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Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 29


We discussed string theory last Wednesday… but this a different take. Although we are beyond spring, Sutphen’s poem goes beyond season.
I know we once discussed “Ramages” years ago — but sometimes it’s fun to discuss something we haven’t seen for a while. John suggested we discuss “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, another favorite discussed long ago. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/45236

String Theory by Ronald Wallace
Some Glad Morning by Joyce Sutphen
THE SLIM FIR-SEEDS by Robert Bly + link http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2008/03/01/scripts/bly.shtml
Honeymoon by Dorianne Laux
How to Get There BY PHILIP LEVINE


The opening poem plays on the pun of "strings" -- violins and quartets, fugues and gossip... which I remember in French as "rumeur", that undercurrent and rustling in trees, running in the streets in Hugo's poem.
Many associations came up: the incident of "Live art of Ants in 1970..." how the display of patterns and structure was presented as art, but after a few days the colony died... cannot take something away from vibrations... (Lewis Thomas: Lives of a Cell...) Judith brought up that many kids these days might not understand the flowers in Disney's Fantasia... -- how our electronic age removes us from the natural world -- how many people know the shape and name of the plant "butter and eggs" ?

The real subject, David summarized, is gossip... metaphor for essential vibration.
What status does gossip have?

Don, as musician made sure we understood the difference between the party game of gossip as opposed to a few fugue. John brought up tuning... how it takes a while for a string to find its pitch...

The importance of spinning a yarn... how flying a part... could mean apart, as in break up, but also hoisting up
the part we are, realizing we are interconnected.

The Sutphen poem begins and ends with a sense of catching a moment of gladness. One COULD get techy, which I did when someone wondered about "cherry blossoms whistling down the track" and find the names of different trains in Japan -- one of which is the Cherry Blossom -- but there are other names, like the Green Leaf, which echoes in the opening stanza.( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_named_passenger_trains_of_Japan )
Or just let the cherries we the harbinger of Spring!!!!

The opening is brilliant: One day, something very old...
do you expect "happened again." ? The baseball imagery in stanza 2 left a few participants shrugging their shoulders, but the poem over all binds us in, remembering the scent of roses gone by... the gladness that recollection can seem so vivid through the power of words.

The reading, line by line of the "ramage" by Bly was delicious...
the sound works towards the meaning in subtle ways... the paradox of permanent/impermanent -- soul/body...
Kathy recalled the title of the book these are from: Turkish Pears... and the tunings of these sings...
is like that of a stringed instrument...one has to deal with it. Add the meaning after the sound...
David questioned some of the word choice, for instance, engines are not imperishable but undeterrable...
perhaps, but if the engine is the immortal element of the soul perhaps Bly's choice should stand. As Judith introduced her story, "In my even more pretentious days.." recalling a professor who could not remember the name of a world poet... that Chinese poet... Tu Fu, upon which she then wrote a paper bringing in
Tagore: "I shall die again and again knowing life is inexhaustible..."

I believe John brought up this proverb, thinking of the word "Kingdom": "When an elder dies... a library goes"

In the last two poems, I called attention to the form.
Honeymoon is one block of free verse;
How to Get there is in staggered tercets with line breaks that propel you to the next stanza in surprising ways,
like dominant 7ths asking for resolution.

I love how form influences the over all meaning. Honeymoon gives a "heartbeat in the ear" with the rhythm in the lines... -- the advantage David pointed out of Frost or Milton, where emotion is in the iambic stretch of each line propels one to the next. The poem gives a sense of a love story -- enduring affection..

The Levine poem reminded us of 9/11 and many stories came up, ranging from accounts of survivor guilt to the less- advertised fact that 25,000 people got out of the buildings...
The poem was also reminiscent of riots in 68, blackpower...

The line breaks arouse curiosity... where are we going (like title)
the larger metaphors of collection box... hush money... iou’s
badly distributed wealth in this country.













