February 21, 2011

莊周夢蝶, or Zhuangzi Dreamed he was a Butterfly


莊周夢蝶, or Zhuangzi Dreamed he was a Butterfly


Is it a dream

when startled wings scatter livid dust

across an infinite sky?


Or is it when sticky lids unslick themselves,

exposing the midnight impotence

of some starless dark?


I cannot say; I can only hope

that delicate feelers,

softened by some rich fuzz

of dust or delighted fur,

might someday belong to me, again.



- 5 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Timothy Woodham

    My God, the third stanza is beautifully tragic… I may even go so far as to say sublime. Do nothing to it. Please. (Although, I do think you could to without the “can” in “I can only hope”, to me it just flows better)

    the line “when startled wings scatter livid dust” I think needs to be made less thick. The movement into trochees on the word “scatter” makes it sound a bit heavy – and although this sometimes works, the metrics fail to scatter the livid dust along with the words. uPersonally, I would add in an extra unstressed syllable before “scatter”, something like: “when startled wings have scattered livid dust”. On my ear, it has a better flow. Interestingly, the heavy stresses in the first line of the second stanza work perfectly, along with the thick sibilance. Also, take away the “some” out of “some starless dark”. The word “some” is used in the same way on the third-to-last line of the third stanza, and it will probably have more effect if isolated.

    To me, this is a perfect capsulation of what it feels like to long for a dream that has left you. Just the right length, letting the alliteration sweep you away. If you can’t quite tell, I’m jealous.

    N.B. Do ignore what I say if I’m speaking out of my arse. This is probably likely, seeing as it is almost midnight.

    21 Feb 2011, 23:54

  2. Timothy Woodham

    P.S. the “scatters livid dust” thing could be quite cool if you made loads of unstressed syllables.. (i.e. put the line into dactyls or anapaests). This would ‘scatter’ the metre quite seductively in my ears…

    22 Feb 2011, 00:00

  3. Kirsty Judge

    Thank you for the VERY constructive feedback, it has been very, very helpful. I never really liked the second line- I have a very clear image in my head but it has been difficult to find words to fit. I have a confession- I’m no good at dactyling or anapaesting, but perhaps this breaks down the mouthiness?-

    Is it a dream

    when startled wings cast freckles/ livid dust??

    across an infinite sky

    Or is it when sticky lids unslick themselves,

    exposing the midnight impotence

    of a starless dark?

    I cannot say; I only hope

    that delicate feelers,

    softened by some rich fuzz

    of dust or delighted fur,

    might someday belong to me, again.

    22 Feb 2011, 00:17

  4. Timothy Woodham

    ‘cast freckles’ I love. It has an odd half rhyme with ‘startled, as well as being a fucking gorgeous image. If it were me, I’d consider it written (but then again I’m monstrously lazy).

    22 Feb 2011, 01:16

  5. Kirsty Judge

    YAY I’ll totally settle. Only one more to go. Cheers and gratefulness forever, Mr Woodham.

    22 Feb 2011, 01:49


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