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a matter of economy, two versions

So, this is the first version, penned last night… I don’t know if it is the sonnet format, or upside down sonnet format, it seems lacking. If anything the contrast between the two doesn’t seem to work, because the tasks are similar, in that they try to cope with the inevitable to continue inhabiting a space.

A matter of economy

If he did not it would be impossible
to open the closet door, but once a year
he takes a plane to the wood and shaves away
the difference. The house settling, sliding
down the hill is like Niagara with its feet
per year of dolomite shorn by six million
cubic feet of water plummeting downwards
in a vain search for a low point and stasis.
He is not the army corps of engineer
damming up the river to divert the flow
of water and slow the falls’ retreat to save
this natural patrimony, the power plants,
and the cottage industries that depend on
its fame and the sheer beauty of entropy.

My first inclination was right, they are utterly different. The lines are still hendecasyllabic… but there aren’t fourteen anymore. I did like the beauty of entropy line… Now, I wonder if the kensis/stasis is but a smoke filled promise of portent that is mere pretense. This one should be read as a poem sans title.

If he did not it would be impossible
to open the closet door, so once a year
he takes a plane to the wood and shaves away
the excess, as the house settles and slides down
the hill. His quiet labor is quite unlike
the army corps damming the Niagara’s flow
and bolting its fissures together to slow
the river’s retreat as six million cubic
feet of water per minute plummet downwards
wearing away the dolomite shelf in search
for the lowest point—kinesis for stasis.
How to live with entropy is, in the end,
but a simple matter of economy.

 

Comments

I like the first better. It reminds me that I’ve long wanted to read Butor’s 6,810,000 litres d’eau par seconde.

also, “its fame and the sheer beauty of entropy.”

1, however, isn’t perfect. The definition of plummet is downwards; so, too, is “low point” downwards.

More to the point, though, to conclude on the “he is not the army corps of engineer(s)” is to belay what he is and to overstate the original comparison between the house and Niagara. The house is Niagara, in other words, but he isn’t the corps—if not, then what/who is he? The guy who sneaks into the cataract at night and files away the rocks that are too sharp? Of course not. He’s a guy succumbing to, not combating gravity (to combat it would be to prop up the house so it didn’t fall; rebuild the foundation, put up new supports. Instead, he lets gravity do its deed, then adjusts the door accordingly.) His is a cottage industry actually (a lovely pun by the way), and in that way he is like Niagara, too.

Or perhaps I step too much on the logic of the poem?

Regardless, I still like it better than 2.

yeah, i liked the cottage industry bit too…

that is precisely where i don’t like it… of course, when i went back in and tried to fix it…

i tried a freer line break but didn’t like that.

The weakest part of the poem, the redundancy aside, for me was the way the comparison between him and the army corps was done. he is not says so little, it says nothing and is but a weak transition. this version clears up the redundancy and omits the comparison… so, they are only juxtaposed. but, part of me thinks that some sort of statement is needed regarding his action vs. theirs. his acceptance of gravity and coping with it in the least intrusive way possible vs. their quixotic attempt to stop the inevitable (though, the diversion of water to power plants has effectively reduced the erosion to a fraction of what it used to be). but, at a certain point, you start to preach and it no longer becomes a poem.

but i don’t like the was called in part…

If he did not, it would be impossible
to open the closet door, but once a year
he takes a plane to the wood and shaves away
the difference. The house settling, sliding
down the hill is like Niagara with its feet
per year of dolomite shorn by six million
cubic feet of water plummeting over
the cliff’s edge in a vain search stasis.
The army corps of engineer was called in
to dam the river, divert the flow, and bolt
the fissures to slow the falls’ retreat to save
this natural patrimony, the power
plants, the cottage industries that depend on
its fame and the beauty of entropy.

But there’s something I don’t follow you on: the corps of engineers wasn’t concerned with the erosion of Niagara when it siphoned the water off. I mean, Niagara was Tesla’s baby: it was about power. Niagara Power still electifies much of Buffalo because the drop off that big basalt shelf on which Lake Erie sits is so very great and sudden. Other industries (not cottage ones, mind) took advantage of it, and in the late 19th century made the falls a mere trickle. Next to that, erosion is and was incidental, in part because, even if the Niagara River were flowing full capacity, it’d be thousands of years before the cataract ate its way back to the lake.

That said, I guess there’s a bit of aesthetic reconstruction the corps does yearly to keep the cataract from knocking off too-big rocks.

Rather than was called, why not just extend the metaphor? Let the corps stand as he does, planing away edges to make it last?

right the syphoning off of the water is not wholely the army corps…

but in 1969 they went in and dammed up the american side because they were concerned with the erosion. in fact, now, along with power, erosion control is a reason given for water diversion. both the US and Canada had been wanting to something like that for decades… in fact, rigorous data on NF erosion has been kept since 1842, or so.

among other things, the army corps went in to in order to keep the falls where they are now because this is where the power plants are… well this, and the fact that two major cities depend on it as a tourist attraction.


(but i got this from a pbs documentary which i can’t find now, so wiki will have to do)

still, you are right to say the diversion isn’t fully ACE… which is why i’ve tried to be more precise in the two subsequent versions.

oh yeah, tru dat on 19th century industries and on the thousands of years to reach lake erie

I saw that PBS doc, (That is, if it the one with the composer of the music cheesily narrating the purpose of the soundtrack?), but I don’t remember the erosion.

All this talk of Niagara made me want to look at it from a satellite, which is wicked cool.

this would’ve been a few years ago… they had computer graphics and a helicopter that flew up the gorge… and no cheesy narrators… so, i think it a different one.

If he did not it would be impossible
to open the closet door, but once a year
he takes a plane to the wood and shaves away
the difference. The house settling, sliding
down the hill is like Niagara with its feet
per year of dolomite shorn by six million
cubic feet of water plummeting over
the cuesta’s edge in a vain search for stasis.
The army corps dammed the river, diverted
the flow, and bolted the fissures to strengthen
the rock and slow the falls’ retreat to preserve
this natural patrimony, the power
plants, and the cottage industries that depend
on the force and beauty of entropy.