August 31st, 2006

ozarque figure

Linguistics; stylistics; sf poetry being made, round four; revisions, part one...

Comments about the Round Four poem from judith_s:

1."1st stanza, 2nd line: [instead of "they had a Presidential election/and nobody came"] 'there was a Presidential election'? The 'they' seems distracting to me."

**As memegarden pointed out, there's a famous line -- "What if they had a war and nobody came?" -- and this chunk of the poem is intended to echo that line. [It has always been the case that if everyone called up for war by the U.S. government just didn't show up, the war couldn't happen, because there's not enough room in the justice system or in the prisons to prosecute and punish that many people -- but it would have to be everybody without exception. Thus, it is science fiction -- but one can always hope.] Keeping the echo of that line matters to me, which means that I won't be making this particular change. This may be a generational wrinkle, by the way, with that echo not being heard by younger readers at all; I don't know.

2. "4th stanza, 3rd line: 'The then-leader of the devastated world demanded legislation.' Then-leader somehow sounds wrong, and why is the world 'devastated'? It also sounds like it might refer to someone above the U.S. president, who I assume you were suggesting with this line."

**I agree that this line badly needs revision; too many THs in too close succession. The problem is the sound, I believe, not the semantics. I was trying to bring to mind the expression "the leader of the free world," often used as a label for the U.S. president, substituting "devastated" for "free," and I did it badly; I'll have to fix that. As for "devastated" -- it's there because I do think the world, right now, is devastated. Such a mess I've never seen, or even imagined. I wouldn't have thought it was possible.

3. 4th stanza, 7th line: "The Supreme Court was hastily convened to consider the question..." "Just FYI, the Supreme Court session starts in October, so by November they are certainly convened and meeting every day. Another legal aside, the Supreme Court only has original jurisdiction (i.e. not based on an appeal) in cases of conflict between states. But I don't think that's relevant to the poem. Potentially reframe as 'They hastily brought a case before the Supreme Court to consider the question'?"

**How about "The Supreme Court Justices hastily convened to consider the question..."?

4. 6th stanza, first line: "Night came, and it was still everybody." "Maybe 'Night came, and still no one had voted'? I think the two repetitions of everybody is too much."

**I would respectfully disagree; I think it needs to stay "Night came, and it was still everybody." As an explicit contradiction to the twice-predicted "It won't be everybody" from the pundits.

5. 7th (last) stanza, 2nd line: "sitting on a panel of pundits": I think the semicolon should be a comma. I also don't like "panel of pundits," but I like the "panel of" construction. I'm not sure what I'd suggest here.

**It's not a semicolon, as it happens -- it's a colon; not easy to see, I know. If it were a semicolon I would agree that it had to be either a comma or a colon, since English doesn't mark quotations with a preceding semicolon. And I halfway agree about "panel of pundits." Like "gaggle of geese," it slips very close to being comical, and I'm not sure that's the right tone. On the other hand, I do find most panels of pundits comical. I thought of "panel of experts," but that doesn't work. I suspect that the real source of the problem is the word "sitting," because it brings up an immediate image of a panel of pundits with another pundit literally sitting on top of them, and that goes beyond comic into grotesque. Maybe "Well," said a pundit, part of a panel of pundits..." or "Well," said a pundit, speaking from a panel of pundits..."?

Comment from amjbarnhart:

"The one line that seemed awkward *to me* is the last line of the fourth stanza. How about 'that never had been before' to echo the line two lines previous?"

**Good suggestion, I think. I'd add only a comma, for the sake of the pause, and do a little additional punctuation-juggling. We could then have this revision:

"The Supreme Court Justices hastily convened to consider the question
of whether it was illegal to refuse to vote.
It never had been before --
but then a lot of things were now legal and illegal
that never had been, before."

The first draft of this poem is at .