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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poems for Feb. 10-11

Playing His Heart Out by Sharon Chmielarz
January 31 by David Lehman
Your Days are Waiting by Dave Harrity
The Faithless Shadows... by Alexandr Blok
Alexandr Blok by David St. John,
Fresh Paint by Boris Pasternak
Cynthia MacDonald (untitled poem)

The Rundel group did not start out with the Chmielarz, but with "Lessons" by Vanessa Stauffer, discussed last week at Pittsford. (see Feb. 3) Indeed, both groups enjoyed this one. We looked at the "reverse nature of origami" picking up on the 2nd stanza mention of "a web of scars" which prepares the last stanza's "scraped shin".

"Playing his heart out" has much admirable craft, including line breaks and the contrast between the first stanza which sets the scene and ends with a period, as opposed to the waterfall of the event unfolding in the subsequent stanzas. Chartreuse living //
room is perfect for a gathering for a wake. The "k" sounds, the rhyming trapped/strapped/clapping/ leading up to the final line of the "black load on his heart" makes a perfect tension of the accordion, and the grief.
The scene felt alive, with the details such as the "afghans saving the sofas", the polka, and clapping, the K sound linking the imagery of location and character with physical red cliffs and cheeks.


Lehman's poem was described by Jim as a well-crafted cupcake one hopes comes from an endless box. Delightful scene again... and a small implied lesson -- don't judge an old man by the speed of his walk -- you don't know how the speaker of the poem knows, but he projects a young man into the thin old man swaddled in scarves. It comes as a refreshing surprise, as much as Vivaldi in a barber shop!

The Harrity was a more difficult poem, with a pull between certainty (certitude)and a baffling "clamor of hooves throbbing in purple morning light" that "narrows us --.
The intriguing title links well with the zen-like insistence on "this" -- the duty to be mindful before the days, waiting to be left behind, pass into sleep.

For the Russian poems, we struggled, and tried to honor the nuances between the lines of the translation. In the Blok, the heaviness of the old, the parallel stone steps of the church, and human steps, the play between dark and light, heaviness of the old, and perhaps the anticipation of the new, came through this appreciation of one poet for another. We are thinking an elegy. Why call shadows faithless? Is it that they shy away from the roll of church bell, the steps...

The David St. John poem sets a delightful scene as well -- meeting authorities on Blok and Pasternak. A small reference to the serendipity of finding a black cashmere overcoat (on the back rack of a Venice thrift store) might also be a Russian clin d'oeil to Gogol...
Mike, in the Rundel group which met on the blustery blizzard-y 2/11, mentioned he also had such a coat, but Gray, and the thrift store was on W. Henrietta... My one question was why he needed to put in "yet to anyone who saw me walking" -- perhaps for the veracity of his feeling of being the most lyrical shadow alive -- but it didn't quite work for me as the Lehman's old man.

Fresh Paint... well... is it a love poem? is You a person or something more abstract.
What whitens a yellowed world? What color is madness or lamp shade, and how is it that even this grows white?

There was a typo on the Cynthia MacDonald poem -- "no epiphany or apotheosis".
One suggestion of a read is to think of Angels, as in how many dance on the head of a pin, and we, as brimless, have no angelic halo -- and what we think of as "good" becomes a combination of angel and fallen angel. Does such "cleavage" make things more clear? Do "immaculate certainties" include the "immaculate conception"? Indeed, language is a paltry vehicle -- and she projects the hats and hosannas into the unfinished sentences: Hush, don't raise... (your hat? your voice? your hopes)
Keep it under your (hat, tongue, belt, ). Hats identify, protect, and provide metaphor for states of mind -- as in which hat are you wearing today. The quiet sound of "perhaps" is indeed a hush of of the unspoken and mysterious and ends the poem.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Poems for February 3-4


Mud Season by Tess Taylor *
Lessons by Vanessa Stauffer ***
Magnifying Glass by Tim Sables *
The Layers by Stanley Kunitz *
Between the World and Me by Richard Wright


*discussed at Rundel 2/4
*** will be discussed at Rundel 2/11

We have discussed so many different approaches to poems... role of the title, role of line length (and breaks), images, and even how a poem will read differently because placed in a certain group of poems, which for big picture people allows categorizing commonalities one might not see. We experiment with how we read them -- stanza by stanza, line by line, sentence to sentence so the syntax plays against the line and listen to a group of 20 or so different voices all adding to the "voice" of the poem waiting to be woken by sound.

