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Unread 11-19-2020, 09:28 PM
A. Baez's Avatar
A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Default The Loose Casement Pane


The Loose Casement




At intervals, a wind bestirs the pane,
Pushing it partway back toward the wall
So that the indoors, half-sealed from the fall
Of snow, or sleet, or dusty storms, or rain,
Is also blocked off from the enlivening breeze,
Which gets caught circling in the narrow gap,
Never to move in far; with a dim rap,
The shuddering glass acknowledges the tease.
Often, I’ve paused there in the stairway landing,
Reaching to push that window out again—
Its crank-handle was broken who knows when.
I fling it, fling it, never understanding
How to nix this nuisance at its source;
I’ve told apartment management three times
And maintenance has maybe made three climbs
To try to fix the thing by art or force.
Come winter, other hands will press back out
This window that I’ll grow to wish stayed shut:
I’ll claw it back toward closed position, but
Still it will gape, in need of some redoubt.
I’ve pushed and pulled this way through heat and cold;
I never could control the aperture
Of this transparent thing amid the stir
Of wind and hand; it doesn’t easily hold
The warmth I want, or draw the breath I crave,
Or stand against the weather—battened, brave—
Or let fly off stale air no space should save.




Revisions: title was "The Loose Casement Pane"
L25: "draw" was "take"

Last edited by A. Baez; 11-26-2020 at 08:47 AM.
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Unread 11-19-2020, 10:51 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hi, A. (Anya? Alex? Apologies.)

If the use of extreme formality for such a pedestrian occurrence is meant to be humorous, I think the joke goes on for too long, and without any snappy punchlines.

David Anthony has a similarly mundane-themed poem (about changing a burnt-out bulkhead light) that I found delightful and hilarious, in part because he used shorter lines and sentences, and stopped at the ends of quatrains to allow things to sink in. And also because that narrator's speech is so relentlessly matter-of-fact and prosaic, which is unexpected in a rhymed, formal poem, although perfectly plausible given the subject matter. It's like having a casual conversation with someone who doesn't even realize he's uttering rhyme and meter. That accidental effect gives the whole thing a certain miraculous quality, and I was eager to keep reading to see if it would keep happening, and it did.

(Not that I think you should do what David did--I'm just thinking with my mouth open to evaluate why I didn't have the same reaction to your poem.)

From the very first sentence, I found the length of your poem's sentences and the elevated register to be very hard going. I personally don't see any reason for your envelope rhymes, because you're not treating those four-line groupings as quatrains.

I didn't learn much about the narrator, except that they're the sort of person who refers to skilled human beings whose help they need as the rather de-personified "maintenance." That might explain their lack of motivation to do a good job of helping him.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 11-19-2020 at 11:02 PM.
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Unread 11-20-2020, 11:45 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Hi Alexandra,

There are a number of things I like in here: the dual images of the window refusing to keep the unwanted weather out or let the wanted weather in (and the unwanted stuffiness out), the image and sound of lines like “claw it back toward closed position,” the familiarity of a broken casement window (which as often as not seem to have crank-handles “broken who knows when”) seen in an unusually elevated light.

But I’m left wanting a little more - a suggestion of some greater significance, some connection between what happens between people in the house and this window. There’s the faintest hint of this in the final line about stale air, but not enough for me to hold onto.

A few specific points:
For the title, a loose pane makes me think of a pane of glass sitting loosely in its wooden frame - “The Loose Casement Window” or just “The Loose Casement” would match better for me with the image in the poem (and help me more quickly understand “pane” to mean the entire panel in L1).

The poem in general moves from summer problems (fresh air won’t come in) to winter problems (freezing air won’t stay out). I think you’d set up this movement more clearly if you restricted the weather-to-be-kept-out in L4 to undesirable spring/summer weather.

L5: I like the slight metrical variation here - I’m happy to elide in my mind and nudge it in the direction of “th’ enliv’ning breeze.”

L8: “The shuddering glass acknowledges the tease” is one of the highlights of the poem for me.

L15-16: I don’t get the sense of “maintenance” as dehumanizing that Julie describes, since these lines both acknowledge the hardship they have to face in making the climb, and describes their “art”.

L20: The quatrain that leads up to this is one of the strongest, but “redoubt” feels rhyme-driven and out-of-place to me.

L24: The meter is thrown off for me here by “easily.”

