Starfish

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Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:25 pm

     
Starfish*

Viscid
outpouring
of the bituminous night.
An intimate intrusion; this
summer's soft, secreting dark,
seeks thermal equilibrium
between breath and air.

And settles,
as you lie unsettled
on the rucked, roscid sheet,
that clots to your adhesive skin.
An unwanted epithelium.

Other layers,
flayed and flung aside,
congeal on the floor,
and in the thickening silence
you hear, or remember,
a voice; petulant, plaintive,
in the oppressive unfairness

of five, and heat,
and wanting sleep.
Your mother's helpless
frustration; she couldn't control
the weather, you can't turn over.
Stranded, on your salt-slick back,

a starfish,
waiting
for the cool tide
of morning.

     
     
Last edited by NotQuiteSure on Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Starfish

Postby 1lankest » Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:53 pm

Some visceral stuff here, NOT, I like it.

Sounds like a description of birth - or a new born's helpless inertia.

I think the comparison with the starfish works.

My only question is whether, at times, it is trying to hard. Viscid is, afterall, the first word....

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Fri Jul 14, 2017 11:58 am

     
Luke, thanks for you time.
(From viscous to viscid involved very little effort at all).

Regards, Not.
     
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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Fri Jul 14, 2017 12:00 pm

* Changed L2 from;
     poured out
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Re: Starfish

Postby David » Fri Jul 14, 2017 5:38 pm

1lankest wrote:My only question is whether, at times, it is trying to hard. Viscid is, afterall, the first word....

Well quite. You've really thrown the dictionary at this one, Not. But the result is pretty good.

I like viscid. Not sure there's any excuse for roscid - or is that just my way of saying I've never seen it before? Anyway, it is a good word to know, but I'm not sure it can - or should - co-exist in a poem with viscid.

Even epithelium works - after a bit of surreptitious checking. I don't think bituminous night does.

Having chuntered peevishly about the words you've used, I must say I think it's an excellent poem. Even if I'm not entirely sure what's going on.

Cheers

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:19 pm

     
Thanks David,
I rather enjoyed the paired 'viscid/roscid' (but I suspect I'll end up outnumbered).
I arrived at the latter because I wasn't sure about 'rucked, wrung' sonically.
Bituminous (from bitumen - black viscous... - by way of tar-black (too Thomas)/tar-pit night).
If you want the abridged version:
(Far) too hot
can't sleep
bugger.

Regards, Not.
     
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Re: Starfish

Postby Macavity » Sat Jul 15, 2017 5:21 am

Stranded, on your salt-slick back,

a starfish,
waiting
for the cool tide
of morning.


I thought that was a lovely, clear image to end the poem.

I rather enjoyed the paired 'viscid/roscid' (but I suspect I'll end up outnumbered).


I don't think that matters.

best

mac
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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Sat Jul 15, 2017 12:25 pm

     
Thanks mac,
much appreciated.

Regards, Not
     
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Re: Starfish

Postby Firebird » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:01 pm

It's funny you mention Thomas because for me this whole poem has an air of Thomas about it - not sure if this is a good or bad thing though. I don't think 'bituminous' works. I'm fine with the rest though. The poem reads beautifully, but I do think it does have an overall feel of trying a little too hard, though I'm not quite sure how this can be got rid of. Sorry. I like the use of the starfish and think the image works well.

Cheers,

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Sat Jul 15, 2017 7:23 pm

     
Thanks Tristan,

will definitely rethink bituminous, though if it has the air already,
then there seems little reason to shy from 'tar-black'.
No idea how to reconcile 'reads beautifully' with 'trying a little too hard' though.

Regards, Not.
     
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Re: Starfish

Postby Ros » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:33 pm

in the oppressive unfairness

of five, and heat,
and wanting sleep.
Your mother's helpless
frustration; she couldn't control
the weather, you can't turn over.

is five a five-year old? If so, why can't they turn over? Slightly confused, assuming that's a human rather than the 5 referring to a starfish.

