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By The Book

by Zettel 

Posted: 27 December 2015
Word Count: 87

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By the Book
The pages turn
more quickly now
words jumble
meaning tumbles
past sense
lifelight gutters as
memory mutters
with reluctant regret
The Parts are all cast
Players' lines all known
my future defined
by a certain past
Nothing new will
surprise tomorrow as
my story unwinds
and first gives way to last
Yet passion rebels
new life delights
with the thrill of now
an eternal present
dispels the never of forever
setting spirit free
Hamlet has his answer
to be to be to be

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 20:23 on 29 December 2015  Report this post
Sorry, Zettel, it's a busy time. I'll post a comment as soon as I can.


Zettel at 12:53 on 30 December 2015  Report this post
No probs James. Happy New Year.



James Graham at 20:10 on 01 January 2016  Report this post
I think I detect a difference between your recent work and that of a few years ago. There’s more depth – something very hard to define, except to say one could read an earlier poem and think, ‘That’s a good stanza, simply expressed, its meaning is clear’; but now I find myself thinking, ‘That’s a good stanza, and there’s more to it than meets the eye’. I noticed this in your Remembrance Day poem, and now this one too.
This poem in particular calls up thoughts I’ve had myself. Of course it’s about the aging process: senior reflections. A sense that we have all been assigned parts, that we have been ‘cast’ in roles, that each one ‘struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more’ is something I’ve certainly been conscious of. The ‘future [has been]
defined by a certain past’: the circumstances and decisions of youth have determined a ‘plot’ which now follows the script right up to the curtain line.
That’s the negative side. But yes, ‘passion rebels’. I recognise that too, and what follows: instead of living in the past, allowing memory to mutter its regrets, we can seize the day. We can live in the present, make each day as rewarding as possible (knowing our limits!), and whenever we manage to do that there’s a sense of liberation. Regrets from the past keep butting in, but we learn to dismiss them more easily. Two of the best lines are
an eternal present
dispels the never of forever
which I take to mean that dwelling on the concept of ‘forever’ (life after death) can be as negative as regretting the past; at best we can’t know what lies beyond, and some of us (like myself) are pretty sure there’s nothing. Living in the present, if we can manage to do it, does counteract depressing thoughts about the non-future. So we try to stow past and future away in an attic somewhere under the skull, and enjoy the ‘eternal present’. Of course we know it’s a paradox: the present is not eternal, but astonishingly, often it seems to be.
Footnote: I like the way the idea of players acting their parts is picked up at the end in the reference to Hamlet. Amidst the degenerate royal court of Denmark, shot through with conspiracy and deceit, this highly intelligent and civilised young man decides to be.
I’ll look over the poem again and see if I have any suggestions for revision.

Zettel at 23:58 on 02 January 2016  Report this post
Thanks James for your commitment of time and thought. It is always helpful and instructive to get your perspective which is always, and especially here, absolutely in touch with the intended tone and spirit of the poem.

I wish you the vry best for the New Year.


Zettel at 01:35 on 05 January 2016  Report this post
James - I agree entriely and I like your amendment for exactly the reasons you say.

Thanks for the suggestion now implemetned. An improvement.


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