In this grouping, a moment looking at the garden tangle in winter (mud season), origami and memory, ants, and how we treat them, a meditation on the many layers of a self walking through life, and another "embedded memory" of narrator/persona stumbling on evidence of a lynching, and then being in the midst of one, one could argue there is an over-arching theme of "layering". However, the take-away point that came up is that poems come alive by what we bring to them, and by sharing them in a group, we see things we might not see reading them on our own.

The point is reinforced when I share the same poems with the Rundel group, much smaller, and more diverse, comes up with different angles. It reminds me of my teaching days, how even though the subject was slated as the same, the class composition changed the game plan. If you are part of one group or the other, I hope you will forgive me that I lump the comments-- and perhaps consider this blog yet another follow-up discussion.

Starting with Mud Season. For those gardeners, the very title evokes Spring, getting ready to plant, and the clean-up of all that wasn't completed before winter set in. Metaphorically, mud season
as loosening of dirt in snow-melt and rain, is a "loosening" stage, arriving in the last stanza at a sense of what lies outside of us, loosening in "wild unfrozen prattle"-- the r's and l's called liquids, are also a "foreign liquid tongue" -- seductive, and flowing, but clearly not tamed, or able to be pinned in words. More than one person picked up on the effect of the "un" words -- onstage, gunplay, unfrozen, the sense of the season undressing, and a visceral sense of lurking fertility. The rich texture of words, the substance added by adjectives, choice of strong verbs, add to a mood of sensory
vibrancy. The poem takes a turn exactly half-way through the poem, splitting the 4th couplet. From prodding things in the ground, the sky takes over with the starlings and rain. Wonderful mood capturing muddy March, a foothold in Winter, but so wild with anticipation of Spring.

The next poem Lessons, uses origami as a starting point, a “universal truth” followed by something witnessed woven into a personal reflection and the reader is invited to speculate on both with multiple ideas of what is implied by the choices at the end. In Origami, one of the first things you learn is the crane --a symbol of remembrance/ healing. Another lesson I remember learning is my grandfather's lesson on lying: he folded a piece of paper, showing that when you unfold it the line is still there. This demonstrate the power of words,
which once said, leave their trace, even if you want to retract or correct them. Stauffer picks up on this with a memory -- we don't know why the girl is going under the fence, and maybe the speaker of the poem does, but the fact that no details are given point to the fact that the point is not the story of the girl, but the fashioning of memory. The girl "folds herself under the fence" -- but what memory will she keep of the why -- and what curious choices:
"locked out, or being made//

to break herself in".

Is "Lessons" a good title? The opening line gives the first lesson: "To crease a sheet of paper is to change/ its memory," The other lessons? the unspoken lessons of a school, the consequence the girl will face, the observation of the speaker of the poem about her own memory, and the poem itself, offering to us, a lesson, upon which to reflect on our own lives.

Magnifying Glass, one of the "eco poems" in January 2016 issue of Poetry is a long,largely monosyllabic, skinny poem-- with two "spots" where an extra space appears.
It begins with "No one" -- which could be followed by "no one + noun would..." but is that true that no one would pass judgment on someone stepping on an ant? Note the verb is "burn your name" -- and suddenly my mind whirs with childhood memories: step on a crack, you'll break your mother's back... jump-rope jingles like "Susie,susie, higher, higher, or you'll set your pants on fire. Again, marvelous use of adjectives: careful antennae (vs.our careless footsteps, not mentioned), our "shoe" next to "six legs/almost rowing/it along".

Read the poem -- examine the line breaks, the layers of meaning.
Who/ line break, stanza break... would be upset...
The questions: Do they / dream / anything? No / one should -- line break, stanza break.
How many/books have they/read?--- that/brain a virtual /speck.

The overlaps are legion. The we vs. them. Do they dream... is different from "do they dream anything." the space for a speck after brain, like the unmarked mark on your soul
if you / mash one...

