Apr '15 9

Temptation Moonset. Photo by Robert Rath from Robert's website.

Today's poem is the result of a (few days old) prompt from the NaPoWriMo site here. The suggestion was to find and rework a poem by Emily Dickinson. I chose 'The Moon is distant from the Sea - 387'. When I started playing around with the poem, I wondered why she had altered the relationship between the moon and the sea in the final stanza so that the feminine character sounded fragile and dependent – the opposite of how the poem begins. That had to change! (I've posted the original version at the end of this post, after my one.)

Emily dashed: the moon is (not so) distant from the sea

The moon is distant from the sea,
and yet, her amber hand
commands him ebb and flow just so;
he seems to understand.

Striking balance, finely tuned:
natural laws at work;
then why does Emily's last verse
reverse the moon-sea roles?

Oh, Signor, mine's the amber hand
and thine the distant sea.
Just so we're clear, I've turned it round:
my eye's imposed on thee!

Here's the original poem by Emily Dickinson.

The Moon is distant from the Sea – (387)

The Moon is distant from the Sea –
And yet, with Amber Hands –
She leads Him – docile as a Boy –
Along appointed Sands –

He never misses a Degree –
Obedient to Her eye –
He comes just so far – toward the Town –
Just so far – goes away –

Oh, Signor, Thine, the Amber Hand –
And mine – the distant Sea –
Obedient to the least command
Thine eye impose on me –

Posted by Jennifer Liston

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  1. Mike says:

    *I love the idea of taking a famous poet's poem and saying "no, you got it wrong, this is the right way". Great title too and skilfully reconstructed. I've been wondering what poets mean when they say they are 'writing through' a poem - maybe the subject of a future workshop.

  2. Jen says:

    *Thanks Mike. The whole 'writing through' process is interesting; as you know, Jackson Mac Low & John Cage were big proponents of that.

  3. Robert says:

    *I don't get her last paragraph either. Glad you fixed it!

  4. Jen says:

    *Glad you approve, Robert! xo

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