Tuesday, June 05, 2012

To have and to hold:

'Is sign language the real language of Paradise?' - Hugo Ball

You have lovely fingers, yes.
Five each amazing are
twigs of hold stems of grasp
through each other we clasp
our feeling closer than touch;
yet touch is more than we could ever say.
I hold you gently - tree by tree, twig to twig.

(Love is a little conifer in the backgarden of our hearts.)


Jim Murdoch said...

I like the idea behind this but I’m not so sure about the execution. I’m afraid the poem went all Benny Hill on me when I hit ‘glasp’. Lines two and three are awkward. I think you need to rephrase or add in some punctuation. I’m not sure about the logic of lines four and five: ‘Between each other we g[r]asp our feelings’ – I’m not sure I get ‘between’ here. I get the idea: touch is inadequate but it’s all we have since words never quite seem up to the job so we make the best of it. If branches are arms and twigs fingers you might want to rethink your verbs in line three; the arms hold but what do the fingers do? In the penultimate line why not have ‘trunk to trunk, bark to bark’? Just a suggestion.

McGuire said...

God Jim, you sure know how to murder a poem.

What's Benny Hill got to do with it?

'Between' plays both on the interlinking of fingers by a couple and the fact they reciprocate feeling between each other. It thought it was obvious. Maybe not.

I am extending the metaphor - branches and twigs - both represent fingers. trunk to trunk, bark to bark, is pretty ugly.

I have changed it to tree by tree, of course by that stage the tree is seen as a complete person. I think you are seeing it too literally. Maybe it is just terrible. In fact, after your beating I think it's pretty awful.

I have made some changes based on your outrageous suggestions. :P

Thanks. Next time bring a chainsaw ;)

Jim Murdoch said...

Benny Hill used to do an awful Chinaman whose entire sketch was based on getting r’s and l’s mixed up—‘grasp’ becomes ‘glasp’ etc—and I groan every time I think of it; I cannot believe just how popular he was when I was kid. Watching him now he’s dated badly. Amazes me that the Americans ever took to him. Looking at your change I see that it was ‘clasp’ and not ‘glasp’. Shirry boy. (And if you never saw Benny Hill’s Chinaman that will go right over your head.)

As for the poem the reader brings what the reader brings and many times we take a perfectly decent poem and make nonsense out of it. Don’t change anything to please me. Get other opinions. And then you decide. I’m a very literal person—I check facts and look up things that people put into poems. Most people are far more forgiving than me. My opinions are only that and don’t get upset by them or I’ll stop commenting altogether. I’m really a very bad person to ask to critique a poem and reviewing a book of them is pure hell. I sometimes wonder why I’m a poet because I’m completely underwhelmed by so much of it.

McGuire said...

Jim, I always appreciate the time you take to comment. You always provide constructive feedback. I am a bit of a defensive tongue and cheek master. Hence my cheeky reponses now and then. But I take everything you say fair and well.

By all means, keep commenting, what did you make of the edit?

Hear from you soon.

Jim Murdoch said...

One of my biggest weaknesses as a critic when it comes to poetry is that I want to rework poems in my voice. It’s why I get irritated with so many poems, because they don’t say things the way I, would have. I’ve just finished a review of a poetry book that everyone seems to be giving five stars to and raving about and I don’t. I give it a fair review but I just don’t see what they’re all raving about. This makes me wonder if it’s me and I don’t know what I’m talking about or perhaps I’m the only one who’s willing to be honest in what I say. This worries me because I know that I’m quite uneducated when it comes to poetry; all I have are years of experience of reading and writing the stuff. My suspicion—and this was a suspicion voiced by the poet when her first volume of poems was also praised into the ground—is that people are just being nice and ignoring anything that might not sit well with them assuming that if they didn’t get it then the fault was theirs. And this is something that worries me about contemporary poetry: how do you know if a poem is a bad poem? I suspect most people know instinctively when a poem lacks but are afraid to say because they don’t know how to. It was so much easier in the old days when poetry had form and rules. Not so much these days.

Anyway I still think the second line in this piece is awkward but then I like poetry that is grammatically correct. Larkin said once, "A well-known publisher asked me how one punctuated poetry, and looked flabbergasted when I said, The same as prose." There are a number of ways you could change that line but it’s your line and your poem. I would add a comma after ‘twigs of hold’ in the third line. I might also change ‘hug’ to ‘hold’ but really just because ‘hug’ makes me think of tree huggers. You might change ‘speak’ to ‘say’—I think that’s a little more sonorous. Sit on it for a while, a few weeks, and then look at it again and see if it works for you then. It is not a bad poem—the core idea is sound—but it needs tweaking to make it a good poem. In my humble (and very personal) opinion.

Rachel Fenton said...

At the risk of rubbing up against Jim's vision, I'll say I really liked this - up to the last line, which feels like overstating to me. But I like the E E Cummings-ness of it, the confused naivety (?) of it. It has a quality I appreciate.