Poems for June 22


Lines After Orlando by Jeff Oaks
The crowd at the ball game by William Carlos Williams

INVISIBLE – by Ann Giard-Chase
(winner of the April Ekphrastic challenge responding to “Into the Mystic” by Robert Dash.)
Comment from the artist, Robert Dash, on his selection: “After reading all of the wonderful poems over several times, and letting them sift through my days, I’ve chosen the poem ‘Invisible’ by Ann Giard-Chase. ‘Invisible’ because it has a sense of eternity, of blending with the Great Mystery. The centerpiece—’Listen! Can you hear the stars?/ They speak of a light you cannot see,/ waves that won’t lie still/ but swirl and flail like fish/ in a net, like wings or sails/ caught in an invisible rolling sea’—is a joyous celebration of the wild miracle that is existence. The poet welcomes grief into her lines, but I feel her fierce love for life, and all these elements echo what my photograph means to me. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this inspiring process, and thank you to all of the poets who sent their fascinating work!”

http://www.rattle.com/ekphrastic/

Darkness of the Subjunctive BY PAUL HOOVER
Walking Around - by Pablo Neruda Translated by Robert Bly
MEMORY of MY FATHER.................. by .Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems.


**
Happy Father's day to all fathers... This group of poems wasn't particularly geared for "role of fathers" or celebration or memories of fathers growing up, but each week, no matter what the poem, whatever is happening in the world has a way of sliding in gently.

The first poem on first read, could feel like one person is being talked about... but on second read, each line could be a different person... who was killed in Orlando -- and who was the father of the killer and how are we all at risk both for striking out, not knowing how things build up in us until released like a time bomb, as one person put it. We don't understand much about insanity, the difference between "anger and anguish"... and yet the poem goes on further to suggest a strange American dream, "people/ you were allowed to imagine were beautiful". It is a haunting poem where lines point at more than the recent incident in Orlando.

The second poem takes as setting the metaphor of baseball, as American as apple pie... to look at how a crowd functions at the game. Comments included:
baseball as one of the more intellectual games --and how the couplets in the poem unfolded in a similar mathematical detail the uselessness of the crowd, the venom, the beauty in detail, and the ending couplets leave you wondering -- how do you "laugh in detail"...


"Williams fears and loves the convergence of unity and diversity in baseball. Their apparent classlessness makes the crowd far more progressive than the game itself, thus justifying a poem about baseball that only glancingly mentions what happens on the field. 'Spring and All' generally promulgates aspects of democratic culture apt for the modernist keen to observe fragmentation, cultural breakdown, disarray, and the reversal of traditional subject-object relations (observing the seers seeing rather than simply reporting the seen). The modernist's fan-centered game bore out Jane Addams' more overtly political question: Did not baseball belong to "the undoubted power of public recreation to bring together all classes of a community in the modern city unhappily so full of devices for keeping men apart?"
https://www.poetrysociety.org/psa/poetry/crossroads/spotlight_on_a_poem/al_filreis_on_william_carlos_wil/

Our group went on to address the power of the crowd in the awakening of fascism... 1909-1939 and
social tensions in baseball, exclusions of Jews, blacks, racism baseball as the national agora.

The third poem (see last week, the choice by the poet running the ekphrastic challenge -- "Here, Said the Ocean..." -- the lovely call and response action.) gives a sense of Buddhist thinking... how can you hear the stars (or one hand clapping) understand energetics of what we cannot rationally see? The group felt the poem bordered sentimentalizing here: a sorrow without a name/
streaking through the cosmos...but on the whole enjoyed the poem... the sense of mindfulness as energy.
The artist who chose the poem says this: "I’ve chosen the poem ‘Invisible’ by Ann Giard-Chase. ‘Invisible’ because it has a sense of eternity, of blending with the Great Mystery. The centerpiece—’Listen! Can you hear the stars?/ They speak of a light you cannot see,/ waves that won’t lie still/ but swirl and flail like fish/ in a net, like wings or sails/ caught in an invisible rolling sea’—is a joyous celebration of the wild miracle that is existence. The poet welcomes grief into her lines, but I feel her fierce love for life, and all these elements echo what my photograph means to me. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this inspiring process, and thank you to all of the poets who sent their fascinating work!”

http://www.rattle.com/ekphrastic/


Darkness of the Subjunctive BY PAUL HOOVER, led us to discuss the grammar of the subjunctive... "if" clauses, conditionals. The epigraph is this:
If it hadn’t rained, we would’ve gone to the beach.
— Phuc Tran

The story of chaos being given sense organs, and going mad because of it came up as well as
Plato’s cave where only shadows can be perceived... The dark, invisible reflecting in "mood" not tense of a verb... the shading that adds a feeling, wish, desire, not the actual "thing" is indeed mysterious.
How do you understand this part: "If we had been born, lived our lives, and died,/
we might have existed"??? The old saw, "A poem should not mean, but be." came up, as
meaning reduces possibilities... for infinite possibility cannot mean. I don't know if I would agree with Richard Eberhart who said, "If I could only live at the pitch of madness..."

