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Unread 11-19-2020, 09:28 PM
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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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  #2  
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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  #3  
Unread 11-20-2020, 11:45 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
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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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  #5  
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, 09:11 AM
Bill Carpenter Bill Carpenter is offline
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Short comment. What I liked best was the meter, which gave me an impression of accuracy and control. My biggest difficulty was inability to picture the problem with the window. Having the wind blow it open or closed would be clearer than having it blown back toward the wall. (You are giving toward two syllables?)

Some wordy expressions such as "made three climbs" can be taken as humorous, which is more charitable than taking them as clunky.

Visually, I think you could benefit from dividing the poem into quatrains. The eye normally recoils from uninterrupted columns of type, especially on line. I have experience with this, because I posted 70+ line excerpts from my Alfred epic when I was trying to get as much commentary as possible from Sphereans. Someone challenged me on that (probably Michael Cantor) and I realized my enjoyment in beholding column after marching column of type was a bit perverse. The solution was simple, and I set an approximate limit on the accumulations of lines, which of course gives you more beginnings and endings to work with. Dividing your poem in quatrains would give more space for the reader to appreciate the intended philosophizing.

Good luck!
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Unread 11-21-2020, 09:43 AM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Daniel, thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments.

Quote:
I think you might have dug a little too deep.
For the scope of the poem? The patience of the reader?

Quote:
I think 'nix' is probably fine if it hangs out with better company.
More sophisticated? More similar?

Also, what's your concern with "enlivening"?

Quote:
questionable b/c inversion: press back out
I don't see how this is inverted. How would you "un-invert" it?

I also don't see how "brave" is an enjambment--I believe it finishes the sub-thought begun at the beginning of its line.

Quote:
The Loose Casement Pane --> after reading twice, and knowing you just a brush, I became "suspect" of the choice of pane/pain over window.
Yes, thank you! I didn't want to blow this "secret" too soon, so I'm glad to see you got it on your own. I'll seriously consider "dropping the reader a hint that you mean this experience to apply to the generalized case," especially since this would also seem to address one of Julie's concerns (incidents need more tying-in to the subject's/subjects' experience/s.

Quote:
Some hint that the pane is actually the mind or like the mind (if I don't take it a bit too far.)
Yes, that's the deepest level at which it can be taken--the pane would represent a mind that has yet to attain proper self-control. The shallower level of symbolism would be all the externals that we try vainly to manipulate to attain lasting satisfaction.

It seems that though breaking this poem up into quatrains would keep the logic's natural flow at times, it would disrupt it at others, for example:

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.

You may be right about leaving maintenance out of this poem.

Wow, I'd not thought of the potential sexual symbolism of the window. Yikes! Good to be aware.

Thanks, too, for taking the time to point out some of your favorite lines. I think that's a really important part of the reader's experience, but it often seems to get short shrift in the shuffle of articulated analysis.

Quote:
So that the indoors, half-sealed from the fall <-- loved this enjambment.
I'm curious--why did you love it?

Quote:
Damn thing won't stay closed.
This really made me laugh!!!

Thanks for your thoughts on the closing tercet. You've inspired me to do some experimentation there.

I agree with you that replacing "bestirs" would probably require a more comprehensive gutting of the line than just that iamb. I've fumbled around with this a bit, but there remains the problem of how to say what "bestirs" says exactly, using another word or term.

Thanks again for all your feedback. I'm now waiting for the germ of inner direction and inspiration to manifest before I start trying to tinker with this.
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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 11-21-2020, 02:33 PM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is online now
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Hi Alexandra,

Just briefly: I was picturing the window as being within a multi-storey townhouse apartment rather than in the communal stairway of an apartment building. I’m quite possibly in the minority on that, and I’m not sure if it particularly matters for the poem’s meaning, but wanted to let you know where my comment about the inhabitants of the house was coming from.
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