Friday, May 15, 2015

Poems for May 14 + Tranströmer

as in O Pen: See May 11
The Amen Stone by Yehudi Amichai
Dear Mr. Bukowski by Claudia Cornelison
The Lanyard by Billy Collins
To my favorite 17 year old High School Girl by Billy Collins
The Streets of Shanghai, by Tomas Transtromer

To continue with Billy Collins, I remember reading the Lanyard and chuckling at the wit, the perfect set up to honor parents, especially mothers. The conversational style, the brief repetitions of the child giving a lanyard, and finally the archaic truth, which depending on your mood will say something about instinctive needs for gifts, narcissism of children, unconditional love of mothers.

To my favorite 17-year-old High School Girl, again depending on your mood, you might appreciate the sarcasm behind the passive-agressive parental approach. Would this work as a small essay on why we expect more out of our children? Is there any tenderness? Any sense of knowing the people involved? It seems to be more a commentary on how parents handle/mock the onus on self-esteem... On Monday, the discussion revolved to how we don’t take humor seriously, and how the subject has nothing solemn to warrant anything but the hint that it would be great to have a child able at least to help around the house, without mentioning a deeper subtext of expectations. The double messages leave a sense of dissatisfaction, perhaps irritation, but in a hollow, surface manner. Collins is capable of addressing big subjects, but more comfortable, it would seem to adopt this flip irony.

Tranströmer is quite the opposite. As psychologist, a non-academic, his concern is neither wit, nor aesthetic satisfaction, but rather keen observations. The Streets of Shanghai starts with a white butterfly, with an metaphorical underpinning on the nature of truth. Depending on which translation, the wording will change slightly, but as in the poem, "Alone", there is an extra stanza in the version presented, which is some versions is deleted. How does it change the poem not to have this final line:

"We look almost happy out in the sun, while we are bleeding fatally/From wounds we don't know about."
Looking at the three exclamations, one in each of the stanzas is one approach:
1. "butterfly as a floating corner of truth!" A sense of revelation and excitement perhaps. Faith and streets in motion with an impact on setting our "silent planet going."
2. "Mind the labyrinths to left and right!" Amid the observations, the 8 different faces, the invisible one one doesn't talk about, the sense of Confucian principles, the laundry, the aliveness of the street, the "shoals of cyclists" there is a contrasting sense of the speaker as poised and unconnected: an old tree "with withered leaves that hang on and can't fall to the earth".
3. The crowds keep the motion going, the street now compared to a deck of a ferry... What is the cross--
Christian, a crossroads? I think not a Swedish flag, since the "us" includes everyone in the street.
Apparently, Tranströmer avoids trappings of religion, but there is a sense of deep connection to something spiritual. It is not abstract, some distant concept, disconnected or uncomfortable enough to be avoided, but rather, embraces the unknown that is part of our existence. But this third exclamation mark gives it a playful quality, a teasing quality that invites us to wonder "who it is" that creeps behind us, covers our eyes and whispers "Guess Who".

In the Robert Hass introduction to his selected poems, 1954-86, he says this: "Tomas Tranströmer's poems are thick with the feel of life lived in a specific place: the dark, overpowering Swedish winters, the long thaws and brief paradisal summers in the Stockholm archipelago. He conveys a sense of what it is like to be a private citizen in the second half of the twentieth century. His voice, spare and clear."

In the poem discussed Monday, The Dispersed Congregation, we spoke at length about Nicodemus, his role. The inner/outer, hidden/apparent... The Address, as the speech we expect to hear, the address we look for but don't find. Images such as slum, sewer, the church as the plaster bandage around the broken arm of faith... where we pass the begging bowl, the bells tolling under our feet, reveal the unkempt and dark part of us...
If religion must be reformed, so must civic life. Poems, brief as they are, can rattle the cages of “approved ideas,” even if only for a moment.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Poems for May 11

The Makers by Howard Nemerov
The Amen Stone by Yehudi Amichai
Dear Mr. Bukowski, by --Claudia Cornelison , one of the finalists for goodreads April ipoetry contest:
Cheerios By Billy Collins
To My Favorite Seventeen Year-Old High School Girl by Billy Collins
The Dispersed Congregation by Tomas Tranströmer

In the April issue of Poetry Magazine, the final poem is "I look to Theory Only When I realize That Someone Has Dedicated Their Entire Life to a Question I Have Only Fleetingly Considered.
And then a series of flat statements, that aren't necessarily theory ensue.