Love the sense of humor in the story (told two ways by two different people):
two Boston Ladies on hearing the answer to "Where can I get scrod." reply,
"I never heard that in the pluperfect subjunctive... "
See Chaos machine: Columbus, Indiana... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdN6cv9bSnI

The Neruda poem, translated by Bly captures the ravages of man, nature, a bit of the political climate in which Neruda lives, and yet, harkens to universals, and such stories as Ulysses, the strange surrealism of Bosch, Eliot's tubers underground (I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,)
I love the opening:
"It so happens I am sick of being a man."
It is repeated again third stanza:

It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.

The juxtapositions of the repulsive with the beautiful -- the underneath with the mask with undertones of Zorba the Greek... lead to this line near the end: "there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror,"
I am reminded of the Polidori photographs of Cuba in the ending:
courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow dirty tears are falling.

Yes, we experience "the whole catastrophe" ...

Paul read aloud for us the Kavanagh poem. We discussed at length the last line:
"I was once your father."

It seems to point to the inching away forced by age -- and yet there's a tenderness in the word which keeps a father alive. One definition of old: "it’s all buttoning and unbuttoning."













Thursday, June 16, 2016

June 15

Ode to Things by Pablo Neruda
ODE TO BROKEN THINGS by Pablo Neruda
Ode to bread by Pablo Neruda
Epistle to Neruda by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
First Breath by Adam Lawrence Dyer from his his book, “Love Beyond God suggested by Emily:
inspired by the last lines of [HERE, SAID THE OCEAN] by Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr. discussed last week.


June 8th, we heard with Neruda's Ode to Common Things, set to music by Cary Ratcliff. We could spend days discussing whether it detracted from the poem, as David put it, 'a tribute, but not a complement...".
Perhaps the same is true for translation which provides an echo to the original.
(It’s good to read him with a side-by-side translation. For instance, Ode to Common Things does not quite do justice to the Spanish, "Odas Elementales". What is elemental, essential? What is the difference between "fundamental" and useful? Neruda says his poetry "became clear and happy when it branche off toward humbler subjects and things." He invented a new form of a brief, sinuous line that leaves more white space than print

These questions aside (or as David is fond of saying, "Be that as it may"... what does the last line mean about the things that touch us, or that our hand touches? "they were so close that they were a part of my being, they were so alive with me that they lived half my life and will die half my death."

I sent this link provided by John https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4 and suggests, since Neruda was communist, that he would have known about
The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof — As we become attached to things, are we at risk for being less invested to attachment to others, our society?
What is the role of politics? How do we tell and re-tell something important to us?
As the craftsman becomes replaced by the worker in a factory, the idea of the hand as maker turns into the hand as non-invested...
Connection through things, remembered as part and parcel of a life, one energy transferred to another to allow them to continue allows a beauty of life force. "The planet is sublime".

The discussion continued about collecting things, relationship to things, similarities between Blake and early Marx.

The next Ode, to broken things, had a sense of the story of creation and destruction-- beyond label of natural or unnatural forces-- I wonder if the original is reflected in the translation of "invisible, deliberate smasher" and "alarming breaker" (which in English serves as giant wave and destroyer as well as electric current interruptor)... the contradictions and paradox are strong:
clock-- with delicate blue guts
vibrated
among the broken glass
its wide heart
unsprung.
"dangerous fragility"
the flower pots tired of the violets...
broken memory /shining dust.

Even the useless things, the ones not used, everything subject to being broken...


Paul suggested the poem Epistle to Neruda by Yevgeny Yevtushenko — and so, of course, since he mentions Bread, I included the Ode to bread. Joyce brought a bilingual version of the odes, and loosely translated a quite different version than the one distributed. Judith brought in a delicious loaf of rye bread made with Guiness stout. The discussion went into bread, its making, the changing of its composition... bread as staff of life, symbol of communion, losing that power if not given freely.


