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Forums > > Poetry Workshops > > Boot Camp > > Our Numbers
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Our Numbers


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superjill
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 6 14:55:34 EST 2008    Post subject: Our Numbers Reply with quote

I would like to get this piece up to snuff for getting published.



2 ..... The shape your hand makes tracing my curves.
5 ..... The potbelly in your mirror.
8 ..... The 6-pack I see.
1 ..... Fasting the pounds of your troubled childhood away.
3 ..... My fantasy of carrying your child.

7 ..... The hook you hung my mistakes upon.
4 ..... My hands in prayer to understand.


The string of numbers right of decimal ..... Your fractioned alternate reality where I have wronged you.

The numbers left of decimal ..... The wholeness I wish we'd had.

.(the decimal) ..... All that's left between us.

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AlvinLau
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 6 15:48:11 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

If this was anonymously posted, what could the reader figure out about the speaker from the text?
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loisseau
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 6 16:27:39 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

Jill, I see this a a trick piece; once you get the number shape-sentence correlation, the poem has no bones for any meat to hang on. The numbers distract, and of course the decimal point doesn't show up in the right spot. One could use the alphabet to do this, S, B, X, I, O, J, and A, but the effect would be the same. Rather than work this, I'd like to see you write on the relationship in the piece without the numbers. I'd let this one go.

L.
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superjill
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 6 16:43:32 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

AlvinLau wrote:
If this was anonymously posted, what could the reader figure out about the speaker from the text?

I like this question. Should it be answered by me or by other readers?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 2:08:24 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

AlvinLau wrote:
If this was anonymously posted, what could the reader figure out about the speaker from the text?

That they're confused.

It's trying way too hard to be clever and the result is just a complicated jumble of thoughts with little substance and no context. Louisseau's suggestion to just drop the numbers is right I think, either that or simply the number concept somehow but if it were mine I'd just work on fleshing out the thoughts.
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AlvinLau
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 11:39:57 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

Why did you chose to write about this topic in this unusual form?
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Tony
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 11:54:18 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

I think this is an ambitious set of notes to what could be a really interesting piece. I don't think it's a poem yet.

I'd like to leave it here and see it develop. You ok with that, Jill?

Alvin's asking some good, penetrating questions to get this process started, and there are things in both Tekay's and loisseau's thoughts that I think can provide forward direction.

Looking forward to seeing this.
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superjill
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 14:18:01 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

Tony wrote:
I'd like to leave it here and see it develop. You ok with that, Jill?

Yes, absolutely. I am enjoying the thoughts and process too.


AlvinLau wrote:
Why did you chose to write about this topic in this unusual form?

The form came first. It came out of some scribblings. I played around with what it could show. Landed on the dynamics of sexual relations.

The story came second. After a few drafts, I noticed I could tell an (almost, somewhat, with some dramatic license) real-life story with it, with meat to it. (So I thought. Wink )

In fact, my answer to Alvin's first question differs greatly from what I suspect the general consensus here would be. My answer is all the layers that you learn about the 2 people in the poem. Ha! Smile


I should say how much I'm appreciating this forum, because my local and other online experty people think this is solid and think it should be published. I very much appreciate that the bar is higher here.



That probably doesn't answer your question behind your question. This, however, might: The reason that they like it, beyond being "clever", is the subject and metaphor are a familiar and unfamiliar concept, illustrating each other. (Which is the familar and which is the unfamiliar depends on the reader.)

The reason that I like it is the minimalism, conveying so much in so little, and the gasps and favourable comments I get at the "right of decimal" and "left of decimal" lines. Seems to really strike a chord with people.

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AlvinLau
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 15:47:26 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

I have no idea what you're trying to explain with the decimals or what you mean by "the subject and metaphor are a familiar and unfamiliar concept, illustrating each other"

could you start from the beginning, and describe the action?
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chameleon
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 16:26:50 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

superjill wrote:
I would like to get this piece up to snuff for getting published.



2 ..... The shape your hand makes tracing my curves.
The speaker is female. The poem is about a relationship with a physical/sexual aspect.

Quote:

5 ..... The potbelly in your mirror.

8 ..... The 6-pack I see.

There's a definite disparity between how the speaker sees her lover and how the lover sees him/herself. It could be that the speaker idealizes - or that she sees potential that the lover doesn't see in himself.

