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A correspondence out of time: Letters from the Edge

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So, I found a very challenging piece on Scribophile that wasn’t getting a lot of feedback, marked as Novel/Fiction, and decide to take the bait and critique and get into it. It’s a challenging piece alright, for a few reasons, and I really hope that Pure Blossom replies and continues the discussion. Regardless of whether she does or does not, it made my night to be part of such an existential correspondence, and it’s my pleasure to share it.

“Celsius scale – Pure Blossom”
(original form)

Glacier is the desire to know what,

when solicited, the sheet of already known knowledge was brought to light frozen, for it was part of the glacier just solved, grounded.

The weight of already known plus the gradual diminution of question to answer adding up,

pushed its elevation down like chronicler crayons recording the impact of such a question living behind canyons.

What? – the ancestors lived with it.

What- taught them.

What- the reason for numerous conducts.

If ever you find yourself positioned in the depth of what,

a narrow valley surrounded by variegated elevations, know many have too.

So monumental it had to be chronicled.

Mountainous museum walls streaked and spotted with inorganic pigments detail of elapsed.

What without question mark, what as in; the information itself,

stronger than distilled spirits, the colour of rock, the colour of minerals.

Tastes of truth, texture depended on how it’s received – usually progresses as truth settles in, from subjective to closest to the actual feel.

Temperature hot, temperature cold, from truth to truth temperature measured on Celsius scale.

What, if specified, tilt your head back slightly as you raise the short glass, for the detail can be onerous.

Swirl it in the narrow-limited channel hemmed in by walls of the short vessel, vessel once stone now midget glass with thick base.

Generous to self- what you want you can go get,

enthusiastically so embracing the chase.

All you’ve got do is take the first few steps, then you’re all set,

on the road to success, you bet.

Simple but not,

don’t look away sail ahead.

What lies onwards isn’t ever certain, put your fear in your back pocket,

and don’t stress.

Take a lesson from Earth’s atmosphere, security blanket.

It has kept out most of the ultraviolet radiation but held in some surface heat preventing it from radiating out, keeping us warm, so adept,

Perhaps you could sit on that unpleasant emotion brought by uncertainty flattening it making it more bendable, adjusting it to your favour so it no longer suppresses your progress, but still keeps you shielded.

All you can do is try your best, even if it feels like you are navigating blindfolded.

Stay calm as if you are meditating with your legs tucked in buoyant and neatly folded.

Hope that you are prepared for the worst, rather than to misbecome.

Silently wishing for and working on the greatest outcome.

Whatever comes your way you can handle,

remember handles are put on doors to assist us in opening an entrance to something new and to be closure for the old.

Close closed closet what lies within it, something never told?

Are you keeping your composure, do you fear exposure?

Are you your own opposer or your greatest supporter?


My inline critique:

Glacier is the desire to know what,(to know what, or that? feels like this could be a definition – and I get the wordiness comments – It’s great to be high brow or intellectual, but in a first sentence I think short and sweet (like Hemingway, a very popular style of mainly simple sentences) can be both snappy and hooky enough to interest a variety of readers. That said — you’ve declared a non-commercial audience, either yourself or people that enjoy complex writing – so let’s move on, but I still advocate a short snappy, or hooky intro to start off with some anticipation. That said, I’m a big fan of poetic enjambment, which looks like what we’ve got. Creative, and fun.

when solicited, the sheet of already known knowledge was brought to light frozen, for it was part of the glacier just solved, grounded. Took me a read or two, but I’m still with you.

The weight of already known plus the gradual diminution of question to answer adding up,

pushed its elevation down(elevation down, seems unintuitive, and at this point I wonder if part of the fun you have in pieces like this is to distinguish who can keep up and who’s faking it, like an artist like Marcel Duchamp who puts a toilet in a gallery and then laughs because people can’t stop talking about it. 100 years later it’s the “most important piece of the century” because it changed what it means to be an artist making art – but I still think he was laughing at the general public) like chronicler crayons recording the impact of such a question living behind canyons.

What? – the ancestors lived with it.

What- taught them.

What- the reason for numerous conducts.

If ever you find yourself positioned in the depth of what,<– this feels a bit like an acid trip, or a superior alien race trying on English for an afternoon delight. “positioned in the depth of what” sounds like a Bassnectar single he wrote for this year’s Burning Man festival. But yeah, I like it. Ok, let’s keep on. 🙂

a narrow valley surrounded by variegated elevations, know many have too.

So monumental it had to be chronicled.

Mountainous museum walls streaked and spotted with inorganic pigments detail of elapsed.

What without question mark, what as in; the information itself,

stronger than distilled spirits, the colour of rock, the colour of minerals.I really do enjoy the poetry and natural beauty of the images portrayed but still feel occasionally like a superior alien mind is fumbling with our language, breaking it at the seems in interesting and poetic ways as they try it on.

Tastes of truth, texture depended on how it’s received – usually progresses as truth settles in, from subjective to closest to the actual feel.

Temperature hot, temperature cold, from truth to truth temperature measured on Celsius scale.

What, if specified, tilt your head back slightly as you raise the short glass, for the detail can be onerous.

Swirl it in the narrow-limited channel hemmed in by walls of the short vessel, vessel once stone now midget glass with thick base.

Generous to self- what you want you can go get,

enthusiastically so embracing the chase.

All you’ve got do is take the first few steps, then you’re all set,

on the road to success, you bet.