In the May issue of poetry, the theme seems to be the responsibility of art to record the disasters at the time, in Karen Solie's poem "Bitumen" and Frank Bidart's 32 page "4th Hour of the Night".

The quotation on the back of the May issue says, "When a poem becomes commemorative, it dies" and links to Cathy Park Hong's essay, "Against Witness".

What a contrast to Nemerov's tribute!
Judith had memorized "The Makers" by Nemerov, and mentioned what a struggle it was to commit to memory, and yet, because her brother had done so, and able to retain it, perhaps it was in his honor as well as to honor a poem honoring the "makers" or poets, sometimes also called fabricators. She demonstrated the importance of gesture, pauses, and how they helped her memorize.

This poem, in 3 stanzas of blank verse in iambic pentameter threads the memorable lines such as:

And bones and cantilevered inference
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets,
Star, water, stone, that said the visible
And made it bring invisibles to view
Leaving no memory but the marvelous
Magical elements, the breathing shapes.

How different from the theoretical postulations in the April issue of Poetry!
As for commemorative... I think Nemerov proves Pathy Park Hong wrong. Paying tribute to the past, the origins of poets before the centuries wrote down rules to follow and break, Nemerov pays rightful tribute, in a very alive manner.

The Amen Stone: however you pronounce it, the "so be it" as it is translated, with an echo, as in the Muslim "Inch'Allah" of "God's will" presents us with mission of connecting experience with emotion.
Perhaps there is allusion of violence done, but the tone of the poem is peaceful, weighted by this stone saying "Amen". Who is "a sad good man"? That he exists, and acts in lovingkindness, translated in Hebrew as Chesed; in Christian terms as "misericordia"; in Buddhism as "mettã" points to an important universal. Like a slant invitation to be that sad, good person to gather the suffering of the world up, fragment by fragment. That the poem ends on "Child's Play" is a bit of a conundrum. Indeed, a child learns through play, to make sense of the world. Such a great task takes a child's innocence perhaps. Intriguing poem which illicit a lot of discussion, and a variety of opinions.

Dear Mr. Bukowski is a delightful critique on how to teach poetry. It draws on the power of such small words as "Of", "And", and "For" -- think of all the important declarations drawn up beginning sentences or constructions such as "of the people, by the people, for the people" -- and where does "and" fit in, and did Bukowski have the agency of "by" applied to someone? Knowing his style, of course his words are not "nice" and the ending slices deeper that the wall stained with word blood.

I found the Billy Collins poem equating age with cheerios quite amusing, and in fact googled my birth year with American food invented. I highly recommend.
What makes a "Billy Collins" poem -- usually enjoyable but raises the question about whether it could be a short essay vs. a poem? Is there a deeper meaning, a truth made accessible in a way no other form could impart? Perhaps the depth lies in the reminder not to take ourselves so seriously... But what happens after "enjoyable" wears off? See:
What makes Billy tick? Why are we attracted to it? Why do we ask, "is there more"?

Comments on the favorite 17 yr. old on May 14.

Tomas Tranströmer deserves as entire blog post by himself.