I'm fine with

Viscid
outpouring
of the bituminous night.

but not sure why it's on 3 lines - I tend to find that single words on a line draw too much attention to themselves.

Enjoyed this, effective.

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Re: Starfish

Postby JJWilliamson » Mon Jul 17, 2017 7:36 am

I liked this one, Not, very much, in fact.

It took me a few reads to figure out the central theme, and in that respect perhaps some of the language
and modifiers could be tamed a touch to help the reader digest the content without brain strain. :)
Ok, there's nothing wrong with making the reader work for a living but this one should draw the reader
into its heart effortlessly. S1 nearly put me off.

NotQuiteSure wrote:     
Starfish*

Viscid
outpouring ...The use of 'viscid' is perfect and I GET it, but you might reconsider the format. The first three lines would look great on a single line, upping the momentum significantly. It has an Edgar Allan Poe feel. But the line would be too long, so perhaps start with "viscid outpouring".
of the bituminous night. ...Perhaps 'bituminous' is overkill. I see you have mixed reviews on this one but was the night really bituminous? That's literally pitch-black dark, totally dark, without a trace of light. It seems out of kilter with the season. Maybe something to indicate weight or HEAT or both would work. A three syllable alternative would complement the rhythm. EG only "Viscid outpouring/of the ebony night".
An intimate intrusion; this
summer's soft, secreting dark, ...Would "darkness" change your meaning?
seeks thermal equilibrium ...Lots of modifiers by this stage. Could you drop one?
between breath and air. ...Is 'seeks' the right word? Is it seeking? Could these two lines be simplified?

There's a lot for the reader to unravel in S1.

And settles,
as you lie unsettled ...Great two lines.
on the rucked, roscid sheet, ...Is 'roscid' necessary? If you want to maintain the sonics you could try "dank". Have I ever seen 'roscid' before. I can't remember. However, I do like the ruck/rosc consonance more than you might imagine. It's a sonic treat. On balance perhaps you should keep it
that clots to your adhesive skin. ...Not keen on 'adhesive'. Sounds like a bostik instruction.
An unwanted epithelium. ...Why 'epithelium' ? That's very specific. Would "veneer" serve? This must be a reference to starfish anatomy.

Other layers, ...Not sure what these other layers are. I can guess at skin or even covers.
flayed and flung aside, ...I paused at 'flayed'. It's such a powerful word.
congeal on the floor, ...Hmm. The extended metaphor is tricky, at least it is for me. BUT it's keeping me glued.
and in the thickening silence
you hear, or remember,
a voice; petulant, plaintive,
in the oppressive unfairness

of five, and heat, ...Is this five in the morning? Starfish typically have five limbs and like Ros I wondered if this was significant.
and wanting sleep. ...NOW, why 'wanting' when something like "craving" would enhance the frustration. Even 'needing' would up the ante a bit.
Your mother's helpless
frustration; she couldn't control ...Not sure of the semi here.
the weather, you can't turn over. ...A starfish can't turn over but why can't the speaker?
Stranded, on your salt-slick back, ...Nice line.

a starfish,
waiting
for the cool tide
of morning. ...The close is very effective.

     
     


OK, having said all that I do really like this piece BUT you could easily tame the beast. Don't overcomplicate things
for the sake of it. I read then reread, finding myself at odds with myself. I doubted my interp' on more than one occasion.

This does convey a sense of exasperation very well.

Best

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Mon Jul 17, 2017 2:26 pm

Thanks Ros,
much appreciated.

