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Friday, April 21, 2017

Poems for April 19-20


Commercial Break by Lianne Kamp
Down – provided by J.P. Brennan
Passerby, These are Words by Yves Bonnefoy
I Belong There by Mahmoud Darwish
Nothing Twice by Wislawa Szymborska (1923 – 2012)
Greece by Billy Collins
On Rhyme by Billy Collins

The first poem had been slated for last week but we ran out of time. In the Pittsford group, it prompted a discussion of empathy exhaustion, and how we respond to the news and chose how debilitated we want to become.
What makes a good poem? In this one the group felt the language and diction, elements of surprise, sense of paradox,
perhaps because of the subject were missing. Judith mentioned the Norm Davis poem, "When the Circus Came to Auschwicz and brought up some of Millay's "obligated war poetry"... In the Rundel group, we discussed the word
"break", how many ways it can be understood -- as a pause, a distraction from work, as a break-up in relationship,
and the line-breaks in the poem. How we use commercials as distractions-- and the play of "Ad" with "Add" but since only a few people had the poem in front of them, we did not discuss for long.

Down, we had discussed in Pittsford the week before.

The next three pose the usual problems of translation. It is hard to imagine the original French, Arabic and Polish... and without knowing who is the translator, impossible to know what decisions were made in terms of
rhyme, meter sound. I did find "pieces" of the Bonnefoy which seem to reflect the original.
I have no knowledge of the Darwish original, but Elaine brought up his poem "Prison Cell" which corroborates
the power of the imagination to help survive impossible situations.
How does "Here become There" -- in the case of the first, the ghosts speaking to those still living;
in the case of the Darwish, the "there" the "panorama of his own making in the deep horizons of his word to create "home". What is it to "own" something -- to be free to imagine it, as in the case of the prison guard who
looks at his poet-prisoner and envies him.


Passerby, These are words, has the title "Planches courbes" in French, published in 1999. Literally
"curved planks" which contains the oxymoron of rigid, linear planks and circular, rounded lines. It is hard
not to think of Charon's boat, with the dead whispering from the underworld through the rubbed-out names
of the cemetery gravestones. All agreed that the poem left a mysterious and haunting feel, more powerful
than the intellectual gleanings of a poem, understanding that Bonnefoy was writing this with the thought in mind of death of the Ideal, Art and pushing Nietzche’s idea of “God is Dead”.

I looked at the third stanza and feel there is a different layer than what is translated: The "fainter sound" the dead know, is followed by the subjunctive -- the desire and wish "that the Ideal be" a gathering force so that the whispering the dead convey the sense of this “Ideal” warmed and focussed for the living who are "blind/light" still able to gaze on it... Perhaps a further paradox... we are blind to what is buried, yet pay attention, perhaps a different slant to the translation of “regard” which can be translated as “gaze”...

I am not a Bonnefoy scholar. I found the poem from the Poem Hunter. How do we understand "untangle your alarms"--
it seems that the alarms cannot sound, if "tangled"...and yet untangling is to "make sense", which seems impossible for the living. For the second stanza, the living (happy) bee, seems to profit from the flowers on graves...
the real sound of branches, for the silent, unseen "gold" -- of beauty, truth, faith perhaps?

**
The Szymborska poem, translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak has a delightful tone to it.
Indeed, "One cannot step twice into the same river"... and applied to this life-- this is our one-time chance,
not a practice session. There's a hint of "gather ye rosebuds as ye may" in the 5th stanza... A Rose? A Rose (said twice!) What could that be? In otherwise, can a rose be both flower and rock? And how do we imagine rock?
Something crumbling into falling petals of stones? Something emerging in one form, finishing in another?
Her advice to accept the present, without fear and sorrow might be helpful to Bonnefoy's ghosts... In terms of
our emotional attachments and relationships we must remember no two people are alike... an easily forgotten concept.
Particularly pleasing rhyme: bliss is : kisses... and there too, no two kisses, or nights thereof can be the same...

