Pages

Saturday, September 24, 2016

September 21


September Is by Mary Jo Bang*
Ever After by Joyce Sutphen
Metaphors Of A Magnifico - by Wallace Stevens
At the Moment by Joyce Sutphen
Pluto by Maggie Dietz,
Magdalene Afterwards, Marie Howe

compare her work with that of her mentor, Stanley Kunitz. I attached this passage of the "testing tree" to the packet.
you might enjoy reading how she came about writing them: at the top is “more” which if you click on it will take you to “about this poem” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/magdalenet

You might wish to compare her work with that of her mentor, Stanley Kunitz –
below the final stanza of his poem, The Testing Tree
In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
Where is my testing-tree?
Give me back my stones!

**
Just looking at the titles, where does your mind go? How would you write a poem to follow the words?
I love that a poem could be fiction as well as truth, but what nabs us is the telling.


Kathy's comments:
---Mary Jo Bang poem, September Is --- her recursive use of memory, enigma, in trying to understand the unreality of a terrible loss. We thought part of its power was that it could express our collective cultural loss after 9-11 and also express the very personal loss of the author's young adult son to an overdose , or anyone's deep personal loss.
---We were glad you gave us the Pluto poem (humor) and the 2 Joyce Sutphen poems ( accessible and meaningful).
Wallace Stevens poem, Metaphors of a Magnifico left us scratching our heads but most agreed the tone was ominous although couldn't say specifically why.
​---​Marie Howe's Magdalene ​Afterwards ---how does Magdelene look throughout history, across cultures, for women today? ​What does it mean? What does one do, after a tragic death to get to transcendence?
---Some of us were familiar with Kunitz's Testing Tree and thought it deserved looking at the whole poem. Jan B. mentioned this link which I said I would pass along for you to send to the group. Kunitz's Testing Tree (full poem), his preface on poetry (if you want to skip the blogger comments at the beginning, scroll down to the words "...Before the poem itself - a prose bit from Stanley, which I hope is also evocative and useful ​..."​ ​)​



September 14-- Open (some of these for Rundel for 9/29)

Strike-Slip by Arthur Sze*
The Sense Of The Sleight-Of-Hand Man - Poem by Wallace Stevens
Preamble to the Instructions on How to Wind a Watch by Julio Cortázar*
A Disillusionment Of Ten O'Clock - by Wallace Stevens
The Street Octavio Paz
Gettysburg by Robert Schultz
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Night by Robert Schultz*
Green Man by Robert Schultz*

The Arthur Sze, selected because he is reading at MCC on September 29.
The three Robert Schultz because of the current exhibit at the MAG, "War Stories"
If you have not been to the MAG to see the exhibit “War Stories”, I highly recommend it. It is two parts: 45 textile works “Afghan War Rugs” and “War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Renewal by Binh Danh and Robert Schultz. The last three poems are by Robert Schultz, copied from the exhibit.

I will look forward to hearing how you respond to the poems… it is a rich tapestry, with smooth upsides and knotty undersides. If you do not get to all the poems, slate them for the following week. If someone could take notes and let me know the main points of discussion I’d appreciate it.

September 14-- Open (some of these for Rundel for Septembe

Strike-Slip by Arthur Sze
The Sense Of The Sleight-Of-Hand Man - Poem by Wallace Stevens
Preamble to the Instructions on How to Wind a Watch by Julio Cortázar
A Disillusionment Of Ten O'Clock - by Wallace Stevens
The Street Octavio Paz
Gettysburg by Robert Schultz
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Night by Robert Schultz
Green Man by Robert Schultz

The Arthur Sze, selected because he is reading at MCC on September 29.
The three Robert Schultz because of the current exhibit at the MAG, "War Stories"
If you have not been to the MAG to see the exhibit “War Stories”, I highly recommend it. It is two parts: 45 textile works “Afghan War Rugs” and “War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Renewal by Binh Danh and Robert Schultz. The last three poems are by Robert Schultz, copied from the exhibit.

I will look forward to hearing how you respond to the poems… it is a rich tapestry, with smooth upsides and knotty undersides. If you do not get to all the poems, slate them for the following week. If someone could take notes and let me know the main points of discussion I’d appreciate it.

poems for September 7



September 1913 by William Butler Yeats
Crows by Marilyn Nelson
Last August Hours Before the Year 2000 by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Secret in the Mirror by Alberto Ríos
I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph by Juan Felipe Herrera
VII by Mark Strand



The poems this week did not peel their layers easily, but rather required a prerequisite tolerance for opacity. What makes a poem accessible? What do we each want to see in a poem – and does every poem have to have it?
Starting with the Yeats, this is perhaps not one of his lyric masterpieces, with the repeating lament, in the “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” which changes to a mournful resignation:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.

