Back Woods

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BenJohnson
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Back Woods

Post by BenJohnson » Thu Dec 01, 2011 9:58 am

This year the snow has frozen sound itself,
it's harnessed hurricanes to heap against
the house and climbed rough white washed walls to peer
though windows watching as we add constraints
of clothing.

Go and ask the woods for heat
as poplars screech and crack beneath the weight.

Go ask the lake for food that we may eat,
its silent reply will not crack its face.

Our world is whiter than the washing stiff
upon the line, more deadly than the bear
who breathes as slow as bulbs within his pit,
aware of nothing slowly drawing near.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by calico » Thu Dec 01, 2011 10:29 am

Enjoying this Ben...... The wintry poems are upon us.
I particularly like your sentence structures in the first and final stanzas. These two lines in my opinion are weaker than the rest:
as poplars screech and crack beneath the weight.

and

Go ask the lake for food that we may eat,

Lacking in complexity - I know you want to halt and measure the poem though.
And I don't know if 'deadly' is right with the bear, who is hibernating and torpid and slow and neutralised by that word 'nothing'...?
Are you somewhere snowy?

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Re: Back Woods

Post by ray miller » Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:12 am

I'd go for the full alliterative Monty, Ben

has harnessed hurricanes to heap against

constraints of clothing is an odd choice of phrases, I thought.

The last two lines I think are very good - I love breathes as slow as bulbs.

The poem is let down by the middle couplets. You could do with some symmetry in the opening lines and something more convincing than the current 2nd lines.
I'm out of faith and in my cups
I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by twoleftfeet » Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:29 pm

In an ideal world you wouldn't leave "of clothing" hanging out to dry, alone on a line, unrhymed, unloved :(

I do like "constraints", though - you only have to look at policemen waddling round in in their protective jackets to get the
picture,

The line that gave me the most trouble is
its silent reply will not crack its face.

- there's a definite bump there, rhythm-wise, caused by "rePLY". Maybe "answer"?

With some minor tweaks this could be excellent.

Geoff
Instead of just sitting on the fence - why not stand in the middle of the road?

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Re: Back Woods

Post by brianedwards » Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:55 pm

Will definitely return to this Ben, but for now I just want to register my admiration of

breathes as slow as bulbs

Damn that's good!

B.

PS: Also agree with Geoff's suggestion of answer instead of reply.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Antcliff » Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:59 pm

O yes, terrific. Like this.

A fellow sufferer in the weather.
First line is an ace. I like the "breathing slow as bulbs". My winter onions are masters of slow breathing.

Slight quibble over the last line. The thing referred to in last line is slightly elusive..is it the world or the bear that is aware of nothing drawing slowly near? The world presumably for the bear is standing in for it. But, either way, don't as yet quite get why the slowness of some looming threat is cited. The rest has a clarity that perhaps only the last line lacks.

Ant
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Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Back Woods

Post by BenJohnson » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:12 am

Thanks Calico far from wintry scene at the moment, sunshine pouring through the window this morning. This was another prompt poem using some of the words from Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, not surprising it is wintry as a result. I agree the middle section is pretty crap and needs sorting out. I remember from somewhere that a hibernating bear is most deadly should it awake early, probably totally misremembered.

Cheers Ray 'has' is probably the better word linking the snow rather than a slight ambiguity between snow and sound being heaped.

In an ideal world Geoff html wouldn't cock up a poems formatting and I would remember that it does when I post :D Although 'of clothing' is over hanging alone and lonely the following line should be inset to continue just after it. Answer is indeed the word though it looks like that section might be for the chop anyway :)

Thanks for the comment Antcliff does the poem gain or lose by having possible alternative meanings in the last line rather than one concrete meaning? I think there might be a slight hangover from the Frost poem which leaves many unanswered questions.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Antcliff » Fri Dec 02, 2011 12:26 pm

Ben,
What goes before is such a strong evocation of winter that - for my money - it does not need any sexing up at end with ambiguity and slight hint at something further. Why hint at more if there is already enough? Of course you may intend more than a strong evocation of winter.
Ant
exiting stage left pursued by bear.
ps. See what you mean by possible hangover from Frost. Hints of something offstage in his poem.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Back Woods

Post by David » Tue Dec 06, 2011 7:50 pm

In S1 - which I like a lot - I'd lose "watching", and I don't like the "constraints" of clothing. I like S4 as well. You might need a comma after "washing". I like the bears and bulbs bit very much.

I could happily do without the two middle stanzas.

There seems to be a definite echo of Stevens and the "Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is." Is it intentional?
Antcliff wrote:Ant
exiting stage left pursued by bear.
That is a brilliant Shakespearean allusion, but is that intentional? The Ant, I mean.

Cheers

David

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Re: Back Woods

Post by bodkin » Tue Dec 06, 2011 9:28 pm

Enjoyed this a lot, but found myself wondering whether there was supposed to be a protag starving in the winter, or whether that was all purely symbollic..?

Will try to return for another read in more detail on another day.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by JohnLott » Wed Dec 07, 2011 11:10 pm

Good poem Ben.
I think this could be a solid read; but at the moment the change of voice and mood in S2, S3 disrupt the read. Not that the voice is bad, it isn't - but you should have one or the other.

I think the title word is 'Backwoods'?

J.
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Re: Back Woods

Post by bodkin » Thu Dec 08, 2011 9:52 pm

OK, I read it again and I just like it exactly as is.

Unlike John, I like the voice change in the middle two S's, I think it brings a nice acceleration to that middle section.