I did read aloud Billy Collins take on "The Present" -- and sent it with next week's poems.
His tone and play of easy-going lines seems like "fluff" but usually tinge on some deeper factor.
His imagination of a vacation in Greece, anthropomorphizing ancient columns "taking their time to fall apart..." some with "nervous looks on their faces" carries on to a reverse process of people behaving as pillars -- tossing beach balls, also "teetering in the sunlight"... note the hotel is on a cliff... and deaf to this, building castles of love or of sand, the poet enters with his two lines reminds us with a metaphor of a megaphone that captures the sound play of "the whispering lips of death", before charging into the waves, joining the fray...
Is it irritating or delightful or both? How deeply do we want to respond to history, aging?
Marcie noted the double use of "which" -- a more prosy use of language...
"which descended on the grass and the disheveled stones.

Which is precisely how the bathers appeared ...
Judith chalked it up to a transitional use... the sunlight on the teetering pillars to the grass and disheveled stones... without saying the sunlight was descending on teetering and disheveled bathers... and yet making the point.


https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/16/t-magazine/entertainment/christian-marclay-billy-collins-art-poem.html?_r=0 (pairing of poem with a visual response.)
As part of T’s ongoing series, the artist Christian Marclay, best known for his film montage “The Clock,” responded to this poem by Billy Collins, with the above photo: a Ginko Leaf (one of the oldest trees)and a Q-tip on a road with a yellow line...


The final poem, which is the title poem of "The Rain in Portugal, refuses to rhyme at all-- and yet we recognize
"a stitch in time saves nine"; the calendar jingle, which he refuses to repeat in order; the hat is not available for the cat, but becomes a French chapeau or English Trilby; I did recite the tamer version of the old men from Nantucket and what they do with their bucket... and who could miss "row, row, row your boat"..
the Rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains...

Rhyme is fun, but so is breaking its rules... and we are back to not stepping into the same river twice,
knowing, no matter what our mothers say, we will do what we will do... in the case of the boys by the harbor with the swaying fishing boats, they do not ask the rain to go away, (or come again another day)but to go out to play.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poems for April 12-13

Look, Stranger – W.H. Auden
Omar D. Conger, 1922; Black River by Cindy Hunter Morgan
Things to Think by Robert Bly
Ode to the Double “L” by Michelle Brittan Rosado
Objectivity as Blanket by Zoë Hitzig
Within Two Weeks the African American Poet Ross Gay is Mistaken for Both the African American Poet Terrance Hayes and the African American Poet Kyle Dargan, Not One of Whom Looks Anything Like the Others BY ROSS GAY
Visit the Sick -- Rumi (for Pittsford)


The original idea of this grouping of poems was to look at how a poet "hooks a reader".
The first one I mentioned, is one my father-in-law, now 92, recently recited by heart. He
finds it is a good antidote for the type of self-indulgent poems which seem to be addressed
"to whom it may concern", without caring who anonymous might be.
The rich alliteration, abundance of sibilants and liquids create the sound of the sea, as well as providing a lushly sensuous poem. Look,
Where do you go after the comma?
Look, stranger
is it an adjective? a person? the reader?
Are you intrigued?

Where is this island? England? or in the imagination, or as a metaphor? Does it matter?
I love poetry which contains multiple layers...
the light leaps... but the stranger is told to "stand stable here" -- but note how after rhyming with
ear, for the sounds of a wandering river, "here" leaps to return to start the second sentence, on the 8th line.

The syntax is odd, with the verb inverted with "silent be" and the subject at the end of the sentence. Logically, we think"The swaying sound of the sea wanders like a river through the channel of the ear". The diction rich -- pluck and knock of the tide!-- the division of suck-
ing, to rhyme... the echo of sh in shingle, with sheer...
And what of "urgent voluntary errands" -- what could this be -- and what hope is planted by the seeds of ships?

Judith brought up the fact that Auden married Thomas Mann's daughter so she could leave Germany
and be safe in England just before World War 2. Is she the stranger then? And the ships part of the war? I invite you to do however much research you want to do. For me, it is enough to be lost
in the sounds, to note that "now" and "pause" do not rhyme. Errand and mirror, share a shimmer in the double r and ships rhymes with unspoken lips and hips.