L25: I’m not grasping what it would mean for the window to “take the breath I crave.”
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Unread 11-20-2020, 02:34 PM
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Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
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"Bestirs"? Is that diction earned?
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Unread 11-20-2020, 11:34 PM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Julie, hi--my name's Alexandra...sorry for my somewhat impersonal member moniker. I created it before I learned that this site was not Googleable; I was trying to reserve a measure of anonymity for myself with the first initial in place of the whole name (and also to maintain uniformity with my moniker on other poetry sites). However, now that I realize that a certain protection is built-in here, my first name is "out"!

...which actually touches on my poem's intended theme, and I'm sorry this was not clear to you. I've realized that I'm relying a lot on the reader to bring to bear on this a similar enough mentality to my own, I guess, to apprehend or at least subtly sense the deeper meaning I was driving at. This poem wasn't actually intended to be particularly humorous, although there is a sort of exasperated, wry humor to it. One day it hit me that there was an inherent symbolism in the chronic situation I've experienced with my apartment landing's broken window: as humans, we spend an inordinate amount of time struggling to obtain certain things and to avoid others. But ironically, all of these things come and leave through the same doors, so to speak (ourselves, our experience; or, on a higher level, our consciousness), and a lot of the time we cannot open up to what we want without opening also to what we don't want--or working at cross-purposes with others whose wants may be the opposite of our own. What's more, much of what we strive for in one moment may be not too different from what we strive against in the next one. In desperation, we may try to enlist others (in this poem, symbolized by "maintenance") to help us make an external "fix" to control the flow of desirable/undesirable elements in our lives, but in the end, this, too, may result in failure, because to some extent, control runs contrary to the very bent of nature. So this poem was meant as a pensive meditation, possibly leading the reader to consider that our consciousness is the only thing we may really be able to control.

(This relates to the above "site moniker" conundrum because I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to give the people I want to as much information about me as possible while withholding it from any who might misuse it: it's pretty much impossible.)

All that being said, I'd be interested to read the poem by David Anthony of which you speak. It does sound delightful. Do you remember its title?

So my question to you now would be, can you think of any way that I could better achieve my stated objective? I naturally gravitated toward what you call the "elevated register" (I thought of it more as casual-elevated, in the vein of Frost) because it seemed apt for this objective. As for the envelope rhymes, I'd never heard anyone assert that they should be reserved for quatrains, and I can't see any reason why this should be. Yes, envelope rhymes create natural groups of four, but there are many poems that contain envelope rhymes (think Petrarchan sonnets); or ABABCDCD etc. rhymes, which also form natural groups of four; or rhymed couplets, which form natural groups of two; among other "grouped" configurations, without breaking up these groups into stanzas. To me, it's perfectly reasonable to have a sub-form embedded within an overarching form, if one prefers the unifying flow of the latter. I did, and I also wanted the rhyme scheme that best captures the restlessly shifting feeling of the theme--the window that shuts, then opens for a while, then shuts again. The envelope rhyme scheme seems to have a sort of gusty, wispy feel about it. And I round things out at the end with a rhymed tercet, simply because it "feels right."

This poem wasn't meant to reveal that much about the narrator as an individual, because the specifics in that regard aren't that important: he/she is meant to be everyman, and his/her experience is what counts here. As such, he/she is meant to reflect a certain existential fretfulness about us humans' fundamental lack of control of externals.

As far as my "maintenance" allusion...in my apartment complex, when a tenant wants some kind of work to be done, he calls apartment management (Jeannie), and she responds by telling you she'll write up a ticket or that someone will be by to fix it. She never tells you that someone's name, and she may not even know at the time which of the several maintenance men on staff it will be. On the occasions when I'm actually around when one or more of the men arrive (not too common, because I work full time outside the home), they have never introduced themselves, nor do they have name tags, nor have they addressed me by name, which I'm quite sure they don't know or care about. They interact continually with hundreds of constantly-changing tenants here; I strongly suspect that their primary interest is simply to get done all the work tickets they're handed each day. And in the case of a work order placed for a public area such as the stairway landing casement window, the maintenance person would have no reason to even interact with the tenant who put in that work order. That being said, I have very good relations with the maintenance man whom I've encountered most often in recent years. I do respect, and am even in awe of, his and the others' vast array of skills, resourcefulness, imagination, work ethic, friendliness, and integrity (although I wish they would pay more heed to cleanliness and aesthetics, but that's a pet peeve of mine!). Still, for me to introduce myself to any of them apropos of nothing would just feel wacky, and for me to ask their names would feel somewhat intrusive.

Coleman, thanks for your detailed feedback. I'm glad that a number of the elements in this poem that I hoped would get through, did, to you.