Friday, May 8, 2015

poems for May 4

Blessed Be The Truth-Tellers – by Martin Espada
Doha Thing Long Thought and Kind by Alice Fulton
The Shoots by Shane McCrae
Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye
Synchronicity by Pat Janus
Ode to Love by Jennifer Militello
As long as we are not alone-- by Israel Emiot, transl. by Leah Zazulyer

The classical adage of the 17th century that great art should honor truth and beauty and send a moral message does not exclude the view that literature exists to communicate significant experience, in a concentrated and organized fashion. In the case of the first poem, the foil of Jack the Truth Teller around a story of getting tonsils out and the lie of the ice cream, does not embrace "beauty" per se, but rather the figurative beauty of someone who is not afraid to call the shots as he sees them. Is Jack a Jesus, a tough guy, and does it matter, as we think what truth-telling means, and whether we too lie, line up good intentions to cover up the "bits of glass" in our snowballs. I love the cleverness of adopting the tone of Beatitudes, "Blessed be... for they shall..." in the title, only to jump to different observations contained in each stanza that bring a patchwork of vivid voices. as full of flavors as metaphorical ice cream can promise. The particularities of being twelve, the schoolyard banter, the bravado before the operation, countered with the blunt voice of Jack, the casual mention of Johnnie the ice cream man who allegedly sells heroin, the snow of 3 Kings Day, the truth of the tonsils and lie of the ice cream, and then the end: What does it mean that Truth-Tellers will have all the ice cream they want -- the hoped-for comfort, as imagined by the boy, or the real "Holy Guacamole" of choosing to expose ice cream for what it is?

The question always arises about what is temporary intrigue in a poem -- isn't a poem's job to look at the ordinary, the contemporary, allow us to contemplate it with a different, unhurried lens? Does Espada do this? Is it pleasing? Memorable? Not everyone thought so.

The next two poems had explanations by the poets. I think this helped both the poems, and one question to consider is how much we need to know about the poet, or the stew in which the poem is simmering, and how well does the poem stand by itself. The Thursday group came up with the idea that we had to work really hard at the poem, especially linking the broken lines, figuring out ways to link a gift as risk, guess, task, test. Is it two voices in schizophrenic dialogue, a study of aphorism -- "long thought and kind"
in the title, joining the repetition of "long thought and kind of.../clumsy. Why a gift? A lesson in the arbitrary nature of gifts? A warning not to depend on them? A reminder that spiritual wisdom needs you to dig for it?

The Monday group felt compassion for the poet/father writing Shoots. Here, the line-breaks supported the emotion. It puts the onus on the reader to connect his thought, especially without the help of punctuation. Months.... he.... months go...
possibly I might understand, but "months he ago" with no space is difficult. I love the idea of "a he ago"...

We certainly enjoyed Naomi Shihab Nye's "Kindness", reading it line by line, with a beautiful threading of sound and a depth of understanding revealed gently. What is required to understand it. How different from the idea of "the gift" . Before... repeated three times... it is only kindness... repeated three times.
It reminded me of Kahil Gibran's saying that Joy and Sorrow are part of the same cavern -- the more sorrow carves, the more room for joy. But there is a difference -- this is not a dualistic comparison of Joy and Sorrow, but kindness as a response that is learned by accepting and staying with sorrow.

For the Poem Synchronicity, Thursday's group thoroughly enjoyed it, and engaged in a discussion of confirmation, choosing a new name, exploration of faith and what willing to do, to become this "who I am".
The second line, "lost" can be verb, as in lost the battle; or adjective, as in a part of the self that strayed away, both of which fit. The two sentences thread down in a vertical string of succinct words.
Lovely example of effective simplicity. Monday's group was more focussed on discussing synchronicity, both as title, and what it means to be synchronous -- synchronize an old and new me. Some of the thoughts: someone comes into our lives... and you take on a role in their life you hadn’t previously played... that’s synchronicity; it enhances everything when we feel synchronicity. a sense of a choice everytime we make a friend or don’t because we feel in cahoots, or don't. A little bit of "When the student is ready, the teacher appears...

Monday's group didn't spend much time on the "Ode to Love" but certainly the final poem in translation gave rise to discussion. We will look forward to having the translator, Leah Zazulyer come June 16 to discuss it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

poems for April 27 AND April 30

Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish, 1892 – 1982
Baseball and Writing by Marianne Moore
Ars Poetica #100: I Believe by Elizabeth Alexander
Control by Rae Armantrout
Overturned by Cornelius Eady

What is poetry? As we conclude National Poetry month, this is a good question.