Much different style than the Yevgeny Yevtushenko, which starts out with a portrait about Neruda... and gives us the delicious word "politutes' and attributes this to his confrere:

And Neruda comments, with a hint of slyness:
"A poet is
beyond the rise and fall of values.
It's not hard to remove us from the center,
but the spot where they set us down
becomes the center!"

And of course, "becomes the center, is off-center.

** How much and how long does a political poem last? Is poetry's key to longevity really about "being with the people to the bitter end?"
There was some joking about statues of famous people now in disfavor
moved from public eye.

The final poem, to quote David again, had a sense of the second chapter in Genesis... not the cerebral and more priestly first chapter, but mythic. Jan mentioned the poem celebrated for her the recent birth of her first grandson...
chpt. 2 of genesis... (mythic) not “word, let there be...

We ended speaking about Obama's speech about Orlando and Paul read a lovely Father's Day poem by Patrick Kavanagh:


MEMORY of MY FATHER.................. by .Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems.

Every old man I see
Reminds me of my father
When he had fallen in love with death
One time when sheaves were gathered.

That man I saw in Gardner Street
Stumble on the kerb was one,
He stared at me half eyed,
I might have been his son.

And I remember the musician
Faltering over his fiddle
In Bayswater, London,
He too set me the riddle.

Every old man I see
In October-coloured weather
Seems to say to me:
"I was once your father."





Poems for June 8

Poems given on June 8th:
[HERE, SAID THE OCEAN] by Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr.

CASABIANCA by Elizabeth Bishop

Interpretation of a Poem by Frost by Thylias Moss
Grass by Carl Sandburg
The Speaker by Louis Jenkins
Blue by Carl Phillips


**
[HERE, SAID THE OCEAN] by Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr.
Timothy Green, on his selection: “I’m always looking for the poem that works—but works like no other. With its concise and confident voice, Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr., created the most unique artistic object to pair with this photograph. There’s beauty to the lines, but it’s also the kind of poem where imagination transcends intention, that pushes the boundaries of what can be articulated until it becomes something truly new.

This is an ekphrastic response to a surrealistic painting of ship on an ocean entitled, "Into the Mystic" by artist, Robert Dash, (Rattle challenge). The artist's choice of poem will be discussed June 22. The title is in brackets... as if also contained in a picture frame. Each element invites the others... ocean to ship...sails to wind, body to music, lyre to bones of ear,
except for the penultimate line of breath and heart... joining the last line, blank face of paper to the ink...
Some thought it reminiscent of Wordsworth, "The world is too much with us"... and Yeats,"Among School Children-- indeed the ship has a phantom feel which for me resonates in the lines
"Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things"

and the interconnectedness...

"how can one tell the dancer from the dance".
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?


The question came up, if the poem could stand by itself without the painting.
This is a recurring question about any ekphrastic response -- along with how one art embellishes, or perhaps changes not necessarily to the good, an understanding of the expression of another.


I chose CASABIANCA by Elizabeth Bishop because of the reference in the poem ( ) by Brenda Hillman discussed June 1-- passage below)

...Our mother tells a story of
going back to Brazil in the 1940s for a visit, after
she is engaged to be married to our father. In
my mind she stands on the deck of a ship with
several languages in her brain, holding her
notebooks. As the sea knows time, her words
know air.

"Love's the boy on the burning ship" comes from the early 19th c.
best-selling Liverpudlian poet Felicia Dorothy Hemans. She was an ambitious, prolific writer, and produced larger-scale works than "Casabianca" (1826).

The double-twist of Bishop's "Casabianca" turns melodrama into allegory: "Love's the boy stood on the burning deck,/ trying to recite "the boy stood on the/ burning deck". Somehow the figure in Bishop's poem, "stammering elocution" while the burning ship goes down, has more human pathos than the real child in the Hemans' poem. Casabianca was the captain...the father of the boy who told his son to remain with the ship. He didn’t answer him, because he was already dead... What is understood about love as loyalty if the boy is obstinate and burning... ?

Recited after the first poem, the idea of multiple facets of one thing interconnects: Love's the obstinate boy, the ship, even the swimming sailors... (who would like a stage on which to recite...) the burning boy.


