Saturday, 14 June 2008

Prophecies

Blue and gold and black
(Like Duracell)
Summer surprised us with latent weight
Its potential energy

And now, like crickets massed in dry grasses,
Prophecies whisper and rattle at every footfall
And some, no doubt, are crushed.

Most, no doubt, are crushed
Or spring away to live and die
Without relevance

But I could bend
(Or you could bend)
Stilled to a sudden attention
And, with cupped hands
Clam one as it sits
Vibrating

And change our course thereafter,
Walking back across the buzzing field.

8 comments:

Billicatons said...

Echoes of The Waste Land are intended, y'know?

(Louchely, I comment on my own post.)

David said...

I liked it. Perhaps it is not my place to comment (even with the 'comment' button right here), but I'd suggest:

Vibrating across the buzzing field

and then leave the last stanza out.

Billicatons said...

Thank you kindly.

I disagree with the proposed amendment (ruins the rhythm, innit? And I don't want 'vibrating' and 'buzzing' in the same line.)

Also I feel it needs to breathe again after the freeze-frame of the penultimate stanza - so there has to be something following the 'pivot' of that 'vibrating' line.

Do you not like 'thereafter', perhaps?

(I don't, incidentally, wish to come across as dismissive of your suggestion. But, heck, I suppose I am, after all, dismissing it - which makes it tough. Thank you for the engagement.)

Billicatons said...

(Er ... 'Engagement'? Sorry, that was written in haste. You'd be within your rights to reply: 'We're getting married?')

David said...

Having reread my suggestion, I'd now suggest

Vibrating in the buzzing field

That fixes the rhythm issue for me, and indeed I'd say the rhythm of the existing final couplet is rather clunkier as it stands (rather too iambic at its extended length if you ask me; doesn't get away with it like the punchier earlier lines: 'And some, no doubt, are crushed | Most, no doubt, are crushed' -- which did, for me, echo the 'There is shadow under this red rock, | (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),').

I think one-word lines for freeze-frame effect are overrated, and you achieve the same sort of result by leaving off the concluding period. You're right, I don't like 'thereafter', but I also just don't like the full-sentence feel of the last stanza, or the sense that you're 'tidying up' what's come before to make it fit into a larger theoretical package, rather than letting the image/experience stand a little more freely on its own.

Also, if you're worried about vibrating and buzzing in the same line -- what about massed in grasses! I took a bit of issue with that, particular reading in my head with an American accent! Nevertheless I take your point about buzzing and vibrating; but I'd be tempted, then, to change 'buzzing' to convey part of the 'change our course'. Also, if you were really squeamish about having more than one word on the Vibrating line, how about:

But I could bend
(Or you could bend)
Stilled to a sudden attention
And, with cupped hands
Clam one as it sits
Vibrating
Across the open field


I think this would be easier without so many darned capitals! Alternatives:

vibrating
across the open field


or

Vibrating across the open field

Billicatons said...

'Vibrating in the buzzing field' puts a heck of a lot of stress on that weak 'in', dunnit?

Vibrating is a good word -- in my opinion -- for being isolated on one line, thanks to its unstressed-stressed-unstressed rhythm. I can't remember the name for this kind of metrical 'foot', except that it generally occurs only in limericks. da-DA-da. So I kind of liked the fact that, metrically, the line has the sense of the word.

There are some rhythm issues elsewhere in this, actually (I'm not quite convinced, myself, by 'Without relevance') ... But I'm still unpersuaded on your reservations about the last bit.

(Also, 'Vibrating across the buzzing field' is not the sense I was looking for. Because at the point of clamming it, it's not in transit. It's like a cricket, paused on a stalk of grass, ready to move. But the idea is that the motion of humans is the catalyst for sending these things buzzing in all directions.)

I do see what you mean about extended iambicity. Something to think about, perhaps.

(Also, massed and grasses in one line is achieving a pretty pronounced aural effect - those dry sibilants - whereas buzzing and vibrating weaken one another, surely? Two words with the same sense but not sharing a common music.)

Oh boy, I *do* take criticism well -- really I do -- but I seem to find myself in disagreement, here ...

David said...

No, I took your point about 'vibrating' and 'buzzing' in the same line -- my final suggestions were:

Vibrating
Across the open field


or

vibrating
across the open field


or

Vibrating across the open field

I get the intended effect of massed and grasses, but I think it's too much and too obvious. But I guess that's my problem with a lot of contemporary more 'structured' poetry (and some unstructured too, to be sure) so please don't take it too much as a personal criticism.

"the idea is that the motion of humans is the catalyst for sending these things buzzing in all directions."

Mmm; I read 'the buzzing field' as a field buzzing because of the haphazard flight and subtle movements of these crickets/prophecies around the walker, and hence a sense of ongoing potentiality about the whole scene (reinforcing the earlier description of potential energy). To my mind picking a prophecy and then walking off, the matter apparently quite settled, is too neat and straightforward: furthermore, going 'back' bugs me -- you listen carefully to the vibration of a prophecy and then go back the same way you came?

So my intention with the change to 'across the open field' was not that there be any walking or carrying -- presumably you've assumed that given the initial form of ending the poem with walking. I'm suggesting that the poem end on the image of the cupped vibration -- it is vibrating across the field as if it is making waves in the heat-hazed air from a point of stasis -- a point of potential, of excitement. I want the 'pivot' to be a sort of imagist cliffhanger if you will, rather than something that exists and then there's a return to a more prosaic world.

End on the image, it's more romantic!

Billicatons said...

David, the closing line of that last comment made me smile, even after a solid two hours spent trying to do a quarter-page Sixth Form newspaper ad containing at least a half-page's worth of information.

I presume you realise that the exhortation 'it's more romantic' could scarcely be less likely to persuade me? I refer you to TS Eliot on Classicism vs Romanticism if you're left in any doubt ... I *love* this prosaic old world, y'know, Dave.

Yes, the buzzing *is* picking up the potential energy thing, and you read it as I'd intended. It's the use of vibrating as a verb implying movement (vibrating across the field) that I object to. The thing is vibrating, but it is not changing location when it is being clammed.

'The matter apparently quite settled' -- haha. Very good.

I'm actually getting more and more uncomfortable with the manner in which I'm writing, here. I think I may have to stop replying. I feel like a pretentious arsehole, frankly.

(Plus ca change)

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