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View From a Sand Hill

by james ritchie 

Posted: 24 March 2011
Word Count: 86

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Deep grey curtains close the bay.
And in the wind, still dry, sand stirs,
Curling in the air like small Kansas storms,
While waves, lashed by an unseen whip,
Wheel white with angry spit.

In this cantankerous clutter
I roar at natureís refrain.
While Ann-Sophie's strains stutter
Mozart to my brain.

I taste clouds and ancient rock
in stinging rain and every grain
of sand that grinds my teeth.

Beneath the armies of this storm
a glimpse of understanding's borne

by lighted shadows all too brief.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 12:15 on 25 March 2011  Report this post
Iím still a little unclear as to what your poem is saying, but impressed by your craft. Here you have the disorderly Ďmusicí of the storm alongside the orderly music of Mozart. In keeping with this, the poem itself is nicely musical. You have full rhyme, end and middle (refrain/ brain/ rain/ grain), partial rhyme (teeth/ brief, storm/ shorn), alliteration (whip/ wheel/ white, grain/ grinds etc). All this combines into a pattern - not formal or rigid, but quite asymmetrical - which makes the poem satisfying to read.

A suggestion: would 'cacophonous' be better than 'cantankerous'?

Your line

While Ann-Sophie strains to Mutter

is a little hard to take. The play on Ann-Sophie Mutterís name is maybe not the greatest pun ever invented. However, we could say that in the face of the storm, a Mozart violin concerto seems a mere inarticulate mutter. We could also say that the best efforts of Ann-Sophie are a joke compared with natureís raucous music, whereas the elegant order Mozart imposes on nature seems pretty ineffectual. I havenít decided yet whether this line works or not. Maybe we could discuss it.

We could discuss too what you set out to say in this poem: if itís simply about the powerlessness of man against nature - which is fair enough and always a theme worth returning to - or whether thereís something Iíve missed so far. Itís a well-crafted poem and the impression it gives of the storm is vivid and strong.


PS - I like the phrase in your profile - 'the playground politics of the world`s powerful'. I have to watch the blood pressure too.

james ritchie at 18:33 on 25 March 2011  Report this post
I suppose as far as meaning goes I'm trying to convey that fleeting sense of understanding that reaches us from time to time. We muse on life's meaning and struggle with the everyday concerns of modern life, but occasionally, for me anyway, there are times that I see the absolute beauty of it all and feel that I am a part of it. I'm talking about an epiphany( not religious), it's something raw, elemental an understanding or a oneness that is 'all too brief'.

The poem itself is about a man standing before a storm and allowing himself to be washed clean of the clutter and stress. He tries to relax by listening to Mozart, but this isn't enough, he needs to be buffeted by the wind, soaked by the rain thrashed by the elements and after, he feels much better. I suppose the Anne-Sophie Mutter reference is a little indulgent, but is also factually accurate. Cantankerous refers to the mood of the man and the storm before its violence strips him back I don't know whether you feel that it works in this context?

I really appreciate the time you have taken to critique this poem, it's been very helpful. As for my blood pressure at the moment it's higher than the planes that are dropping bombs in our name. Maybe I need a windy walk an an empty beach!

James Graham at 14:46 on 27 March 2011  Report this post
I was in two minds about Ďcantankerousí v. Ďcacophonousí, but after your explanation I think Ďcantankerousí is better.

As to Ann-Sophie, your play on the name makes that line very different in tone from the rest of the poem. The joke seemed to me, at first, rather out of place, but on reflection Mozart is out of place in this setting so to make a joke in this one line may be appropriate. I was only 50% sure of this line, but now maybe 80%.

Your explanation of what the poem is saying tells me I didnít really need to ask for an explanation. The poem contains it all. I do know what you mean by a (non-religious) epiphany and have sometimes had an experience that seems to fit that description.


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