A white wood house defines the slope.  The trees
Have gone to red and flame.  A field beyond
Is spread with grass and granite rocks at ease.
This stonewall pattern thinks it holds a pond,
But it is free beneath October’s sun,
At least as free as anything can be
In fever such as we all know when, done
With heavy summer, eyes begin to see
The chill of air and glaze themselves with dreams
Restrained.  The farmhouse windows have their fire
Inside as well.  Twilight is more, it seems,
And maple facts can mesmerize desire.
__A white wood house defines the slope of hill
____Where people keep another autumn, still.

 

Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals.  He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review. www.phillipwhidden.com

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27 Responses

    • Phillip Whidden

      That’s kind of you, David Watts. Of the more than 3,000 sonnets that I’ve written, this one of the finest. I fell in love with New England the day I arrived there to take my first degree and have been homesick for it now for decades. Thanks for your warm praise.

      Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Dear David, Sorry. I was jostling along in a bus when I wrote to you and made mistakes in my reply, not least of which was that I misspelled your name. Sorry.

      Reply
  1. Bonnie Petroschuk

    This sonnet perfectly captures autumn! I love the line, “And maple facts can mesmerize desire.” Delightful!

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Thanks, Bonnie Petroschuk. I happen to agree with your preference for the line you cite.

      Reply
  2. David Watt

    No worries about my name thanks Phillip. I thought you might be interested to know that we also have a New England in Australia. It comprises an undefined area in the northern part of the state of New South Wales. Regards.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      I had no clue about that. Thanks for telling me. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Australia only once. I’m in England now.

      Reply
  3. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    The topic and vocabulary of Mr. Whidden’s poem are reminiscent of Robert Frost. And even though it is in the sonnet’s form, and its cadence meanders with a Frost-like detachment, it is unlike Frost’s sonnets. Ms. Petroschuk perceptively drew attention to the high point of his sonnet, “And maple facts can mesmerize desire…” [an almost Tennysonian alliteration] from which the concluding couplet serves more as a dénouement than an intense close. And as for Frost, although he lived for a brief time in Gloucestershire, near Abercrombie and Drinkwater, his “quiet punctuations” remained American.

    But I have to admit I can’t quite detect Mr. Whidden’s voice. His clarity is rare; finer, I think, than that of Yeats, Larkin or Auden. His enjambment is infuriating, but occasionally fit. His obsession with the sonnet, likewise infuriating, is, however, not unlike most @ SCP (and, of course, the New Formalists). His language construction and polish reminds me of the Imagists, and in some ways is superior to that of Hilda Doolittle and Ezra Pound (but he definitely writes without Ezra Pound’s dynamism. Mr. Whidden’s undercurrents flow deeper than nearly all of this literarily-inept generation, but often are unsatisfying. Finally, although Mr. Whidden’s sonnets forecast really only one direction for the future of poetry, I am thankful for that attempt…still.

    An aside: Although Poe has been generally criticized for his literary critiques of the many poetasters of his age, I firmly believe that improved his critical acumen, his poetry, and his short stories.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Thank you for your overarching comments. Is it that you do not like enjambment per se, or just some of the times it appears in the sonnet? I’m not sure I have thought about trying to avoid enjambment for the sake of avoiding enjambment.

      I hope no one thinks I have written only sonnets. If I explained to you my grand project for the use of my sonnets, perhaps you would approve of the project.

      As to depths, sometimes my poetry is deep, sometimes not.

      I am also not sure that I want my voice, particularly, to speak through my poems. I want the poems’ voices (as it were) to be at the fore. More often than not I step back and let the process carry the poem forward.

      I liked your polite reference back to the poem with your use of the word “still.”

      Thanks for being so thoughtful in more than one way.

      Reply
  4. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    1. I am not as lenient of enjambment as some are because it was a too frequent habit of mine, indicating flagging power, and I feel it evinces an unnatural checking. In short, it is a habit I am trying to shed.

    2. It isn’t only sonnets that I have been fighting for over three decades, but even moreso the iambic pentameter; which is ironic, because, as an American, since Walt Whitman, the poetic establishment, i. e. Poetry, Kenyon, blah, blah, blah, has supposedly already killed it off.

    3. I may certainly be wrong, but I am under the impression that you are composing an encyclopedia of sorts, which is structurally composed of sonnets.

    4. Your excellence in analysis shines through in your comment that sometimes your poetry is deep, and sometimes it is not, as that holds true of even Homer. As both Dryden and Pope put it succinctly, “Homer nods,” from Horace, “indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.”

