Finding Poetry

I have always marveled at
Those who look at the world around them and
Find words to fix in verse therein

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on

The words do not come to me so easily as that
I must instead search for them
And that is all the harder to do when I must
Sit here for hours and days and weeks
One window that looks out onto the world to hand
And that with blinds drawn against the summer heat

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 324: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 9

Read the previous entry in the series here.
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After another reported exchange of messengers, in which arrangements to relocate the young dragons are noted, “Journey” begins with Leftrin watching in some annoyance as passengers and their luggage approach the Tarman. He mulls over the dealings with Brashen Trell that have brought about the disruption to his schedule, and he views his incoming passengers with some disdain.

Something like this attracts Leftrin’s attention, I think…
Image is Dighton’s 1805 caricature of Beau Brummel, sourced here, which I believe is public domain and I know is used for commentary.

Leftrin welcomes his passengers aboard, greeting Alise with some grace and Sedric with some aspersion as the latter dithers and complains. He is somewhat taken by Alise’s appearance, finding her attractive, and sees to their billeting; Alise gets his cabin, while Leftrin and Sedric get bunks with the crew.

The Tarman sets out, and Sedric muses upon the indignities of travel aboard the old liveship as he assesses the crew and his condition. His mind turns to the comforts of his home and his earlier rejection of work aboard ship. His tension with his father about gainful employment are noted, as are his mother’s warnings about Hest’s mercurial disposition. Sedric finds himself contemplating the same as he reflects on the arrangements he was obliged to make for Hest’s travel with other friends. And his thoughts turn to his own ambitions as he tends toward sleep.

Elsewhere, Thymara sits amid her companions in the dragon-relocation effort, conferring with Tats and others. One of those others, Greft, makes himself prominent amid the effort’s outfitting, and Thymara marvels at being among a group marked as she is. The members of the group are described in gloss, and Greft lays out a harsh philosophy that occasions objections from Tats. Greft seizes on the objection to isolate Tats from the others and assume a leadership role, which Thymara notices with some concern. That concern is not eased by the implications with which Greft leaves her staring at the fire near which she sits.

I find myself noting Hobb’s reflections on social classes among the Traders. Tolkienian-tradition fantasy literature, in which Hobb avowedly participates, tend to present solidly stratified societies, with nobles at various ranks and an amorphous peasantry in service thereto. In Tolkien, both Gondor and Rohan follow the model, as do the various Elven realms, and in Hobb’s own Six Duchies, there is a clear hierarchy in place. Even where the model does not wholly obtain–which includes Tolkien’s own corpus, as witness the Shire–there is a clear division based on birth. And so much seems to be the case, at least partially, among the Traders, where Trading families have outright power (although somewhat relatively lessened after a quiet revolution, secession, and reorganization)–and are as concerned with financial standings and “proper” behaviors as Tolkien’s hobbits tend to be with “respectability.”

There’s something of a parallel in my own experience; I’ve known a lot of people who are greatly concerned with keeping up appearances, which appearances emerge from the need to indicate having money. I’m not immune to it, either; I’m a product of my upbringing and the contexts in which it occurred, and I am necessarily influenced by those around me. Recognizing my own complicity, I am perhaps more apt to see it in others’ works, but even if it bespeaks some bias on my part, there is something in the books to uncover.

Send something to help offset my daughter’s school expenses?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 323: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 8

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The succeeding chapter, “Interviews,” follows another message-exchange, opening with Thymara sitting before a number of Rain Wild Traders and musing over her ill fit among them as she faces their pointed questioning. She asks pointed questions about the prospective work in return, receiving evasive answers and recognizing that the work amounts to exile for the dragons and for those who “hire on” to tend them. She agrees to the work anyway, and she is dismissed.

After signing on with the relocation effort, Thymara greets her father, who commends her to the work, and Tats, and others begin to join them. One, Rapskal, introduces himself, and Tats notes that he has also signed onto the effort. Thymara’s father offers her another chance to withdraw, which she refuses, having signed a contract. Thymara’s father affirms his support of her and takes his leave, and Thymara and Tats go to get supplied for their work. The supplies are detailed, and more introductions are made as the group being sent for the relocation effort begins to coalesce.

Elsewhere, Leftrin notes some misgivings about the Tarman, conferring with Swarge about it. The dreams they and the crew have been having are noted.

On the Rain Wild River, Sedric and Alise stand aboard the Paragon, their circumstances rehearsed. Alise notes Hest’s haste in seeing them off and setting about his own affairs, and the ongoing ill-regard for the Paragon receives comment. Alise muses on the dragons’ deaths that enabled the liveships, and Clef delivers the ship’s request for her to come forward and confer. After an exchange between Clef and Sedric, Alise accepts the request and makes her way forward, joining the figurehead in conversation that soon goes strangely and prompts Althea and Brashen to intervene and take her aside. In their cabin, they report to Alise–and Sedric, accompanying her–that the dragons she hopes to see are not, but are the hindered creatures that they are. They note, too, the changes affecting those in prolonged close contact with the dragons, including Selden, Malta, and Reyn, and they speak to the situation at Cassarick. An offer of transport back to Bingtown is made, and Sedric unexpectedly presses for the trip to Cassarick to happen, anyway, despite all the problems in place there.

O! The exploitative labor practices!

I don’t think I need to comment much on the “employment” Thymara and the others take, except perhaps to say that there is a lot of early US history at work in the depiction. Children working in coal mines comes to mind. Sweatshops do, too.

