Time Travel

I chance upon a sylvan glade, an Orphic
place: moon threads, a lace of nightkin shadows.
A trill of breeze awakes the guardian trees,
live oaks in gowns of moss, tall runes of pine.

I hear the soft slow sound of fairy rings,
up from the inner earth, the sacred circle.
Fireflies, a skulk of toads; the dead come forth,
up from their graves in pagan conjuration,

sung heroes, hags, and godling visitations.
I drink the midnight dew, a witches’ brew.
Tree bark I read bard-blind, Achilles shield.
I muse upon a knot of oak, a tangled root.

I lie with Gaelic nymphs in ancient vales.
The hum of power lines a mile away.



Leland James is the author of five poetry collections, four children’s books in verse, and a book on creative writing and poetry craft. He has published over three hundred poems worldwide including The Lyric, Rattle, London Magazine, The South Carolina Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New Millennium Writings, The American Poetry Review, The Haiku Quarterly, The American Cowboy, and The Ekphrastic Review. He was the winner of the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and has won or received honors in many other competitions, both in the USA and Europe. Leland has been featured in American Life in Poetry and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
www.lelandjamespoet.com & https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/leland-james

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19 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    This verbally vivid poem could have been molded into a classical beauty, but, alas, it lacks the meter and rhyme I associate with classic poetry. Maybe it is just me, but I still have a strong predilection for at least a modicum of classical discipline.

    • The Society

      Dear Roy,

      The general basic requirement for classical (aka traditional or formal) poetry is usually meter, and this poem does scan as iambic pentameter. Rhyming is not always necessary. English poetry traditionally has a rich history without rhyme, particularly with alliterative verse. The alliterative tradition is also reflected in Mr. James’s sonnet: “soft, slow sound” “sacred circle” “bard-blind” “heroes, hags”.

      -Evan Mantyk
      SCP Editor

  2. Paul Buchheit

    Great imagery, Leland. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your poem, feeling like part of the “sylvan glade.”

  3. Paul Freeman

    You set me up for that last line, Leland. Glad I wasn’t drinking coffee at the time.

    Personally, I find blank verse allows more freedom for other tools in the literary tool shed to be used.

    Thanks for the arboreal fantasy so unsuspectingly interrupted.

  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    One of the nice things about this poem is the use of older or more recondite English vocabulary, such as sylvan, nightkin, trill, runes, conjuration, godling, bard-blind, and vales.

    These conjure up an incantational tone, as if one were listening to a liturgy in a sacred language that has the patina of time on it. One of the deepest mistakes of modernism was to banish such diction from poetry in favor of colloquial banality. And yes — some of the best modernists like Eliot and Crane and Stevens deliberately disregarded this mistake, and reveled in the use of hieratic diction.

    The poem is in iambic fives, but I do have trouble scanning line 12:

    I muse upon a knot of oak, a tangled root.

    It doesn’t seem possible to get this into any iambic-five pattern, no matter how you substitute or elide.

    • Paul Freeman

      This would work in line 12, I think:

      ‘I muse upon a knot, a tangled root.’

      ‘oaks’ are mentioned earlier, so it avoids repetition by removing ‘…of oak…, and we’re told in the previous line we’re looking at ‘bark’.

    • Evan Mantyk

      I have to wonder if Leland did it purposely, as in a “tangled r[f]oot.” Also not too different from the elongated six-foot last line of a Spenserian sonnet.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    At the end of the day Leland, this poem makes me want to inhabit the place it describes.

  6. Mary

    Leland, you have captured perfectly the ambiance of a role-playing board game. Your imagery is beautiful.

  7. Kathy

    wraps around in your gaze and comes with a cluster in your tone.
    takes you to that place.

  8. jd

    Beautiful. Begs re-reading. The final line startles with its difference and fulfills the title’s promise.

  9. Cheryl Corey

    Just reading this poem gives me a feeling of tranquility. A place I’d surely love to not only visit, but live. I especially like “runes of pine”, and “bard-blind” sounds like something Dylan Thomas would’ve written.

  10. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    An exquisite piece that lifts me from the mundane to the divine… thank you, Leland! I must admit that in my euphoric state, my ear didn’t catch the metrical variation.

  11. Margaret Coats

    Leland, to do time travel, you go to a place, or rather, find it. It’s what anthropologist Mircea Eliade might call a “center” where different realms of reality come together. The place has manifestations of power, some of them repulsive. Especially because I notice reference to Macbeth’s witches, the powers here are ambivalent. I thus wonder about your last line. Do you intend it to be a fragment sentence, or is “lines” a verb? Either way, it is not just a statement that your place of power is a short distance from modern power lines.

    Since the alliterative tradition was mentioned above, I hope you will not mind my giving an example of alliterative form, though it’s not what you use here. From Dream of the Rood,
    translated from Anglo-Saxon by Charles W. Kennedy:

    Wondrous that Tree, that token of triumph,
    and I a transgressor, soiled with my sins!

    There are 10 syllables in each line, but this is not pentameter! The structure requires half-lines to be linked by a sound such as “tr” in the first three half-lines here–or if not, to alliterate internally, as does the fourth half-line on the sound “s.” It’s a method of shaping poetic lines, quite different from the ornamental alliteration you and many of us use in our poems.

  12. Leland James

    Thanks to all for your comments.

    As to the 12th line discussion not being in pentameter:

    First of all I have no quarrel with metric purists—I have a different, more flexible, some will say heretical, point of view; there is room, with reason, sometimes, to move outside the lines (though readers will find in my poetry much that does conform without deviation from an absolute meter; see SCPs Leland James). Meter is not Rule-bound, for me. Meter, for me, is a combination of poetic feet, meaning, and sound. However—

    Notwithstanding my relatively “liberal” view—conservatives speaking among conservatives, in the landscape of poetry, current and past—this poem, Time Travel, conforms to my eye, ear, and sense to the absolute type. The final three words (“a tangled root”) within the twelfth line, the line in question above, follows a comma, a caesura. This, to my ear—accent not being by dictionary but by context—turns the article, a, into a stress, and these final three word together into a single foot. A “Third epitrite” poetic foot. Unusual, like a trochee or a headless iamb at the end of a line, but with strong precedent. This maintains the pentameter.

    I think Evan Mantyk’s solution is equally sound.

    This kind of varying analysis, and disagreement, may be frequently found among discussion of Yeats’ poetry. As John Butler Yeats said: “What can be explained is not poetry.”

    Finally, I am most heartened to hear the comments of those that heard the music of the poem without being troubled by the twelfth line, particularly Susan Jarvis Bryant who wrote, “An exquisite piece that lifts me from the mundane to the divine… thank you, Leland! I must admit that in my euphoric state, my ear didn’t catch the metrical variation.

    A quote from Robert Frost: ““The ear is the only true writer and the only true reader.”

    Again, thank you all for your interest and comments.

    Leland James


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