    5. I agree with you in being absent from our subject matters, unless, of course, we are the subject; but I mean the voice that identifies the poet. Take, for example, Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” I have not the slightest doubt that Hecate’s speech, in Act III, scene V, was not written by Shakespeare. It is so obviously not Shakespeare’s voice that I am thankful for it, because the contrast it shows to Shakespeare’s voice is so great, it all the more demonstrates the brilliance of Shakespeare’s voice.

    6. And as for Shakespeare, I admire his partial lines and his half lines, which I would never call enjambment. Take, for example, this brief conversation after Macbeth has killed Duncan. The clipped speech is breathtaking; but it is not enjambment.

    Macbeth: I have done the deed. Didst thou not hear a noise?
    Lady Macbeth: I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry.
    Did you not speak?
    Macbeth: When?
    Lady Macbeth: Now.
    Macbeth: As I descended?
    Lady Macbeth: Ay.
    Macbeth. Hark. Who lies i’ the second chamber?
    Lady Macbeth: Donalbain.
    Macbeth: This is a sorry sight. (looking on his hands)
    Lady Macbeth: A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.

    7. Concurrently, I agree that we should let “the process carry the poem forward.”

    8. Isn’t it interesting how fertile our language is, e. g., how my pun on ‘still’ differs from your pun on ‘still’, and yet both work. We are blessed with such a rich language. Also, cf. ‘matters’ in comment 5.

    9. Forgive me for being so thoughtless in less than nine ways.

    10. Downing Street.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      I know a little bit about literary fashions and opinions about poetry (and literature) over the millennia. I know a bit about controversies (so-called) over poetics over the millennia. Often when I discover I know too little in these realms, I have volumes to go to clarify matters in my mind (such as it is)—though often the conflicting positions of experts tend to muddy the waters rather than elucidate stuff in my brain.

      What I extrapolate, generally, from all this is that opinions and tastes change as the centuries go by. Therefore, it does not surprise me that this or that poem is liked by some of my readers and disliked by others, since these readers all will have been influenced by this or that position taken (often most recently) in previous controversies.

      Fashionable tastes about “puns” are a case in point, as the article about them in THE PRINCETON ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POETRY & POETICS makes abundantly clear, not least because the definition(s) of puns is/are up for grabs. Indeed, if one goes to two separate editions of Thrall and Hibbard, the earlier one in its entry for “Pun” is strikingly different from the limited wisdom offered in a later one. Certainly puns have not always been in favor in serious literature (with a few exceptions). In the two centuries immediately before our own, puns were looked down on as a low form of negligible wit (and that’s about all they were considered to be). It pretty much follows that anyone alive today will have been influenced (I almost said “tainted”) by this old-fashioned attitude which omits thinking about them as people in other previous centuries did.

      As to enjambment/enjambement, I note that there seems to be elasticity in its definition. I would be shocked if there were not varying fashionable positions taken about it (however it be defined) over the centuries. Perhaps I will wait for the William Empson of enjambement/enjambement thought to come along. However, if you have exacting directions that might help me improve my poetry, I’ll be glad to receive them. Examples of what you mean would make your points easier for me to grasp.

      Careful/diserning/thoughtful/defining surveyors of literature are an absolute must. If it were not for the ancient “grammarians,” even more of Sappho’s lines would have been lost (though almost certainly large numbers of them have disappeared in spite of these good grammarians). Zillions of other lines from other ancient poets have undoubtedly been lost because there were not quite enough surveyors around way back when (or their books have also been lost). A whole huge range of lines was preserved by just one of these surveyors in third-century A.D. Grecian Egypt. See Athenaeus’ Deipnosophistae.

      Certainly not all “sonnets” are in iambic pentameter. Some of the earliest famous sonnet sequences didn’t stick to it. One of the most famous and highly esteemed English sonnets of the nineteenth century is almost completely lacking in iambic pentameter lines (“Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802”). There are almost no iambic pentameter lines in it. Still (and crucially) the last three lines are. It is because of them that the poem finds its salvation. It is only because of their authoritative sovereign sound through iambic pentameter that the poem really works.
      I agree with the assertion that the line in “Vermont” that is the intense apogee of the poem is the one singled out by Bonnie Petrochuk and you. In a sense it might be argued that unlike Wordsworth’s sonnet, which reaches its poetic climax in the last three lines, and unlike many of Shakespeare’s, which reach theirs in a ringing heroic couplet at the end, “Vermont” reaches its salvation through what you call its denouement. This heroic couplet is technically a hook ending since it begins by repeating the very first clause of the sonnet. The beginning and “the end” are as it were the same. This is a very old device. It is so old and so often used that it tends to give comfort to readers. So the poem ends not with a climax (thrill) but with comfort underscored at the end by “still.”