Quote:
But I’m left wanting a little more - a suggestion of some greater significance, some connection between what happens between people in the house and this window. There’s the faintest hint of this in the final line about stale air, but not enough for me to hold onto.
Well, as I alluded to in the poem, this is about a public stairway landing in an apartment building, but I can "translate" your point to the poem's situation. What you'd like, then, is more about how the narrator (and maybe hypothetical others?) is/are impacted by the public window situation (both literally and symbolically, I presume). I can see your point here--I'll have to think about this.

I can easily change the title--good idea. I never even knew what this type of window was called before I wrote the poem--I had to do a search!

Quote:
The poem in general moves from summer problems (fresh air won’t come in) to winter problems (freezing air won’t stay out). I think you’d set up this movement more clearly if you restricted the weather-to-be-kept-out in L4 to undesirable spring/summer weather.
Hmm, okay, my plan had been to start out with the full-picture view and then break it down by season, but I can think about your suggested approach.

Quote:
L5: I like the slight metrical variation here - I’m happy to elide in my mind and nudge it in the direction of “th’ enliv’ning breeze.”
Yay! "Enlivening" with its extra syllable just sounds so much more...enlivening! I did that on purpose...

Quote:
L8: “The shuddering glass acknowledges the tease” is one of the highlights of the poem for me.
Great! I like that, too.

Quote:
L15-16: I don’t get the sense of “maintenance” as dehumanizing that Julie describes, since these lines both acknowledge the hardship they have to face in making the climb, and describes their “art”.
Good, because I spent quite a bit of time today introspecting as to whether I've been unknowingly harboring a dehumanizing attitude toward the maintenance men here. (I address this topic more to Julie, above.)
Quote:
L20: The quatrain that leads up to this is one of the strongest, but “redoubt” feels rhyme-driven and out-of-place to me.
Hmm, yes, I've fussed over "redoubt," but technically, it does mean just about what I want to say here. I'm open to anything better...

Quote:
L24: The meter is thrown off for me here by “easily."
Hmm--well, wouldn't the throwing-off jibe nicely with the meaning of "doesn't easily"?

Quote:
L25: I’m not grasping what it would mean for the window to “take the breath I crave.”
Well, I was trying here to bring in the symbolic significance of, as you put it, "let the wanted weather in." Can you think of a better alternative?

Anyway, thanks so much for all the nitty-gritties.

Allen, I floundered around the word in this position, trying myriad possibilities, but meter was a big constraining factor. "Bestirs" was the first word that had occurred to me, so I finally looked it up and found that, to my relief, it is not necessarily reflexive and it is not considered archaic. It does feel far better to me here than anything else I could come up with, but I'm happy to take suggestions for an alternative. Or maybe I should do more elsewhere in the poem to "earn" "bestirs." I wonder what that would look like?

Last edited by A. Baez; 11-21-2020 at 08:59 AM.
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  #6  
Unread 11-21-2020, 06:37 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Hi Alexandra,

Good to see a long and deeply considered poem; I think you might have dug a little too deep. There were a few clues that led me to look into the poem a little more than I would have ordinarily, but it took a dig to get at it. First a few "bookkeeping" items.


questionable: bestirs enlivening nix redoubt --"questionable" is not my euphemism for remove. E.g. I think 'nix' is probably fine if it hangs out with better company.

questionable b/c inversion: press back out, fly off stale air

questonable b/c: brave (enjambment, pathetic fallacy)



The Loose Casement Pane --> after reading twice, and knowing you just a brush, I became "suspect" of the choice of pane/pain over window. But what kind of pain, what kind of sensation bound to this casement window. Here's where some difficulty starts. I read your response and think that dropping the reader a hint that you mean this experience to apply to the generalized case would pay benefits. Some hint that the pane is actually the mind or like the mind (if I don't take it a bit too far.)

An additional thought is that since you have examples and episodes, and since what we generally do with such things is bundle them up in little boxes, separating this into quatrains-- maintaining the rhymescheme might help. BTW, not a fan of line starting caps.

Another thought is that, for me, the maintenance bit was too far afield. I realize you are trying to ensure you cover every case of the struggle, but I think the poem would unify strongly without it. How we invite others into our mess is a very big topic, deserving its own meditation.

A last reflection-- there's something slightly, but not consistently, yonic about the window. On first read, suspicious of pane/pane, the line

The shuddering glass acknowledges the tease.

took on quite a sensual tone, stimulated as it was by an enlivening breeze circling in the narrow gap, not moving in too far...

Ultimately, it doesn't follow through or match the rest of the content despite a few other tiny potential double-reads, but thought the observation might be of use.

