by alyssa

comments by Nate I Luke

 	if I only manage to capture
        this it will be enough
        you can't fit
        into a sentence I assemble
        like scraps
        you on my page
        I was cold and
        happy desolate angry
        you are pieces of my
        pieces and need to be
	there's something that needs
        to be captured in every first
        snow and memory of the
        last first
        snow of the season the silent
        falling and settling in I
        won't leave you cold
        like I was ice
        through the bottom of
        my shoes I never had
        the chance to move everything
        ends in pieces 

From: nchinen@dept.english.upenn.edu (Nathan T Chinen) Hey all, This may be a recapitulation of comments from our meeting, but here goes. I love the way this poem begins, with a sense of urgency: if I only manage to capture this is will be enough The poem is "about" this struggle to "capture" something, an image, an emotion, a "this." Alyssa, you're very upfront here about the inadequacies of language to convey meaning. But it's not an overt linguistic dementia; things are just slightly fragmented -- tastefully, through line breaks that prompt the reader to consider syntax: you can't fit into a sentence I assemble like scraps you on my page Four deceivingly simple lines. Interesting first line, "you can't fit," which implies an out-of-placeness, an awkwardness. It's also possible to parse the first two lines to construct this phrase: "you can't fit into a sentence." But we can also overlap lines 2 & 3 to read: "into a sentence [that] I assemble like scraps". Then again, this could be read as: "I assemble [you] into a sentence like scraps on a page" -- certainly the most consonant reading, but, as they say, 'tain't necessarily so. It's actually a complicated situation to confront, as a reader. This subtle but striking linebreak ambiguity reappears here: I won't leave you cold like I was ice through the bottom of my shoes I never had the chance to move everything ends in pieces I really like the line "like I was ice," which seems to imply a sort of self-reflexive sadness. Coldness can be external ("ice through the bottom of my shoes"), but it can also be a part of oneself. Also, "the chance to move everything / ends in pieces," which is a great way to end, I think. "The chance to move everything" suggests a sort of large personal upheaval, a contrast to the generally quiet voice of the poem (this could, after all, simply be a comment on the fact that ice collects on one's shoes if you stand in one place long enough -- metaphorically significant, a la Williams' poem about the church bells ringing "Stasis, stasis, stasis"). The last line brings everything together, the implication that "everything ends in pieces." Again, image overlap, a word used twice in two consecutive phrases, a device that suits this poem well. And of course, the clever ending. Everything, including this poem, ends in "pieces." The word "pieces" is nothing more than a "piece" of this poem, a unit of meaning that ultimately fails. This is a sad poem, but also quite beautiful. My only suggestions, then, are line-specific. I think the line "happy desolate angry" might be too loaded. "Desolate" is such a strong word, and I feel as if it stands out in this poem. What I like about the poem is its muted emotion, the feelings that go unspoken (because they can't be captured in words). This line, for me, weighs down the poem a bit. I feel the same way about "captured," which appears as its own line halfway through the poem. The idea of "capture" is evident (from the first line), and I don't think it needs to be emphasized so explicitly here. And finally, I'll say it again: this poem needs a title. Something simple, a single word perhaps. Hmm. "Stasis?" It's all I can come up with at the moment. That's all for now. I hope my reading is helpful. -Nate
From: Luke Szyrmer Alyssa, Your elegant poem seems very polished even though you said it isn't. I love how you use simple words, slightly rearranged, to get across an emotion that is difficult to describe. The subject's elusiveness prevents the persona's assemblage. The lack of punctuation and irregular line breaks mirror the content. The poem definitely accoplishes what it purports to do at the beginning, maybe that's the polish I see, shining, shining. The temperature and ice metaphors may be a bit too appropriate. Luke