Poem of the Week December 20

Here it is.

Comments go in this post.


2 thoughts on “Poem of the Week December 20

  1. Hi Scavella:

    I read this as a death-of-an-era piece, with Eddie and his kidney failure (poisoned on own waste) a metaphor for the decadent dissolute Nassau described in S1. I read up on the Harry Oakes story and found there was indeed a fire at the scene of the crime – the “cindered beds” “charred” screens “burned” forearms – refer to this and the metaphor of burning (literally burning up) is followed up in S2 & S3.

    By and large, I find your third version the best – in the sense that it is tighter, and what you have cut seems sensibly cut (with one reservation, noted at end). Three minor nits in the last version:

    S2L2 – “paper-dry” from the first version is less fresh than “deadleaf dry”, but the latter does not work for me. It’s too heavy (maybe all the d’s) to evoke the thin dryness of sick skin. “paper-dry” worked better, but it is rather tired. A third choice, a third choice?!

    S2 L4 – I didn’t understand the reference in the first version to “the bank” – bank as in financial institution, bank as in river bank? – and liked the move to “house” better, but not “my” house. The my makes it too specific and the whole thing perhaps a little too self-consciously metaphorical. The “the” makes it more universal, involving Lily as well. Since there actually is no fire, with the “the” we would also get clearer hints of delirium, which goes along with a sense of burning destructive fever. A universalizing “the” also fits in better with Lily checking the surroundings – from the stove (particular) moving out to the yard and the sky (the general), in my view.

    S3 L4 – For the end of the line, definitely prefer “and left” of the earlier version. “Swore” strikes me as too violent a reaction for someone who has just beckoned Lily, shaken his head and calmly made a laconic comment. Might work if you have the doctor swearing as he first sets eyes on the bloated, blackened corpse, but not to close out the relative calm series that has just come before, in my view.

    Finally (last beef) – I couldn’t work out where the carpenter from the title fits in (unless as a coffin-maker?).

    This is a neat idea and neatly-executed. One thing I felt might be missing was a sense of bloat (corruption) in both parts of the metaphor – you had swelling and pudding-soft in a previous version for Eddie. Would have liked to see this retained and echoed in S1. Think that you may have gone with the burning over the bloat, though.

    Also “poisoned on own waste” is a key concept, which I understood only from your explanation – not sure if it would be possible to make it clearer that that is the process underway in the body of the piece.

    And of course, any number of potential avenues for exploration – what caused the sickness, were any remedies applied, what happened post-sickness, etc. One can only go so many places.

    And blah blah blah. I’m sure I’ve got most of it wrong, but oh well. Good luck with it, Nic

  2. Nic, many thanks for the extensive commentary. Very helpful, especialiy in your judgement of what works and what doesn’t. You are on the money for a lot of the poem, which suggests that I may not be so far off myself.


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