The Thylias Moss poem is a deft "interpretation" using a young black woman's perspective recalling history. Unlike the emotional magic in Frost's poem, hers is personal and intellectual.
The quaint New England winter scene of "Stopping by Woods" is transformed We discussed the reference of Jim Crow, but what interested the group was curiosity about the poet -- and how to put ourselves in her place.
Perhaps Frost knew discrimination, understood how difficult it is to belong, but this poem seems not to address any issues Frost has, but rather subverts his poem to speak of the issues of emptiness, boundaries, "fast-to-melt idealism". Snow could be reference to cocaine, and horse as heroin. Her promise? That she bear Jim no bastards -- repeated twice. Are there two Jims? In that case does she sleep with both? Doubly important promise, since black and white is all nature reveals in winter.

It was enough to read the eloquently powerful Sandburg poem, penned in 1918.

A little comic relief delivered with a grim punch with the Louis Jenkins -- what does a speaker speak about? And what is your experience of life? The sermon-like message reminding us life is like a dream, drifts into the inspiration songs, words of which forgotten.

Carl Philips opens his poem with splayed fish, thighs... What does it mean to look for the stuff of dreams?
What throbs blue in the veins of his black daddy's knuckles. Images of black and blue give a bruised picture, paint the ache of the sorrow of blues, no wild blue yonder.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Poems for June 1

Cid Corman: Poetry becomes that conversation we otherwise could not have.

At the Store by Jane Kenyon
-- from Otherwise

Two Lives by Carl Dennis
--from April 18 issue of the New Yorker

Marching Through a Novel by John Updike


( ) by Brenda Hillman
-- from Boston Review

Ex Machina by Camille Rankin
-- from Verse Daily

**
We discussed at length what makes a poem distinguishable from prose in
the first three poems. The first creates a sonic snapshot, replete with the sound
of the flagpole pulley associated with Charles Ives' music. The phrasing and rhythm saves it from prose. Some might have chosen different line breaks, punctuation, but a sense of "motley" as in "dappled or checkered" applies to the overheard conversation, the "theme and variation" of people coming in and out of the store as well as the music. A lovely celebration of what daily lives in this town are like.


In the Carl Dennis poem "Two Lives" allows a suspended time frame, worked to allow on multiple levels --
the life one lives, that might not have been, but is because of fate -- for the father, the son, the speaker of the poem as writer and his experiences before.
The sound of a line like this:
"And shady streets crushingly uneventful." the alliterative "sh" of shady and crush, which clash, and further class with "uneventful" provides commentary on what makes life worth living.

The unrolling of these lines-- the first two feel self-sufficient, but are expanded, as
if rolling yet more meaning with the 3rd and 4th that follow.

"To decide that the real world, so called,
Is overrated, compared to the world of novels,
Where every incident is freighted with implications
For distinguishing apparent success from actual."

Later, another long sentence unwinds with this kernel of thought
of how he is "ensconced in the life he happens to be living"
Musing on the difference between a life
Deficient in incident and a life uncluttered.


With a poem, conducted in lines, arranged rhythmically, there is an energy in the compressed meaning and texture of sound.
A gentle tongue-in-cheek tone also lends a believability that builds up to the last unexpected twist at the end, opening up yet another possibility.
A novel handles multiple issues but doesn’t zero in on a point... whereas this
poem does. The long poem imitates the long process of trying to understand a life...
without needing to rely on four volumes of a novel.


"Marching through a Novel" is witty and fun. However after commenting on that, the "dazzling quicksand" is just that... and the discussion didn't go further.

**
The Hillman poem is intriguing. How do you "pronounce" the title --
(without being Victor Borges!) (Don jokes: Parent Theses) Judith quoted a remark in a book by Hirschfeld book attributed to Charlie Chaplin— “Movement is liberated thought.” The "gesture" of what is said in parentheses is perhaps what resonates in the line, "“the visible stands for everything , including the invisible." Hillman peppers the poem with Portuguese and the untranslatable word "Saudades" -- a word that has no exact translation. A slant reference perhaps
to Elizabeth Bishop who parodied "Love's the boy stood on the burning deck" -- the 1826 poem by
The best-selling Liverpudlian poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans.