Is a bug really a "nearly/less than/little thing: at most/ ?

Who would -- now the conditional joins the subject, but the next line, out of context could be someone telling you "curse your life"...
Bless the adjective handsome, next to brittle, for the description of head.
Whose? Both ant and human?

People were drawn to confess killing bugs, ants, shake fists at carelessness and lack of curiosity! What is magnified here? Just as in the passage in the Merchant of Venice, "does he too not bleed..." -- what is your attitude to the other. Cited also was
E.E. Cummings' poem of the poisoned mouse: https://readalittlepoetry.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/me-up-at-does-by-e-e-cummings/
and E.O. Wilson.

The next poem, we read line by line, and I asked what words/images pulled at each person.
"scavenger angels"; the heart of the poem mid way "How shall the heart be reconciled to its feast of losses" (with oxymoron...) the turn at "Yet I turn, I turn...
every stone precious to me... "nimbus-clouded voice...
The poem gathers momentum to the message "Live in the layers, not on the litter"...
a poem written by Kunitz in his 70's and a reminder indeed, we have many lives... and that "you" is a moving target -- as well as our memory of who we are. "God will not ask you why you weren’t Moses... but why you weren’t you." A sense of reincarnation.
Coupled with the ballets "The Swan" perhaps the slow unfolding of the swan up to its death is a fitting aural and visual accompaniment.

The final poem, "Between the World and Me"by Richard Wright, like the Origami poem, recounts a lynching, but then, the speaker of the poem experiences it as it happens to him. The song, "Strange Fruit", made famous by Billie Holiday, was mentioned.
Bernie sent me this link: http://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/158933012/the-strange-story-of-the-man-behind-strange-fruit -- which refers to the song as "a haunting protest against the inhumanity of racism. Many people know that the man who wrote the song was inspired by a 1930 photograph of a lynching of two Indiana African-American men." The article explains that Abel Metropol, a white Jew originally write a poem called "Bitter Fruit" later setting it to music. Carmen further paraphrases:

Like most of Meeropol's life and work, "Strange Fruit" was unabashedly political in its ambition. After two failed attempts in Congress to pass an anti-lynching bill
(in 1919-22 and in 1934-36), copies of the song were circulated to 96 senators "accompanied by a letter urging passage of the bill so that treatment of minorities
at home would not diminish American influence abroad."

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter cry.

Carmin noticed in the lyrics there two words that are changed depending on the singer. "Some use "sweet and fresh" and others "clean and fresh" after scent of magnolias. .... last line "here is a strange and bitter cry" - others - "here is a strange and bitter crop". The original poem used "sweet and fresh" and "bitter crop" -(which rhymes with drop). Rather unimportant data in light of the revolutionary message".




Thursday, January 28, 2016

poems for January 27 (and two from Rundel Feb. 4)

Noah, to His Dove by Leah Falk (from Verse Daily)
Prayer for Travelers by Leah Falk (from Cargo)
Poppy Field by Mary Buchinger (link to Klimt's painting of same title)
Unity by Pablo Neruda, (1904 – 1973)
Cotton Candy by Edward Hirsch (1950... )*
For Telly the Fish by Toi Derricotte, (1941...) (look up painter Alice Neel)*

*Discussed at Rundel on Feb. 4 -- see the end of the article.

I don't often pursue a poet that I find on Verse Daily, or other sites, but did so this week, discovering Leah Falk. The first poem intrigued me, perhaps because I couldn't fathom the confusion. The group proferred a few ideas: that Noah could be poets, and the Dove as peace... the delivery of the Torah, through the Dove... but the question remains, what is the book of animals, why is the dove "torn out", and why does Noah's heart "still; dip a trench that fills with rain"? Or is that God's heart?
The second poem had some striking images of ocean, night and brought up a discussion of airplane travel, what connects and disconnects us. The turning point in the poem is towards the end, when "we" is introduced. I think it could end on Prayer.

"The attendant turns the lights out, and just then we remember
what we learned at birth: the big star that keeps us alive

is the tongue of a bell at noon, endlessly tolling
the mourner’s prayer."


