Sweetlybitter

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barrie
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Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:41 am

The old woman next door
had an eye
like a stone trapped
in a frozen canal:
the other blinked away blindly
under its patch.

Each time she saw me
she said I was going to gaol.
“ Bobbies are comin’ fer thee!”
she’d rasp,
“Th’ill lock thee up!”

My mother said
she wasn’t all there:
my father said she was
doolalli tap:
I thought she was a witch.

One summer
she gave me
a rhubarb stick,
with dipping-sugar
in a crumpled paper bag.
.......................................

* Th'ill - they will.
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by brianedwards » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:05 am

Hi barrie

S1 and 4 are where the poem is for me. The stone in the frozen canal and the crumpled paper bag are clear, subtle and telling.
I might break the lines differently though. Just for my own reading I prefer:

The old woman next door
had an eye like a stone trapped
in a frozen canal.
The other blinked away blindly
under its patch.

Of course, I have but my own 2 ears.

The middle sags for me. You've got me interested in this woman in a good 1st stanza, so now I want to see more of her. What did she look like, other than the eye? What did she wear, how did she walk, smell, talk? What did she do that enhances the boyish fear of the witch?
Maybe if we see her through the eyes of the boy, she'll really come to life.
Good potential here.
B.

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 31, 2008 9:39 am

Thanks Brian
brianedwards wrote:Maybe if we see her through the eyes of the boy, she'll really come to life.
- These are just a kid's memories - she died when I was 6 or 7, over fifty years ago. What you see is all I remember - the things that stood out, the 'living' bits that small children remember - not the details, I was too young for details.

cheers

Barrie
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by brianedwards » Thu Jul 31, 2008 10:25 am

2 words: poetic license.
:wink:
B.

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by camus » Thu Jul 31, 2008 12:58 pm

I like your approach here Barrie.

Especially the final stanza, so matter-of-fact, yet so very telling, of course she wasn't a witch!

I was slightly confused by the opening description though. One eye under a patch, the other eye - with what seems to be a cataract, how the fook did she see ya?

nice one
Kris
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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by David » Thu Jul 31, 2008 4:51 pm

I like it all, except for an eye / like a stone trapped / in a frozen canal - is it just me, or is this too strained a simile?

It almost seems like the sort of thing beginners do, in the belief that this is what poetry is - strained similes - and that's not you at all.

The rest is great. Terrific ending - is she a witch, tempting you into her gingerbread house?

Good personal stuff.

Sweetlybitter has a wonderful fairy story ring to it, like Snow White or Rose Red, but it's just the rhubarb in the sugar. I can taste it.

Cheers

David

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by Elphin » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:10 pm

barrie

nicely remembered. Like the slightly creepy ending and personally didn't mind the stone in the frozen canal.

I think brian might be right about removing away and only other point might be to rearrange s2 to make the speech one quotation and end on she'd rasp (typo there had me writing she raps - now theres a thought.)

elphin

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Thu Jul 31, 2008 6:11 pm

brianedwards wrote:2 words: poetic license.
- I think I've a few endorsements on mine, Brian - cheers.
David wrote:I like it all, except for an eye / like a stone trapped / in a frozen canal - is it just me, or is this too strained a simile?
- It all seems clear to me, but I don't suppose everyone was brought up near a canal. As the canal froze, we would throw duckstones and bricks just to see how far gone it was. There were always stones that got trapped when the ice wasn't solid - the duckstones would bulge out like huge grey-green eyes, glazed with ice, staring at you everyday until a thaw came. That's what her eye was like - a bulging, grey-green duckstone. Obviously it doesn't work if I have to explain it. Maybe a duckstone trapped on a frozen canal might be clearer.
camus wrote:how the fook did she see ya?
- Through a glassy eye darkly, I guess. I don't really know, but she did.

Thanks all

Barrie
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by brianedwards » Fri Aug 01, 2008 12:20 am

Barrie, the stone works excellently. Any suggestion to the contrary lacks imagination.
Frozen suggests a particular climate and canal a specific locale when linked to the voice found elsewhere in the poem.
The words have been clearly carefully chosen. Whyfrozen in a canal, not say, floating in a river?
No Barrie, it's an excellent simile and you'd rob the poem of a great strength by losing it.

S2 and 3 are where it's at.

B.

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by David » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:16 am

brianedwards wrote:Barrie, the stone works excellently. Any suggestion to the contrary lacks imagination.
That was my suggestion, so steady on, Bri. Let's not get ad hominem, indirectly or otherwise.

You're not letting your resentment about my response to your prison poem spill over into this thread, are you? I can hardly believe that, but any differences we have over that poem should be resolved there - and in fact I thought they had been.

Sorry about that, Baz. Carry on.

Cheers

David

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by brianedwards » Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:32 am

Not in the slightest David. I don't feel any resentment towards any comments made about any of my poems.
And never will.

TBH, I hadn't even paid close attention to who had dismissed the stone in the canal.
No offence intended.

B.

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:22 pm

Elphin - I wasn't ignoring you - our posts must have crossed on the ether. Usually I get a note informing me of another post, so they must have been posted within seconds of each other.
Glad you got the 'stone' bit. I stuck away in between blinked blindly after reading it through - I thought it was a bit too much, so I watered it down a bit.
I see what you mean about the quotes, but if I joined them up it would sound as if it was all said together. The first bit was always followed by the eye looking me up and down before "Th'ill lock thee up" came out.
Strange old bird - I found out years later that her husband had been a sergeant in the Second Boer War. Such a long time ago.

thanks Elph.

Brian and David - Stop arguing on icy canals, it's very dangerous - you could both fall through and be savaged by a frozen dog.