.
Curious -- why the small I (i) -- the poem begins with mother/daughter translation, then segues into how the daughter imagines the mother as a youth. It is hard not to quote the poem in toto...
"In/ my mind she stands on the deck of a ship with
several languages in her brain, holding her
notebooks. As the sea knows time, her words
know air. Her imagination is full because she
is young, and she is not a bit lonely, just as a
word is not lonely."

**
We hear her childhood, the revolution... we learn
"She has a precise
interior world; she has a body like a poem,
fragile but strong, orderly and unknowable,
very capable of doing things."

We learn
"Soon she will see
her own mother. There is no one like her, there
never has been, there is no one like another
person. The visible stands for everything,
including the invisible."

The poem ends with an invitation to the reader --
"There now. Let’s begin our life, com
saudades, looking for what is here."

Ex Machina by Camille Rankin (not to be confused with Claudia Rankine),
even with a dramatic reading by David, left the group shrugging. Unlike Hillman who gives us a poem that leads to layers of wondering, the tercets feel undeveloped and unconvincing.

We ended with another Hillman.


Some Kinds of Forever Visit You by Brenda Hillman

The unknowns are up early;
they browse through the bronze
porch bells. Crows
call & late
apples blaze
toward western emptiness.
In your illness,
the edges hesitate;
like the revolt
of workers, they
will take a while…

Here comes the fond
mild winter; other
realms are noisy
& unanimous. You tap
the screen & dream
while waiting; four
kinds of forever
visit you today:
something, nothing,
everything & art,
greater than you are
& of your making—




Thursday, June 2, 2016

Poems for May 25-6

"Good poetry enlists the participation of the reader in the construction of meaning; it's not meant to be passively consumed." Ben Lerner

"Art is never about its content; it's always about its scaffolding." Chris Abani

Poems for May 25-6 — perhaps more than we’ll get to… Kim Dower, is a terrific poet I met in a workshop with Tom Lux. I quote her from her interview with Garrison Keilor that appeared this morning, "Readers forget the poet’s voice is often a persona, a character she has created. She’s not telling her own secrets she’s inventing someone else’s. What’s “real” are the emotions conveyed in the poem, not necessarily the situations, details, or events. And the feelings that those heartbreaking or hilarious moments in the poem stir in the reader are what connect the reader to the poet. The emotions become autobiographical for both.” “… I try to offer moments and observations, the way I see them — often funny, sometimes sad — that people can relate to and be moved by. I have no “process,” except to write. The key for me is to be open to seeing and to get the idea down on paper the moment it hits me.”

Which are the poems that speak in the voice of an old, trusted friend who knows you, who has come to visit and remind you of who you are and what a life is all about? I picked a few from an anthology of well-known poets who introduce the essential poems that captivated & inspired them. Feel free to email some of your favorites!

**
Poetry -- by Ruth Stone
Three Aubades by Rita Dove
-- from The Georgia Review : http://garev.uga.edu/spring16/dove.html

3 poems from a book of poems accompanied by short essays by the poets about why they fell in love in words. First Loves, edited by Carmela Ciuraru.

-- The Flea by John Donne (Here is a pick by Billy Collins who, marvels at how the speaker combined logic and silliness to weave his seductive argument around the appearance of this tiny insect ‘where we almost, nay more than married are.’ How the woman’s presence and her responses were contained in the white spaces between the stanzas in this intimate battle of wits. (p. 63)

-- Where Go The Boats -- R.L. Stevenson (W.S. Merwin’s pick p. 171)

-- Diameter of the Bomb -- Yehuda Amichai (Thylia Moss)

Snow for Wallace Stevens – Terrance Hayes
(from recent article about Stevens in American Poet, by Dan Rader)

The Cypress Broke by Mahmoud Darwish

**
The first poem did not strike most people as "an old trusted friend" coming to remind you of
who you are... why is "terrible" associated with "phonemes"? Is "gravel" meant to be grovel...
why all this fragmentation under a title "Poetry"? A sense of the uselessness of putting a poem together without a reader, ending on a cynical note with a taste of melodramatic chaos.

The idea of a shibboleth and passwords using phonemes that another language doesn't have, came up.
The sounds work well, but to make what kind of sense? Many found it annoying and pretentious.

