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Sky Line -- Prescott Hoard

(Poem #206) Sky Line
 A workman climbed a lofty tower,
       None beside him being able;
 Gripped and struggled half an hour
       Binding up a broken cable;
 Paused to glimpse the toy-house town,
       Spat, swung outward, and came down.
-- Prescott Hoard
Note: Taken from 'The Best Poems of 1923' (Leonard A.G. Strong ed.)

One of my favourite poetic forms is the vignette, a short poem that seeks to
capture a single scene or image. These little vignettes are often
strongly evocative of a particular art-form, such as watercolour, etching
etc. Today's is definitely a photograph - straightforward description
without embellishment, abstraction or other stylistic effects.

In fact, one may wonder, with such an absence of poetic devices, exactly
what makes this such a good poem. The most immediately striking feature is
it's vividity - I can *see* the man, leaning away from the tower, outlined
against the sky. And this Hoard has achieved not through metaphor or
allusion, but by pinpointing precisly the salient features of the scene. So
sharply do the workman, the tower and the 'toy-house town' define the scene
that the reader's mind automatically fills in the background details,
producing the photographic effect.

Compare this poem to Levertov's 'To the Reader' (Minstrels Poem #201).
Levertov might have eschewed metaphor and allusion, but Hoard takes the
process a step further - he has avoided playing with foregrounding, focus
and perspective for artistic effect. His focus is utterly 'natural';
describing the scene in much the was a straightforward prose piece would,
but making every word and image count.


  I couldn't find one; nor could I find any poem other than 'Sky Line'.
  Still, all in all it's a pretty good claim to fame.


  Levertov's poem is at poem #201

  The point about the 'natural focus' might become a little clearer if you
  compare it to the following sample of poems

  poem #23 is a typically beautiful haiku

  'Song' poem #61 is a very different kind of picture-poem

  'Pippa Passes' poem #133 has the details creating the background,
  rather than the foreground

  'A route of Evanescence' poem #174 is far more 'impressionistic'

  And finally, 'Crucible' poem #205 is perhaps the opposite of today's
  poem - the whole scene is deliberately set up and focused on for artistic


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