The Wadi (V3)

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The Wadi (V3)

Post by 1lankest » Wed Sep 05, 2018 6:53 pm

V 3

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman,
we could stand the thirst, the ravening sun on our shoulders
without hope of reprieve,

the prospect of some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses. Days

would be linear, present - Walk on,
keep walking. If there are rocks, step over them. Do not seek
a mirage on the horizon
. As it is

in this arid East Midland stream
snaking through pasture, we navigate the sediment in the manner
of doddery English circumspects, aware

only of what’s been and what we pray will follow
the next meander the coming days, weeks, through autumn
into winter as the weather turns

washing seed into the caulked bed.
And what would a bedouin say? - you ask, leading us on all-fours
through the culvert of our childless thirties,

parched, crimped, busy-ish; we scramble
towards the disk of light above the village, our cottage - rainclouds
penciling the blue. Come, I answer, water us.

Version 2

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman
we could stand the thirst, the ravening sun on our shoulders
without hope of reprieve,

the prospect of some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses. Our days

would be linear, present - Walk on,
keep walking. If there are rocks, step over them. Do not seek
a mirage on the horizon. Two is ample.
As it is

in this arid East Midland stream
snaking through pasture, we navigate the sediment in the manner
of doddery English circumspects, aware

only of what’s been and what we pray will follow
the next meander the coming days, weeks, through autumn
into winter as the weather turns

washing seed, perhaps, into the caulked bed.
And what would a bedouin say? - you query, leading us on all-fours
through the culvert of our childless thirties,

parched, crimped, busy-ish; we scramble
towards the disk of light above the village, our cottage - rainclouds
penciling the blue. Come, I answer, water us.

Original

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman,
I could stand the hot stones, the ravening sun on my shoulders
without hope of reprieve,

the prospect of some formerly unknown spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses. Days

would be linear, present - Walk on,
keep walking. If there are rocks, step over them. Do not seek
a mirage on the horizon.
As it is

in this arid East Midland stream
snaking through pasture, I navigate the sediment in the manner
of a doddery English circumspect, aware

only of what’s been and what’ll follow
beyond the next meander the coming days, weeks, through autumn
into winter as the weather turns,

washing seed into the caulked bed.
And what would the bedouin say? - you query, leading us on all-fours
through the culvert of our childless thirties,

parched, crimped, busy-ish. We scramble
into the light, stand, squint, brush the cobwebs from your back, my hair
as above the village, our cottage - rainclouds

pencil the blue.
Come, I answer, water us.
Last edited by 1lankest on Tue Sep 11, 2018 11:20 am, edited 5 times in total.

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Perry
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Re: The Wadi

Post by Perry » Thu Sep 06, 2018 1:50 am

wadi -- 1. the channel of a watercourse that is dry except during periods of rainfall. 2. such a stream or watercourse itself. 3. a valley.

Just some thoughts:

Not being English, I'm not sure of the significance of East Midland. Is that just part of the scene you are trying to set in the poem?

I wonder what Bedouin you are referring to (or do you mean Bedouins in general?), and I wonder who "you" and "we" are -- the poem seems to be in the first person singular, and then suddenly becomes a group.

At the end of the poem you seem to reveal that the poem is about a childless couple that has been climbing through a dry creek bed near their home.

In my view, a poem should tell a story or make a point. A couple climbing through a creek bed is the scene of the poem, not a story in itself. Consequently, I don't find much of a story in this poem, or a clear point to it. You may have intended the final line to be the point, but I don't think it is meaningful enough to make sense of the poem.

I'm sorry if I sound like a broken record, but I will always look for meaning and clarity in the poems I critique.

Much of the language is very creative and interesting -- I especially like, "the prospect of some formerly unknown spring emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole in the sand to unlock the grasses." That's all the more reason why I'd like to see you put a clear point in the poem.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: The Wadi

Post by 1lankest » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:06 am

Thanks for commenting, Perry.

If you read it again you’ll notice that the language from the start plays with contrasts between barrenness and fertility, hope and hopelessness, focus with purposelessness.

The narrator is saying if the couple were barren it would be easier to focus, like the nomad, on getting on with life’s journey - subsistence, pleasure etc - instead of the ongoing distracting hope of conceiving a child.

This isn’t perfect and you have picked up on one or two valid problems which I will change. That said, it is worth more than you credit I suggest - it isn’t meaningless.
sometimes poems require careful reading to find the thread of narrative, of meaning. Poems aren’t stories.

