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A. Baez

Trees in Public Places

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A. Baez

 

 

 

My savior spirits, in the stilted haunts                                   

Of man, are trees! Oh, lighted loveliness                              

And shuffling shades, your soft persuasiveness                    

Awakes in me a half-forgotten ease!

                             

Man's structured spans eschew what nature flaunts:          

A bonhomie of loose, spontaneous parts;                            

Your humble, feathery, unflustered arts                               

Confirm that planes are not the way to please.                    

 

Blending rooted, trunk-locked gravitas                                 

With leaves like wings of angels, free in flight

Ungraspable and mutable and light

Lends you a wholeness lost to brick and stone. 

 

So bend on me with graces as I pass                                     

Into these hard, walled zones of human strain                     

Lest, for their lacks, they deal me double pain

Now that I’ve felt your quivering in my bone.     

 

 

 

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tonyv

The first thing that struck me was the ease with which this reads. I had to do a double-take at the end of the first stanza when the rhyme and meter, though clearly present, were barely detectable. Nice curveball on the placement of "trees" and "ease"! Elsewhere, too, the rhymes are so intricately placed as if to evade analysis; indeed, I don't want to focus on regularity, if there even is any! The poem is Tuckerman-esque in subject matter and in its craftsmanship, and its discernable patterns are perhaps best expressed the way Stephanie Burt discusses Tuckerman's rhymes in the last paragraph on page xxi of the Introduction to Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman. I won't reproduce the entire paragraph here -- you can check it for yourself -- but to sum up what I'm trying to say, she says (re Tuckerman's rhyme schemes), "The intricate variety of schemes -- which struck some reviewers as chaos -- may help prevent us now from growing bored with his forms."

I'm glad you told me just now, as I set out to write this reply, that this poem has been in your catalog for years and that it has been through numerous revisions. When I first read it I was blown away, almost to the point of discouragement. I know you've been busy with a lot of things lately, and if you just threw this together quickly, I may as well hang it up, because this is too good, and I can't match it! 

From "lighted loveliness" to "shuffling shades" and from those "feathery, unflustered arts" to "wings of angels, free in flight / ungraspable and mutable and light," I'm lead to what I picture when I read this poem: man in tune with nature in a way that's expressed by this image of a city plaza which I found online and liked so much I saved along with other similar ones:

Edmonton 28rs2.jpg

This poem is among the best there is, the best that the world has to offer. I'm honored to have it showcased here on PMO.

Tony

 

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Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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A. Baez

Tony, I'm blown away by your articulate, detailed, and effusive praise of this poem! (I'm all the more so knowing even part of what you've been through today [now yesterday] already.) I actually don't think this poem is really that sophisticated or amazing, though. The thesis is not that distinctive or profound, and the rhyme scheme is really quite simple and regular: ABBC ADDC EFFG EHHG (the second two stanzas' scheme mirroring that of the first two), fashioned in response to the feel of the theme--easy and breezy. Probably in the first stanza, the unobtrusiveness of the meter that you experienced had a lot to do with Ls 2 and 3's  feminine endings, and as for the unobtrusiveness of the rhyme, part of that would be due to these lines' multisyllabic end words whose last syllables alone rhyme, and the rest would be because the scheme is fairly unobtrusive until one gets a bird's eye view of things, from which vantage point alone all the interrelationships emerge. I hadn't thought of "trees"/"ease" as a curveball, but I'm happy if it has that effect. And the words--well, the trees did most of the work; I just tried to capture what they gave me!  

I've only read a bit of Tuckerman yet, but I felt a strong and instant affinity with him as soon as you introduced him to me. (I did read a couple of sonnets by him this morning. I actually like his longer stuff just as well!) I'm hoping that over time, as I read more, he will rub off on me in all kinds of good ways.

Your photo does indeed capture very much the feel I had in mind when writing this poem! That is so cool that earlier, on your own, you had saved it.

Yes, I've been working on this poem since 7/24/2006, in which period I was an interior plant technician and passed with reluctance each day from the tree-ey surroundings of the buildings in which I worked into their overridingly stuffy deadness. The midway iterations of this poem were particularly rambling, featuring long second halves composed entirely of grim descriptions of indoor buildings' scenes, in contrast to the trees.

Want to see the very first version? Here it is:

 

In the Courtyard of an Office Complex

 

My savior-aunties, in the stilted haunts 

Of man, are trees! Oh lighted loveliness

And shuffling shades! Your fine persuasiveness

Brings building-rankled spirits to their knees!