It opens the way it does because that's how I wrote it (no further thought added) -
but I take your point about drawing attention.
Glad someone likes 'bituminous', I think it does the job.
...five and heat...
Yes five is five-year old. It's supposed to be recalling similarly hot nights as a child...
'you hear, or remember'
(There's also the possibility that N heard the next door neighbour's child crying,
and this served as a reminder - though there is almost no way that the reader would get this).
The 'you can't turn over', is in the present. Explanations will include being stuck to the sheet,
too exhausted (in the sense of everything requires too much effort), and because,
by this stage nothing helps, there are no comfortable positions.
Would this be made clearer by:
of five, and heat,
and wanting sleep.
Your mother's helpless
frustration, she couldn't control
the weather. You can't turn over.
Stranded, on your salt-slick back,     ?

Regards, Not.


JJ
Thanks for the detailed critique. Very helpful.
(Deep breath)
You and Ros are right about the opening lines. How about:
Viscid outpouring
of bituminous night,
An intimate intrusion. This
summer's soft, secreting dark,
seeks thermal equilibrium
between breath and air.      ?

Interesting that you read bituminous as pitch-black (pun intended?) dark/absence of light,
whilst I thought it did convey 'weight or heat or both'.
dark/darkness - I don't think darkness would change the meaning, what's your reasoning here?
'seeks' - I think it is the right word, most texts that I've read about thermal equilibrium use it.
'roscid' - this is a case of found it, liked it.
Whereas 'dank' (would rather a two syllable word/phrase here by the way),
clammy, claggy, sodden, moist, etc. simply didn't appeal.
I liked the visual pairing of viscid/roscid and equilibrium/epithelium.
Epithelium - The epidermis of the skin is an epithelial tissue layer that covers the entire body,
forming a barrier between the human body and the environment
'other layers' - yes these are sheets, blankets...whatever your bed linen of choice.
and 'flayed' follows the skin-epithelium line.
'craving' may enhance the frustration, as you say, but it also suggests passion and yearning,
but this was about N's five-year old self, and (if memory serves) you simply want/don't want (both, at that age are absolutes).
You're right about the punctuation, does the revision I made in response to Ros work? (any suggestions appreciated).
'can't turn over' - see reply to Ros, and if that doesn't satisfy, can you say why?
Thanks again JJ, I appreciate the time you put in to this one.

Regards, Not.
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Re: Starfish

Postby ray miller » Wed Jul 19, 2017 9:39 am

Very good, I like the 2nd stanza in particular. I just wonder if harkening back to 5 years old and mother's frustration detracts from the immediacy.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.
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Re: Starfish

Postby JJWilliamson » Wed Jul 19, 2017 10:16 am

NotQuiteSure wrote:
I enjoy our exchanges, Not, and this one is no exception. One or two thoughts.

The sonics are excellent throughout btw. Did I mention that?

JJ
Thanks for the detailed critique. Very helpful. ...You're more than welcome.
(Deep breath)
You and Ros are right about the opening lines. How about: ...Yes, it reads as a much stronger hook. There's immediacy.
Viscid outpouring
of bituminous night,
An intimate intrusion. This
summer's soft, secreting dark, ...How are you using 'secreting'? I read it as something that oozes or releases. Perhaps drop one of the modifiers to tame the sibilance a tad by separating the repetitive hiss. Eg only "This summer's secreting darkness". Not sure what 'soft' contributes. Even 'sweating darkness' might help to establish the oppressive heat.
seeks thermal equilibrium
between breath and air. ...I get a little confused here. Is it a scientific pointer to "The air, as hot as breath" ? OR it's getting there? OR both? That seems to be the message. Is there a simpler way of keeping the reader on track?      

