work well to set the tone. This reminds me of an Aesop's fable, and I bet it would be fun to read out loud. I liked the added dimension of reincarnation as well.

Feb/17/2010, 8:47 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
pjouissance Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


Thanks very much, Katlin and Tere,

Auto

Feb/17/2010, 9:08 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


A second, more relaxed and expansive, reading of the poem. I don't know what strikes me first, but certainly craftsmanship, maybe I should say craftswoman ship, comes through. Control of language, image, narrative, even syntax speaks of accomplished wordsmithing. No kidding, Auto. This is good writing.

The flow of narrative comes through too. The storyline is as if there is no other way the story could go. I mean it, what?, it has the quality of necessity.

I know enough of your poetry to know that, stylistically, the syntax is yours. I've always loved what Cocteau said about style, that to be original it has to be a matter of how the writer thinks. The thinking comes through here as elegant. Elegant thinking. I like the notion.

Mabe you know this, since, you write like a gardener here. But snails, like slugs, are absolutely essential to the health of the soil. Sure. There presence is a trade-off for gardeners when their special flowers and plants are nibbled on. But without the nightshade, so to speak, soil goes barren. And there is that in the poem that tells me you know this: couplet 7 and the penultimate couplet.

I had no difficulty walking down the line, as it were. I stumbled not once, or had to back up to get a sense of the scene. At first I wanted to question the transformation aspect of the poem, or that the snail was once human. I thought: maybe a bit too anthro-centric. But then I remembered a favorite Roman era novel of mine involving the transformation of a man into a jack-ass. (See The Golden Ass thread down below in Gaia's Gown.) And I was good to go.

Auto, if I could find something bad to say about the poem I would. I can't. I sense no falseness. Likely you'll continue tinkering with it. That is your way.

But wait. I just realized what strikes me the most about the poem. It is its playfulness with language. Not arbitrary. I get the necessity of the scene. And certainly the story would be serious enough for this particular snail as it involves love, life, and death. But the hand is light. And the story gets told from the inside out. For the duration of the poem I am that snail.

I apologize for the lack of critical remarks. I would tear it apart if I could. But this is a poem.

Tere
Feb/20/2010, 4:32 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
pjouissance Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


Hi, Tere,

The rules are different when one is writing a narrative. You have to get the story out, that's number one, and if it's good the storyline will be clear, dynamic, and as you kindly observe, ineluctable. This requires pretty conventional syntax and is suitable for rhyme and an attempt to be elegant with word usage. So that's the attempt here, and thank you very much for your encouraging comments.

Speaking of syntax, I have been poking around looking for your syntax, btw, the syntax I remember from your tcp days. I'd like to compare it to George Brew's, a tcp poet who hasn't been around much lately, but whose work I keep thinking bears a resemblance to that style of yours. As I recall, almost all your poems had this unusual syntax -- got any around here?

The thing about this poem is that I tried to tell a magic story and somehow in all the conventionalization the magic must have gotten lost. It feels flat, for all my efforts. It's so much easier to hang on for the spirit-ride if you're just writing about a mood or state of mind, don't you think?

Anyway, your comment is much appreciated, Tere,

Auto
Feb/20/2010, 7:07 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


Everything you say about narrative makes sense to me, Auto. It is how I see the case too. I don't know about you, but I frankly miss narrative poetry. I can't figure out why more poets don't enjoy a bit of good old fashion story telling. I have a sizable number of lyrical narratives I've told over the years. It is always fun to do.

And now, my friend, you get the kewpie doll. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, has ever asked after the poetry done in the manner you are thinking of. You are the first. In addition to George Brew, another on line poet we both know who has worked similarly is Dave of TCP. DHML I think is the correct spelling of his screen name. You can find something of it here in Ateliers. It is his Dollar Store series. Quite possibly it is major poetry too.

I have two examples posted of the stylistic approach you are talking about. In the Poetry Spectrum go to the Bitter Root and Sweet thread. On page one, Jan 3, you will find "In Storied Nights." On Jan 10 I posted another such poem, "In Season Song." I had such fun with that collection. Less than twenty poems written over the course of two years. Each one slowly, deliberately, damn near tectonically built. I would write down notes as I went about my business. Images and phrases. When I felt I had a conception or a story in mind, usually it involved weeks of note taking, I would sit down to paper. As I've mentioned in diffferent places I was living in a deep forest environment of doug firs, hemlocks, and massive western red cedar trees. Your perception of things is different in a deep forest. No horizons, no far and near, no vanishing perspectives, only the up and down, the near and nearer, and especially the layers of light and sound. And the under-layers. I am convinced the poetry made was environmentally induced. Anyway, thank you. You made my day.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Feb/21/2010, 2:34 pm
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ChrisD1 Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


hi Auto,

There are two things I miss in the revised version:

"of a crisp greeniness" the surprising little twist is a reminder of a foreign or altered perception. And "crisp greeniness" evokes the word "creepy," almost a subliminal cue, I feel a little queasy and creeped out reading this. But in a good way.