L

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by NotQuiteSure » Thu Sep 06, 2018 4:05 pm

Hi Luke,
wasn't sure about the title at first, but it's grown on me
but 'culvert of our thirties' appealed from the start, nice line.
I think it's a bit over-written in places, and I'm not convinced
by 'ravening' (hunger after thirst?), 'snaking' (bit predictable)
or 'pencilling'. On the fence about 'Bedouin' and consequently
uneasy :)

Some cut and paste suggestions.

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman
we could stand the thirst, the [weight of the] sun on our shoulders
without hope of reprieve,

the prospect of some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo [from obdurate rock
beneath] the sand to unlock the grasses. Our days

would be linear, present - Walk on,
keep walking. If there are rocks, step over them.
Two is ample. As it is

in this arid East Midland stream
snaking through pasture, we navigate the sediment
in the manner of doddery English circumspects, aware

only of what’s been and what we pray will follow
the next meander, through autumn into winter
as the weather turns

washing seed, perhaps, into the caulked bed.
And what would a Bedouin say? - you query, leading us,
childless, through the culvert of our thirties,

parched, crimped, busy-ish; we scramble
towards the light above the village, our cottage - rain clouds
pencilling the blue. Come, I answer, water us.


In their thirties but already 'doddery English
circumspects' made me smile.

Regards, Not.

.

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by Perry » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:54 pm

Luke, I have to agree with you that I missed the overall meaning of the poem. A dry creek bed can certainly represent infertility -- but not necessarily a wadi which, by definition, is flowing at least part of the time. Also, the word "seeds" was in there, and that should have clued me. You had posted a comment on my poem, and I wanted to return the favor, so I dived right in. I have never had children, or wanted any, so fertility was the last thing on my mind.

However, I think you should make the connections more explicit. From the beginning of the poem, you seem to be walking through the creek bed alone. If you included your wife (or girlfriend) from the beginning, that might make things clearer. (I see you have already moved "we" up to the first stanza -- good!)

What would truly represent your situation would not be a dry creek bed, but a new creek which is trying to form -- but that would be harder to write into a poem.

In closing, let me say that I can be famously dense, so this won't be the first time I miss the meaning of a poem (although I do feel that too many poets are hiding their meaning these days).

So, please accept my apologies for missing the obvious. Frankly, I feel embarrassed. Now that I read the poem again -- even the first version -- I see that the hints were broad (seeds, grasses, etc.). As I said, reproduction has never been an issue for me. Indeed, in an over-populated world, I want to see fewer babies.

By the way, I do believe that most poems have stories in them. In this case, I missed the story.

(Also, I was tired -- did I use that excuse?)
Last edited by Perry on Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by David » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:05 pm

Wow! I think this is great, Luke. (No, I'm not over-compensating for my lukewarm - no pun intended - response to your last poem.) It's interesting and enjoyable throughout. I do wonder why "Two is ample" has strayed into the revision. And I'd prefer "ask" to "query" (you can work too hard at being interesting).

I think "the culvert of our childless thirties" is a cracking line, but it's all - nearly all - good.

Really enjoyed it.

Cheers

David

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by Macavity » Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:19 pm

I enjoyed the read too Luke. In particular, a keyhole /in the sand to unlock the grasses. . The referencing to the Yemen, Oman and Bedouin transferred the sense of heat/arid.

cheers

mac

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by Ravallion » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:06 pm

This is well conceived. To my eye, your second revision is more concise.I would reconsider about "chink in drought's armor." It's cliche enough to detract,but not enough to throw one out of the poem

I don't know what your goals are, but were it my poem, I would not hesitate to submit it for publication.

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by 1lankest » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:47 pm

Thanks all, really helpful.

Perry, please don’t apologise. You promoted me to change things for the better and I thank you fort that. My understanding is that a wadi is sometimes dry all year round, esp in places like the Middle East and Africa. A problem world over thanks to climate change.

Thanks David - ‘ask’ it is and ‘two is ample’ is gone - ironically superfluous.

Thanks NQS - some interesting ideas. Will ponder.

Ravillion - thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m a little jilted and jaded at the idea of publication - writing for pleasure these days.

Cheers,

L

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by 1lankest » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:47 pm

And mac, thanks a lot.

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by Perry » Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:23 pm

I want to reiterate that these lines are very lovely:

some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses.

"a chink in drought's armour" and "unlock the grasses" are wonderful phrases. "Keyhole in the sand" is also excellent. Phrases like that are like jewels that last forever.

As a matter of fact, the timeless phrases in this poem have helped me to see that my blunt approach to poetry doesn't result in many truly beautiful phrases, and perhaps I should try to change that.

I am glad that you changed "the bedouin" to "a bedouin".
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: The Wadi (revised)

Post by 1lankest » Tue Sep 11, 2018 9:46 am

Thanks Perry, really appreciateyour kind comments.

