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Cliche exercise: Living proof

by Paul Isthmus 

Posted: 23 March 2006
Word Count: 63
Summary: Not sure if living proof is a cliche, but it's certainly a well worn phrase.

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The thousand changes in you
since we were last together,
from the freckle on your shoulder
to the way your body turns
at my calling of your name,
are changes that are secret.
I wonder whether you’re still
living proof I cannot hold to
though I have lived in wonder
and wandered by the time-worn river
by St Paul’s cathedral
without thinking anything.

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Comments by other Members

seanfarragher at 14:05 on 23 March 2006  Report this post
Charming, concise poem that flows beautifully from one image to another. I love St. Pauls. Just went there in maps and aerial photograph. Memories of the Thames, Ludgate and walking London Streets -- no bloody Yank tourist. LOL. I was in Dublin at School. So I would come to London via Liverpool ferry. When a poem takes a reader traveling, he/she is moved. Grand work. Words are only cliches when they do not intergrate into the poem, or they take the place of images. You do well here.

Nell at 17:17 on 25 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Paul,

Almost missed this - not sure how. Love the together/shoulder/whether/hold to/wonder/river rhymes, the sense of a glimpse into lives and thoughts.

I did wonder at the way you'd used the cliche exercise-wise - there's no subversion as far as I can see - thought that if you split it: ...still living/proof I cannot... (no punctuation between) that might make provide a small surprise/ambiguity at the poems's centre. See what you think though, exercises are only kick-starts.

Two instances of 'wonder' - do you need both?

As Sean says though, quite charming.



'make' or 'provide', not both!

Paul Isthmus at 00:22 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
Cheers sean and nell,

nell, you're quite right, this isn't a response to the cliche exercise, but I thought it was. Responded to it from memory, thought it was just 'use a cliche in a poem without it being a cliche' or doing something with it that was different or unusual somehow. But it was more about subversion.. ahh. And I'm not sure I even did my version of the exercise. I think this is done, it's just a little thing - the repetition of wonder works I think, as it modulates the change in the poem along with the rhymes.

St Pauls are running an interesting series of talks at the moment - trying to use church spaces as cultural and community centres again. Which I think is a great idea. Saw a talk on climate change with David Attenborought a few weeks back in St Paul's. He's a real presence - the first knight I have met who deserves the title. Voices echo like sermons there.

paul53 [for I am he] at 06:42 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
An excellent vignette, masterful in its minimalism.

Xenny at 19:19 on 27 March 2006  Report this post
I think the 'freckle on your shoulder' is quite lovely. It made me smile to read it. I really like the last line as well. It's a good poem but those are my particular favourite bits.

Mac AM at 06:37 on 29 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Paul,

I like this very much and for all the reasons stated by others. There is such gentleness in the freckle – really lovely. I wonder if you could be a little more specific – just like the freckle – with ‘your body turns’ so that you pick out some unique detail of mannerism? It would be lovely to get a clearer image here.

I think there is a little difficulty in the phrasing of:

I wonder whether you’re still
living proof I cannot hold to

perhaps it could be tidied up? Though it is a lovely piece Paul and I’m pleased I have stopped by to read it – albeit it a little late.


DJC at 05:24 on 15 April 2006  Report this post
Very nice, Paul - you've made something quite special out of a simple phrase. I love the detail at the end of St Pauls - I really like these specific mentions in poetry.


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