Simple but not,

don’t look away sail ahead.

What lies onwards isn’t ever certain, put your fear in your back pocket,

and don’t stress.This seems deceptively facile, and you’ve almost trained me to distrust things I understand, I am enjoying the challenge of this piece and I’m sure you’re a poet.

Take a lesson from Earth’s atmosphere, security blanket.

It has kept out most of the ultraviolet radiation but held in some surface heat preventing it from radiating out, keeping us warm, so adept,

Perhaps you could sit on that unpleasant emotion brought by uncertainty flattening it making it more bendable, adjusting it to your favour so it no longer suppresses your progress, but still keeps you shielded.

All you can do is try your best, even if it feels like you are navigating blindfolded.

Stay calm as if you are meditating with your legs tucked in buoyant and neatly folded.

Hope that you are prepared for the worst, rather than to misbecome.

Silently wishing for and working on the greatest outcome.

Whatever comes your way you can handle,

remember handles are put on doors to assist us in opening an entrance to something new and to be closure for the old.This is true, and well put and in the context of this piece I feel it’s appropriate to mention that an open door is ajar, and similarly an open jar could be a door if the contents of the jar enable a form of movement from place to place.

Close closed closet what lies within it, something never told?

Are you keeping your composure, do you fear exposure?

Are you your own opposer or your greatest supporter?

Closing comments:

Hey there. Ok.

So you asked specifically for not so much grammar help, but there is one line that I would be remiss if I neglected, so here goes:

“Mountainous museum walls streaked and spotted with inorganic pigments detail of elapsed.”

This sentence kind of sticks out like a sore thumb, but it’s very difficult to offer how to rewrite it because it’s very difficult to guess at what the intended meaning is. If the subject is “Mountainous (large) museum walls streaked (either ran naked, or were covered in streaks of something)  and spotted with inorganic pigments (inorganic pigments such as aluminium, copper, cobalt, iron, lead, titanium, zinc, tin, or mercury) detail (noun: individual fact, feature or item or verb:  give particulars of or assign someone to a particular task) of elapsed (verb: of time, slipping by, or noun: passage of time slipping by).” Even taking the time to deconstruct it and examine the possible contextual use of various word choices does not make this much easier to comprehend.

I teach writing in China, to high school students to whom English is not their first language. Often they write from Chinese and translate to English so I’m used to seeing odd/not native/ non-intuitive grammatical structures that boggle most brains and I enjoy trying to understand and intuit them. That said, I like to tell them, that writing is like magic, the ability to put a voice or a thought in someone else’s head without speaking it. This happens through time and space, like magic. Can happen even 500 years after your death, if you’re a good enough sorcerer with the English language.  The thing is, this power is only really meaningful if it can be deciphered. Pablo Neruda who informed a lot of my favorite Beats writing loved to discuss the double-edged sword of language, what is meaningful to you might not be meaningful to me. But it’s still one of the best tools we have when we can agree upon and adhere to conventions and meaning.  This is not meant to stifle creativity, but explain the pros and cons of communicating with words, rather than say dance.

I like to tell my students that writing is like describing the contents of your window to someone who’s never been to your country or planet.

Ineffective writing has people focussing on the words rather than ideas. They can be great words but if we’re talking about words instead of ideas, one of us has failed to bridge the divide.  Messy writing is like looking through a dirty window – you see what you see, but your attention returns to the grime on the window itself. It’s distracting.  Great writing is when the window is so clean we don’t even notice it’s there. There is no window. We’ve been transported.

Ernest Hemingway was an interesting man, and next to Shakespeare, one of English’s most famous and emulated writers. Unlike wordsmiths like Shakespeare and Poe, I think Hemingway’s talent was cleaning up messy windows until a bird could sail right into them.  He said (paraphrasing) writing is just sitting at a typewriter until you bleed, and getting rid of anything that did not read as true. Elmore Leonard – another great – underrated – writer, said: “if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

So – I think there’s real beauty in this piece. And some of it is really profound. I wonder if it was written under the influence of immense creativity, alien minds or psychedelics. And I have a little experience the above so I apologize if that’s a snap judgment but I stand by it.

However, I think this piece fails us in three meaningful ways: feel free to disagree.

One, a lot of the writing sounds like writing, and that is much more challenging than the average novelist is prepared to do. Call it Poetry instead, as it reads and suddenly your audience wants to second guess themselves and spend decades imagining the deeper implications of your nuance. I don’t know if Poets are smarter than novel readers or just care more, but it helps there are usually fewer words to focus on in a poem than a novel so we can put more energy into what’s in front of us. That’s actually one and two, rewrite the writing that sounds like writing and call it poetry and suddenly instead of challenging us to redefine the novel you’ve got another poem. But I’m not sure if that didn’t occur to you, I think in part you want to challenge us to say it’s not a novel and then ask us “Why not? Is it not a novel because I call myself a novelist?” In which case you’re right up there with Marcel Duchamp and this might be the most important piece on Scribophile for breaking and remaking the very convention of the novel and thus the novelist.

Finally, well, the third thing doesn’t really matter if your goal was to see who was really listening and who was faking it. Maybe that’s not a problem. Maybe it’s art.

Yours truly, in the fellowship of the existential madmen and the profoundly found,

Jorah Kai

PS. I’ve included a photo of myself premembering this correspondence as a record of this moment for posterity. Please find it attached-

 

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