Selkie

This is a serious poetry forum not a "love-in". Post here for more detailed, constructive criticism.
Post Reply
BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Mon Oct 03, 2011 9:36 am

Version 3

Only a certain type of man could continue
to whistle in the kitchen and ignore
the moon-pull and tide-rise which cause
the seas to breach the walls of her eyes.

The kind of man who buys new clothes
when she refuses to wear the ones she owns,
ignoring the cycle that causes cloth
to rasp like sand against her skin.

A man whose love is so like a net
she is unable to flick from thought
to thought, like a fish among friends
both guided and guiding, shoaling as one.

Only a man like me could truly forget
which rock I'd buried her skin beneath.

Version 2

Only a certain type of man could ignore
the days the tide rose high enough
to breach the sea walls of her eyes
and continue to whistle in the kitchen.

The kind of man who buys new clothes
when she refuses to wear the ones she owns,
ignoring the cycle that causes cloth
to grate like sand against her skin.

A man whose love was so like a net
she was unable to flick from thought
to thought, like a fish among friends
both guided and guiding, shoaling as one.

Only a man like me could truly forget
which rock I'd buried her skin beneath.

Version 1

Only a certain type of man could ignore
the days the tide rose high enough
to breach the sea walls of her eyes
and continue to whistle in the kitchen.

The kind of man who could not appreciate
that bulging wardrobes would not suffice
at a time when sensitivity made cloth
grate shark-like against her flesh.

A man whose love was so like a net
she was unable to flick from thought
to thought, like a fish among friends
both guided and guiding, shoaling as one.

Only a man like me could truly forget
which rock I'd buried her skin beneath.
Last edited by BenJohnson on Thu Oct 06, 2011 11:13 am, edited 3 times in total.

calico
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 400
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:06 pm
Location: london lovely london
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by calico » Mon Oct 03, 2011 7:09 pm

Very nice, everything held together by the sea imagery and strong beginning and end. The sea presence taking over the domestic scene works so well, perhaps weaker in S2 than elsewhere where the language sounds somehow biblical like the mortification of flesh (RS Thomas like!) S3 is perfectly expressed, just right in terms of tone and pathos, and I love the ambivalence of the ending. I can't work out if it's a good thing to have forgotten or not, and it seems as though the rock could be an actual one or something in the body like a bone.
I think you need a comma after eyes in S1.

brianedwards
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5375
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 am
antispam: no
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by brianedwards » Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:17 am

Mostly liking this Ben, the metaphor is nicely handled and the introduction of the first person towards the end a quite pleasing twist. I agree with Megan that S2 is the weakest, particularly that shark line which isn't working at all for me. Would a shark "grate" against the skin? Hmmm. Needs a rethink there. Something less obviously dangerous but more believable as a vehicle.

B.

BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:37 am

brianedwards wrote:Would a shark "grate" against the skin? Hmmm. Needs a rethink there. Something less obviously dangerous but more believable as a vehicle.
Certainly would their dried skin is used as a primitive sand paper, I must admit it was originally a dog fish (still a shark) but dog fish was too bumpy.

Thanks Calico I did consider a comma there while writing for it feels like a pause is needed, but the ghost of my English teacher was muttering about using a comma before 'and'. The ghost is pretty sure grammatically I shouldn't use a comma. Looks like S2 needs some more attention though, it has changed so many times I'm not even sure it is making its point clearly any more either.

calico
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 400
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:06 pm
Location: london lovely london
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by calico » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:45 am

I did try to imagine shark both ways, dried and umm, wet, maybe if you say sharkskin it doesn't bring to mind the actual shark so clearly. A grammar ghost, eh, that's handy.

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Selkie

Post by JamesM » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:50 am

While I like the idea behind this, it's not coming together for me at the moment. Four strophes, four sentences, but the repeated syntax reads a little cumbersome. S1: the days, the tide, the sea walls, the kitchen. Needs more variation. S2 is the weakest--I get that shark skin is coarse, but it's over-written and, metaphorically a bad fit. S3 is confused: the thought flicks or she does? Fish can be friends? Good idea but needs more precision of thought and wording. Final stroph is strong. The,'only a man' repetition paying off nicely and the ambiguity leaves the reader hanging.

I imagine you've read At Roane Head by Robin Robertson, it too has a marvelous twist at the end.

James

BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:09 am

Afraid I hadn't read At Roane Head before though I have just had a quick glance. Thanks for that a well written tale, a highlight on my first read is 'He went along the line/relaxing them/one after another/with a small knife'. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v30/n16/robin-robe ... roane-head. I'll have to return to it later when I have the time to do it justice. Strangely enough though it appears to have a similar syntax in S1, the drawn blinds , the cormorants, the black crosses, the quicken, the pine, the sea, the brief light and the collie.

If belief is suspended enough to be talking about mythic sea creatures is there a reason why fish should not be friends, especially looked at from a selkie's point of view?

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Selkie

Post by JamesM » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:48 am

Yes, that whole stroph is superb. The difference in his use of the definitive article is he uses it to focus on individual images and less as designation. Fish among her kind dispells unwanted associations with Disney characters. It is your word choice, not its meaning that is distractiong.