Nice one,

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Re: Back Woods

Post by dragonfly » Sat Dec 10, 2011 11:18 am

Really like this, especially the idea of frozen sound and of course the bear and the bulbs. And the 'nothing' at the end.

I find the sentence too long in the first stanza. I love the sound of it when I put a full stop after windows though. It's beautiful then IMHO, and 'peer' on the end of that line is so right. Plus the way the words heap up to produce the longer line three, like the snow heaping up, is clever.

Like bodkin's first reading of this, I did find myself wondering a little about the theme of the middle section. Perhaps because I don't go fishing or use firewood, it was harder to relate to this part. I like the way it's phrased though, the 'go and ask' repetition.

Thanks for an enjoyable read,
dragonfly

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Bloggsworth » Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:02 pm

I really like the essence of this, thuogh it feels contrived for poetic effect in a couple of places, particularly "watching as we add constraints
of clothing."
Why not just say "as we dress" Who apart from someone into BDSM "adds constraints of clothing", and it doesn't sound like a nudists colony. I also think that "reply" is too choppier word in "its silent reply will not crack its face" and feel that the word "answer" would fit the rhythm of the line better; and that "while poplars screech" has more of a feeling of continuity about it. You are of course, perfectly at liberty to ignore everything I say!

BenJohnson wrote:This year the snow has frozen sound itself,
it's harnessed hurricanes to heap against
the house and climbed rough white washed walls to peer
though windows watching as we dress.

Go and ask the woods for heat
while poplars screech and crack beneath the weight.

Go ask the lake for food that we may eat,
its silent answer will not crack its face.

Our world is whiter than the washing stiff
upon the line, more deadly than the bear
who breathes as slow as bulbs within his pit,
aware of nothing slowly drawing near.
Last edited by Bloggsworth on Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Arian
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Re: Back Woods

Post by Arian » Sat Dec 10, 2011 8:21 pm

My immediate thought as I read this was that S1 is working too hard on the alliterative front. It sounds a bit forced, to my ear. Having said that, I really do like the sound of:

climbed rough white washed walls to peer
though windows watching

And there are other nice lines, too.

One slightly, OK very, nerdy point that struck me was that you make what philosophers call a "category mistake" in

Our world is whiter than the washing stiff
upon the line, more deadly than the bear
who breathes as slow as bulbs within his pit,

...you're saying that our World (a perceived totality) is deadlier than "the bear" (a subset of that totality). But bears are a part of the World's deadliness, so the World MUST be at least as deadly as the bear. You have your hand sliding up the thigh of tautology.

Yes, yes, I know: it's a subtle point. And this is poetry. So who cares? Good point - I'm not sure. Possibly no-one except me. But it struck me immediately, so I thought I'd point it out.

Otherwise, a very readable piece.

Cheers
peter

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Antcliff » Sat Dec 10, 2011 9:54 pm

Not so Arian/Peter. Even if (1) a whole must have at least as much of a feature as any part, it does not follow that (2) the whole must have no more than the said part. So the world can still be deadlier than a bear..at least as and even more. The slide from (1) to (2) is less subtle, more fallacious.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Arian » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:28 pm

Antcliff wrote:So the world can still be deadlier than a bear..at least as and even more.
Well, err...yes. Quite. My point exactly. Which is why I wrote:
Arian wrote:... the World MUST be at least as deadly as the bear.
It was kind of a clue as to what I meant.

Cheers
peter

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Antcliff » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:53 pm

Er no. That was not your point. I draw your attention to your text...you said that a line displayed some "category mistake". How then would there be a "category mistake" in saying that the world is deadlier than bear if it is entirely possible and saying so is not in fact tautology - to return to the actual line.
Nah..no "category mistake".
Ant
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Arian » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:11 pm

OK, you win. Have it your way.
Cheers
peter

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Antcliff » Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:14 pm

Not my way...Ben Johnson's way. :) It is his line.
Cheers Peter
Ant
Arian wrote:OK, you win. Have it your way.
Cheers
peter
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Suzanne » Sun Dec 11, 2011 5:10 pm

Dear Ben, hello Ben,

I have read this many times and really like the first line a lot. I know those days, it doesn't happen as often as I would like, the wind spoils the stillness.

The sounds are wonderful and it is pleasant to say aloud. As far as images go, I don't like the hurricane with a snow theme but understand it. Use "has" as Ray suggests, I suggest.

I really think snow heaping to peak in the windows is clever. Yes, I have seen that many times.
And constraint is a perfect word for me. All those clothes are restrictive and binding.

I don't care for the "go" lines. The ideas are okay but, the perspective is not quite right. And although the cracked face is clever, it seems a bit skewed to fit.

I like the end and the bulb/bear.

I welcome winter this year.
Fresh white snow is a symbol of hope. (lol, Oh, you Englishmen, I hear you moaning. whimpy, I say.. toughen up.)


X
Suzanne

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Re: Back Woods

Post by Nash » Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:56 am

I'll add my applause for this one Ben.

I particularly like the poplars line and, of course, the bear/bulb bit. Not so keen on 'constraints', it should work, it fits with the meter and with the rhyme, but for some reason it just causes a large bump in the reading for me.

The only other thing I'd say is that perhaps a comma between 'washing' and 'stiff'?

Thanks,
Nash.

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Re: Back Woods

Post by David » Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:42 pm

Nash wrote:The only other thing I'd say is that perhaps a comma between 'washing' and 'stiff'?
Yes, I thought that too.

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