Tuesday, January 22, 2008

GARY SHORT COMES UP SHORT (or long, depending on how you look at it...)

Perseid Shower

Meteors break
through the late-summer night,

white blossoms scattering, furiously.
They don’t make a noise,

at least none
that we can hear.

They disappear in all directions
signifying desire

and its difficulty.
There. The half-moon floats

thin and translucent
as an insect’s wing. We say the moon is

even as it wanes.

So much longing. . .
to witness the unfolding

across distance. How we must look
to anyone watching.

Here is the star cage.
Here the still life with black clock.

Gary Short
from 10 Moons and 13 Horses

This one was cited last month by Joshua Robbins. Not bad; the poem has some good lines in it, and sustains a definite mood. Now without the blah blah: the distracting commentary, pathetic fallacy, unnecessary conjunctions, etc.:

Perseid Shower

Meteors break
through late summer night,

White blossoms scattering,

The half-moon floats
thin, translucent

as an insect's wing.

Here, the star cage:
Still life with black clock.

Better? Seems to me it is. I always appreciate it when others do the same for my verbal excesses...but it was the first version, apparently, that made it into print, or at least onto the Great Basin Poetry site.

P.S. there's an interesting discussion in the comments below. The upshot is, I think I may have gone too far with my exactor knife.


Synchronicity said...

i definitely like the first version better.

Brian Campbell said...

... maybe I did go too far with my exactor knife here. Just your little note of dissent made me look at the poem again (it was a month since I made those cuts)-- try to see it through the eyes of someone like you who would definitely like the first version better. And suddenly, I saw it.

Yes, I too definitely enjoy the contemplative mood of the poem, and the conversational elements definitely contribute to that mood.

What I did was turn it into a kind of imagist thing, very minimal.

I suppose I was initially annoyed the seemingly professorial pronouncement of "signifying desire and its difficulty" -- since the phenomenon of a shooting star shower seems to me to much more mysterious than this, and as an inanimate phenomenon, alien to desire; the word "signify" itself suggests presumption. I don't have as much problem, though, with the other lines of commentary -- i.e. "We say the moon is half-full, even as it wanes" and "So much longing..." -- but more often than not these kinds of reflections are implied in the images of a poem, and better excised -- so off I went to work with my exactor knife.

Last summer I myself saw a shower of shooting stars, and wrote about it. The mood was entirely different: the flashing lights against the night did nothing short of startle and amaze. But there were also children present, pointing, exclaiming. Hardly a time to contemplate the difficulty of desire.

Looking at this poem as one who might like it -- well, this is the kind of whispery commentary that can happen in the back of mind when looking in solitude at nature. I like especially the humility of the line "how we must look/ to anyone watching". The quietude of the scene, generally, suits that kind of reflection. But I also find the poem off-putting ... it seems an ersatz recreation of an experience, interwoven with the kind of slow reflection that couldn't possibly happen but in retrospect.

But I also concede that within the experience of the poem itself -- and every poem is an experience *in itself* -- this kind of compound of lived/relived reflection may have more honesty and integrity than I gave it credit for.

Anonymous said...

I like the haiku-like quality of the latter. It reminds me of the lush and flickering universe of Raymond Roseliep or Nick Avis.

Zachariah Wells said...


Almost everything you cut was crap, all that narcissistic lyrical blah-blah about desire and longing, the worst goddamn cliches of the genre. Even if your revised version isn't the best the poem can be, it's a massive improvement and is at least a poem, whereas the original is a neo-Wordsworthian "poet" talking to himself out loud, casting glances over his shoulder to see if his audience thinks he's as profound as he does.

Do some people like crap? Sure, but that doesn't make it not-crap.

Anonymous said...

Zachariah Wells, Who the hell do you think you are, cutting in on my territory?!! Don't you know that I'M the curmudgeonly prick around here?!!

Brian Campbell said...

Ah ha! Vindication from my curmudgeonly friends!

But since I seem to be taken by a compulsive need to please everyone (perhaps that's why I do so well in a people-pleasing profession), here's a compromise version for all to enjoy:

Perseid Shower

Meteors break
through the late-summer night,

white blossoms scattering, murderously.
Blah blah blah blah blah,

blah blah.

They disappear in all directions
signifying farts

and their defenestrations.
Blah. The half-moon wah-wahs

thin and translucent
as an insect’s wing. We say the moon is

even as it cringes.

So much shlonging. . .
to witness the cuckolding

across ta ta. How I must look
to anyone watching over my shoulder.

Here is the star cage.
Here the shrill life with black cocks.

I challenge you to come up with a better version. It's the best I can do after 7 hour's teaching (morning/evening, again) on 5 hours sleep!