A broken window

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David
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A broken window

Post by David » Fri Jan 18, 2013 2:45 pm

All of a sudden, jolting out of his sleep
to find his solemn family stood round,
he spoke: What's that sound of breaking glass?
But no-one else could hear anything.

Next morning, as they bore the freighted coffin
down the narrow stairs, a little shuffle
on a landing put a window through.
There was a certain amount of nervous laughter.

And then there was the horses' strange excitement,
the whinnying, as though someone they knew
was walking through the field, calling them
by name - or is that another story?

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Re: A broken window

Post by ljordan » Fri Jan 18, 2013 4:22 pm

David, love the slanted narrative. The haunting at the end with the kind of conjecture our nervousness relies on is quite appropriate. I stumbled on the syntax of line 7, but suspect that's due to my american ear.

Quite a read!

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Re: A broken window

Post by Ros » Fri Jan 18, 2013 8:05 pm

Very nice - feels like a period piece, with the horses. I wonder if there's a slightly stronger way to open than 'all of a sudden'?

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Re: A broken window

Post by Antcliff » Sat Jan 19, 2013 1:07 am

David,
O yes, great. Invites but does not entail an element of the supernatural. Or at least invokes a frame of mind where that is at least a possibility.

Period piece? Possibly. Though my mother was carried away by horses. And they might simply be the horses on the farm. So I am not assuming this is a period piece.

Should it be "around" rather than "round"? I'm a bit muddled by that myself.
I wonder if there's a slightly stronger way to open than 'all of a sudden'?
Isn't "all of a sudden" redundant anyway given that the person is "jolted" from sleep? Couldn't you just remove "All of a sudden" and go straight to "Jolting.."?

Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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Re: A broken window

Post by Macavity » Sat Jan 19, 2013 6:50 am

hi David,
I felt the same as Ros as regards a period piece, the question at the end seemed to reflect a narrator who was muddled and elderly. The setting at home rather than a hospital/hospice also made me think this as well as the quick transition to a coffin. I like how you connect the 'hearing' of the animals and the dying, that the living have more barriers to an awareness of 'other worlds' (using laughter to shut out what they sense). The genre seems to prefer animals, children, to have this kind of awareness and the dying to gain foresight. Perhaps dream states or being half-asleep also breaks the usual conscious restraints. Does the question at the end cast doubt on the narrative and undermine its likelihood?

all the best

mac

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Re: A broken window

Post by Nash » Sat Jan 19, 2013 9:43 am

I'm a sucker for a good folktale, David. I'd love to know where the inspiration for this came from, traditional in your area? Family story? Or is the whole thing of your own devising?

It's all good but I particularly like S3 which hints at the fluid nature of folktales, how they change in the retelling, picking up other stories on the way. At least, that's how it seemed to me.
Antcliff wrote:Should it be "around" rather than "round"?
I wondered that too. "Around" would certainly give a better rhythm, I think.

I agree with Ros about "All of a sudden", it's not the strongest opening.

Cheers,
Nash.

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Re: A broken window

Post by Mic » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:42 am

What a good poem David - when you get it right, you don't half get it right! His prescience at the beginning, and the horses hearing that voice calling at the end. Just wonderful. Especially liked the last stanza. One of those poems that works, but where you can't quite put your finger on what it is that makes it work.

(PS Billy Collins wrote a poem about someone's advice not to use the word 'suddenly' in a poem.)

Mic
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Re: A broken window

Post by Mic » Sat Jan 19, 2013 10:43 am

Shuffle or scuffle?
"Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you" - Rumi

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Re: A broken window

Post by David » Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:47 am

Yes, there is supposed to be a period feel to this, so I'm glad that sort of comes over. These are actually two family ghost stories, obscurely connected and vaguely remembered. I wanted to capture the vagueness and the obscurity, and I think I've succeeded.

