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Minding the Gap

by Hilary Custance 

Posted: 07 July 2003
Word Count: 99
Summary: Normally I'd have sat on this for another couple of years, it is more thought than poetry, but I don't want to lose my place in the group so here we go.

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Minding the Gap

I run up and down stairs every morning now,
ten times.

This is not, as you frequently joke, because I have forgotton something.
Though now I think of it,
you are right,
I have forgotten
to stay young.

I am making a late entry in the backwards time race.

Please live with my delusion
I accept
that there can be no surface change
My body is just
trying to close the gap
I am running to meet the ten year old inside me.

I mind the gap.

I monitor the discrepancy
between outside
and in.

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Comments by other Members

James Graham at 14:46 on 08 July 2003  Report this post
Hi Hilary - I'll be away for a few days, but will get back to you next week.


Lisa at 22:58 on 11 July 2003  Report this post

Very interesting.

Like the line "mind the gap" and the placing of it.

I like the voice which feels frank but not too morbid. I do think there is the need for puntuation in a few places and perhaps consider a line break between "forgotten" and "to stay young" - just ideas.

Really liked this.


Hilary Custance at 09:37 on 14 July 2003  Report this post
Like the suggestions, thanks Lisa. I shouldn't really have posted this, as it hasn't got beyond the idea stage. As for syntax and poetic rhythm, I fear it is a long way from fevvers ideals. Cheers, Hilary

Hilary Custance at 09:38 on 14 July 2003  Report this post
I have split that line, Hilary

James Graham at 21:33 on 15 July 2003  Report this post
Hello again, Hilary. Your summary is too self-effacing. It reminds me of past students (mostly female, I have to say) who would hand in an essay, saying 'It's not really very good...' Sometimes they were right, but not always. This is not exactly 'more thought than poetry', it's a thought rather neatly expressed in verse. The lines and divisions of the poem, features peculiar to poetry, help the thought to be expressed more strikingly. The stand-alone lines, for instance, have more impact because of their position. Each crystallises a thought after the qualified thoughts of the longer sections. For instance, the second section is saying 'This isn't what you jokingly say it is, though on second thoughts...' - a touch unsure, negative, defensive - then the stand-alone line about the 'backwards time race' says 'Yes, that's it, that's what I mean, that defines it'. 'I mind the gap' is even better - an affirmation, a justification, after the longer, again more defensive, section that precedes it. And it gains strength from the double meaning of 'mind' - in a sense similar to 'monitor' and in the sense of 'care about/am troubled by'. So these lines 'stand out' typographically as well as in their content. There's a correspondence between form and content.

The whole thing has a good rhythm. I don't mean that in the sense of iambic or whatever, I mean a rhythm close to speech-rhythm, but controlled - certainly in the swing between the broken rhythm of uncertainty and the more distinct rhythm of the stand-alone lines and the last lines. (I mind the gap could be read with two jabs of the index finger.) That's not all I mean by rhythm, though. It's hard to pin down, but reading your poem aloud leaves a sense that there's a rhythm working between long and short sentences, long and short lines, that makes the whole thing rather satisfying. This poem is maybe 'lighter', more on the surface, than previous poems of yours - but it still demonstrates that you know how to write free verse.


Hilary Custance at 10:20 on 16 July 2003  Report this post
James, many thanks for your very thoughtful comments. They are helping me to see the structure, which comes without planning, and so, I tend to assume, must be absent. This was an early draft - my later drafts (in which I was trying to impose more structure and concentrate the language, make it less of a 'passing thoughts' poem) were very unsatisfactory.

I am particularly glad that all the senses of minding seem to have come through.

I am also glad that I decided to stay on in the poetry group. Cheers, Hilary

James Graham at 20:13 on 17 July 2003  Report this post
In future, if you're aware of the structure in your first (or an early) draft, i.e. the structure that's already there, you will be able to revise a poem without sacrificing its freshness. What you have been doing is maybe trying to impose something that you thought wasn't even there - but it was, and you weren't aware of it. (If you see what I mean.)

Glad you're staying with the group.


olebut at 22:38 on 17 July 2003  Report this post

I think this is both profound and humorus and I loved it perhaps I should print it off and post it large at the top of my stairs and on the bathroom mirror although I am not sure that the gap hasn't become a chasim.

take care


Adam at 23:11 on 24 August 2003  Report this post

I understand your uncertainty about this one, as it is heavily prosaic (not in any derisive way). However, the concept behind a poem is as important (if not more so) than the actual lyricism. In fact, this is a breath of fresh air as it is not overly-poetic: it is not laden down with imagery and poetic cliches, but actually has a very satisfying free-verse free-association fluidity. Indeed, it is incredibly endearing (especially the line 'meeting the ten year old inside me'). I really liked it: it's simple, never didactic, but conveys its message eloquently...

The only thing I would suggest, although it's by no means essential, would be to split the third line so that 'because I have forgotten something' has a line of its own...

Anyway, well done! Thank you,

Adam x

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