Quote:

1 ..... Fasting the pounds of your troubled childhood away.
There's a hint here of why that disparity exists - an eating disorder, perhaps? A need to be 'perfect' on the part of the lover - and an inappropriate way of trying to be perfect. Add this to the two lines before, and I get the sense that the speaker sees things more realistically - the lover is still too lost in working through the dramas of the past to focus on making the present work.

Quote:

3 ..... My fantasy of carrying your child.
There's no basis laid for this - it feels like it comes out of left field. I think you can flesh it out a little - the thread holding it to the rest of the poem is tenuous right now. I can stretch and connect it to the potential that the speaker sees in her lover - add in the potential she sees in the relationship - but it -is- a stretch.

Quote:

7 ..... The hook you hung my mistakes upon.
4 ..... My hands in prayer to understand.
Again.. very little preparation for this. I don't have any groundwork laid to understand the impact of those mistakes - on the flip side, these two lines do make a clear contrast between the two in the relationship - there's an implication that the lover is holding the speaker (and the relationship) up to the same mirror in which he views himself - hangs them on a hook, so to speak, where they can't be mended or forgotten.


Quote:

The string of numbers right of decimal ..... Your fractioned alternate reality where I have wronged you.

The numbers left of decimal ..... The wholeness I wish we'd had.
Quote:

.(the decimal) ..... All that's left between us.

I'm curious to know how you see the decimal point. Is it a defining point? A tiny point of reference? Nothing at all?

First, I do like the cleverness, and think it carries a lot of weight. It's more than just a gimmick - you've carried it through the poem and used the shapes of the numbers to inform the very visual poem. I've interleaved comments through the quote above.
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Tony
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 20:23:12 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

OK...this is going to get esoteric. Bear with me.

I've been looking at this, and I'm wondering if there's something to be done with arithmetic in order to give it some flow.

For instance, 2 plus 3 is 5, add another 3 and you've got 8. I'm wondering if there's a way of incorporating that process into the poem... maybe not explictly, but in thinking on how to work with the numbers.

(This is woolly headed abstraction, I know...but it jumped to mind and I thought I'd put it out there. Sometimes, for me anyway, a weird correlation like that will lead to something.)

Thing is, Jill, you've got such bare bones here, I think there's a million ways you can go. I think you need to really think about what you want to get from this poem, and then go in that direction, knowing that there are many you can go in.
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superjill
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 7 21:24:14 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

Ok, wow, these are all great comments, questions, and things to think about. I can see that what is extremely clear to me is not necessarily clear to the reader. Smile


My big overriding thought, before I move forward, is I am at a decision point: Do I focus on it being a numbers poem, or do I drop the numbers and focus on the story?


The real story beneath is what it's like to date someone with a mental illness.

The Bulimia was one of the character's symptoms.

His mis-perceptions of himself vs the perceptions of his lover who likes him enough to try to see beyond his "flaws." In the process, she has created an idealized false projection of who he is. (Maybe not really to that extreme, but she does think he is handsome just as he is.)

His fasting (combined with troubled childhood & mental illness) start to play tricks on his brain. His reality gets altered (fractioned) and he starts seeing things in his head that have never actually happened. He blames her and picks fights with her for these invented things.

She just wants things to go back to the way they were at the beginning, when he was being charming and lovable. That version of him was someone she could see herself with for life. It had been what appeared to be a healthy relationship (wholeness).

I intentionally didn't mention mental illness because I thought that the story could hold without it, but if I were to drop the numbers, I would make it explicitly a mental illness poem.


To answer a couple of the questions:

- I added in the pregnancy bit to show how much she cared for him and how much she wanted to be with him. This is not a true fact from the real story, but I thought it added a lot to the storyline that was developing in the poem.

- The decimals: In case it's not clear from the story description above: Let's say we had the number 10.25 -> .25 is one quarter, a fraction. I picture his reality being like a shattered mirror. Like in quarters. 10 is a whole number.


Tony, I like your line of thinking. It is indeed jogging me to think that, if I keep the numbers focus, I can play with it in different ways from what I have here. I can see this being fleshed out into a longer poem, playing with different numbers concepts in different ways.

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AlvinLau
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 8 9:38:36 EST 2008    Post subject: Re: Our Numbers Reply with quote

Honestly, every single line bored me, struck me as overly abstract, or is cliche. After reading the poem repeatedly alongside your explanations, I have no idea what's going on or how your poem stemmed from the story. The numbers just further mystify me. I'd still note the critique from others to avoid future mistakes, but I think you can just trash this and focus on the next poem.
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