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After a month’s long silence, let me share a take-away from a PES alternative session panel/workshop chaired (in this case, organized, too) by Dr Bruce Novak.


1) Read the excerpt, mark the words that stand out for you — no parameters specified.
2) Using those words write you own poem – no restrictions whatsoever

From “The Buried Life” by Matthew Arnold

A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The heart sinks inward and he heart lies plain,
And what we mean we say, and what we would we know.
A man becomes aware of his life’s flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

And there arrives a lull in the hot race
Wherein he doth for ever chase
That flying and elusive shadow, rest.
An air of coolness pays upon his face,
And an unwonted calm pervades his breast,
And then he thinks he knows
The hills where his life rose.
And the sea where it goes.

We talked about Buddhism (Zen), rock gardens, which is why I was aiming for a “koan” response:
A bolt sinks into lull
Would what we would
By calm unwonted
Rise or go?

To illustrate, in part, the thought process that goes into the exercise, here are phrases I considered days later, when I discovered I had omitted one underlined word — “stirs”. So I imagined adding a second line, and thinking of an ES post jotted down what came to imnd and why. Here we go:

  • a feeling stirs unbidden
    but, then, I realized I am causing a ripple that is totally at odds with the rest of the piece
  • and no one stirs
  • and nothing stirs
    then I thought of combining the no-words, therefore hyphenating for (visual) concordance
  • and no-one, no-thing stirs
    then experimented with a more ontological turn + close to a rhyming (with “go”) ending
  • and Being stirs no more
  • the core of Being stirs no more
    a mythological touch
  • the heavens stir no more
    you might say (t.in.ch) Derridean touch
  • its [the lightning bolt’s] trace shall stir no more
  • its trace does not stir anymore
    invoking a kind of spell/inevitability with “shall”
  • and it [bolt or lull] shall stir no more
    more factual
  • the air stirs no more
    bringing in a geographical detail — by a lake, river, sea…
  • no whisper stirs ashore

But all of the above bring in sounds and connotations that mar the succinctness/clarity/simplicity I 1st (hope) I had.

Right now, I am considering forfeiting the hint of rhyming, and en-morphologizing “stir”

A bolt sinks into lull unstirred
Would what we would
By calm unwonted
Rise or go?

which gives me a longer 1st line, too, that somehow stirs the image of a wing (?),
(if i can manage to fix the text closer to that shape);
And, let’s bring back the near-rhyme of “more”/”go”

…………..A bolt sinks into lull and stirs no more
……..Would what we would
By calm unwonted
Rise or………………….
Go?……………………………..

img credit: Bing

But…. looking at the image above, why not the rugged contour of a lightning?

A   bolt  

sinks   into   lull…………….

……………………and    

                   stirs    no    more.

……………..Would 

what  we  would

by   calm  

………….unwonted

……………….rise   or……………
…………………………………..go?

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