I note with more interest Paragon‘s philosophical notes about his existence as a liveship and the determination to move ahead as he is rather than lament–or attempt to avenge–what he might have been. There is no paying for the predations of the past for him–for his kind. It is something of a Stoic perspective, one not discordant with the fatalism the ship evidences in the Liveship Traders trilogy, but I cannot help but wonder if there is some parallel to be found and explicated…I’d not be surprised to find one, intentional or otherwise (and intent matters far, far less than effect, as is amply and repeatedly attested).

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 322: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 7

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The following chapter, “Promises and Threats,” is preceded by another part of the message-exchange in which a sealed message is accompanied by further developments of romance among the bird-keepers’ families. The chapter, proper, opens with Alise insisting on taking her promised trip to the Rain Wilds, Hest demurring and attempting to defer it. She rehearses the state of their marriage and recalls interactions with Sedric, noting to herself that the latter is an excellent companion for her husband and remarkably helpful in many situations.

Not quite what’s meant, admittedly…
Cs california’s photo from Wikipedia, under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license, used for commentary.

Conversation with Hest grows tense, and he shifts his tone with and approach to Alise. She has misgivings but sets them aside–by asserting that she has made arrangements for the trip. At his questioning, Alise tells Hest that she will find an appropriate traveling companion, that he need not bestir himself, prompting another tense exchange, and the painful topic of their assignations and not having yet produced an heir prompts yet another. Angrily, Hest agrees to her trip, and Alise begins preparations in earnest.

Afterward, Hest confers with Sedric, the latter recalling trips with him. Hest jests with Sedric, complaining of the lack of an heir despite his reluctance to assist in the conception of one. He also offers insults, to which Sedric responds quietly, noting his distaste for their pretense. Hest responds acidly, focused on money, and Sedric suggests that they might use Alise’s trip to harvest dragon parts–blood, scales, and others–to sell to the Duke of Chalced, who, aging, casts about for any remedy. In dudgeon, Hest assigns Sedric to accompany Alise, to his chagrin.

Rereading the chapter, knowing what will come, I have to wonder to what degree Hobb is relying on stereotypes in her depiction of Hest. Of course, it may be that the perspective from which I read is not the one that would normally be expected–I’m often an atypical reader for what I end up reading–and so I am more apt to look for such things than many. It’s certainly true in other areas in my life, that I look for things others usually don’t, and I focus on them, often to my detriment. How looking at the book for possible stereotypy works against me here, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it does.

In any event, it’s of some interest how the conflicts emerging in the novel are shaping up. I shall continue to follow them (again) with happiness!

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 321: Dragon Keeper, Chapter 6

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series

The next chapter, “Thymara’s Decision,” follows more of the message-exchange between Bingtown and Trehaug, in which plans for Selden are discussed and in which one bird-keeper writes in support of the other’s nephew’s romantic pursuits. The chapter opens with Thymara returning home to news that “an offer” has been made for her, surprising her for reasons that are noted. Thymara’s mother notes that the offer is not one of marriage, which would be surprising, but of employment by the local government.

The decider in question.
ThereseoftheNorth’s Thymara2 on DeviantArt, used for commentary.

Thymara considers the implications of the offer and the context in which it is offered as her mother relates more details about it. Her father speaks against the offer, noting that Thymara already has a trade and that her parents will need her help as they get older. Upset is occasioned thereby, and Thymara finds herself curious about the offer and more detail not forthcoming.

Ill contented, Thymara reflects on her limited experience of dragons and the efforts of the Traders to see to the creatures that had hatched at Cassarick. She also notes the mating of Tintaglia and Icefyre, assisted by “Some prince of the far Six Duchies” and the concomitant imminent return of dragons in abundance. The economic implications of the continued presence of dragons at Cassarick is also noted, and Thymara heads out to be alone for a time.

Thymara is soon joined by Tats, one of the Tattooed, who is described along with his personal situation and that of his people. The two confer, Thymara openly disclosing the practice among the Rain Wild Traders of abandoning children born with too much physical deviation to the elements to die by exposure or being eaten by one predator or another. Thymara also notes her mother’s reticence, and Tats remarks that he knows about the offer of work, having heard the same thing her mother had. The offer–from the local Traders’ Council–is for workers to help tend to the dragons at Cassarick and facilitate their relocation, by hunting and by other means. And it is directed at those deemed expendable.

Thymara is summoned home by her mother, answering the summons reluctantly, her housing situation described as she goes. She notes her family’s situation to Tats, reflecting on her relative penury and the loss of funds and access. Moving faster at her mother’s insistence, Thymara surprises Tats with her agility, and the two agree to meet the next day.

When she reaches her mother, Thymara is bawled out for her delay in answering and for speaking at length with Tats in public. She goes back out after the dressing-down, though, and considers falling through the trees, recalling an early incident in which she had fallen from the trees, nearly but not quite to her death. Her father’s approach breaks her reverie, and he explicates the job offer to her again, as well as the politics surrounding it. Thymara surprises him by avowing her desire to join the work, and, if reluctantly, her father accedes.

It’s a long chapter, the present one, and another of a number of chapters in the Elderlings novels that I find it difficult not to read against events current to the reading rather than to the composition. (I am aware of the difference, yes, thank you. I suppose I might see about presenting some updated version of my old lecture notes on the topic…) The job being presented, and which Thymara accepts, is what would be considered a “bad” one, and one that needs doing as much to sate the greed of the already-wealthy as to ensure domestic stability–but even that is problematic, for reasons that should be clear not only from the broader context already established for the Traders’ society, but also from the content of the current chapter. Although, as I think on it, the reproductive rights issue that is hinted at in the chapter is…fraught within the text and its contexts, not only as I read the chapter again, but also as the text presumably was drafted…

There’s a lot to think on, and that’s a good thing. Right?

I’d be happy to put my talents to work for you; let me know what all you need written, and we’ll talk!