Instead, it continues, "No wonder we gather

the night around us as long as we’re in the sky, loving how
it encrypts our bodies, refrigerates our grief.

Really? Is this to do with the "No wonder my seat mate confesses: he drinks a whiskey
and narrates another part of his life story to a tape recorder.

Leah, who shares the name of Rabin's widow. How does this all fit in?
**
The next poem, coupled with the Klimt painting of poppies, explored the three trees in the background as well as the poem, written in tercets. What delightful language:a meadow --
unrolling like a loaded exhale—
the blowsy breath of a mob of flowers.

Such words bring the painting alive!

Such a different tone in the penultimate stanza:
In the far distance, rising from the spattered field,
three tall trees cross a ribbed, skim-milk sky,
the middle tree, severely bitten—

and twice, Christ and the robbers... and ending on robbers...
The last line felt a bit glib: What landscape is possible without fruit and robbers?

Why the title? Why not "Christ and the Robbers and leave out the last stanza?
The poem spreads like a quilt... The poppies reminded a few of the WW I, "In flanders fields"

**
After these three, it was a relief to arrive at Neruda's poem. No struggle to follow the words, wonder how they were intended. Everything circles...and the poem creates a mystic tone... as one person put it, like watching a movie with the guy writing with a voice-over...
Does it matter what happens the next day...? Another mentioned how
wonderful it is to read a poem that doesn’t demand poking and justification, who wrote it, or who translated it... but, really, can we say that...

**
The next poem, "Cotton Candy" was an example of poetry at its most glorious! Two quatrains embrace a seven-line stanza. The first evokes a physical memory of a boy eating cotton candy with his grandfather. The second tells you that it is nothing -- just like the spun sugar that disappears when it hits the tongue. And then, wham, the third stanza brings you the memory sharp as a bell -- the power of this something that disappears, (candy, grandfather) and the resilience of memory to resurrect it. The threading of fingers, spun sugar, blue air, the way he can taste it still, but it disappears as soon as he breathes. Beautifully sustained narrative of the experience.

**The final poem also refers to a painting by Alice Neel
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/188236459400347529/

A kitchen table with a vase of flowers, behind which a yellow shade is slightly pulled down.
Who could not love Telly the fish seeing how tenderly the author cares for him, providing him not just with a painting but with anthropomorphized empathy!

The poem encourages the reader to think about the tiniest bit of life...
caring for things...

Many of the poems addressed water... but for Telly, it made a boundary he broke, jumping up to give a kiss! Not slimy, icky, the poem assures -- and then gives this wisdom:
"For all
our fears of
touch, it takes so long
to learn how to take in."

The hurt of breathing... his death... the burial where he could join the "bigger water" of life.

**
Rundel Discussion: Perhaps because the Pittsford Group had poems which addressed water, another painting, travel... the last two poems, discussed at Rundel with the Taylor, Seibles and Kunitz poems (see Feb. 3-4) had less of a "wow" reaction. The line that came out for the Rundel group in Cotton Candy was the penultimate one in the 2nd stanza of the Grandfather, "an old man from the Old World" evoking an immigrant experience. The taste of memory -- both sweet, but quickly disappearing, remains.

For the Derricotte, the Alice Neel painting and opening line were met with a certain skepticism. Really? How do you know Telly's favorite artist -- which other paintings has he seen. The speaker of the poem comes across as god-like, with the final stanza acting as testimony of the caring in the relationship with the fish. The language is rather flat, like a diary entry with sloppy grammar. The ampersands give a sense of "and, so on" as if details are of fragmentary importance. The group felt the poem could have ended with the 2nd stanza. "How do you stop the hurt/of having the breathe." which makes a link to life struggles. However, we would have missed out on the tender goodbye. The poem is more about the author than about the fish...

I find it amazing how the discussion in both groups tempers my reading, reception, (enjoyment level) of work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

poems for January 20 + Jan. 28

Over in Montana by William Stafford
Letter Beginning with Two Lines by Czeslaw Milosz by Matthew Olzmann
The Milosz Poem that inspired Olzmann: Dedication by Czeslaw Milosz
Cartoon Music by John Ashbury
Radical by Marianne Moore

I have interspersed a few comments from the Rundel Group below.