The Three Aubades, on the other hand delivered much satisfaction -- the overriding structure,
with mention of the origin of the word "ghetto" -- originally a foundry where Jews were confined in 1516. The first Aubade: The Constitutional, brings us back to Leone de Modena, a Jewish scholar (1571-1648 -- colorful character to look up) walking about Venice -- "why then am I unhappy, / when all around me /the human pageant whirrs?
He is able to turn his thought to the canals and paths as "promise with no perimeters, // my foot soles polishing the scarred stones."

This leads to Aubade: West, "Ferguson, Missouri" and a different type of ghetto... the sounds, the dare to leave, inability to do so. An echo of the concentration camps with the words "final solution"applied to "cracked cradle of Somalis". The third, Aubade: East, "Harlem, a.m." is in the voice of a young man, I imagine a rapper-surfer on his way to the basketball courts, feeling good -- with an inverse of the Aubade as the dawning of a new day, breaking a long amorous night, but rather,
the sun will head home... with no hint of what the night will bring.

All three sound like males, the last two black, each aware of the sun's light and possibility, each one with a different personality and attitude but caught in their own world...
The language is enticing... "skitters as a bug crossing a skillet"... the contrast of water (as if it ever told one good truth) and being high and dry on the street/running straight as a line of smack... the undercover power-suit... the East River twerking her bedazzled behind while the sky spills coin like a luck-crazed Vegas...

**
The next few poems come from a book of poems accompanied by short essays by the poets about why they fell in love in words. First Loves, edited by Carmela Ciuraru.
The Flea, selected by Billy Collins who marvels at how the speaker combined logic and silliness to weave his seductive argument around the appearance of this tiny insect ‘where we almost, nay more than married are.’ How the woman’s presence and her responses were contained in the white spaces between the stanzas in this intimate battle of wits. The English is mind-boggling, the argument a real "tour de force".

Stevenson's Where Go the Boats was picked by Merwin, which makes sense given the metrical, hymn-like style. As David commented, Robert Frost said, "Style is the way a man takes himself."
RLS apparently takes himself as an entertainment – not seriously. A pleasant poem I memorized as a child, not a great poem but one with such clear images, and the sounds flowing just like the river.

Amichai's "Diameter of the Bomb" was chosen by Thylias Moss, who teaches at the University of Michigan and won numerous awards. She too was influenced by hymns, aware of the rhythms words take on. Mother Goose, and a line from Gwendolyn Brooks' poem, "a song in the front yard" --
"a girl gets sick of a rose." She heard Amichai read "The Diameter of the Bomb" when she attended Oberlin and likened the calm and unfaltering quietness of his voice with her first lullaby.
Unlike the measurable, scientifically honest diameter of the bomb however, the poem allows concentric circles to expand ad infinitum --no end and no God. The structure is not demanding, it is short, bomb only appearing in title and first line. As she puts it, "the poet refuses to mention the complete devastation, refuses to risk also devastating the reader. It is mentioned just to clarify what the reader is being spared from."

The Terrance Hayes came from an article by Dean Rader about Wallace Stevens. We discussed the clever manipulations of references in the poems, the "decorations in a Nigger Cemetery" the rhythms, and how Hayes points out the danger, of using language as tool of the imagination -- in the case of Stevens, the remoteness his brand of imagination engenders.

We spent some time on the epigraph of the poem by Darwish, translated by Fady Joudah. Cypress as symbol of eternity... Including the title, "The cypress broke" is repeated 8 times.
Grief... the "chapped shadow" on which the broken cypress sleeps... no one hurt... (2)
overheard conversation, did you see the storm. line break And the cypress/broke.
the two children hold opposing conclusions because it broke: the sky is complete; the sky is incomplete.
The speaker of the poem calls out to the reader -- as if to say, don't you see? Neither mystery nor clarify -- and repeats the fact, the second time, it will be up to the reader to interpret the exclamation point. How do we respond to platitudes when we are grieving?

The final poem brought up the instance of familiar to many of resisting change, but once it happens, one is glad for it. From "hutch and hatch" of the cozy eaves... the trunk-lid fit (like a coffin?), the second stanza opens up with the skylight-- "the sky entered and held surprise wide open". The analogy of the bible story of the man lowered through the roof, then healed (inverse process) works beautifully.