Final version posted.

L

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Re: The Wadi (V3)

Post by Perry » Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:46 am

Luke, even though I understand the overall meaning now, and even though there are individual images that I think are really wonderful, the poem still isn’t working for me. The language is amorphous and sometimes meandering, and your sentence structure isn’t solid.

Let’s take the beginning:

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman,
we could stand the thirst, the ravening sun on our shoulders
without hope of reprieve,


My first question is, why could you stand the thirst and sun if the dry creek bed were a real wadi in Yemen or Oman? (That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it?) So right off the start, the poem is putting a question in my head that I can’t comprehend. Why does it matter what you could “stand”?

Then, the second stanza is a continuation of the things you (and your partner) could “stand”:

the prospect of some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses.


But does that make sense? That second stanza is actually a run-on phrase appended to the sentence in the first stanza.

Then:

[Days] would be linear, present - Walk on,
keep walking. If there are rocks, step over them. Do not seek
a mirage on the horizon.


It isn’t clear to me why things “would be linear” if you could stand the things you list in the first two stanzas. (That seems to be what you are saying.)

And so the poem goes, a mish-mosh of unclear statements (albeit with good images) in sentences that don’t have proper structure.

This following portion is also a run-on sentence:

[As it is] in this arid East Midland stream
snaking through pasture, we navigate the sediment in the manner
of doddery English circumspects, aware

only of what’s been and what we pray will follow
the next meander the coming days, weeks, through autumn
into winter as the weather turns

washing seed into the caulked bed.


Then you bring in the Bedouin, whose presence in the poem seems superfluous to me. You don’t explain why you are on all-fours. “the culvert of our childless thirties” is another nice phrase, but I don’t understand what “parched, crimped, busy-ish” refers to, or what the disk of light is (light reflecting off the cottage windows?).

The coming rainstorm is part of the symbolism of fertility, so the ending is comprehensible -- but, again, not written very well in my view.

There is too much in this poem which, when I examine it closely, doesn’t make sense to me. Now, I have already admitted that I am a literal-minded person. In addition, other people have told you that the poem is great. So maybe you should just ignore my comments and call it finished. But to me, it’s a mess.

I’m sorry for being blunt. It hadn't been my intention to say any more, but when several readings didn't clear up my confusion, I decided that I should be honest.
If I don't critique your poem, it is probably because I don't understand it.

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Re: The Wadi (V3)

Post by 1lankest » Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:20 am

Thanks for returning, Perry. You’re right to question it.

Were it the real thing, say in Yemen or Oman,
we could stand the thirst, the ravening sun on our shoulders
without hope of reprieve,

the prospect of some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink in drought’s armour, a keyhole
in the sand to unlock the grasses. Days

In short, it’s the hope that kills you, not the despair. A wadi, a desert one which is dry all year round, represents in the poem the barren couple who are ‘without hope of reprieve’....and thus able to get on with living in the moment, stepping over the rocks etc.

The British ‘wadi’, really a dried up stream, represents the temporary barren spell, the presence of hope. Hence the circumspection, the distraction that leads to dodderyness.

I think it is clear without being spelt out. I’m sad you don’t think the writing is good but you’re entitled to that view. Perhaps it isn’t by some standards but I’m quite pleased with the result and I do still think your wrong to suggest it doesn’t make sense. You are reading the start impatiently, in my view - if you wait then it becomes clear as the poem develops.

Cheers,

Luke

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Re: The Wadi (V3)

Post by 1lankest » Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:23 am

And the couple are on all fours crawling through the culvert. Parched and crimped because they’re baked in the sun. The disk of light is the light at the end of the tunnel (the sky visible at the end of the culvert).

I hope it’s less messy now! (Gulp!)

L

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Re: The Wadi (V3)

Post by ray miller » Wed Sep 12, 2018 8:21 am

Hello Luke. Fine poem. Some quibbles -
I don't think the opening sentence makes as much sense as it ought to. There should be some differentiation between lines 2-3 and lines 4-6, should there not? Like, "without hope of reprieve (because of) the prospect....."

in the manner
of doddery English circumspects, aware - bit of a mouthful. I'd suggest "like doddery....."

the next meander the coming days - comma after meander?

I'd have a full-stop after busy-ish and cut out "our cottage".

Ray
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I contemplate such bitter stuff.

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Re: The Wadi (V3)

Post by 1lankest » Thu Sep 13, 2018 4:01 pm

Thanks Ray, good to see you back.

You’re right on all counts...really helpful.

Would this work better:

without hope of reprieve
from some miraculous spring
emerging ex-nihilo from a chink....

Luke

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