Also miss, "hideous sun harrassed me." Just more pronounced; puts me in mind of a snail writhing in the heat of the sun.

"lime tree" is particularly effective in that
it evokes a pervasive sense of "slime."

Interesting how these twists and torques of language set off a whole domino effect of associations.

Cheers,

Chris
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pjouissance Profile
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Re: snail of a tale


Hi, Chris,

Thanks! I think you are right about greeniness and harassed, I appreciate the input and will change 'em back.

Take care,

Auto
Feb/21/2010, 3:34 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Hi, Tere,

I thought it was your regular "voice"! I was surprised to see these other voices. OK, I'll go look. Am not sure why you compare that voice to Dave, except maybe for the flowing and rushing of the lines. Anyway will go remind myself.

Take care,
Auto
Feb/21/2010, 3:42 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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Auto, I do not want to take attention away from your poem. I still stand by my comments on it. Reading it yet again I can add there is originality to it. In the back stacks of this stupidly bulbous brain of mine the only close resemblance I can scare up might be the tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann and those of Novalis, both German Romantics. You are in impeccable company.

As for my voices, six different collections, six different voices mostly. Such a horror I have of repeating myself, which I probably do in some way anyway. Musicologists say that while Igor Stravinsky may not have been an original genius he was a gifted stylist capable of grafting himself to different styles and voices. I get the assessment.

Tere
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pjouissance Profile
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OK, Tere,

I just read them and lo, my memory was different. When I first read this style on tcp, I was puzzled and even a little irritated. I was just starting out thinking about syntax, I think, and I'm not sure I could appreciate the advantages of even slightly changing syntax. I thought it made the poem harder to read. Both poems seem quite limpid to me now! How weird!

I do see them as being like George's. Maybe it's the level the reflections occur at. It's also very definitely the sound-associations and musicality. Your lines and stanzas are longer - his are closer to songs - but there's a kinship.

I see this was a nature-visionary time. The poems do seem lit and shadowed by the tree-leaves. They are formal, too, polished and elegant, it seems to me.

Thanks for letting me see them,

Auto
Feb/21/2010, 4:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to pjouissance   Send PM to pjouissance
 
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I think I get it, Auto. This line of inquiry. You are pressing against parameters. See? Limpid is the exact right word for this snail poem of yours.

But how to state the case precisely? The balance is thread-thin delicate between stretching syntactical parameters and keeping the poem lyrically grounded. Most of us poets fail in the quest. Without the grounding there is no poetry. Without the stretching there is also no poetry.

I think I get some notion of your aims. Thank you for letting me and the board chase along.

Tere
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Hi Auto,

I'm sorry it has taken my so long to get back to this piece. I wanted to tell you that when I first read it, I felt it was a fairy tale for grownups, which is another way of saying I think the magic is in there.

I agree with Chris about "greeniness and harassed." I like the new ending very much, but I'm uncertain about moving this stanza up to the beginning:

"The moon was a white bell the night she came
a curse with a box of cornmeal who plucked us..."

I was surprised when the snail got eaten in the first read, which added to my horrified pleasure as a reader. Moving the stanza up, undercut my surprise, but that might be because I already knew what was going to happen, rather than because the first stanza now works as provocative foreshadowing.

"The thing about this poem is that I tried to tell a magic story and somehow in all the conventionalization the magic must have gotten lost. It feels flat, for all my efforts. It's so much easier to hang on for the spirit-ride if you're just writing about a mood or state of mind, don't you think?"

As I said, I think the magic is still there; perhaps it got diminished for you during the revision process? I love the idea of a "spirit-ride."
 
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pjouissance Profile
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Thank you, tere and Katlin, for your comments and encouragement!

Katlin, I've had this poem up in revised form for a while now and must confess I don't know whether to revert to the original structure or not. I've read it too many times myself. It's so straightforward of a narrative in the original, but then, what's wrong with the occasional straight narrative? Argh! Anyway, I'll probably flip a coin...

Thanks again,

Auto
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