For the first poem, I had received this comment: "I especially enjoyed the Stafford poem and his treading in an out of iambic pentameter, the extension of which seems to add great heft to the final stanza." Rhythm is indeed important and dictated by stresses. It is interesting how Stafford varies both line length, but also enjambment. In the third stanza, the break enhances the action of the trees stretching out:
" ... Limbs
reach out. They touch and shiver."
allow a sense of physical stretching out.

In these line breaks, however, he creates a suspension, a chance to hang on to one meaning before its completion, like waiting for a surprise. How would you end these phrases:
They know what is
up where
They make
millions of

That fact that they invite multiple meanings seems to echo the sense of vibrancy.

what is.... coming.
up where... it's clear
They make... their strange signs

Assonance, rhythm add to a personified Winter unfolding in this visit to the big sky country.
There is mention of a house, but the grandeur of nature overrides any interference of humans.
Rather there is sense of a meditative reflection of a great story like Noah's ark... and all the parts of nature listen. We are included, and thus reminded to reflect on who we are "in our little lives".

A closer study of the textures of sound also enhances the sense of universal aliveness of "a great story", that continues in spite of Winter's "stop"-- the "dead" leaves cluster, actively. Perhaps the stars look to be in a rigid pattern -- but they sharpen, glitter.
a few examples -- but there are many more!
short i/long I:
winter, visit, is, listen, wings, in, shiver, glitter, rigid, millions, little
vs.
silent, gliding, nights, wide, lives

ch vs. sh: reach-touches/brush;
the liquids,aliterations
the sibilants alone and combined with st, sh, str,
more assonance..
hollow / burrow
houses/touches/
huddle/brush

The next two poems start out with the same two lines. Whether discussing Poland, WW 2, universals of human nature, city schools, and in both, a sense of impotence in the face of official lies... rhetoric...
"You whom I could not save,
Listen to me."

The opening lines sound like a confession will ensue, and yet neither poem takes that direction.
Rather the "shoulds" and wrongs done when we haven't followed their moral dictates, bring out the complexity and grief of untenable situations. How do we get ourselves so mired in wars, disagreements, perpetrate injustice and hatred pinned on a racist notion that one is better than another? Of what use are our words?
And yet, from the discussion, we agreed the words were so well put, they allowed us to speak,
share and by doing so feel a sense of salve as we face the unresolved and painful discrepancies of how the world could be but is not.
"That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim..."

Late -- too late? or the fact that we need many years to develop understanding as we open door after door... poetry allows a special consideration of what is on the other side of the door.

Ghosts will go away if there is nothing left for them to do...
classic image of ghost: coming to tell us something...
Emily reminded us of the poem by Mark Doty, "In Two Seconds" we discussed in July about the
boy shot by the policeman...
Don brought up the American “dream” as a myth... with the country built by the blacks...
and more discussion on human beings, politics, countries at work.

Dedication, was written soon after the occupation and destruction of Warsaw. Perhaps it an homage to those who died from one who survived. In it, Milosz acknowledges the difficulty of speaking about the unspeakable, dedicates himself to writing poetry that will grapple with history and memory.
But there is also another angle. If the "you" are the Nazis, "those who infuse hatred into beauty, blind force into accomplishment," then the writing is for them -- may they never visit again.
The second stanza gives hope: What strengthened me, for you was lethal -- Milosz aims for simple speech, images that are undisguised,open. He does not hammer a point or rant but quietly places his words on the grave, for the future.


“Do I wish none of this happened? Yes.” – Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This epigram's context is the hullabaloo on common core and teacher evaluations...
But it applies as well to the Milosz and Olzmann poems.
Reading the Ashbery poem line by line makes a wonderful collage of seemingly familiar words, with
a tongue-in-cheek, commentary with sound-alike words, a little French, and "buttered ramekins" out of context... that never are filled. The title and epigram set a humorous tone.

"You’re not going to have any trouble.
Standard stories of unrest drag on.
Was that a painful moment?"