      It was kind of you to remember my encyclopedia project. Perhaps you will agree that if it is to be encyclopedic, then there will have to be many, many, many “articles” in it. Since all the “articles” will be sonnets, you might further agree that I need to write many. Whether that results in obsession, I will leave up to you and others to decide.

      Reply
  5. J'aime

    This sonnet feels like a whispering elegy of youth spent and nostalgia set in. The slow and gentle gaze of eyes turned inward and down. I read poetry for the larger truths they suggest, the experience of unity and similitude they get whiffs of without being able to gulp. No matter how elegant language or nuanced the mind, the poet’s unending heartbeat is to become blood instead of the vessel.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Your comment in prose is intensely imagery rich, as poetry should be, J’aime. Thanks for weighing in.

      Reply
  6. Charles Southerland

    Hi Phillip–

    I’ve taken indecent liberties with your poem purely as an exercise at possibility. I think your poem is fine. But I also think you may be missing opportunities to tweak it here and there. I hope you don’t mind. ( That I’ve messed it up)

    A slope defines the white wood house—the trees
    Have come to red and flame. A field beyond
    Is laid with grass and granite, rocks at ease.
    This stonewall pattern says it holds a pond,
    But freely underneath October’s sun,
    Tis free at least as any thing can be.
    This fever which has circled us is done
    With heavy summer. This retreat we see.
    The crackling chill of air’s patina dreams
    Outside the farmhouse windows, peeks at fire.
    A wish is made at twilight; here the memes
    And mapled facts will mesmerize desire.
    A white wood house defines the slope of hill
    Where people keep a hallowed autumn, still.

    Reply
    • Bonnie Petroschuk

      This is incredibly rude and ill-mannered! I’m appalled! Really?

      Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      I wrote my first poem about 52 years ago. Those concerned that I focus often on writing sonnets will be pleased to learn that my first two poems were not sonnets. The second was published in 1966.

      My first published sonnet was an anti-war poem during the Vietnam War. It was what Tronald Dump might well call a fake sonnet since it did not follow any established rhyme scheme for a sonnet and was set out on the page in four stanzas. I was still wet behind my sonnetry ears. I could well have benefited from someone rewriting it, if we take only formal considerations into our critical thinking. Is it too late for you to rewrite it and make it conform to the requirements of a proper sonnet?

      Here it is:

      In Time of War

      To Thee we pray this patriotic song,
      Oh, Lord, our God, the Father of all men.
      Indulgence, not forgiveness for this sin,
      We seek. We want to kill, a petty wrong.

      Oh, give us now your blessing, loving God,
      Our bullets guide between their hunted eyes,
      And help us drown the roar of guns with cries
      Of writhing, dying men on blood-soaked sod.

      We manufacture widows with the sword.
      We fuel with blood our freedom’s thirsty flame.
      (What crimes are done in Liberty’s dear name!)*
      But wink, and bless us in our killing, Lord.

      Above all else we want dear Liberty!
      Above the butchered dead (or even Thee).

      As you can see, it is more a “juvenilia satire” than a Juvenalian satire, though Juvenalian it most definitely is. Clearly I was more concerned about the most pressing political catastrophe of the day than I was about getting the sonnet form correct. Please forgive my younger self.

      My first sonnet published in Britain was also, technically speaking, not a properly constructed sonnet, but the editor of the little magazine in Edinburgh liked the piece enough not to balk over the technical “flaw.” The difficulty is that it starts out with the rhyme scheme of an English sonnet but then changes after eight lines to the rhyme scheme of a Petrarchan one. I think I don’t want this one rewritten, but here it is:

      “And all the sons of God shouted for joy”
      The memory of you rinses even light.
      Though clouds today add gray to sky and air,
      This flash-back makes white flowers cleaner white;
      I wash them in the essence of dark hair
      Poured out in curling moments long ago.
      A reminiscence of the laughing way
      You walked then purifies the falling snow.
      Nothing is cleaner gone than yesterday.
      We were light, we two, in the distant past,
      But light from distant points is light the same;
      Forever shines clearer than the ether.
      We were music, a duet, in the vast
      Ravines between the spheres. I knew your name
      Before the morning stars sang together.