I just skimmed through the introduction and several of the poems in the 2014 "The Best American Poetry".
As Terrance Hayes remarks, it is important to separate "taste" from "best" and ponder poems from many angles. I've included some old timer's advice along with some contemporary works, so you can formulate your own opinion, not only on what poetry is, but what a satisfying poem is to you, and what discoveries this invites.

MacLeish: Why after reading this poem 40 years ago, does it come back to mind so easily, engage us with a pleasurable sense of delight? What makes something memorable? On first reading, perhaps your ear will enjoy the end rhyme,
mute/fruit; dumb/thumb;/ stone/grown; and your eye will note irregular lines. Perhaps on a second reading you will try out with two different tones of voice, the 4th couplet from the end:
a poem should be equal to:
not true.

Can a poem be equal to something else? Does the colon stop us, and the meaning guide us to think,
no, a poem cannot be equal to anything -- or is the "not true" the enjambed weight of the unpinnable
"not true". And how clever-- MacLeish has set up half the couplets as rhyming, half the couplets as not;

The old rule of "show, don't tell" couples with the sense of the unrhymed "A poem should not mean/but be."
But read the syntax in which it is couched: For love/the leaning grasses and two lights above the sea-- i.e. a poem includes images for abstract or universal things of importance.
A poem does much more by being, using rich diction, unusual images, like "night-entangled tree", things that are understood intuitively, emotionally, philosophically that elicit multiple associations: a globed fruit; sleeve-worn stone. But read the syntax in which it is couched: For love/the leaning grasses and two lights above the sea-- i.e. a poem includes images for abstract or universal things of importance.

On Thursday, Connie brought up the example of teaching her high school class symbols, and they didn't think symbols were of importance, just as poetry and symbolism were something unnecessary. She took the American flag hanging in the classroom, threw it on the ground and stomped on it. The students were appalled.
What's the problem? It's only a piece of cloth with some stars and stripes she said-- and promptly had them understand how symbols work. So it is with this delightful poem.

Marianne Moore: She would have been 26 in 1913, and eager to put into practice the new modernism of the Armory Show and the spirit of Ezra Pound who encouraged poets to break all rules to "make it new". In this poem she plays with rhythm, and repeats catchy series,such as first stanza:
pitcher, catcher, fielder, batter. // or in the penultimate stanza, "Cow's milk, tiger's milk, soy milk, carrot juice".. She sprinkles rhyme, along with names of baseball greats, and the reader enters a game,
invited to join the "I" in the first stanza in answer to the question, "who's excited". We watch the "we"
of a team the battle of pitcher/catcheer... individual players (Each. it was he).
One person came up with the sense of time as pitcher: future; batter: present; past: catcher -- and the fact that in baseball catchers tend to be the best hitters, as they are observing each hitter, signaling to the pitcher how to craft the pitch.
There is a difference between enjoyable and memorable. This parody of poetry contains poetic elements, but seems to brush with the personal fun the poet is having in a way that is clever, but not as long-lasting as the MacLeish.

Elizabeth Alexander: The title is worth dwelling on. Why #100 for this Credo? As we read the poem,
it seems a simple amble, through an omnipresence of poetry, starting with the delicious word, "idiosyncratic" which has multiple definitions (self-indulgent, characteristic, peculiar, unique, etc.) and ending with the human voice, and a question put quite simply: "and are we not of interest to each other?" Poetry indeed, slows us down.

The final two poems, selected by Terrance Hayes for the 2014 "Best of American Poetry", a series founded in 1988, demonstrate the power of a poem to allow a thought to find form, sound-- language as Gary Snyder would say "that brings you in community with the other." Control? When I don't have any thoughts,/I want one!