Ashbery delights in such catch phrases, puns, contradictions."Buzzword conversation"-- but how do we understand it?
Is it painful to read? Perhaps if you stop and think about what lies underneath. Opposition to women's reproductive rights; gays' rights. Aging, disguised with ice cream and mirrors, safety and sickness, standard unrest... Perhaps as one participant says, the poem mimics a politician caught in the cartoon, side-sapping responsibility, so he'll keep his job.

How do we frame what we see, what we read? How do we share what we think?

The Pittsford Group ended on the radical as root carrot, read sentence by sentence.
the strange line breaks like mon / poly (-- mon oh! pole?)
stand / ing
con /
ditions of life pre /
determined

It reminded John of Elgar's Enigma variations: Who was the one with broken speech? And gave an imitation of Wm F. Buckley...
One can look up the poem and read "The poem shows many of Moore's best features: a syntax most readers have to work to decipher; careful if whimsical descriptive phrases, marked by colliding comparisons ("tail-like, wedge-shaped"); a moral at (or near) the end. (Moore's stanzas and lines count syllables, rather than metrical feet: All four first lines here, for instance, have three syllables, and all second lines have nine.)"
It seemed a suitable fit to the others. Radical... this idea of poet as root vegetable...

So much more to say and recount. Read the poems and comment please.






Friday, January 15, 2016

poems for Jan. 13


White-Eyes by Mary Oliver
Poem and Painting Pairing from American Academy of Poetry: The Rocky Mountains, Lander's Peak by Albert Bierstadt + Joy Harjo, "Remember"
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rocky_Mountains,_Lander%27s_Peak
Ice for the Ice Trade -- by Stephen Burt
A Short Testament by Anne Porter
To Days of Winter -- by W.S. Merlin
To the New Year - by W.S. Merwin


This selection of poems threads winter, but also a sense of transformation and meditative moments on connections.

The first poem by Mary Oliver, where the nine tercets drift lines out to imitate a bird's feathers and the wind's wings, hinges on the 5th stanza, dividing first an image of the bird's urge to make music and then ending with clouds falling like feathers from an "unimaginable bird" into snow, like the Indian "Great Spirit". Apparently, "White Eyes" could be a reference to an Indian Chief, and we tried to imagine what bird would have "white eyes" or whether it is a sense of white rings around eyes, and how this detail in the title works. White light, such as sunlight, contains all colors, and white in the poem seems to bind heaven to earth, spirit to nature.
Mary Oliver’s inaccuracy of detail regarding a nest as resting place, and clouds pushed North by the wind with a wishful thinking of “teaching them to be “mild and silent” leads to a certain sentimentality which some found distracting. The reading of the poem is slow, meditative, gentle and by the 6th stanza, she starts to use em-dashes, which further slows us down.

A poem/painting exercise is always instructive: how does a poet create the seamlessness of the absence of brushstroke? Is there an equivalent of anaphor in the painting? How does the idealization of the Rockies work with the incantatory urgency of "remember"? The intrigue of the poem for me is the image of all the colors of people's skin as what covers the earth, the sense of "aliveness" in motion, very unlike the stilled frame of an Indian camp in the foreground of high (sacred) mountain. Perhaps the poem was picked as Harjo was the Wallace Stevens Award winner by the American Academy. Carmen brought up the original which contains more details, and perhaps a clash between contemporary and traditional Indian.

The Stephen Burt poem brought up the idea of human trade -- and the analogy of ice as a chip of human being experience certainly works as a way of looking at how we feel "commodified", and lose our individual identity. The passage
"A few twigs and dragonfly wings got caught
near the center of me long ago; they serve
to distinguish me from others of my kind,
along with some bubbles of air."
reminded us of Harjo's "skin of the earth" and the multiplicity possible as we each gather different parts of life as our experience.

Discussion points: Thoreau: criticizing ice trade on Walden Pond;
Each stanza a different circumstance/person... and lines can be read in many ways depending on where you put the accent :e.g.:
Everybody wants a piece of me.
Do you accent the first word? the last? the idea of a "piece", or the wants, as opposed to no one noticing.


