A New England Poet writes Poetry, Haiku, Fables & Criticism
ll Block Prints are by my wife, Tracy Gillespie. I’ll keep adding to the collection as time permits; and feel free to comment. • If you are interested in purchasing any of these Block Prints, please E-Mail or visit Tracy’s Etsy site. (Not all block prints may be available.) • Click on any image to see a full screen slide show.
I like being able to see all of these (or at least a bunch of them) in one place.
Glad to hear that.
It was my wife’s suggestion. Should have done it a while back. And I still have more images to post.
these are delightful!
Thank you, Tracy! My favourite is the red pumpkin – so much energy in that big fruit. As if there wasn’t enough space for it within the frames of the picture!
I love these beautiful block prints, Tracy. I especially like the bulbs and seeds, a very powerful statment on the strength and growth of life forces. I would like to see all of thes prints and the others not posted……Perhaps they can be compiled into a book or publication………Perhaps the artist’s comments or background notes, or interpretation can be added to each print……..or that each print could be connected to Patrick’s beautiful and very creative poems!………I would vote for the very creative colorful Angel be on the cover………..You two have a very special gift here, that could be shared to benefit others!…..Keep up the great work.
your wife is a skilled artist.
you poetry, is unfortunately, pretty ordinary at best.
nor do you have a very good grip on colloquial usage.
but…. these wood cuts are terrific.
Hi Geo, thanks for your comment. On behalf of my wife, thanks.
On behalf of myself, you could be right; you could be wrong too. No one has ever published my poetry, so the consensus of editors is on your side. History is littered with poets who had too high an opinion of themselves. And I could be yet another. By the same token, there are just as many (and more) readers, editors and critics whose judgment (and self-opinion) litters the same roadside.
Invite me down to give a reading. You give your opinions. I’ll read my poetry. And we’ll see…
i went home last night after making the above comment and realized that i had given in to a shameful impulse, spurred by a comment you made elsewhere regarding A.E. Stallings, who is probably one of the finest poets i know of. And, too, i was startled by your comment that ‘nor’ was not available to general usage. silly.
The truth is, very little poetry is much good.
That, though, is not reason enough to be ungenerous. My comment does have some merit though. I did in fact read and consider your writing and my comment was based on a legitimate critcal foundation.
Let’s take a look at Something Within.
An English sonnet with an ABAB-CDCD-EFEF-GG rhyme scheme. so far, so good. The rhymes are a trifle firm for my own taste, but that is subjective.
The metering is very irregular, but i think imposing a regular meter at the expense of sense is a mistake anyway. very FEW can do this without sounding egregiously artificial. I might mention that m. Stallings is one of the few.
more importantly, what stresses we employ and where we employ them will, even in colloquial poetry, make a significant impact.
look at the ending of lines, just as an example.
do you see? a strident Spondee, followed by a falling trochee, rising Iamb, a trochee and a flat pyrrhic. now, both trochees and spondees make for good variations on normative meter, but they should not be wholly arbitrary, especially as line endings. The poem has a spastic, jittery sound to it. Look at line 4:
You MIGHT catch a WORD, a PHRASE, or PICture
aside from misplaced comma before the “or”, you should see that commas are pauses, they extend the length of the preceding foot.
-/ — /– -/- -/-
where the pyrrhic may be viewed as acceptable substitution, followed immediately by an anapest, the line begins to jolt. Then not one but two amphribachs? It is like driving with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. Even if we give greater stress to CATCH, we replace the pyrrhic with a trochee, but the line still trips over itself.
but, there are larger issues, really.
Employing the “personified ideal” has been deprecated by all but novice and adolescent poets since Wordsworth’s Preface to his Lyrical Ballads. There are lots of reason for this. Aside from the pretense inherent in it, it is not used because it cannot be made either very intelligible nor very sensible. Attempting to read such poems is akin to eating Jello with a fork.
One of the problems with tackling BIG ABSTRACTS is that the only meaningful purpose in doing so is to disambiguate them. In the end, we tend to only further ambiguate them with nebulous language. In this poem it begins with the title; “Something Within”? Leave the jelly for peanut butter sandwiches. “No ideas except in things”, remember? Concrete images carry ideas better.
Show, don’t tell. This has become a pat critique, but it does have merit. Let the reader do some of the work.
Consider your Somethings Are Loveliest. nice idea. but why TELL us what your are talking about. it can be SEEN and understood by the reader without your explication.
