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  #1  
Unread 11-22-2020, 03:39 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Default optimistic poem

"the big fish eat the little ones" – thom yorke

Ode

We imagine, Skye,
the abyss as a trench, a depth
....we cannot fathom,
....a darkness peopled
by strange, inhuman forms,
colorless and shapeless,
....lonely, the light
....they give themselves
a temptation to death, or else
a pained cry for encounter
....(whose rarity,
....in such a void,
leaves them, when they find it,
hapless to respond
....and full of teeth)—
....but this is wrong:
of all things, the abyss
is the most superficial,
....bottomless
....and therefore plane.



EDITS:

L14: cut ")," at end of line
L15: a desperate flare— --> and full of teeth)—

Last edited by Aaron Novick; 11-23-2020 at 02:54 PM.
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  #2  
Unread 11-22-2020, 06:25 PM
Jim Moonan Jim Moonan is offline
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.
Hi Aaron, Quick drop in to say the commas are tangling my reading. I can imagine it without any commas and the line breaks work nicely. If you left only the colon and the ending period it would read better for me.

I was in Skye last summer. I can't sense it in this poem.

And it doesn't flow lyrically for me, though that could be me.

It will take me more time to crack into this.
.
.
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Unread 11-23-2020, 10:13 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I’m going to ignore your thread title and suggest that this is bleak stuff. I say that not as a bad thing - I think it evokes the bleakness of the abyss very well. It strikes me as a powerful depiction of the difference between perceptions of depression (and other psychological / emotional “abysses”) and the actual experience of them. To the outsider looking in, the abyss looks strange and dramatic and lonely and aching; the to the person experiencing it, it’s just flatness. The bleakness, I think, is partially in the sense that someone might be pulled up from a trench - but if someone is already walking around in a ghostly plane, what hope is there? I love the realization that “bottomless” does not mean “very deep,” but can mean “lacking any variation in depth whatsoever.”

The whole poem - both in its depictions of the imagined abyss and in its stark turn to reveal the actual abyss - is powerful and well-crafted. I like this one a lot.

One small thing:
I assume “Skye” is the name of the addressee of the poem, but I’m not sure who she is or why she’s here. The name does make me think of the narrator looking slightly upward, and it calls to mind the contrast of depth and height.
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Unread 11-23-2020, 03:01 PM
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Aaron Novick Aaron Novick is online now
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Jim, thank you for your critique. I think the poem would be terribly difficult to parse if I took out the punctuation.

Coleman, thank you. I'm glad you like this one. Is my thread title meant ironically or sincerely? Who will say? (Not me ) Yes, Skye is the addressee. I'll keep my reasons for this private for now, so I can see how others take her presence in this poem.

— — —

I've replaced the original, redundant L15 with a line I hope is more evocative.
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Unread 11-23-2020, 04:17 PM
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Aaron, on the whole I like this, although I'm not sure I'm 100% sold on the concept of something bottomless being a plane. (It's so three-dimensional that it becomes two-dimensional? Say what? But it's a poem, and it doesn't have to mean what it says. It can mean what it feels.)

Before I got to that point, I was distracted by other thoughts about anglerfish (some of the more famous bioluminescent creatures of the deep), especially when "encounters" were mentioned in the poem.

Depending on one's point of view, either the female anglerfish absorbs the male into her body permanently during their first mating, thus forever taking his freedom and autonomy, or the male latches on and becomes permanently parasitic on the female, thus forever taking hers. Or maybe they both find this arrangement perfectly fulfilling and exactly what they wanted out of life. I don't know. Kinda cool that they were first filmed by a married couple, though.