Monday, May 23, 2016

Poems for May 18-9

You might know the musical setting of the RL Stevenson poem, “Let Beauty Awake” by Ralph Vaughan Williams:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-VNe1ZwDm4

Cloud Study, for instance might send you to look at Constable Clouds and the Great Wallendas:
For a start with Wallendas: http://wallendaenterprises.com
And here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-rich-tragic-history-of-daredevil-wallendas/
Constable Clouds:
http://magart.rochester.edu/Obj4801?sid=13034&x=476232

For the final poem by Wallace Stevens, I love James Merrill’s comment: “Sometimes I feel about this poem, the way others feel about the 23rd Psalm.”

If by Rudyard Kipling (highly anthologized)
Each Year by Dora Malech (from daily web in May 2016)
I Live Up Here by W.S. Merwin (from daily web in May)
God's World by Edna St. Vincent Millay (from memorial service for a radiant woman)
Let Beauty Awake by R.L. Stevenson (from memorial service set to music see above)
Cloud Study by Andrea Cohen (American Poet, Spring-Summer 2016)
Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour, by Wallace Stevens (from interview in American Poet)

Why are some poems highly anthologized? In the case of Kipling -- is it because it is palatable for the populace, predictable for memorization of a socially acceptable lesson to emphasize? Certainly the poem has been highly parodied, which speaks to the form, the rhythm and rich rhyme.
Actually, in Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula there are two towns, one called "Rudyard" and one called "Kipling". If is a strong pivot... if this (possible) then (likely) that, and allows balancing of extremes. A bit of a sermon... and if you dig deeply, one starts to question --
why are Triumph and Disaster both "imposters" and what does that say about "truth" -- perhaps a bit of Hindu philosophy, a bit of stoicism, and bit of Zen what is, is is there as well.
Does the poem set the bar too high? Or simply loving advice to a young boy... or a boy scout creed... an antidote... to corruption...
Many people don't like it, and for Pittsford, I goaded the discussion to see if perhaps it is disguised cynicism... we spent a good half hour with many inputs...

Each year, has a rather lurching rhythm, a few surprises like the one-word sentence. Sure.
Preponderant alliteration which almost interferes like
"re-learn" and the play on "re-fuse" and "un-flare" or the awkward "clutch" for take/give a handful of seconds. Neither a meditation, nor sermon. The theme has been treated well by so many--
"Nothing Gold can stay" comes to mind... Perhaps a Dylan Thomas.

The Merwin gave us quite a ride... the opening very pleasing, but then the accumulation of images with no markers of punctuation...
life as stairs, petals, choices (she loves me/not), glass knights and gauntlets. The discussion included the background of the time period of this poem which appears in "The Lice", when Merwin questioned what kind of life to live and had almost given up on writing/language.
The voice is like an angel looking down... and validates uncertainty...
Reminded one person of Calvino’s book... "The Baron in the Trees".
Confusing images -- what my votes the mice are accomplishing ?????

The Edna St. Vincent Millay is also widely anthologized and Judith brought up that some of her best poems never were because of various agendas of the editors. It captures a sentimental, but very authentic sense of overwhelming attachment to the world -- as a foil to the Merwin.

For the Stevenson -- for Pittsford I just played the music and we didn't discuss.
It seemed sufficient. For Rundel, people were disappointed by the combination -- felt that both the music suffered because of the lyrics and the poem did not receive justice because of the music, which drowned it in waves of sound.

**
Which brings us to the next poem, where I provided two possible associations -- Constable's clouds and the Wallendas, referred to in the poem. The rather infantile question, the anthropomorphizing of the cloud at the end seemed at first irritating, but it becomes apparent that the poem is rich in multiple perspectives. The clouds seem to be watching us -- and perhaps, like the music set to the Stevenson, for some, the Constable painting kills the poem, as it is so much more than cloud.


**
For the Wallace Stevens, you can hear James Merrill reading it here:
Merrill starts reading at about minute 51:15
https://www.learner.org/catalog/extras/vvspot/Stevens.html

The title is intriguing... the FINAL soliloquy could be the end of a day or a premonition of the very end of life, the soul speaking the poet, where the importance of the rendez-vous (mentioned twice) is infused with a sense of the sacred.
The repetitions, (one thing, single, single, God and the Imagination as one /Light, a light/candle lights/same light. There is a calming tone, a healing sense of writing
as a gathering of one's being and knowing this is enough.