The next poem is inspired by a news account. Without it, the title and the appearance of the radiator would be indeed puzzling, There is a pleasing play of radiator (mentioned twice) and "radiant" applied to the God it might have been flung by and the possibility of radiance as one of the choices to explain its appearance. The poem seems to edge on humor -- and yet this is a grim
account. The first part up to BUT... seems to question the nature of God. The poem moves us on
to the word coincidence, and how words guide our thinking as we start to hear and associate
until we are capable of changing"the lexicon". One word, coincidence, turns into another word, coincide, which repeats with its rhyming variations of "cides" which all have to do with murder.
"A word redefined by tragedy". The poem could have ended there, but it goes on to consider the families who were involved... the transfer of one "coincidence" will trigger the memory,
like a "kind of death". Perhaps the universe doesn't care. But that's not the point of the poem.

I am paraphrasing the poem, which does not do justice to it. We do try to make sense of
tragedy, but again, the poem isn't "about" just that, or how language changes. We are invited
as readers to wear the shoes of those involved, imagine what that might be like.

"Things to Think" is a delightful title. There are so many wonderful craft decisions here... the way "message "is followed by a line break to continue on the next line "larger than anything you've ever heard" which gives a sense of "large beyond containment"... Larger then rhymes with "Vaster"
and instead of the 1000 ships that Helen launched, or an echo of Andrew Marvell(My vegetable love should grow vaster than
it's a comical comparison of "vast" with 100 lines of Yeats... Large reappears with another message.
"something large" is to tell you three things:
you're forgiven;
it's not necessary to work all the time;
you can lie down and no one will die.

The middle stanza captures a sense of childlike imagination, both surreal and implausible.
What's the worst thing you can think of? A wounded and deranged bear at your door?
What's the most miraculous? that your child is rescued by a moose, holding it in its antler as it rises from a lake?
Marcie mentioned the delightful blog "exploding Unicorn" which records things that a father's 4 young children say.

The message of "thinking in ways you've never thought before" (opening line) is enacted in the second stanza. What kind of choice do we have here? Think of an animal to symbolize fear?
And one whose largeness is not scary, but helpful? And how does one have "a child of your own you've never seen"? How many ways can you think through that? That the child you sent off to school in
the morning is not the kid who comes home with or without a freshly skinned knee?
Indeed life goes on. The point is not to get caught up in exterior things, which we as adults are so good at doing... You only get a small hyphen between the year you were born and the year you will die. Think how you'll use it.

Ode to the Double L is filled with L sounds and doublings. We listened to the poet read her poem and did not detect a foreign accent. This does not mean she is not from some other country. Marion confirmed by mentioning that she has been in this country since she was 8, but most people do not guess she is from Africa. l l : they can look like lines -- or l's (ones) parallel lives.
Perhaps the same person in different countries, but also how two people remain parallel.
Discussion ensued about immigration; about where "Here" is.
At first some felt it was a "contrived" poem, but as we kept parsing it these comments came up:
What happens when you stop writing in your own language? Doubles, things in twos; half of times,
both grief and wonder doubled...

Something about the final sentence feels like a plea from someone emprisoned between bars of lines...

The next poem, uses anaphor so that each fragment starts with Nor. We don't know what came before.
It was neither XYZ, nor... Objectivity? I think of the French word for camera lens: l'objectif...
How do you look at something? record it? By using blanket in the title and in the last line of
the poem, there is both the physical evidence of something and the metaphor for "cover up".
Animals... of course an elephant -- the largeness people don't want to admit is in the room--
but with a fresh use of tusk as verb -- "tusked by the state". The stork is mentioned twice with the adjective "common sense", and the third time, perhaps asking "is she breathing"? Or is it the stork itself, no longer able to bring something new? Bending/unbending however you phrase it.
Who is "he" why his "fitful approach"... is he the same as the widower? He, now the puma in pull-focus -- perhaps a pun on "full focus" or the camera term to describe changing focus mid-shot.
(Now I look again at "Nor the shots" -- guns or camera shoot? or both). The final line with the rhyme of "blue" and "two" gives us two details that don't clarify anything.
This poet works on poems on wrongful conviction of people... and at first
sounded like computer generated but highly private language ...
Spending time with this poem was like watching one of those magic pellets one puts in water.
At first it looks like a dry capsule with no possibilities... and then, it starts to morph and blossom.