I would consider very carefully the use of the subjunctive. it can lead to a thinning of the fabric of your poem. i realize that you were attempting to create a mood of possibility, but the result is not greater clarity, but less. The book itself is metaphorical, its contents cannot exist and the subjunctive ‘were” depends on the potential realness of that possibility. In any event, if you think the subjunctive is correct, stick with it as long as you are within the mood… so, “If you lay (not laid) your finger”. Too, watch your case agreement. You move between past and present with no transition.
it is not a good practice to refer to “you” (the reader) when in fact you are expressing your own views. It is presumptive. It is better to attribute your thinking to yourself in the hope that others can identify with it – eg “if I paused to look,/ I might catch…”, as you do later; “Which I, seeking…”.
Precise language provides a firm footing: “whim to a breeze, where” is the sort of conventional usage of the borderline inarticulate. Breezes are not “wheres”; breezes are not places, they are things. The correct modifier is ‘which”. If you know that she is AS an egg, how can you know know that she is also AS an open(ed) book. She cannot be LIKE an book of any sort.
And, as long we are touching on that line, consider the difference between “an open book” and “an opened book”. The latter suggests a second party (that is, the fella that opened it) who might be thought to play a part in the narrative. The reader is likely to be left with a sense of something missing if that second party never takes the stage.
I would question the use of “Quelled”. Appealingly uncommon as it is, does not mean “stilled” so much as “suppressed” or “quieted”. Literally, it means “killed’. It is brute force, which does not quiet suit the quiet tone, here.
You have “Beauty” (capital “B”) hiding the question of “beauty” (small “b”). The snake attempting to bite its own tail… and failing to distinguish it from its surroundings.
see what I mean? serious readers of poetry expect serious writers of poetry, serious about language and the music in language. and we are right to do so. In truth, content always takes a back seat. That i think something is sufficient for ME to consider it important enough to write about, but not for others to want to read about.
my apologies for being unkind.
You are dead right in all your criticisms. And it’s a pleasure to read them. I’m honored. You’re the first reader, in my experience, who has ever given any of my poems a serious look. That said, you are picking on two very youthful poems – written in my early twenties. :-) Something Within was written before I had learned to write an Iambic Pentameter line. Learning to write Iambic Pentameter and Blank Verse took me several years. Some Things are Loveliest is also a very youthful poem – with all its inherent flaws. Whenever I’ve read the poem, however, it’s been a favorite. So I must have done something right, but your criticism still stands.
As to Stallings…. you’re not the only enemy I’ve made for having dared to criticize her poetry. But I stand by my criticisms and I stand by my criticism of the sometimes too burnished and antique diction of her line (including the affective use of nor). She’s capable of writing without those affectations, but the sound seems to please her (and it pleases many, if not most, of her readers). [There are readers, by the way, who agree with me.)
My single most pressing failing is that I haven’t written more poetry these last few years. The fun went out of it and I haven’t had the heart to write more.
yes, i noted the dates and understood them to be older works, but they were the only works i had to work with. Many people (myself included) would shrink at having their earliest work made public. I will allow as to how that takes some guts. i would never display my first efforts at metered verse. I eventually gave up on accentual syllabic as not within my scope.
yes, hearing a writer read his poems and reading poems are entirely different things. a real human with the passion of his work in him will overcome technical flaws. of course, that does not mean the flaws do not remain. After all, if you are like most writers you will hope that your work survives you. Then reading them will be the only option.
Too, I commend the notion that it is the readers and NOT the critics opinion that counts most. But I know that the casual listener/reader does not really appreciate what we do, what it may demand of us, where a critic will, no matter how harsh the criticism may be. That means something. Not enough to start writing FOR critics of course, but something.
Your view of A.E. or any poet for that matter, is yours to have. Criticism, as i suggest, is critical. I question the foundations of the criticisms. That too, is critical. I read your commentary on Frost’s Road Not Taken and found it curious that you questioned his own explication. But, again, you get to do that.
Your view of the word ‘nor’ i admit to finding very curious. I use it all the time in everyday speech. but… we all have our little fetishes (in truth…. i have a great many).
as for your lack or production these last years, most everyone goes through that. I do. With any luck, it will pass. I work more at making pictures these days. It seems to reach more people. It also explains why i find the images on this page so compelling. Your wife’s pictures look the way i would like my poetry to sound.
be of good cheer,
But it’s how we learn. It’s what every artist goes through. Life is too short to be embarrassed by that sort of thing (or so it seems to me). We’ll all be dead, soon enough. I wish I could hear some of those string quartets Brahms fed to the fire.
The first reason I question it is because of his letter to Susan Hayes Ward, written prior to his having met Thomas. In his letter (if you accept it as a precursor to the poem) his tone is much closer to the way most of us (if not all readers) read it. But most importantly, I don’t know how anyone can listen to Frost’s own reading of the poem (embedded in my post) and conclude that his reading is satirical? If he ever intended the poem to be satirical, I think he must have changed his mind. To my ears, at least, he certainly doesn’t read it that way.