      Occasionally I have written a sonnet that is a deliberate flaunting of the rules of sonnetry. As you can see, this next one has lines that are clipped shorter than iambic pentameter and has two fewer lines than required in sonnetry—not to mention crippled rhyming and scansion You will undoubtedly be able of figure out quickly why the content of the poem forced this mangling of the sonnet form. (Unfortunately this comments system will not allow me to paste in the harrowing photo that inspired the sonnet.) Here’s the poem:

      Amputee on Inauguration Day:
      A Sonnet

      Wrapped up in strictest red and white and blue
      The tight Marine snaps out a straight salute.
      His brute, square jaw imprisoning, and true,
      Chews captured freedom absolute.
      The talon-crafted speech soars taut, above,
      In fresh and malaprop-free ascendance,
      While wheel-chair bound, a woman’s life-long love
      Gulps the hex of independence.
      His mother wears her full-length tears and coat
      Against that cold, tentacled litany,
      Resists with wiping hand some suckered quote
      About the reach of Liberty.

      Should it be rewritten, do you think?

      Reply
  7. Charles Southerland

    Dear Phillip, I started late writing poetry, about 20 years ago. I wrote a lot of free verse early on. I’m way behind with formalist poetry. I’ve had a lot of help.

    I do love writing sonnets. Few of them are much to brag about. I am still acquiring my ear. I can’t say that I improved your sonnet up above. I sensed a few opportunities to re-direct it as if I had written it. I do that with several poets that I admire. That said, I had a go at two of yours you’ve so graciously shared. Since I see and hear things a bit differently, the intent of yours has changed somewhat, certainly with the first, less so with the second. Thanks for your esteemed contributions.

    In Time of War

    To Thee we pray this patriotic song:
    Oh Lord, Redeemer, Judge of failing men,
    Help us now, forgive us of this sin–
    Though we are called to slay them all day long,

    We ask you now to bless us, loving God,
    To break their spirit, show their blinded eyes
    The folly of their charge with dying cries
    And further pray for them on blood-soaked sod.

    Though we depend on you, your mighty sword,
    We gladly give our blood for freedom’s flame.
    We cherish liberty and Your dear name.
    What else are we to do Almighty Lord?

    Shall we be slaves of them, or Liberty?
    O gladly, we are Yours, eternally!

    Amputee on Inauguration Day
    A Sonnet

    Wrapped in the bruises of red white and blue
    The tight Marine snaps out a straight salute.
    His brute, square jaw is resolute and true.
    We watch him, steady—less one spit-shined boot.
    The talon-crafted speech soars taut, above,
    With fresh and malaprop-free ascendance,
    While wheel-chair bound, a woman’s life-long love
    Embraces what this means—independence?
    His mother wears her full-length tears and coat
    Against that cold, tentacled litany,
    Resists with wiping hand some suckered quote
    About the tentacles of Liberty
    And how they stretch around the globe for life
    And anchor love and war and death and strife.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      The image of the “spit-shined boot” is an extremely well-focused physical (and pregnant) detail. Unfortunately you could not see the photo of the actual Marine sitting in his wheelchair with his weeping mother standing beside him, so you could not see that both of his legs had been amputated. In this instance the image you put in doesn’t fit. Of course I don’t know why the Comments section refuses to allow me to share the photo with readers.

      If rewriting my poems is helpful to you for whatever reason (even as a private exercise to help you with the writing of your own poetry), of course you should continue it for your own sake.

      You are the first person in my “career” (don’t laugh too loudly at that word, please) to rewrite any of my poems after they were published. Others whom I know personally have been consulted previous to publication for advice about this and that poem, and about 90% of the time I have taken their comments on board. However, usually they tell me that a line needs to be improved because of its scansion, or because this or that expression being weak (or whatever), but they leave it to me to make the sort of improvement that should follow on from their opinion.

      One of my favorite moments in nineteenth-century American poetry is the final stanza of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ “The Chambered Nautilus.” I admire it for its bravery and sentiment as well as for the way those are expressed. However, one part of it niggled against my personal taste enough that after decades I decided to rewrite it. I say “rewrite,” but what I mean is that every time I declaim it (silently) to myself, I change it very slightly to my version of it. Since Holmes long ago cast his shell beside life’s unresting sea, he does not need to know I have (in my opinion) improved the stanza.