Should it in a frozen canal, or on a frozen canal?

Barrie
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by brianedwards » Fri Aug 01, 2008 2:44 pm

Barrie
Sorry for the silliness. All cleared up now.
Now, this is your poem and your voice, but . . .
I really think your missing an opportunity here.
S1 is very good - did I mention that?
S4 is good - nothing a tweak wouldn't solve.
2 and 3 are extracts from a short story squatting in a spot reserved
for some painterly imagination.
This could be a modern fairytale, my dear brother grim-oop.
Why settle for Corrie when you can have Ken Loach?

Love and peace
B.

IN the damned canal!!!!

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by David » Fri Aug 01, 2008 5:09 pm

In het verdommte gracht. Hij hebt gelijk.

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by Lake » Fri Aug 01, 2008 9:14 pm

Hi Barrie,

Sweetlybitter, yes, that's how I feel after reading this poem. And the eye, beautifullyugly. Immediately I thought about my middle school teacher, she had an eye somewhat like that. We were all afraid of her, respected and hated her. I like to read the different views on her from the mother, father and the child, especially the words from the innocent child. But what's 'doolalli tap'? :oops:

Have a nice weekend.

Lake

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by Wabznasm » Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:21 am

Barrie,

It#s the 'trapped' in the simile that makes me agree with David. I dunno why though.

I enjoyed this quite a bit. Just to mix things up a little, my favourite section was easily S2 and S3, but I'm a sucker for a story.

If I had a suggestion it would be to do with the ending. Itäs a great idea, but I donät think the set up carries it. The 'On summer' construction jst feels a tad strained and rigid, as if you simply added it because you felt it would be a suitable image. And it has, ever so slightly, that 'poetry voice' that soaks everything in a layer of profundity which I find a bit much. So my suggestion is take the ending to the present. It would be a smoother narrative if you could begin the final stanza something like

'I still look today at the present she gave me: a ...'

That reference to the present seems to jstify the entire reflection of the poem for me and the end is more fluid.

But this is all suggestion and could be rubbish.

Dave

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:07 am

Brian and David - In the damn canal it is then.

Thanks Lake - Eyes like that can never be forgotten. Doolalli tap means mad - It's old British Army slang from the far away days of Empire - There used to be a Britiish Army sanitorium in Deolali, India......

Thanks Dave - I know what you're getting at, but like I said to Brian, it's all vague recollection - The last verse was never intended to be deep, just something that happened a long time ago.

Plenty to think about, as always. I've been given ideas based on imagination as well as mere memory.

cheers all

Barrie
After letting go of branches and walking through the ape gait, we managed to grasp what hands were really for......

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by stuartryder » Sun Aug 03, 2008 12:49 am

This is all about the image at the final stanza, for me. Verses 1 to 3 set the witch up, then comes the candy.

A pitch-perfect rendition of the old saying "never judge a book by its cover".

Thanks Barrie

Stuart

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by Oskar » Sun Aug 03, 2008 10:30 am

Barrie

It was the dialect used in S2 that thrilled me more than anything else. It immediately called to mind that little street urchin Billy Casper from the film Kes. I hope Estuary English never makes it up to your old neck of the woods. We've got it here in Bedfordshire and it's bleedin' 'orrible.
barrie wrote:The last verse was never intended to be deep, just something that happened a long time ago.
A big thumbs up for doing just that.

Cheers
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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Sun Aug 03, 2008 3:08 pm

Thanks Stu, Oskar.

I think there's more chance of Eastern European creeping in up here than Estuary English. Accents are certainly changing, I know that - but that's what they do, I suppose.
Mine hasn't, even though I have lived in these foreign Cumbrian parts for thirty years - the natives still have difficulty understondin' gradely English

Barrie
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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by Sharra » Mon Aug 04, 2008 10:04 am

I really liked this - but haven't had the time to comment until now :)
I thought S1 and 4 were the best. I agree with the others that I'd take out away and I do wonder whether S1 is just a tad too intense with both eyes being given such big imagery? Thats just in comparision to the lovely matter of fact tone you have in S3 and 4 though.
I wasn't 100% sure about S2 - it felt a big shift in tone from S1, probably just cos you have her voice speaking, so maybe its not a problem, just something to consider.
S4 was my favourite, the rhubarb stick left me with a sharp taste in my mouth - great stuff :)
Thanks
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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by h.s. gallows » Mon Aug 04, 2008 2:52 pm

was i the only one who felt this the ended before it had started? this read to me like a set-up reminiscent of that utilised by w.h.auden so often in his short-storyesque poems, and i was really loving it by the time i hit the fourth stanza. i don't think there's anything wrong with the middle two - they just seem insignificant when the ending comes about so swiftly and we are so interested in this women. whoever said "poetic license" was spot on. i think the whole idea of this women has such marvellous potential that it would be odiously sinful to neglect a further writing. i was expecting a crippling final line with some kind of wit (and half expecting the old woman to be right - for you to end up in jail which would of been a wonderful, if not predictable, twist should it have been written beautifully enough). i was disappointed no end when it ended. write more!

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:53 pm

Thanks Sharra and gallows - much appreciated.

Thanks all - lots of suggestions to consider.

Cheers

Barrie
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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by twoleftfeet » Tue Aug 05, 2008 10:38 am

Now, if she'd given you rhubarb leaves, then you might have had to re-consider the witch question :evil:

Come to think of it - was the rhubarb cooked or raw? :)

Geoff

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Re: Sweetlybitter

Post by barrie » Tue Aug 05, 2008 11:01 am

twoleftfeet wrote:Come to think of it - was the rhubarb cooked or raw?
- Raw. Why - Oh my god, you know something, don't you?
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