Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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This Thing of Darkness
Said a Greek mythological poet
When her readers all begged her to stow it,
“You’ll just have to lump it:
God gave me a trumpet,
And when I don’t suck I must blow it.”

In other words, my first ever published poem, "Plato's Orpheus", is up at Strange Horizons.


Thank you! As days go, it's rather frabjous.

It's wonderful. Congratulations!

(Also: Philip Pullman: A New Casebook? Who knew? I've written a bunch on Pullman. Including Galatea. Wait, here's a comment of mine from a friend's locked post, describing how I learned of it [I am not going to follow the proper parenthetical rules which require an opening lunula at the beginning of every paragraph]:

A friend of mine was walking through the stacks of Sterling Library. A book fell out of a shelf and into his arms. He looked at the title. Galatea. Dedicated to "Nic and Anne Messenger." (Like the angel in the novel, it will turn out.) He read the first page:

Roses from the South

One evening, the orchestra in which I played the flute gave a concert of Viennese waltzes and polkas, and when I went home afterwards I found that my wife had disappeared, without leaving a note to say where she was going.

I walked out of my job the next morning and set off to look for her.

First I went to her home town, but nobody there knew where she was. I asked our friends, but they'd heard nothing either. Finally I went back and sat in our apartment and tried to think what might have happened. No clues came to me. I stayed there miserably while two or three days went by.

Eventually a few speculations drifted together. The last piece of music I'd played had been Strauss's Roses from the South. Roses had been her favourite flowers. There was a song which went

Es la tierra de las rosas, de la luz y del amor,

and Valencia was in the south. It was a city of business, what's more, and she had worked for a merchant banker, and taken an interest in that side of life. I had nothing else to go by; I thought she must have gone there.

I sold everything I did not need, put our furniture into store, took my flute and the little money I could gather, and set off for Valencia.

(And then the next section was called The Broker of Reality....)

He flipped at the end of the book:

And I think often about my vision in Dog Street, and about what the Electric Whores said to me before they vanished. I couldn't see it then, but it's all around me now, all kinds of success are due to it. Electricity, and finance, and sexuality, and happiness, and evolution, they all come about because of the amorous inclinations of matter.

My friend decided it must have been the amorous inclinations of matter that caused the book to fall into his arms, so he checked it out, read it, was blown away, told a couple of us how great it was; we agreed, and there you go. This was during the time of Pullman's near total obscurity. I wrote him a fan latter a few years later, when he was still almost totally obscure, and we've been desultory correspondents since. And Galatea is one of my sacred books.

And I've even read The Haunted Storm!)

Edited at 2014-10-07 01:26 pm (UTC)

How interesting! I had no idea you were a Pullman early adopter. He certainly knows how to tell as story, doesn't he?

My co-editor Tommy Halsdorf has a copy of The Haunted Storm but I've not read it myself (I'm visiting him next week - perhaps I'll ask to see it). I gather that Pullman isn't particularly keen for it to be made more widely available.

Our Casebook is only on His Dark Materials - the title was the publisher's choice, and something of a misnomer. But we do discuss the other works in the introduction: Galatea in particular has numerous points of interest when seen in the light of the trilogy, not least of course in the matter of matter and its amorous qualities...

I was amused when he published The Ruby in the Smoke that the author's note said something like "Since 1978 he has published one novel for adults and two children's books" or something like that. So when I wrote him, I noted that he'd disowned The Haunted Storm, and he wrote back graciously forgiving me for having read it. It's really, really, really bad. Alas.

Will says, "Matter loves matter."

Nailed that ending there.


Thank you. :)

In other words, my first ever published poem, "Plato's Orpheus", is up at Strange Horizons.

It is a wonderful poem. May there be more!

Thank you - and I hope there will be.

Me too.

O my! It is beautiful. May there be more!


Thank you! I hope so too.

How very exciting!
A very elegant poem too.

Why, thank you!

(Deleted comment)
I'm glad you like it!

Sorry to get to this so late, but ooh, published poetry by a friend!

On the abstract level, I like the mix of strong imagery and clarity in this poem - a good balance. More concretely, now that I am often looking at poetry in the very New Critical mindset of how to teach adolescents practical criticism/close reading, I am probably slightly more attentive to various sound devices than I used to be, but I suppose it's an appropriate method to use in reading an Orpheus poem. Hence, I particularly liked, "Drawn in the draught of your desire," where the combination of the assonance in the "drawn" and "draught" (and "aw" is a good sound for being dragged behind) and the shift from the "dr" alliteration to the sharp "d" and short "e" in "desire" makes a good match between the sound and the content, the amorphous and as yet unmotivated Eurydice and the intense and propelling Orpheus. And of course with Eurydice's words dragging behind in the order of words in the line.

"A dreamer gasps from drowning" is another great use of alliteration with breaks - the "dr" onset still seems softer and more formless to me, fitting the connotations of dreaming and drowning, but the hard "g" in "gasps" makes a nice break that helps to convey that sense of abruptly waking up from a dream, as well as the idea of being returned to hard life and flesh from the dream of death.

Thank you for your keen analysis! It's true, sound is one of the things I pay most attention to: I think I'd agree with all the above. With "dreamer gasps from drowning" I think it's also important that "g" is produced further back in the mouth than "dr", i.e. near to the gasping place, as it were.


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