We ended at Rundel on the Ross Gay poem with the incredibly long title... "History as the blacksmith of our tongues..."
I think only that when a man
is a concept he will tell you about the smell
of smoke...
The abstract and visceral... the stereotyping and racism that comes from not paying attention...
What is the smell of smoke? We can describe it... the feel of suffocating, but the smell is what is being burned. And then, think of associations -- campfires and roasting marshmallows is one kind of smoke... smoke from a fire caused by a bomb quite another.

At Pittsford, we read also "Visit the Sick" -- biblical in tone. Kindness, the great of all balms...
Paul read the poem "Down" -- and clued us into the real Irishman who wrote it.
Read down the page, it looks like a digger.

Each poem we read today, provided us with seeds, our discussion watching them transform--
in the light of shared understanding.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

poems for April 5/6

Business by Naomi Shihab Nye
First Light by Chen Chen
Canary by Rita Dove
He said I wrote about death, by Kim Dower
Landscape with Tractor by Henry Taylor
DAY COMES AND GOES, NIGHT COMES AND GOES

I was reminded by Bill Heyen at his reading on Sunday, that Richard Wilbur said, "Poetry is a necessary art, for a small minority". Reading a well-written poem, based on an article in the news,
for me, is indeed proof that I am part of that minority.

"What business do you have here" as an idiom, is a critical, unfriendly statement to make sure the "other" understands s/he does not belong. Although this is not part of the poem, the very word "business", or conducting affairs comes up in the newspaper article referring to refugees who "go about their business" which is equally distancing and as one person said, "damning". Indeed,
"urgencies of doing disappear" in a refugee camp. Perhaps there is a sense of whatever they do, we don't. Perhaps we too should example what we call our "business".
The second line of the poem introduces "He", and the poem proceeds in the 3rd person limited-- a narrative which has authority,albeit not omniscient. There is an immediacy when we have the pronoun again, about the neighbor child "whose crying kept him awake". We can imagine he did something with books; we can imagine that which might keep a child crying through the night-- is it bombing, has the child lost family? illness? hunger?
It feels that the poet takes up the final, haunting line : "Where do you file this unknowing?"

First Light is also a poem of dislocation-- how the title repeats over and over, each time a possible frame for the story of fleeing "at first light" and the difficulty of memory. I was excited to find this book in the library, "Come watch the sun go home" (1998) also by Chen Chen which is a memoire of leaving China. A different author, but same subject. I love the term, "teaspoon-taste/of history"--
which is not just the pinch on which the narrator can ground his story... but the way, in general, we only receive a hint of whatever "really happened". Whether 13 ways of looking at a blackbird, Rashomon, this is not a new way to look at "truth" in a story.
The pain of leaving, being separated from sisters, the mother who had a stroke:
Not only is "what stays, is leaving" but the guilt -- the pain being "here" when the other is "there".
I feel awful, my mother says,
not going back at once to see her.
But too much is happening here.*

Note the gap before "here". Stanza break. Just in case you need stage directions:

"Here, she says, as though it’s the most difficult,
least forgivable English word."

This is a timely poem, which counteracts the myth of immigration and romantic spin associated with the "new life and opportunity". Here, the sorrow is palpable. As Emerson says about experience,
the poet is the one who integrates. Or to quote I believe Robert Penn Warren, by composition,
we compose ourselves. Indeed, with all the turns and possibilities as Chen-Chen struggles to remember, as reader, we are convinced of the truth of his telling.

Emily, who wanted to discuss this poem puts it this way: "I like the way he adds history to his memory of leaving China, and later how having to leave his home links to the first leaving, as does his leaving his mother at the airport. The immigrant experience, and the shifting memories all draw me and I like his style".


Rita Dove's tribute to Billy Holiday, "Canary" draws a picture of the gardenia --saying it is "under her face" -- the way we might place a signature -- although the flower is in her hair. Why not
"around" her face...? Ambiguity is the name of this poem -- the public vs. private Billy... and the killer last line: "If you can’t be free, be a mystery." More on the poem here: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2014/07/17/rita-doves-canary/

The next poem by Kim Dower is an elegy for Tom Lux-- the title being something he said to her.
Her note on the poem:
“My mentor and favorite poet, Thomas Lux, noted after reading my latest collection, ‘there’s a little more mortality creeping in, more darkness.’ I was surprised by this, and then that night I dreamed about running over a bird. When I awoke I thought, ‘he said I wrote about death,’ which became a prompt and title for this poem. I now dedicate this poem to him, the most generous and beloved teacher and friend the world has ever known.”