The next poem also has the supplication to "remember", but instead of asking for forgiveness, it seems more a petition to "make things right". Is "You" always God, or can it be read as a singular family member, a plural society?
Is she speaking about resurrection, linking her death to failed promises...
The formal capital letter that begins each line lends solemnity. Discussion brought up references to "My name is Earl..."; the fact that we don’t always know we have hurt someone and incantation of Jewish High Holidays... Tikkum Olam...
Confession – contrition,Christian prayer for forgiveness...
tossing responsibility back to God.

We read the two Merwin poems back to back -- both are from the same book, and share not only Merwin's characteristic "suspended lines" with no punctuation, but similar images: he blends passive with active, light both worn thing but also touching; stillness, hush, a "you" that speaks of an omniscient spirit infused in winter, in the passage of time, the here and now, the dove.

Concluding with Merwin allowed us to consider the meditative and metaphysical aspects of the poems shared. (we’ll be tabling the Stafford for next week), With one foot in a sense of history (particularly the idealized painting of Bierstadt and the problem of idealizing history, which Burt’s “Ice Trade” offsets with innuendoes perhaps of the Slave Tade) and secondly, the possibility of the new as we pass through our lives, connecting both ancient worlds to our own old year to the next year, already now, in winter.
The sense of greater story of the natural world comes through, looking at how it intersects in our tiny lives.

Elizabeth's comments: (email participant):
I would find interesting a discussion about anthropomorphizing in poems.
Does it bother anyone else (other than me)?
What can fairly be ascribed to nature?

Can we make of the world something like our own image,
ascribing mind and other human qualities?
Or does nature just serve as objective correlative, that we are not really saying other natural things do, think and say as we do?

poems for Dec. 16-- participants' picks


The Height of Love -- Taha Muhammad Ali (Thank you Elaine R.)
Out of the dust- 1961 by John Weisenthal
Going to see the new massage therapist – Bernie Shore
Praising Manners by Robert Bly
By the Waterfall in Watkins Glen, October -- Kitty Jospé

The poem by Taha Muhammad Ali comes from his collection, "Twigs".
I would love to be able to speak the original. The opening line is a brilliant line-break.
What makes me love
being alive

how is it connected for us that what makes us love, often has to do with loving being alive? And how do we spend our spirit -- and how could we not regardless of any suffering.

John's poem is a definite read aloud and captures the energy of a young man working with race horses. Bravo!
Bernie's poem touches on the universals of getting older... and a discussion of
how we deal with troubles... Discussion included mention of the
Dr. Seuss movie: 5,000 fingers of Dr. T.
Do-mi-do Duds...

The Bly received barrels of bullets... Blake: without neatness of execution,
precision of ideas (reflected in Blake's profession as engraver... metal plates... drawing...)
Bly interested in Jung... men’s groups.
narcissism... if you aren’t praising... you’re stealing...

get on your knees... if you please : John doesn’t like the preachiness...
a robin redbreast in a cage puts heaven in a cage. (has resonance...)

And we ended with a meditative whisper of words inspired by a leaf floating in the waterfalls of Watkins Glen.






Wednesday, December 30, 2015

last post of 2015

It's been another wonderful year of sharing poems...
On January 6 David Sanders will lead a discussion about the “biblical-modern interactions”: from The Gospel According to Matthew: 2. 1-12 and TSE's Gift of the Magi. The notes on the opening line:
"Adapted from a Nativity Sermon by Launcelot Andrewes at Winchester on Christmas Day of 1623: “A cold coming they had of it at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year to take a journey, and specially a long journey in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farther off, in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter.”

Why do certain images recur, charged with emotion?

In this season of winding up the old, preparing the new, I sent "A Short Testament" by Anne Portera for your private reflection. I will be glad to use it Jan. 12 as well!

For Marcie, I shared this poem, with condolences for the passing of her sister Salli over Christmas. Marcie arrived in time to find her awake and aware. In Marcie’s words: "We took her to an amazing Hospice facility - looked like an upscale resort - on Sun where I stayed with her until she died on Wed am."

I share with you the poem, Curtains by Ruth Stone, that makes me think of Marcie’s feisty spirit, and the loyal bond she has with her sister, the difficulty of digesting the fact that Salli’s long bout with cancer is over.