      By the way, I think that Bonnie Petroschuk’s comment after your first go at rewriting one of my poems and publicly showing it might indicate to you the probability that some readers will be outraged by such an action.

      Reply
      • Charles Southerland

        It is a common practice, as an exercise, to rewrite poems or lines or fragments of lines of poets, living or dead. Because I’ve done it here, with respect given to the poet, I see it as no big deal. Others, whose skin is less thick than mine, might disagree. There are contests in the U.K. that prompt poets to do just what I have done here. I am thinking of “The Species”, ” The Spectator” and other journals who may sponsor these contests. One I distinctly remember was one on Keats— Hmmm.

    • Phillip Whidden

      Thanks, David Hollywood, for your warm comment. The poem certainly evokes my emotions about Vermont.

      Reply
  8. James Reis

    I find this sonnet to be lovely on the surface and beautiful internally. Allow me to explain my view.
    1. The picture: Except for the Vermont setting, this image is completely irrelevant to the sonnet—in fact it adds confusion and dissonance from the very beginning. The poem opens with “A white house”, while the picture illustrates a brown wooden mill. Line-4 references a pond enclosed by a stonewall, but the picture depicts a waterfall cascading downhill. Additionally, the picture illustrates evergreens instead of deciduous maple trees, so even the season is ambiguous (but likely not winter).
    Some will argue that the picture is not meant to complement the poem at all; therefore, it should be ignored as a jaded attempt by the Editors to catch the reader’s eye. While that may be the case in this instance, that does not preclude a gifted poet from providing relevant “summary” images. Phillip is known to occasionally incorporate appropriate images throughout some of his poems, images specifically selected to arouse nonverbal nuances which stimulate meditative introspection. In these cases, he brings to bear an additional sensory resource to increase the reader’s awareness of the deeper content implicit in the poem.
    2. Line-1a: Polluted by the inappropriate image, “A white wood house” initially struck me as completely out of place in a rural setting, so it wasn’t until line-10 that the “farmhouse” reference provided additional context to resolve the dissonance between the misleading extra poetic image and the actual textual content. So, I read the poem anew, after deleting the inappropriate image from my mind.
    The poem does not start with the definite article “The”, which would specify a particular “white wood house”, but rather with the indefinite article “A”, which specify a generic “white wood house”. This usage, along with the poem’s title, generalizes the scope of the poem to regional Vermont. The phrase “defines the slope” is ambiguous, begging the implied question, “slope of what?” In my reading, I took slope to mean “outlines the lay of the land”. We wait for the last of Line-13 to provide the missing object, “of hill”.
    3. Line-1b/2a: Autumn is beautifully established in the next sentence, immediately evoking the vivid autumn colors for which New England is rightly famous. Those who have experienced it firsthand will viscerally feel its beauty fill their mind, causing them to momentarily pause while enjoying their reverie. This autumn theme is more fully developed in the rest of the poem.
    4. Lines-2b/3: This is a beauifully compact description of “A field” (generic) anthropomorphizing inanimate objects as resting comfortably in the respite between summer and winter. It also provides additional context to further interpret “the slope” of line-1. It’s a rather effective literary device which causes the attentive reader to flashback to the beginning of the poem to perhaps adjust their interpretative context.
    5. Lines-4: More anthropomorphizing takes place with, “This stonewall pattern”, giving it an attribute of consciousness, “thinks”. To what does “This” refer—the granite rocks of line-3 or a new feature altogether? Moreover, this “pattern (of stonework)” believes it’s physically holding onto a pond…a curious mental image, indeed.
    6. Line-5: The interpretive ambiguity increases substantially in line-5: “But it is free” — the pond or the stonewall pattern?
    The reference to “October’s Sun” verifies our inference in line-2 that the season is autumn.
    7. Lines-6-10a: Line-6, the narrative middle of the poem, transition the point of view from the anthropomorphized scenery to our internal selves, but it’s not until line-7 that the reader becomes aware that this has happened. It’s poetically beautiful, technically, where the linking phrase (line-6) simultaneously applies backwards to lines-4/5 and forward to lines 8-10a.
    The poem now structurally divides into two more pieces, with a coda at the end: Part-A, Lines 1-6; Part-B, Lines 7-12; and Coda, lines 13-14. Remarkedly, the poem can be read Part-B, Part-A, Coda, without loss of content or becoming incoherent.
    It takes a sweltering summer and a bitterly cold winter to appreciate the great joy in Autumn—Nature’s gift to us for enduring summer with its sweat and toil, and tolerating the imprisonment of winter. Lines-8-10a verbalizes this cyclic tradition.
    8. Lines-10b-11: We now see that the generic “white wood house” of line-1 becomes a specific place, “The farmhouse”, where the sun’s fire of summer is now replaced by the hearth’s fire in winter, as the days grow shorter and the nights longer…beautifully said.
    9. Line 12: This line is especially effective, because it reminds us that a desire for something entails that we hold beliefs about those things being desired as something intrinsically good. And the “maple facts” are visual sensory inputs that evoke our internal knowledge that what we are experiencing is very good…even mesmerizing.
    I very much like the nested indentation of the last two lines—visually, it enhances their increasing importance as they summarize the foregoing content.
    10. More can be said, but not here. I have been enriched by the beauty in the content and structure of this poem. Thank you, Phillip for sharing.
    I very much enjoyed internalizing this poem, which for me requires more than simply reading it.
    In closing, I find it good to recognize that in poetry as it is in music, structure and form encourages coherence and in itself carries expectations for the reader (listener); however, it’s in the artistic departures from these very structures and forms (e.g., cadence breaks and enjambments) that brings surprise and delight, even insight, into an otherwise sing-song effort.