There are only three sentences in her poem. The title spills into the first two lines:
He said I wrote about death,

and I didn’t mean to, this was not
my intent.

The second sentence:
I meant to say how I loved
the birds, how watching them lift off
the branches, hearing their song
helps me get through the gray morning.

13 lines later, the 3rd sentence is still going on about the birds, and not meaning to write about death to conclude what she meant to say:
" rather how when something dies
we remember who we love, and we
die a little too, we who are still breathing,
we who still have the energy to survive."
The subject takes hold of her -- and we discussed how the lengthy "unpacking" works for each reader.

I looked up the author of The last poem "Landscape with Tractor by Henry Taylor" and believe this is the same man.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Taylor_(artist)

This poem too "unpacks" but in stanzas, and the slow unraveling of the narrative, mowing along,
revealing more and more until by the sixth stanza we have discovered a corpse.
What kind of "landscape" is this and how does the tractor work as metaphor? The speaker starts with a question, vague, "how would it be..." and you wonder what he is talking about. By the 3rd stanza before the end, the reader is thinking about the "someone" and how it would be, not like the first stanza, with the setting of the house, 3 acres of grass, offset from the road... but suddenly discovering a someone was murdered, tossed like a no-one...
Masterful story telling, visceral, capturing the tone of the man mowing, how he didn't need
any crap tossed in his yard... and then, to have this discovery, and to be so horrified by it, you know you will remember it until you die. Will you remember this poem also?

The final selection was a gift to memorize with a context:

Day comes and goes, night comes and goes . . .
Sinking your head in hands clasped tight,
You wonder why there still comes no
Apostle of wisdom, truth and right.
-- Taras Shevchenko

Metro users in Ukraine's capital city are being allowed to ride free of charge at some stations if they can recite a poem by Taras Shevchenko, the country's national poet -- Statue on P street in Washington, D.C. contemporary with Pushkin... (and people can recite Eugene Onegin by heart... )

http://taras-shevchenko.infolike.net









Sunday, April 2, 2017

poems for March 29/30


The Makers by Howard Nemerov (provided by Judith)
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World by Richard Wilbur (Kathy -- also discussed in 2014!)
The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz (thank you Kathy)
Supplement : Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address (John)

Cowbell by W.S. Merwin (provided by Jan)
Seamus Heaney : from Clearances (3rd Sonnet-- thank you Joyce)
Picnic Lightning by Billy Collins (thank you Rich)

In addition, I enclosed Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address suggested by a member of the Pittsford group. He says this: "WH Auden defined poetry as "memorable speech." Although I couldn't recite Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address from memory, every reading of it gives me chills. One could cut the first stanza (paragraph) without injuring the work, but then...hold on!” In the attachment I copied the line breaks . The actual text can be found here.http://www.abrahamlincolnsclassroom.org/abraham-lincoln-in-depth/lincolns-second-inaugural- speech/

For those who don't know the names, Judith, Kathy, John, Jan, Joyce, Rich, from the Pittsford group provided suggestions of poems. What are some of your "Favorites"? There are so many -- and for different reasons.

Nemerov brings us back to the creation of language... the "makers" being the first poets to think
of how to bridge the visible to the invisible. Who indeed remembers...
"Or now considers, among the artifacts,
And bones and cantilevered inference
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets,
So lofty and disdainful of renown..."

How indeed, do we still "word the world"?
At Rundel, Paul was reminded by the word "idiot"-- that speechless world -- (idiot, as in dumb, or mute) of Bob Dylan, "idiot wind".

I love the idea of a tower of Babel -- the building in one universal language -- and the personnification of the heavens as "astonished"... and I love that a requirement of a "maker"is also to be a great listener. It is by noticing connections that we find (and invent) words... find the resonance ("attuned/To interval, relationship, and scale,) to help them sing in their "cantilevered" way
.
Why do we have creation myths? We all want to explain the greatest question we have: Why are we here? One person posited that idea that myths have the goal of speaking to a God -- asking for proof that we are loved-- I am important enough to have words -- ."