Considerations on the end of one way of life continue with Marilyn Nelson’s poem which starts out reminding us to notice each “is” (as opposed to emptiness...) the crow’s scavanging has a neologism, “food’s here”- where the “is” is contracted to food... man-made contrasts with the with the larger idea of the earth’s awareness – which perhaps is like Rios’ poem about the mirror. Naomi’s poem considers the roots of old as a new millenium arrives. Rios notices more than his own reflection, but a sense of decoding a secret in “daily detritus” and smears in the mirror. Who is this small self, living in this man-made world where the perceptions of codes, like the self, are like codes to be understood.

Perhaps we are used to such poems with good sounds, a little enigma, but not too much.
The Herrera took more work, perhaps like many Latin American poems laced with surrealism, a sense of a narrative, then leaving a narrative about an illegal immigrant.
Back to identity... and being in a place by accident... like you – how are any of us “native” to land? Eyes. Colors. Listen closely. How does he mean “amber” as in thighs and serum... which comes after the blinding “white gray rubble “
how many ways can you understand, “wait, I just thought—what if this is not visible”

We ended with the Mark Strand... A good poem cannot be paraphrased... but he does earn the final lines:
“To feel yourself wake into change, as if your change
Were immense and figured into the heavens’ longing.”

.

Report of discussion of poems Sept. 14 + 21

Sep 14.....................13 stalwarts present for a super lively session. The gift of the watch was easily the favorite , eliciting lots of comment. Marcie and Judith led the charge for the ladies with great stuff, anecdotes and memories. I think it was Carmen who, after much table talk on one of the poems, asked Martin for his thoughts on the piece. Well ! He had us in stitches and got laughing along with us. Now too long ago to recall the specifics, but the usual breaking into possibilities and hidden meanings ( whether regarding the poet or the personal burrower).
Sep 21.....................About 17 gang members there for another lively session of interpretation, appreciation and general calling for the appearance of the Muse. I know I felt the presence of Madame Blavatsky, particularly when in the spell of a Judith rendition. Bernie was erudite, Don was great and the ladies had some wonderful translations, maybe transmigrations.......There were some favorites....again, so much was wondered upon, and I am away from my notes at the moment. I believe we completed all the poems and group discussions after hours went on 'til nearly 2 PM. David was here, back from NYC for a few days and added more good stuff . You will appreciate that Kathy told me to be quiet as I was interrupting. 5 minutes in the Hall was punishment . No one came to tell me when 5 minutes was gone. Another successful therapy session was, as they say, had by all.....


Friday, September 9, 2016

Poems for August 31

Alexander James
UNDERNEATH A CAR ON THE HIGHROAD BETWEEN ABERGAVENNY AND BLAENARVON

The August Preoccupations by Catherine Barnett
August Morning, Upper Broadway by Alicia Ostriker, 1937
The Order In Which Things Are Broken by Desirée Alvarez
A Virginian Anniversary by Lianne Kamp
Impossible Friendships by Adam Zagajewski; translated by Clare Cavanagh
Cake by Noah Eli Gordon
Sea Lily by H. D.

Poems sent with this email:
Lucille Clifton: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM7q_DUk5wU

January Gill O’Neil https://soundcloud.com/poets-org/january-gill-oneil-on-being-told-i-look-like-flotus-new-years-eve-party-2014
Don recommended this — filled with poetic references: ... A tale of love and darkness by Amos Oz.
poetic descriptions...


Judith thought of Carl Sandburg -- 4 preludes on playthings of the wind
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luYcfH_za-U

and also Stephen Vincent Benet “By the Waters of Babylon.”
what eats us up...


**
The first two poems, one an ekphrastic response to a colorful painting, the other, a stream-of-consciousness survival kit of sorts, share responses that avoid anger. What is the usual first response to a broken axle?
Not to write a poem that has lines with a break in the middle... a confusion of green and a rusty part.
The second is an elegy for someone who is no longer, without mentioning the name, rather like following
a Jackson Pollack painting with a strange list of unconnected "obsessions" where "waiting" appears twice, as
does "Lincoln" on the $5 bill. Indeed, we did check our wallets to find the $5 bills to look for the stars...
they are there.

But that aside, the first poem was selected in Rattle's ekphrastic challenge because it went beyond simple
description and association to a narrative. An abstract blotch of white becomes a cairn, and something
about the wide brushstrokes patching the canvas allowed the poet to create the scene of a car breakdown in Wales.

The list of "obsessions" are attached to August -- the last month of summer -- we know nothing about the "you"
who is on this list, along with despots, telescopes, beauty, anonymity, comedy-- but those words point to a flavor of the lover or partner or maybe even father... Why Lincoln-- is it the only bill that has stars on it?
Now, the reader too enters into an obsessive inspection...

what makes a poem hang together...?

In the selection, we start with a breakdown, move into summer, where perhaps “august” could mean not just end of summer, but and the third poem announces a holiday – not a “vacation” but the old-fashioned idea
of a Holy-Day which casts an antique tone, for the metals. Many were reminded of Shelley’s sonnet, Ozymandias. Nothing remains.. not even
mention of anything but loud sun and crowds.