My point is that thoughts of anglerfish encounters can be very, very distracting. At least for me. I was surprised that the narrator didn't mention those encounters in any way.
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Unread 11-23-2020, 09:32 PM
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I took the end to mean that if a three dimensional object is bottomless, it has no depth and therefore two-dimensional: a plane. However a line and a point also have no depth and are not two-dimensional. I guess a plane is superficial because it's all surface geometrically; but figuratively I am less sure this is true. "It is only after you have come to know the surface of things that you can venture to seek what is underneath. But the surface of things is inexhaustible.
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Unread 11-23-2020, 11:04 PM
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Julie and Walter, thanks for your comments.

Julie, I cannot agree with you when you say that a poem need not mean what it says. (The poet need not mean what they say, but that's another matter.) Were I convinced that the poem's central inference is illegitimate, that would be the end of the poem, in my eyes. So here is a defense:

The inference from "bottomless" to "plane" is not logically entailed, but does fall out of an equivalently strict poetic logic. We start with a 3D rendering of the abyss, where its bottomlessness is imagined as an endless (or at least very deep) vertical dimension. The N points out that this is unforced: the lack of a bottom could be a lack of that dimension altogether. This effects the reworking of the existing image by the removal of this dimension, which leaves a 2D figure. That rules out Walter's line and point as well: additional dimensions would need to be removed to yield those. (In addition to this context that resides within the poem itself, I'd also note that it would be odd to name a 1D or 0D object by reference to only one of the dimensions it lacks; this too makes the 2D reading most natural.)

As regards the anglerfish, I sympathize, but am not thereby moved to revision. A poem can treat its topic only partially; the selection must be justified on poetic grounds. In this case, I think there is good poetic reason for this N to be focused on predatory rather than sexual encounters, whatever the intrinsic interest of the latter (which I certainly grant).

Walter, the claim is only that the abyss is (geometrically and figuratively) superficial, not that all planes are. "But what justifies the inference, if not deduction from a universal?" Well... But more seriously, I think there is a lot of room for the reader to think about the ways in which the abyss is "superficial", of which the standard figurative meaning that worries you is but one. (Coleman offers another.) Perhaps in seeking a productive poetic ambiguity I have merely ended up being aggravatingly non-committal? I hope it is not so.
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Unread 11-29-2020, 11:48 AM
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A. Baez A. Baez is offline
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Funny thread title, and yes, I can see it as either sincere or sarcastic, just as I can imagine something bottomless being either three- or two-dimensional!

Philosophical debates about geometry aside, I enjoyed the conceit of this poem, the sense of paradox, the interface of ancient concepts with modern science, and the oddly quite graceful shift from the first to the second toward the end.

I also loved the strung-out, one-sentence structure of the poem, how it accentuates the feeling of bottomlessness.

Prior to your explanation, I did not understand the reference to Skye. I had assumed you were referencing the island and was trying to figure out how its "geography" related to that of the rest of the poem.

These lines struck me as somewhat cliched:

Quote:
a darkness peopled
by strange, inhuman forms,
but I found the rest of the poem's language pretty gripping.

What is "the light they give themselves"? I did not really understand the passage from here through "teeth," though I liked the feeling of it.

I don't believe you've used "hapless" correctly--it means "unfortunate"--I think the right word would be "helpless."

The rhythm of the whole poem seems just right, with the turn at L16 coming at a fortuitous moment and the conclusion that follows having just the right length and heft.
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  #9  
Unread 11-29-2020, 11:55 AM
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Thanks, Alexandra. Glad this one is largely working for you, and thanks for pressing on some potential weak spots.

This thread can slide down now, as I've got a new poem up.
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Unread 11-29-2020, 11:59 AM
Coleman Glenn Coleman Glenn is offline
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Aaron, I know you just posted something new and are probably ready to move on, but briefly: I wonder if it would help clarify the turn if you put the etymology of “abyss” (“without depth”) as an epigraph. Maybe that’s doing too much of the reader’s work for them, but I think it would signal the view of the abyss as “plane” as a linguistic / definitional shift rather than a geometrical one.

Edit: Sorry, cross-posted and missed your confirmation that yes, you’re ready to let this one slide down.
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