The poem takes us to a time before any poets... or fragments in ancient times, Hebrew scripture...
yet borrows on contemporaries such as Wallace Stevens...


**
From astonished sky to "astounded soul" we join Wilbur in Italy, where laundry billows in the wind
as if the air is "awash with angels". The images, the effortless ease of using the word "soul"
in a convincing and pleasing way -- especially when it "shrinks", (as does the line)

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."
just read it
He plays with dark and light...the idea of purification in the washing, the final stanza hinting Christ's crucifixion where the thieves too are deserving of being wrapped in clean linen. The ending contrasts the angels with the heaviest nuns "in a pure floating of dark habits" -- truly, to talk about this poem, I am tempted to quote every line--
repeat it stanza by stanza to admire the flawless architecture, the integrity of sounds.

**
Kunitz seems to draw on the Viking burial tradition of the longboat as coffin and yet, it is a narrative metaphor of the surprise at finding oneself snapped from mooring... and a feeling of drifting to a final sleep. We imagined it must feel this way in hospice.
There is a definite feel of Walt Whitman -- "Out of the cradle rocking" and the peace of the infinite. The final stanza with its negative, "as if it didn't matter, as if he didn't know..."
provides a brilliant separation of what life should be like, alive, and a reminder that it is all too brief. I tried a "Golden Shovel" with the last three lines... it loses the power of the parallelism
of "matter" and "know" -- what matters and how do we know? I envy the man in this boat -- that we would love the earth so much -- not that he loved life so much -- but the earth, and what that means for connection.

As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.


**
The next poem had a real sense of communal memory reading it line by line.
Merwin's style gives a sense of "measured weight", and timelessness of unpunctuated lines...
A cowbell and the calling it had been made for puts forth a thought about what a calling is, what we are made for.


**
The Heaney sonnet, #3 from "Clearances" provided much discussion about who the characters were in the narrative... There is an intimacy... mother and child... or perhaps Grandmother and grandchild, or two lovers while the rest are at Mass... So, the Octave is the memory; the Sestet, it feels
Someone is now dead, and people dropping by... and the memory of spending special time together... whoever it was -- "fluent" and "dipping".

We did not have time to discuss Billy Collins -- but it seemed to echo the arbitrariness of the Kunitz...

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pittsford -- Poems for March 15



WE like March, his shoes are purple by Emily Dickinson
The Ides Of March by Constantine P. Cavafy
The Ides of March A.D. 1896 by Emily Mary Barton
Ghazal: The Dark Times by Marilyn Hacker
Making History by Marilyn Nelson
Sweater by Jane Hirshfield
What I Know by Lee Robinson


A group gets together... reads a poem aloud. Discusses, shares.
It's all a good thing. Generosity of reading to understand; generosity of listening; it's not about
showing off what one knows so much, although the extra knowledge is always welcome.

What do you find most pleasurable when visiting a museum? The time to contemplate, silently, a work of art,
or having someone hustle you through threading themes of what is available.
The same with poetry. There are many ways to understand, access, appreciate, come to terms with a poem.
The beauty is in the sharing.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Pittsford discussion March 8; Rundel, March 23 (snow day 3/16)


poems below discussed at Pittsford on March 8


Rondel was going to discuss them March 16, cancelled because of snow. the notes in parentheses were for the Rundel group:
Dear March - Come in - (#1320) Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886
(What is the effect of the m-dashes. Where does she leave them out?)

The earth is a living thing Lucille Clifton, 1936 - 2010
(note how the title carries into the poem... 2 tercets, a couplet
and then six lines, each one starts with “is a black” except for the couplet, “is a fish black blind in the belly...” with its heavy alliteration of b’s in both lines. Note as well how “discarded” in the second tercet could be an enjambment to include the fish with a reversal of verb-subject... How does the final stanza contrast with that?)

What It Feels Like to Feel Like Me by Selima Hill
Cow by Selima Hill
note the title of the source of “The Cow” – real poems for unreal times.
(Why would this be a good poem to include in such an anthology?)

My Generation Reading the Newspapers by Kenneth Patchen
(Discuss “loss” and the multiple layers of “these”—
how both reading and recording are addressed – is the advice as pertinent now as almost 90 years ago?)