How different from the Ostriker poem which reminded many of us of Gregory Orr’s “Concerning the body of the beloved” where he discovers the Beloved in everything, everywhere, and reconnects us—in the tradition of Rumi and Hafiz—to our emotional lives The formula, “.As...X is a window” exhorts us to imagine. It allows the comparison of “the body of the beloved” to the vastness of universe ;or comparesr a listless man selling as window, his fruits creating a window not unlike that of a cathedral. Finally, the whole scene is a window... the ordinariness of a summer day surpassed, if the reader can imagine how a paradise might be... and suddenly, we are thrown back in time.

The next poem provides more reference to the old breaking in the next poem, sounding a bit like
a grave robbery, finding what shards are left, the intimacy of two people
recovering what thrown away...

The elegy of a young black man’s life, how his life was “packaged”
is a strong poem reminding me of the book, “The Enchanted” by Rene Denfeld. Was Mitchell mad before he was put into prison? And is prison the right response for a little shoplifting?

“Impossible friendships” makes me think of relationships – and how a little tongue in cheek humor allows for anything from teacups, to the more grandiose with “this world” – “ever more perfect” contradicted by the parentheses (if not for the salty smell of blood). How at the root of impossible friendships one arrives, not to stay at a ball or a beheading
the stanza before, but the impossibility of friendship with yourself.

The next poem was fun and worth reporting in its entirety:

Cake by Noah Eli Gordon

Look, you
want it
you devour it
and then, then
good as it was
you realize
it wasn’t
what you
exactly
wanted
what you
wanted
exactly was
wanting

awareness... beware of what you wish for...

We ended with Sea Lily, understanding more about this crinoid,
a graceful and unusual animal which has been around for 450 million years... The name comes from the Greek word krinon, "a lily", and eidos, "form".



Friday, August 26, 2016

August 24



A Quiet Poem by Frank O'Hara
Bridge 
by Jim Harrison
won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton
Checks and Balances at the Grocery Store by Lianne Kamp
Good Hair by Sherman Alexie

On Being Told I Look Like
FLOTUS, New Year’s Eve
Party 2014 by January Gill O’Neil


We discussed the impact of knowing something about the time period and biography of the poet – how often it can enhance our understanding. In "A Quiet Poem" – eye and ear work to establish quiet... the coin of sound of a motor dropping to the sea vs. the coin of “loud” sun nicks the air... how when we close our eyes, we invite a quiet stillness... more in tune with our hearts. "Now" enjambed to the final stanza, where two things happen: The heart breathes to music, and the two singular coins lie together in the wet yellow sand.

A bridge is a great image for exploring connections. Perhaps we start out on one shore, and start building... thinking we will arrive “somewhere”... The living of life happens on the bridge – not the houses we would build upon it. We had fun with a few jokes, like the one of the Zen coroner. What was the cause of death? Birth, life. Just like the quiet poem, music enters, along with Machado.
What beauty in this the darkest music
 over which you can hear the lightest music of human

behavior, the tender connection between men and galaxies.

Oh to be able to say, “This is my job, to study the universe

from my bridge.”
Just wag your feet as you sit on the bridge...

We listened to Lucille recite “won’t you celebrate with me” with her vibrant and strong voice. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XM7q_DUk5wU
Another bridge to sit on... between starshine and clay

It is not a requirement to celebrate with her – but an invitation, as she models how she came to celebrate her struggle to be herself. Celebrating struggle might seem an unusual
and surprising response especially as the poem ends on "everyday, something is trying to kill her—"
line break -- and the aha moment, "but fails". Comments: it is better to celebrate than to be celebrated...
Be yourself – everyone else is taken. Judith brought up Alicia Alonzo... now in 90’s danced with grandson... she was blind by 19 years.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicia_Alonso

The next poem describes a scene with Mark the bagger, a cashier, told from the point of view of the customer. Delightful, because of the language, how an every day comment is juxtaposed with a product sold at the grocery store. We came up with one:
“Oh that’s a wonderful new hairdo... steel wool...”
Is Mark an old man? a handicapped youth? No matter, he repeats the same stories and platitudes but the twist in the story is how his predictable moments remind us all, “what keeps/us all rooted together.”

Sherman Alexie braids questions “Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?”
with an overpowering sense of repetition of “braids” each question laden with increasingly insulting adjectives. One person commented that the questions act like a tortured litany of condemnations.
If vanity equals vice, then does vice equal braids?
The neologisms, “cut-hair-mourned” and “ceremony-dumb” as in mute, and no longer connected to rituals make the cut of the questions even sharper.
Has your tribe and clan cut-hair-mourned since their creation?
Did you, ceremony-dumb, improvise with your braids?
What is “good” hair – for whom? How do we fit in?

We ended with “January-Gill O’Neil’s 14 line poem. After hearing her recite the poem,
the tone reflects a tiredness of not being accepted for who she is. More formal than Lucille’s poem, without the rage, and a clever play of “complement” and “compliment” .