It launches a discussion about a collection called "Best" --
David Lehman's forward acknowledges the impact of technology on poetry -- that a tweet, with the 140 word constraint, and the "be up to speed" brings the clock into the game... Byte-sized poetry as a benefit of ADD! He calls on the 1959 lecture in which CP Snow points out the chasm between humanists and scientists.
And also FR Leavis' response in 1962 filled with invective against Snow. But he was right about one thing: the poem on the page, art in the museum, concerto in the symphony provide a bulwark to culture as we traditionally knew it. Leon Weiseltier told the graduating class of Brandeis in May 2013 to be careful-- as the digital age reduces knowledge to the status of information, and the devices we carry like addicts in our hands disfigure our mental lives. "Let us not be so quick to jettison the monuments of untagging intellect.

In 1888 Walt Whitman read an article forecasting the demise of poetry in 50 years "owing to the special tendency to science and to its all-devouring force." (Whitman responded that he anticipated the contrary -- a firmer, broader new area will begin to exist.) In the 2011 issue of Ploughshares, is an article about the 3-story "Sentenced Museum" which resembles an inverted pyramid with the literature of self-reflection on the ground floor, the language of witness one flight up, and a host of "tangential parlors, wings and galleries."
In the back of the 2014 "best" each poet makes a comment about their poem. Lehman selects Dorianne Laux's: "Death permeates the poem, which wasn't apparent to me until I was asked to write this paragraph."

Eady (Rochester-born in 1954, MCC, Empire State College, who went on to win the 1985 Lamont poetry selection of the Academy of American Poets, has dabbled in works of musical theatre) doesn't comment on his poem.

Armantrout does: "'Control' begins with the experience of learning (or trying to learn) to meditate. The first stanza reproduces the instructor's advice that we should 'set obtrusive thoughts aside'. The 3rd, 5th, 8th stanzas develop my response to this experience while the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 7th stanzas present the obtrusive thoughts as fragments of the debris field of American media culture. For instance, I recently heard a politician say, "It takes an American to do really big things". He was talking about our space program, which, of course, is being systematically defunded.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

poems for April 20

The Mrs. Cavendish Poems: links:
Solitude (I) (or also translated as “Alone”) by Tomas Tranströmer
Strike-Slip by by Arthur Sze

We are midway in "Poetry Month" and the Stephen Dunn persona poems seem the perfect place to start...
What does one learn by writing such poems? And what does one learn in solitude... or just simply by picking up a pen or pencil and starting a poem about a compass, and end up with an ars poetica?

For the Cavendish poems, there is clear delight -- a tenderness in the tone, and the wisdom of the lessons with an acceptance and understanding of Mrs. C. as "wanting it all/to mean something in a world crazed
and splattered with the gook/ of apparent significance, and meaning/
had an affinity for being elsewhere."
Don't we all want meaning? But would we be as courageous as she is, to dance a tarantella with an slick stranger, and wouldn't it be nice if we were to face our loneliness with someone so apparently filled with bravado of the moment, to have a kindly friend warning us-- not in a condescending way, but tenderly, with
compassion...? We had fun looking at the root of "scrupulosity", Latin scrupulum, a sharp stone, implying a stabbing pain on the conscience. Judith brought up the popularity of writing a novel through a sequence of poems in Victorian times... Emily reminded us of the book "Crossover" which is a modern version. Mrs. Cavendish could well be Jimmy Durante bidding "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash".

The title, Mrs. Cavendish and the General Malaise, personifies Malaise as army chief -- and indeed... one picks up the pun of having an army of things contributing to a feeling of Malaise. Again, staring meaninglessness in the eye, the tongue-in-cheek attitude, is welcome: "The best we can hope for
is a big, fat novel, slowing down the course of time." Scrupulosity re-appears, and there is a comfort of facing death, not alone at all, but with the voice of Stephen Dunn who invites us to join him in "resisting" those "who think suffering leads to enlightenment". The little history of light, implying our human need for both physical and metaphysical light, our interference with desire to turn natural moonlight into the more modern lightbulb, leads beautifully to the paradox of the "same old" being new without such insistent effort.