A Small- Sized Mystery by Jane Hirschfield
(What tone does Hirschfield create? Does her parable touch you ? How or how not.)A sense of quiet reassurance.
This poem brought up a lot of associations -- a Turkish film at the Little; the association of e=MC2 as smooth energy,possessed by a cat... First, one invites the cat, who needs no excuse, does not have to explain, or pretend. The cat knows how big it is,
and how to fill it. The enigmatic end... we have much to learn from this cat...

The Idea of Living by Joyce Sutphen : the poem begs the question, how are you living? Are you in a visual abstraction,
or in touch with your body?

Pittsford Discussion
Dickinson:
What is it about March, and its hinges of Spring, with wild winds and contrary temperament, that Dickinson would want to dwell with it, and shut the door on April? Perhaps the last vestiges of winter in March, allow the kind of meditative reflection we associate with winter, and the wildness of March provides us with a marvelous energy to prepare us for rebirth...
Rundel: March as lover... rhymes : grew/Hue/you... why no m-dashes "He (April?) stayed away a Year to call...
but trifles look so trivial/as soon as you have come-- and to end on this confusion of blame/praise, where the triffle is blame...
and the flip side, Praise, as a novel way to forgive?

Clifton:
The repetition of "black", the alliterative B's (repeating blind) the repetition of circling... the shambling, ruffling, circling, gives a view of Earth alive, through animals, but also child, giving equal weight to being
black as a race... the language is filled with a sensuous a bigness that spans air, sea, and a sense of a planet spinning in space. The brilliance of the poem is how black changes.
Rundel: sense of wildness, and heavy-voiced B's -- black to back, burying, bones, blind, belly, (repeated)and ending
with "brushing it clean"...

Selima Hill:
We read the 4 lines of "What it feels like to feel like me" then, "the cow" to get a sense of the voice of this delightfully eccentric poet.
We then re-read the 4 lines. One interpretation is to think of the author who does not want to be domesticated... some sort of quilt, decorated with appliqués-- an idea of a field... and yet... inferring
the possibility of being something expansive and nurturing...
Do listen to the poet reading her poem "Cow" -- her sense of humor is clear, and will dislodge any idea
that she is complaining about her lot in life preferring the large, fertile and female-nurturing image of cow.
https://youtu.be/WO1aQfJppYs
"Cow" comes from: Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times. Both poems point to survival techniques.

Rundel: First 4 line poem: "felt ears" -- overtones of whimsy and domestic detail taken out of proportion -- how can soft felt "trample"? What kind of field -- one thinks of sowing, ploughing--- an outer world of possibility.
The second one, gives a feel of comfort in this large, dozy creature that is counted by the cowman, and loved on this farm.
To whom is she speaking? Wanting here, invites the poetry to act as poultice.

Patchen:
I am not sure when this poem was written, however, the date might be important...
The opening line, "We must be slow and delicate" is repeated, "hard it is to be slow and delicate in this,"
where "this" is the framing of words... a sense of regret, countered by a sense of being in the moment;
One person thought it might be a eulogy, or an obituary, referring to Patchen's little sister hit by an
automobile and killed. : Thinks of Hitler... Mussolini... the repetition of "slow and delicate" -- first "we must be this way..." and the repeat, "funny how/hard it is to be slow and delicate in this..."-- he is speaking of grave matters,the result of wars where
"casualties" are unwarranted loss of lives.

Maura (Pittsford group) read her letter she wrote in the voice of the grandfather she never knew at this point.


In the Hirschfield poem, quite a discussion of cats ensued with examples of those cats who if not
saying “Excuse me" seem to say, "I'm sorry". The poem is not really about mercy, nor the pondering of the universe with an Einsteinian mind... but rather points to the fact that we are alive, on an earth where all is living... with a bit of an implication about our need for connection, engagement...and small-sized mysteries...
The cats are really just an excuse to talk about being human...


Sutphen: Back to "this earth" -- the grounded and sensuous details, contrast with the "hammered gold" -- Donne's image in his poem, "Valediction" where he explains to his wife their love will not be severed by his going off on a voyage. The poems is an exercise in understatement...

Is it about living... contrasted with the idea of living or simply an exercise in mindfulness?