    Reply
    • Phillip Whidden

      Thank you, James Reis, for that thorough and masterful comment on the sonnet, a comment that was not only a close reading of the poem but also carefully rejected any inappropriate material outside the poem itself (for instance rejecting the jarring illustration posted above it on the site and rejecting inappropriate remarks and responses by those who commented previous to your intervention).

      Especially impressive is the microscopic (should we say scientific?) coverage of the elements of the poetry. You gave it serious, focused attention and did not fly off on any personal tangent. It is as if you are a scientist examining only the evidence of the sonnet itself. The New Critics would have been pleased with you. Truly impressive.

      Reply
      • Charles Southerland

        Mr. Whidden,

        Either you made an ekphrastic interpretation or a mental recollection of the past or present, or lastly, just an imagistic fictive from your mind to a page; all of it is merely an artifice of words to present itself as poetry, which it certainly does accomplish. Poetry is accomplished by its artifice. There is no denying that. I believe I said that the poem is fine. I’m sure of it. Certain, in fact.

        Book-ending a poem, especially one as limited in lines such as a sonnet, is risky. I’m sure there are excellent examples of sonnets that accomplish this very well. In my view, yours did not. The construction of lines one through nine obscures the definition of your stated desire. One could forget the house is even there, or at the least, is just a prop for your semi-elegy/aubade.

        Which defines which or what? Sounds like nitpicking, doesn’t it? It isn’t. You have total control of the poem and you decided early on where it would go, not me. For much of the poem, nature dominates as if the farm house is simply an intruder into the scene, not a defining statement which morphs the house into nature, if this was your will to begin with.

        In line four, the device you use is clever but doesn’t add a thing to either nature or the house except the weak attempt at morphing. The line comes out of nowhere and though I kept it in the rewrite, I wouldn’t keep it if the poem were mine. Furthermore, the line construction of L4 and L5 makes little sense to me. The stonewall pattern cannot be free, as it is encased (being a wall) made by human hands, and yet, free— L6- “at least as free as anything can be”. Example: a doe is free to roam where it will. Can a wall?

        You ask the reader to suspend disbelief and waste precious lines in such a limited space.

        L8 further confuses: Is “it” the stonewall pattern or is “it” the pond. Is the stonewall pattern free or is the pond free? Whose “in fever” are we speaking of that we all know? I am not that dense. And heading into L9 from L8 eyes begin to see “the chill of air” and glaze themselves “over” with dreams Restrained? Why are they restrained? I’ve never dreamed a restrained dream in my life. I digress.

        L10 again attempts to morph eyes with the farmhouse windows in the construct of the unmentioned fireplace, but “their” fire nonetheless. “Their” is a big fat no in the construction of the line. Obviously so.

        L11 Is twilight more than fire?

        L12, is so ambiguous as to take me out of the poem. There are no facts presented. How can it mesmerize?

        L13 I am reminded of William’s “The Red Wheelbarrow” here, unfortunately.

        L14 Only in an ekphrastic, sir.

        I do agree with you and Mr. Reis about the image presented representing the poem. That was unfortunate.

        My responses to you are not personal, but critical. I don’t know you. As for tangents: without opinion, there cannot be any debate.

  9. Phillip Whidden

    Charles Southerland,

    I think I understand your point of view and will give it consideration.

    Reply

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