It’s part of a larger picture. Stallings’ use of the word (the instance I criticized) is archaic – that’s not me saying so but modern dictionaries. In certain contexts, such as in metrical poetry, poets use these archaisms because, consciously or otherwise, it hearkens back to an era when such words were the hallmark of a heightened (Victorian) style. That language, with its beguiling sonorities, is in their ears. I see and hear it over and over again. None of this is to say that all usages of a given word are archaic (nor is still around) – but context matters. There is frequently no good reason for a poet to substitute nor for or except that it sounds more poetical. I would offer examples but I suspect, given your knowledge, that you are as aware of them as I am. It’s a kind of cheating, in my view.
Thank you. I hope so.
I was the lucky one when we married.
Well…. we are all taught that bilge about being brave and taking the individual course, don’t let anyone tell you what to think and so on…. of course, we get this from folks whose job it is to tell us what to think. And Frost was not much given to the truly trite.
I do not see the poem so much as a satire of his friend as an ironic comment on choices, employing his friend’s dithering method of choosing as a vehicle.
why a yellow wood? picturesque? certainly. but Frost was always very precise. The wood is not flourishing green, not flaming in color, as a New England wood might be at any time of year, but yellow, not a very inviting picture.
even if we take the “yellow” of the wood as ambiguous, he is clear about the relative merits of the two roads.
he compares the second to the first and declares it “just as fair”. He retreats from this is saying the second has the “better claim” and then retreats on THIS saying “the passing there/ Had worn them really about the same”
NEITHER road is any less traveled than the other: “both that morning equally lay”.
so… why does he chose one over the other? Why does he claim it to be “less traveled” when he has already said that they appear to equally used?
perhaps we can take the hint he drops earlier about the one he does NOT take being “bent into the undergrowth”. The road he does not take is the one he can know the least about. This view suggests that his was not a brave choice but quite the reverse. Sounds to me as though he is not so much telling me a tale as he is trying to convince himself of something he would like to believe of himself…. not Frost, of course, but his fictive narrator.
why is he so certain that the one he took “has made all the difference”? Probably, because it did, though not the difference he implies. Why sigh? Who sighs in certainty of his past decisions? More commonly, it is the reverse.
And so on.
This was one of my earlier Frost posts and I didn’t analyze the poem (unlike my later posts). I probably should.
By all appearances, you also don’t seem to take his claim (that the poem is a satirical joke) at face value. Your analysis makes sense – which isn’t to say that a different reading might not also make sense. Any disagreement I would have wouldn’t be to say you’re wrong, only that there might be another way to read the same lines. As I say, I should write more of an analysis. But if I do, I’m going to have to sit with it. I’ll have to decide whether it’s possible to read too much between the lines. Some critics, it seems, don’t believe such a thing is possible. [Edit: Not a reference to you.]
actually, the reading of the yellow wood and the undergrowth are my own, but the rest is pretty standard reading.
I have enjoyed poking around here and reading the various sections. You have put a great deal of work into this site and i would have to think you are doing a considerable service.
I hope you can find it worth your while to continue it. I am sure that I shall drop in again, betimes.
Patrick – The first thing that caught my eye, and made me feel right at home when I landed at “PoemShape” were the woodcuts. These are absolutely delightful! For today, my favorite is St. George & the Dragon. Please pass on to Tracy my admiration for her creations. Best wishes, Marie
Just to let you know I’ve set a link here from my website that advertises our upcoming print show. Tracy’s work looks fantastic here! Encourage her to frame as much as possible!! We’ve got a lot of space to fill & her work is so lovely. I love how meticulous and thoughtful she is when she’s working. I’m also so happy that she’s showed me that it’s possible to print at home without a lot of fancy equipment. Art for the people! Wonderful!
ESSES DESENHOS SAO MARAVILHOSOS
I stumbled on your poetry/block prints and am happy that I did. I too write and attempt to illustrate my poetry with block prints. Thank you for the true inspiration to continue.
Hi Jessica, the block prints are by my wife. :-)
If you write poetry and create block prints for them, I think it should be me who admires you. Please, please continue and let us all know how you progress.
What a lovely collection! I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite because I like them all for different reasons.
Saw you mentioned that you “do what you can” to show your wife’s works on WordPress. Thought I would share that there is a free portfolio widget on LinkedIn that I just started using myself to show mood board from my past client designs. The widget works really well and is pretty self explanatory. Not sure if your wife is on LinkedIn, but I struggled to find a good gallery type format myself, so I thought I would share what I found.
Wow, thanks Cathryn. That’s a great tip. I’ll research it and let my wife know.
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love the ink block with the sleeping dragon
looking like a mountain…it contains within
it a sense of suspense…wondering if the two
hikers know what the mountain is…will it awaken?
enjoyed these prints tracy~
cheers and ooo la la~dulcy
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