Poems for March 1-2

‘I never seen such days as this’ by Sholeh Wolpé,
Other Fugitives and Other Strangers by Rigoberto González
The Soldier of Mictlán by Rigoberto González
Casa by Rigoberto González
Mimesis by Fady Joudah
Author’s Prayer by Ilya Kaminsky
The undertaker’s daughter by Toi Derricotte


"American poetry as a body is best when it reflects America's inherent pluralism and defies
the monoculture America never truly was>" Danielle Legros Georges

It is good to be reminded by poems, that "news" does not contain the reminders of our humanity,
and what it is to be human.

Each one of these poems shares a dark slice of life that I have not experienced. I appreciate the poems
for providing me another lens, and appreciate the discussion of how the poems touched both groups.

Taking the words of a 14-year old held in an Afghan prison as title, then repeating them as final line,
with just one added word: "Father". The poem spans the distance between the son, his story, and the father
hoping to earn money to pay his ransom... The opening stanza, which explains why ragged, hungry boys
would join an army... like the promises of the fox in Pinocchio... the unfinished sentences matching the age
of a victim and the number of people raping him...

The next three poems by Rigoberto Gonzáles, not only are eye-openers into the details of a Mexican-born, gay man's life, but also stunning examples of craft. Normally when we say, "I trust"... there is an implicit
understanding between the "I" and the "you" to which it is directly. Here, the poem starts with night, with unsettling details of a nightclub's neon lights, "red with anxiety", and the "I trust" applied to the anonymous drivers of cars, whose headlights are "white as charcoal", "not the swerve". Each "I trust" introduces a deeper angle of what it is like to hook up. "I dance, I drink, I follow>" Like Veni, vidi, vici... and "trust" becomes increasingly a demonstration of the opposite of what we would expect it to be. All traces will be gone; one stranger replaced by another. The fugitive however, leaves the reader wondering from what one flees... a mixture of loneliness, intimacy. The layers of anger burn in the headlights...the f's piling up of "fender, fury, false"
A stranger's tongue is trusted not to make connection, give promises. Trust acts as counter balance to pain/desire. The group remarked that the poem could be written by a woman.

The Soldier of Mictlán employs "soldier" as the last word on each line. Mictlán as underworld... the pied piper effect of the first poem returns in the penultimate line, as the rattle that summons a soldier to death... The emptiness, no promise ever of comfort. Soldier is applied as adjective to boots, word, nose, heart, palm, eyes, love, head, life... The "mayor of Mictlan" seems to show compassion, at first glance, but it turns into a request... that the newly-arrived soldier teach wonder and kindness... and the search for a moment, one moment
of "soldier bliss". Just as futile a request, as the request of the soldier for bread, cheese and wife.
from Unpeopled Eden. Copyright © 2013 by Rigoberto Gonzalez
One hears the soldier’s boots stepping-- in fact you can see a video of González reciting the poem, marching in place. The futility of being a soldier reminded David of the Odyssey – when Odysseus goes to underworld...and in order to speak must have some living blood. He concludes, "I would rather be a slave in world above than king of this underworld..."

Casa is a persona poem where the house is seemingly indifferent. The neutral position is so counter to how we would like to imagine the ideal "home" ... and yet there is something lovable about this house... sometimes cryptic, sometimes funereal, addressing "whatever launched this grim parade/ of exits. Quickly denying any feeling of abandonment with believable bravado. After dismissing the possibility of a house being any sort of wish, or provider of any attachment of value, the last line is enigmatic:
"a structure without soul for those whose
patron saints are longing and despair."
It leads the reader to contemplate what would give a house a soul...


The next poem by Fady Joudah is one of those simple constructs that confirms "less is more". A girl, a spider web in her bicycle's handlebars; a father telling her to get rid of the web so she can go on to play ... and the wisdom of the girl understanding web as home, and its destruction the way we treat refugees. Such a cursory
summary hopefully we make you want to read the poem...

We closed with The Undertaker's Daughter (Rundel didn't have enough time for the "Author's Prayer"-- which echoes the importance of writing). Like the Joudah, Derricotte uses a light sketch-touch... a little girl whose father deals with preparing people for burial, like Anubis except there is more here about the father...
just as there is more about all of us, not wanting to share fears and shames... just as there is a universal longing in all of us for a sense of nurture... just as also, we all have vulnerable spots others are not supposed to see...