Interesting that you read bituminous as pitch-black (pun intended?) dark/absence of light,
whilst I thought it did convey 'weight or heat or both'. ...I thought of black immediately. Could you add heat to the bitumen?
dark/darkness - I don't think darkness would change the meaning, what's your reasoning here? ...I paused here to make sense of the sentence and don't think 'darkness' would have tripped me as much.
'seeks' - I think it is the right word, most texts that I've read about thermal equilibrium use it. ...So it attempts to warm everything up to the same temperature, thereby achieving thermal equilibrium. I see where you're going with 'thermal equilibrium' so perhaps it's the modifier laden intro' that creates the hitch. The thermal equilibrium is the star of that segment, so maybe, and I stress 'maybe', try not to cloud the issue with a list of descriptors.
'roscid' - this is a case of found it, liked it. ...Fair enough, but it does stop me in my tracks. It feels good, though, almost amusing, in the nicest possible way. :)
Whereas 'dank' (would rather a two syllable word/phrase here by the way), ...So would I. :)
clammy, claggy, sodden, moist, etc. simply didn't appeal.
I liked the visual pairing of viscid/roscid and equilibrium/epithelium. ...Can't argue with that, but you have two pairings that will leave a number of readers blank. NOW! Is that a bad thing, I hear you say. I'd say not necessarily, given the scientific bias of your descriptions, BUT is this achieving your goal? Does it show clearly the anguish of the punitive and oppressive heat of this clammy summer's night?
Epithelium - The epidermis of the skin is an epithelial tissue layer that covers the entire body,
forming a barrier between the human body and the environment
'other layers' - yes these are sheets, blankets...whatever your bed linen of choice.
and 'flayed' follows the skin-epithelium line. ...I see the connection with flayed skin, but it's commonly associated with medieval torture. Are the covers flayed or cast aside?
'craving' may enhance the frustration, as you say, but it also suggests passion and yearning,
but this was about N's five-year old self, and (if memory serves) you simply want/don't want (both, at that age are absolutes). ...Fair point. You need to clarify the age in that case because I didn't get five years old from 'five'. Would another age help to move the reader away from the five limbs of the starfish?
You're right about the punctuation, does the revision I made in response to Ros work? (any suggestions appreciated). ..."of five warm years". I also think something about being tangled in the sheets would open this further. EG, "You're tangled in a damp sheet,/stranded on your salt-slick back."
'can't turn over' - see reply to Ros, and if that doesn't satisfy, can you say why?
Thanks again JJ, I appreciate the time you put in to this one.

Regards, Not.


Well, there we have it, for better or worse. Just a few more thoughts for your deliberation. :)

Best

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:00 pm

     
ray,
thank you.
'detracts from the immediacy'
That I don't know, but since they are in the fourth stanza,
if the immediacy hasn't arrived by then likely it never will.

Regards, Not.


JJ
many thanks.
'Yes, it reads as a much stronger hook. There's immediacy'.
Well, that's a relief.
'How are you using 'secreting'?'
Pretty much as you read it - as something that produces/discharges.
'breath and air'
Yes to all three, that is the message.
'Could you add heat to the bitumen?'
I'm trying to avoid terms like heat/hot/damp etc. They'd just feel a bit too predictable.
Also, for it to be viscid, heat would have to have been applied.
'BUT is this achieving your goal?
Does it show clearly the anguish of the punitive and oppressive heat of this clammy summer's night?'
I'm explicit about 'oppressive' in S3, so I'd hope so.
'Are the covers flayed or cast aside?'
Both. As to the torture association, there's an element of torture to this scenario/night so I don't think it's too inappropriate.
'tangled'
Can't be tangled as they've been 'flung aside' by this point.
'Five'
If not five, then; four, six or seven (any preference?)
'better or worse'
always better.
Much appreciated JJ

Regards, Not.
     
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Re: Starfish

Postby JJWilliamson » Wed Jul 19, 2017 1:22 pm

"oppressive unfairness of heat and infancy"

Just a thought. Don't make me work so hard.

Best

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Re: Starfish

Postby NotQuiteSure » Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:13 pm

     
'oppressive of infancy and heat'
now you're tempting me JJ. Though infancy is derived from 'inability to speak', and seems to also vary cross-culturally.
I'm inclining towards six. But...
'work so hard'
Ha. Recently posted a rewrite of 'Turning over an Old Leaf' which owes a lot to your critique, and yet nothing. Slacker!

Regards, Not.
     
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