Friday, October 21, 2011

Day eight: The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost (Tim Bowling)

Skipped posting yesterday because I went to hear music instead. Afterwards, walking back to the subway from the concert hall, I didn't want to put my earphones in because what I'd just heard was still sort of with me. It was brisk then, and dark (city dark, the kind where there's plenty of light but things take on a nighttime character anyway), and this poem reminds me of that, even though there's nothing of the city in it, really.

There are parts of this that I think are a bit sentimental for my taste, and a bit simplistic ("a child's love" and "I followed my heart" - yeesh). But I love the wilderness language, wolf and deer and salmon, the way these make me think fly fishing in the Rockies, standing in a stream with waders on and seeing a grizzly go by. I've been working on a fiction piece that starts off in Yellowstone and this is the same sort of mood I'd like to evoke. I also like "the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown."

And I love "where the spider lets its microphone down" - what a great, precise-but-new way of describing that. You can picture exactly what it means, but it's a really unusual metaphor. So cool.

Actually, I pretty much like the first half of this a hell of a lot more than the second half, except for the last line. The nature imagery is way more convincing than the schmaltz. I think it's really hard to do straightforward emotional stuff in writing these days - you have to approach it sideways rather than head on. Partly because of the whole earnestness thing. But also because emotions have become cliche. Just expressing an emotion in straightforward terms isn't convincing because it's been said before. Which makes things difficult, because of course, the reason it's been said before is that it is a near-universal experience that we all want to talk about. But by approaching emotion via metaphor, if you do it right, you can convey the sort of personality of the specific relationship between this mother and this child, and still evoke the universal relationship between mothers and children.

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