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  #1  
Unread 06-05-2021, 01:48 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Default Out of the wood

It is Dunkirk all over again –
after the shambles, the rescue,
the touch of fairy dust
that, ending well, makes all seem well,
the benighted straggling out of the wood
with blessedly little memory
of the anguish of the night.

Only the unquiet ghosts
of those who did not emerge from the wood
walk, in their stead, through the partying crowds
demanding expiation.
Saying remember me.
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  #2  
Unread 06-05-2021, 03:28 AM
Joe Crocker Joe Crocker is offline
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Yes, that wash of relief to have survived a hard time. And then remembering that not everyone did.

I’m not sure you need the penultimate line “demanding expiation”. It feels more poignant to simply end with “remember me”. But you may be looking to make a more political point?
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  #3  
Unread 06-05-2021, 12:16 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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Hi David,

This is excellent. I get Joe's point about 'demanding expiation', but I like the contrast in 'demanding' and 'partying'.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #4  
Unread 06-05-2021, 01:21 PM
Matt Q Matt Q is offline
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Hi David,

I read this as a Covid poem. It's nicely done. I like the reference to Dunkirk, how if it ends well, people will tend to forget what went before: hence Boris's popularity despite everything. The shambles being how the whole thing has been handled, the incompetence, the unnecessary deaths, and the corruption (politely called "cronyism") around who got the lucrative pandemic-related contracts. The rescue in the poem being the vaccination program, the parties being people celebrating the lifting of lockdown.

Anyway, on this reading, then I think you need "demanding expiation" as well as "Saying remember me".

You might think about whether there's a way to include the families of the dead in your poem. In real life, the families of the bereaved are pushing for action and demanding expiation -- and largely being fobbed off with an enquiry that's been pushed back till after the next election, so as to avoid any damaging political fallout. I realise the poem doesn't need to be accurate, but if there's a way to include the bereaved it might add another dimension to the poem. Plus, of course, few of them will have "blessedly little memory" of their losses.

Sadly, I think this may be a poem you'll have a long time to revise, as this Delta variant seems pretty nasty -- faster spreading, more likely to land one in hospital, less repelled by vaccines and so on -- and cases are going up again. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think we're out of the woods yet; or there are more woods to come.

Matt

Last edited by Matt Q; 06-05-2021 at 01:54 PM.
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  #5  
Unread 06-05-2021, 02:19 PM
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Sarah-Jane Crowson Sarah-Jane Crowson is offline
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Hi,

I think the writing in this works nicely, but it’s possible that you’re setting up a problem-space for yourself in the COVID/Dunkirk analogy - I wonder how far that works beyond a basic ‘we are saved’ level/ but let us remember the dead - and, as Matt suggests, there may be issues in the ‘we are saved’.

In my very basic reading (I’m no war historian) Dunkirk was a slaughterhouse caused by failed tactics and ideologies. Again, in my reading, COVID is a world-wide pandemic, which is ongoing - our tiny corner of the world might have brought hospitalisation/death rates under control for the older population - but other parts of the world are still very much suffering. And, I’d perhaps consider that we’re not ‘out of the woods’ - from many perspectives the woods might only just have started, economically (unless people have ‘cushions’ of income or are already retired).

The mention of ‘wood’ blurs this, too, with WWI poetry, and all those horrific testaments to the desperate tragedy of the Somme. Again, I’d be wary. I’d consider if you might make this more overtly about specifically UK politics in order to locate it better as a kind of (what I’m reading as) protest poem about these, rather than a universal comment on a contemporary situation? That wouldn’t be hard to do - maybe it might be worth considering starting with a specific place-based thing ‘The Mirror proclaims/ It is Dunkirk over again’, to locate the point of view not ‘as’ the narrator’s, or go straight into direct mentions of Boris etc - that would make the poem more directly read as a political protest poem.

I do love the line ‘benighted straggling out of the wood’. On my first reading, I thought it was about some rave that had gone wrong, and without the COVID reading I enjoyed it very, very much.

Sarah-Jane
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Unread 06-06-2021, 09:32 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Hi all. Thanks for those thoughts. Sorry, I am having connectivity problems at the moment - largely due to being away from the PC - but I should be able to get back to you around the end of the week.

Cheers

David
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  #7  
Unread 06-12-2021, 07:30 AM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Finally (after walking 28 hills over 1000 feet in 6 days - the latter two in mist and rain, thank you very much) ...

Thanks, Joe. That line was going to be "demanding explanation", but then expiation insinuated itself. I think it works. but then I would, wouldn't I?

Thanks Fliss. I hadn't spotted that artful contrast myself.

Thanks Matt. You're right, it is supposed to be a Covid poem, but someone elsewhere wondered whether it might also be a Brexit poem. I'm pretty much over Brexit by now, to be honest, shambles though it is. Anyway, I think you've pretty much got the poem, as it's meant to be, bang to rights.

You're very right about the families of the bereaved. I think I have neglected them here (and they really don't need more neglect). So I'll have to have a think about that. And you're right about this damn wood too.

And thank you Sarah-Jane. You're right, it is a rather parochial take on the worldwide issue, so that gives me pause for thought too. Glad you liked "the benighted straggling out of the wood" - it reminds me of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but I wonder whether that's an echo I want.

Cheers all anyway

David
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  #8  
Unread 06-12-2021, 01:09 PM
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F.F. Teague F.F. Teague is offline
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You're welcome, David; it's good.

Oh, so it's a Covid poem? I thought it was something else because I don't think the pandemic is over; I reckon the virus is here to stay.

Best wishes,
Fliss
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  #9  
Unread 06-12-2021, 01:12 PM
David Callin David Callin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F.F. Teague View Post
Oh, so it's a Covid poem? I thought it was something else because I don't think the pandemic is over; I reckon the virus is here to stay.
I think you're right about it being here to stay, Fliss. Let's see how we handle it from here.

Cheers

David
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  #10  
Unread 06-12-2021, 10:59 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi David,

I find the word blessedly suitably fragile, and a neat constrast to benighted one line away. Baudelaire in "L'Ennemi" writes

Et qui sait si les fleurs nouvelles que je rêve
Trouveront dans ce sol lavé comme une grève
Le mystique aliment qui ferait leur vigueur?

And his conditional ferait breaks the hope expressed rather painfully down the middle. The anguish of the night then is lovely, if that's the word, though I wish it were not so close to benighted, not that I have an alternative. I also regret a bit that "out of the woods" is such a cliche, though you've done much to ressuscitate the metaphor. It's only in retrospect that it bothers me at all.
What would you think of offsetting the closing and perhaps the opening lines a space apiece, into one-line stanzas? A person might also put Remember me in italics. Anyway, formatting options. That might address the expiation question.
I'd prefer this not to be a COVID poem, but maybe that's just me. I think its art and unity would come off the page more easily. How does a person commemorate the four million or so dead? I don't have an answer, for my part.

Oh - a different pretty good commemoration, as such things go, might be Paul Celan's "Todesfuge." Here it is with translation: https://poets.org/poem/death-fugue

Cheers,
John

Last edited by John Isbell; 06-12-2021 at 11:17 PM. Reason: Todesfuge
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