James

BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:58 am

James Major wrote:Yes, that whole stroph is superb. The difference in his use of the definitive article is he uses it to focus on individual images and less as designation. Fish among her kind dispells unwanted associations with Disney characters. It is your word choice, not its meaning that is distractiong.

James
Fish among her kind certainly keeps the same meaning but alters the sonics somewhat. Maybe 'like a fish among fish' would diminish the Finding Nemo aspect, although the repetition of fish so close might not work for some.

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Selkie

Post by JamesM » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:08 am

Fish among fish, no. I wasn't suggesting kind as a replacement only its meaning. Perhaps focussing on a detail would work better, as is, fish and friends a just too generic. I do like the idea and image you are aiming for it's just those words aren't working hard enough.

James

brianedwards
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5375
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 am
antispam: no
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by brianedwards » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:23 am

Ben, I'd prepared a long reply about why that shark image wasn't working, but it seems you've come to your senses.
James' point is a good one, but the revision, on the whole, is an improvement I'd say.

B.

calico
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 400
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2010 7:06 pm
Location: london lovely london
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by calico » Tue Oct 04, 2011 1:06 pm

Nearly, kind of, 'cycles' though? What with tides and crying in the kitchen. Perhaps that is fine, but mighten you consider 'phases' or something else tidal or lunar//
And it sounds a bit pedantic
'when she refuses to wear the ones she owns',

why not,'when she won't wear the ones she owns'

All in all an improvement on S2.

David
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 13711
Joined: Sat Feb 18, 2006 4:40 pm
Location: Ellan Vannin

Re: Selkie

Post by David » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:49 pm

I think the final couplet is excellent. It brings so much selkie lore together in a beautifully concise finish. In fact you sustain the selkieness very well throughout.

In S1, to me you're saying that "the tide rose high enough ... to continue to whistle in the kitchen."

S2 does sound a bit like an advert for a new eco-friendly detergent for extra-sensitive skin.

S3 is very nice.

Very much my sort of thing, Ben, and very nicely done on the whole. Just a little careless in places, I think. Very little amendment required.

Cheers

David

BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Thu Oct 06, 2011 9:51 am

A new S1 to hopefully address the tides whistling in the kitchen and also James's concerns. Not overly concerned about the unfortunate link to eco wash powders I'll let that idea kick around a little yet. Once again thanks for bringing At Hoane Head to my attention James it has been a very rewarding one to read.

JohnLott
Preponderant Poster
Preponderant Poster
Posts: 1326
Joined: Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:35 pm
Location: Devon

Re: Selkie

Post by JohnLott » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:10 am

Much better Ben. I like it, although I think you are mean to prevent her from getting wet from time to time - maybe she wouldn't come back?

:D

J.
Before you shave with Occam’s razor - Try epilation or microlaser

Nash

Re: Selkie

Post by Nash » Thu Oct 06, 2011 9:35 pm

Damn you Ben Johnson, I've been working on a selkie poem and it's not turning out anywhere near as good as this.

Not much to add to what's already been said, just thought I'd drop by to say that I like it a lot. Just one thing that I would say, you have 'flesh' at the end of S2 in the first version but in the later versions you've changed it to 'skin'. I'm not sure whether it matters too much but you also have it in the last line (which I suspect is why you had 'flesh' originally).

Nice work,
Nash.

BenJohnson
Preternatural Poster
Preternatural Poster
Posts: 1701
Joined: Wed Nov 12, 2008 10:32 am
antispam: no
Location: New Forest, UK
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by BenJohnson » Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:19 pm

Thanks Nash, this one has only been about 26 years brewing and is far less than James' example. Originally I used flesh as in an early version I had shark skin just before it. Yesterday I was thinking the skin in S2 could pre-echo the skin in S4, now I am less sure as it could cause confusion instead, might revert to flesh later.

Thanks John if she had any sense she would stay well away :)

brianedwards
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 5375
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2008 7:35 am
antispam: no
Location: Japan
Contact:

Re: Selkie

Post by brianedwards » Thu Oct 06, 2011 11:31 pm

James Major wrote:
I imagine you've read At Roane Head by Robin Robertson, it too has a marvelous twist at the end.

James
I hadn't seen that poem either James. Extraordinary piece, thanks for recommending.

B.

JamesM
Prolific Poster
Prolific Poster
Posts: 398
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 1:14 pm

Re: Selkie

Post by JamesM » Fri Oct 07, 2011 7:52 am

brianedwards wrote:I hadn't seen that poem either James. Extraordinary piece, thanks for recommending.
Here is another of his-- A lot of other accomplished poems by Scottish poets on this site.

http://www.spl.org.uk/best-poems_2010/019.htm

James

ray miller
Perspicacious Poster
Perspicacious Poster
Posts: 6535
Joined: Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:23 am

Re: Selkie

Post by ray miller » Fri Oct 07, 2011 11:19 am

It's a great tale and you've done it justice. I like the 2nd verse best, though I'd second Megan's suggestion - when she won't wear the ones she owns. I had a little bit of problem with the rhythm of the first verse - I'd prefer "continues" to "could continue" and ignores.
Not sure what you're saying here

like a fish among friends
both guided and guiding, shoaling as one.

The final couplet is great.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

Post Reply