The "All of a sudden" has an (I think) interesting provenance - partly in response to all the recent hoohah about plagiarism and using other people's poems as models, and partly because this is what I sometimes do anyway, I read a John Burnside poem pretty closely and tried to adopt it as a formal model for whatever came into my mind. "All of a sudden" is how his poem starts, but I think I've ended up a long way away from his. (It's the first one in The Hunt in the Forest, if you want to reach your own opinion about that.)

So thanks for reading, all.
Antcliff wrote:Should it be "around" rather than "round"? I'm a bit muddled by that myself.
I'm afraid I allowed myself to be swayed by considerations of metre! (Nash, it works better for me with "round" - not for you?)

Mac, very perceptive critique, thank you.
Macavity wrote:Does the question at the end cast doubt on the narrative and undermine its likelihood?
Could be ...
Mic wrote:Shuffle or scuffle?
Shuffle, shurely?

Cheers all

David

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Re: A broken window

Post by Nash » Sat Jan 19, 2013 11:59 am

David wrote:(It's the first one in The Hunt in the Forest, if you want to reach your own opinion about that.)
That very book has been delivered this morning, along with some others. I'll have a look.
David wrote:I'm afraid I allowed myself to be swayed by considerations of metre! (Nash, it works better for me with "round" - not for you?)
Ah, I see. Could be a regional thing. I take it you've got it something like:

to FIND his SOLemn FAM-i-LY stood ROUND,

Whereas I don't naturally pronounce the i in family:

to FIND his SOLemn FAM-ly STOOD (a)ROUND,

Still, 'tis a minor thing in a good poem.

Cheers,
Nash.

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Re: A broken window

Post by David » Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:06 pm

Nash wrote:
David wrote:I'm afraid I allowed myself to be swayed by considerations of metre! (Nash, it works better for me with "round" - not for you?)
Ah, I see. Could be a regional thing. I take it you've got it something like:

to FIND his SOLemn FAM-i-LY stood ROUND,

Whereas I don't naturally pronounce the i in family:

to FIND his SOLemn FAM-ly STOOD (a)ROUND,
That's it! Only without quite so much emphasis (but a little) on the -ly. I definitely voice the -i-.

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Re: A broken window

Post by dedalus » Sat Jan 19, 2013 5:12 pm

The premonition. The uneasy horses. Lovely! Ties into another weird but true story (perhaps you've heard tell?) in which all the deer in the woodlands would gather on the green when one of the great lords died. It's an Irish story, not surprisingly. I've been trying to find it on Google with no success so far.

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Re: A broken window

Post by twoleftfeet » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:56 pm

Hi, David

Excellent tale, cunningly told - the vagueness of the ending works a treat - like you're listening on the radio and are
being encouraged to tune in next week :)
Antcliff wrote: Isn't "all of a sudden" redundant anyway given that the person is "jolted" from sleep? Couldn't you just remove "All of a sudden" and go straight to "Jolting.."?
Seth
Regardless of the "all of a sudden" (which I agree is redundant) shouldn't it be "jolted" anyway?
- otherwise who/what is the jolter jolting?

One small suggestion -
.. put a window through.
There was a certain amount of nervous laughter.

- could you possibly contract this to
.. put a window through -
to a certain amount of nervous laughter.
?
The two "there was" sentences made me think that the second followed on immediately after. Of course, it may have been your intention to set a little trap for the reader - in which case, I'll get my coat..

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

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Re: A broken window

Post by David » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:57 pm

Thanks, Bren. I don't recognise that story, but I like the sound of it.

Thanks, Geoff. I'm thinking about that "All of a sudden", but I think jolting can be intransitive. No?

Ah. I hadn't thought about the proximity of the "there was"'s. Curses!

Cheers chaps

David

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Re: A broken window

Post by Antcliff » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:49 pm

I was reading poems by W.S. Graham last nicht..and he began a series with the phrase "To set the scene. Blah, blah....."
Strictly the starting phrase is redundo because he goes on to set the scene. Still, despite the redundancy, there is some appeal in the theatrical start.
I thought of the "All of a sudden" here. I did not draw any conclusions, I am just saying I was reminded of the start here.


Seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

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