Here are some of my favorit lies
So that the indoors, half-sealed from the fall <-- loved this enjambment.

The shuddering glass acknowledges the tease. <-- I'm sure everyone loves this one.

I fling it, fling it, <-- captured that vain attempt just right. Damn thing won't stay closed.

To try to fix the thing by art or force. <--just something sound and appealing here

Still it will gape, in need of some redoubt. <-- I liked the pressure and release of the stanza, but can't keep the idea of redoubts and castles (huge) vs. this thing (small), mismatching.

[ this transparent thing ] <--this should have been more of a clue to me than it was.

Of wind and hand; <-- one of several expressions like it that stand out nicely for me somehow

The warmth I want, or take the breath I crave,
Or stand against the weather—battened, brave—
Or let fly off stale air no space should save.

I love the crescendo triplet, but think it needs smoothing. The enjambed "brave" with its questionable syntax and simplifying line three "or let stale air fly off" are key foci. Here's a suggestion that doesn't quite get there, but should be something of a catalyst.

L2 "...weather, battened brave/ly letting stale air fly" [oof] then you run into having to render save in conditional or infinitive, subordinate to prevent what would be a jangly "ed" at the climax. Consider reversing the order of the triplet to take some pressure off. Conclude on crave, not save. (?) just getting in the trenches with you rather than throwing stones from the side.

PS - the trick to ripping out bestirs, will probably be ripping out a much larger section of the line than just the one iamb.
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Unread 11-21-2020, 10:52 AM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A. Baez View Post
All that being said, I'd be interested to read the poem by David Anthony of which you speak. It does sound delightful. Do you remember its title?
Here you go! I'd completely misremembered the tone, which isn't conversational at all. More mock-epic. So please ignore what I said about why I enjoyed it, and any advice I based on that, just enjoy it yourself, firsthand.
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Unread 11-22-2020, 07:29 AM
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Jayne Osborn Jayne Osborn is offline
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Hi Alexandra,

I love this... the way you keep up the momentum is amazing. There's a 'but' coming, though...

But, like Coleman, "I’m left wanting a little more" ...it isn't finished, IMO. It's lacking some sort of dénouement... after all the details about the ill-fitting window it would be nice to have a conclusion or resolution. (I know it's factual, so there probably hasn't been one, as yet, but might you be willing to include a potential scenario?)

My first thought, imagining what I'd do if it was me, was: I'm standing there with a hammer in my hand, ready to smash the window frame and force a permanent repair to be done - but (ahem) resorting to criminal damage isn't the best way to solve the problem, however tempting!

How about a new maintenance man appearing, whom you're attracted to..., especially if he successfully repairs the window and becomes your hero?
Or another person smashes the window, and you wonder whether you'll get the blame?

These might seem like daft suggestions but they're just off the top of my head... I'm sure you get the drift. An ending of some kind could be slightly humorous, or not, but it would round off the poem more satisfactorily. What do you think?

Jayne
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Unread 11-22-2020, 08:47 AM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is offline
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You've gotten many good comments already, Alexandra, so I'll just toss on one more point for you to consider: the "Come winter..." quatrain is by far the weakest part of the poem. The weak rhyme on "but", the reach for "redoubt"—I can feel the effort it took to fit the form here, whereas the rest of the poem falls much more naturally into its formality.
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Unread 11-22-2020, 09:01 AM
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R. Nemo Hill R. Nemo Hill is online now
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I don't think this one is working well at all, Alexandra. It reminds me of some of my own compositional failures, times when I wanted to accurately describe something, and I got so lost in that accuracy that I lost any thread a reader might follow. I would recognize that fact, and trying harder to get the description just right, placing all my faith is accuracy, until ultimately that unrelenting effort was all that remained. The upshot is that this is both exhausting and boring to me, and the poem has gotten lost in the effort of write it. I think only a radical change in approach could salvage it, one that is more impressionistic than factual, and that is a hard turnaround to put into practice after all one's studious efforts.

I agree with Bill that dividing the poem into quatrains, or some such stanzaic structure, might be a first step. You need to get some air into the thing. Hopefully, such ventilation might also suggest a much needed change in tone.

Then there is the matter of the occasionally archaic tone, which worked well in your last posting, but seems more of a drawback here. It seems at odds with the more modern factual details about the window and its potential repair, and it keeps the realistically treated scene and situation from becoming real. All in all, the poem seems crippled by that tone and by its exactingly formal elements. For all your scrupulous painting, the window remains only lines of words (for this reader at least).

You have a patient delicacy of mind, that is certain, but it is not used to greatest effect here.

Nemo
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