 

Constructed realms obscure what nature flaunts:

This bonhomie of unselfconscious parts;

Trees' fair, high, feathery, yet friendly arts

Are generous as men's are miserly

 

For lack of breezes. Oh, unflustered limbs,

As gut-familiar as the flesh of kin!

Oh, strong outspreading laps--so generous! 

Unroll your verdant aprons plenteous

 

Past glassy doors, on carpet-smothered grounds

In sad stiff lobbies, where the marble's sounds

Cracked, ominous, from wall to brassy wall

As suits slipped speechless down a dusky hall

 

And somewhere, voices gasped in, ghostily.

I ran from these! My kingdom for a tree!

 

Oh, arbors! Milk and motherblood and bone,

Witnesses to these, my spirit's wounds:

I have been struck, in buildings' thralling tombs--

And, but for you, I'd wither here, alone!

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dr_con

LOved 'em both! 😉 Really an excellent study and a fantastic perspective- related and resonated. TY for sharing;-)

Dr. Con

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Gate(less.thumb.png.dc23b19d2478d37a9f6fcdc563973026.pnghttps://conjurd.substack.com/welcome Come on over and check out my poetry substack y'all;-)

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badger11

hi AB

I share the same appreciation of our leafy friends, love the use of bonhemie, and certainly I much appreciate the greenery to relieve the oppression of concrete places. Some lovely phrases to compliment - the shuffling shades' and with unflustered arts' as opposed to the stiff rigidity of stilted haunts' and structured spans. The latter constricts and contrives, whereas nature eases with effortless spontaneity. There is an echo of Keats...

Quote
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
                        In some melodious plot
         Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
                Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

And certainly this line is equal to Keats...

Quote

Now that I’ve felt your quivering in my bone.

The one line I struggled with was...

Quote

Lends you a wholeness lost to brick and stone

I felt that brick/stone deliver the same weight message.

best

Phil

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A. Baez
Posted (edited)

Thank you so much, Phil, and I love that quote by Keats! He's one of my favorites; if I could ever touch the hem of his robes, I would count myself blessed. I see your point about the brick and stone, but actually @badger11 shouldn't any noun in this position carry the same "weight" message to contrast with the "light" referred to in the previous line? What kind of alternative did you have in mind?

Edited by A. Baez
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A. Baez

Juris, that's interesting that you love my first version, too. I do think there are some elements in it that are not in the current one in that I still like. I'm so glad that both you and Phil have resonated with the theme. So I'm not alone in this overbuilt world!

I will experiment with reading your latest poem out loud and seeing if that opens new insights into it for me. I'll also be mindful of Phil's interpretation, which may serve is a sort of Cliff's Notes for me! My instinct was taking me in the same direction but I couldn't really justify it by the words on the page alone.

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tonyv

I, too, like the original version, I think, as much as I like the showcased version. The original does not present like a more youthful version of the recent poem in the same way the original of "Night Visitations" did, rather the original seems like a "part 1" of the posted version the way the Siren 2 poem I'm working on is a part 2 of "The Siren's Song"; it's a mature poem. The only thing the recent version has on the original is it's shorter, and that's a completely arbitrary assessment, given my bias toward shorter poems!

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Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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A. Baez
Quote

I, too, like the original version, I think, as much as I like the showcased version.

Uh-oh--think well, because there are some dangerous implications if you decide you think yes!

Quote

...if you just threw this together quickly, I may as well hang it up, because this is too good, and I can't match it! 

However, I'd say that the first version is more freewheeling and undisciplined than the last (perhaps the most obvious example being the inversion in "unroll your verdant aprons plenteous"). While part of me finds such looseness somewhat endearing, from a connoisseur's standpoint, it would garner deductions for technical merit. So I think you're safe. 😉

Quote

The original does not present like a more youthful version of the recent poem in the same way the original of "Night Visitations" did, rather the original seems like a "part 1" of the posted version the way the Siren 2 poem I'm working on is a part 2 of "The Siren's Song"; it's a mature poem.

No, the difference in "Trees" is not as drastic as that of "Night Visitation," but much less maturing on my part had occurred in the interim between first and last versions of the former poem. I have 35 total printed versions of "Trees," so yikes if any of the rest also arguably stand on their own...

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Tinker

Hi AB,  Here I am in a late night catch up mode, enjoying your lovely polished piece. Your craftsmanship is undeniable.  Th rhythm flows fluidly, guided by well timed line breaks and perfect punctuation.  I love the linked stanza rhyme pattern almost invisible.  Nice.

~~Judi

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~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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