The difficulty of being "alone" receives a different lens with Tranströmer's "Solitude I" which is a retelling of an earlier poem published in 1966 as "Alone". I did some research after our discussion to try to find out more about the original, and why the disparity of translation between the Robin Fulton translation and the Robin Robertson version we discussed, which we found so much more satisfying. Apparently, Tranströmer often reworked the same material, and I enjoy this comment he makes: "Oh dear, how complicated I was in my younger days". After his stroke in 1990, he wrote very little that is new. It is hard to know who is behind each translation one finds -- Robert Bly, May Swenson also have worked with his poems. How much credit do we give the original author, or the translator, and what do we really know about who is responsible for which words? Perhaps we can never know. Suffice it to say, "Alone", is a poem in two parts, whereas I cannot find a part II of Solitude, and what we have in the Robertson translation
feels complete and satisfying. The poem certainly brought back memories of driving in winter and untoward spinnings on black ice...

The next poem, even with Arthur Sze's comment was difficult. The title could be referring to the geological term of a Strike-Slip fault. Although there is a little pattern — each stanza contains 3 disparate things— a little like the word in French for fruit salad (macédoine de fruits — as the area of former Yugoslavia has always been chopped up into little pieces…)but the overall effect for a reader may well be to wonder how to understand what seems to be a very private collection of random information…
As meaning-seekers, seeing the depth of deep water to highest mountain…what is at risk comes to mind…
The next poem by James Dickey also addresses possible extinction… The Wolverine is a very ferocious animal — and possibly this poem triggered a discussion about “wildness” and our American approach which wants to control, e.g. Free play in non-man-made environments for kids; facing natural order, etc. There is a mythic quality to this poem — like Götterdamerung... world tree and eagle at the top…
The Form is 1, 2, 4 lines; it’s good to observe spacing...
capitals on each line…

Lively discussion and certainly, all of us look forward to the appearance of Stephen Dunn's new book!

Comment sent to group: Dear all,
On Monday’s discussion, we compared the Tranströmer “Solitude-I” translated by Robin Robertson with the Robin Fulton translation of the 1966 poem, “Alone”. Apparently, Tranströmer worked and reworked many of his poems, and wrote very few new poems after his stroke in 1990. It is curious that “Solitude” without the corresponding second part stands on its own. For further comparison:
Remember, as you read the preamble by a reader, that is just his view, but it adds one more voice to our discussion.

poems for April 16

Enough by Katie Peterson (see discussion April 6)
Love (III) by George Herbert, 1593 – 1633 (see discussion April 6)
A Coat by W.B. Yeats
Do not go Gentle into that Good Night – Dylan Thomas
Forgetfulness – Billy Collins

There were only two participants with me today. It didn't help the flow of discussion to have two young men come in midway looking for a poetry workshop advertised on Craig's list, with their preoccupations of wanting to print their poems, put money in the parking meter... etc.

On we go... 5 poems, 3 of which are formal. My hope was that the form would engage the ear and interest. But aside from the two young men, I can understand how preoccupations at work, which require leaving early, or a busy mind, take precedence over even a richly sonic villanelle. Sometimes it doesn't matter how masterful a poet sets out words about his father's dying. This is not a negative judgement. Poetry is demanding, and discussion of it is as subjective as the people and circumstances. My hope is that the Herbert, Yeats and Thomas will be there to be remembered as needed. Some days we can articulate what words mean to us, some days we perhaps too much interferes. It was good to have a fun laugh at the end with Billy Collins-- maybe it is Alzheimers writing a love poem.

A few notes on the other poems:
Enough, which can rhyme with huff, or be a puff of gratitude opens in "forget-me-nots" and stars, that oppose the idea of "plenitude" with "scattering" in subtle contradiction. I, arrives in the third stanza, to ruminate on the complexity of the "they" introduced in the second stanza. The fundamental steadfast loyalty of a child to parents, seems to lead to an older adult child, who at the end who no longer has wishes for the parents, but simply, a recognition that there are blessings all of us would be better off remembering. **

The next two poems didn't seem to provoke much discussion -- simply a summary of
The Herbert as recounting love as experience and the Yeats as an 8-line tribute to internal authorship.
The patterns in both are worthy of note:
Yeats' poem with its embraced, or envelope rhyme in the first 4 lines (coat/throat)addressing the poet's song moves to a repeated 3-line rhyme which allow the 3 "it" of "song" embracing the world, to the slant rhyme "naked".
A BB A / the "ease" of embroideries/mythologies, opens to "I" of eyes/enterprise
The subtle craft of this reinforces a sense of the poet's role to himself and in the world.

Enough: Contrast with discussion April 6: different group of almost 20 people.
Such careful layering of a "they", onto which the reader seems to eavesdrop, creates a theatre in which the poem seems to promise a logical script, and yet the sense of disconnection as he and she look at the "dark woods", he with protractor and she with skeleton, mirror back to us to look at our own perishable pursuits.
This is a poem worth reviewing... our discussion left a desire to listen again, knowing more waits to be discovered.

Love, by George Herbert, known for his "shape poems" such as "Easter Wings", seemed to answer the questing speakers of the first poem. Love invites us as guest... and we can recognize how hard we resist the invitation to sit down and eat...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 13

1) I am in Need of Music — Elizabeth Bishop
2) #64 — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
3) Visions at 74 — Frank Bidart
*4) I am in Need of Questions -- by Naomi Shihab Nye (
Her note: “We all find outselves involved in projects of activities that confound us — when or why did I say I would do this? What was I thinking… I needed a poem for myself that said, “pause longer. Think again.”
5) Head Handed by Brenda Shaughnessy
6) Mrs. Cavendish…. Stephen Dunn

So just what are we in need of? Bishop will remind you, in case you forgot, of the pleasure, the lush, sensuous comfort of melifluous sounds -- labials, sibilants, fffffff, tttttt, the alliterations accumulating in the line "There is a magic made by melody" where the rhyme scheme changes from the embraced envelope of abba// acca/ to def def. From the speaker of the poem, the reader also sees the beneficial power of the music... whether or not a conscious need, indeed, allows us to view the person in need of such soothing perhaps differently.

I just love the loping, playful way Ferlinghetti weaves words for the eye, while painting a picture of whatever it is he's seeing. The lines stagger down, each one leading to yet another surprise...
wait, where did "some still in togas" come from -- and we feel as if the stage is set 2000 years ago, only to jump to a now of a carnaval with some gypsy lady telling fortunes... and her fingers full of
the thin rings of
her former lives
each one of them enough
to enlighten them
as to what love or life might be

But the key is that Ferlinghetti is giving us eyes to see, not judge... so with this set up, how do we land on these lines? And her lips
almost at their ears
in which they hear only
the very distant roaring
of their own futures.
Note, this is from A Far Rockaway of the Heart. (1998)... cf w/ Coney Island of the Mind....

As Martin remarked, "that which can enlighten us we ignore: the poem shows two halves of our lives, invites us for when we will be ready to hear...

The discussion on the Bidart poem was divided. Some were troubled by the "dot" that separated the two halves, as if two separate poems. The clever use of line break: the opening:
The planet turns there without you, beautiful-- where beautiful could be planet or a "you"
and then towards the end:
you think, as you watch it turn there, beautiful.-- again, planet, or the person observing it...
I love a poem like this, working a dream-like thought, the abrupt sound of "it’s", the portent of the knock of what we know will happen.. and yet, the poem does not convey a fear of dying. What "Weird joy" do you experience? For me a line which really gripped was
"something crowded
inside us always craving to become something
glistening outside us"
rather like the poem "Enough" we discussed last week. What IS that for each of us?
And what does the speaker of the poem mean to say: "To love existence
is to love what is indifferent to you"
but certainly the poem offers us much to think about what we feel on the inside, perceive, ponder about the outside.

Naomi Shihab Nye's poem gave a good discussion as well:
Who is the I... one imagined riding in the car... two people on a journey.
Why the title and What questions are needed? It is not a poem that addresses an urgent need-- but the title perhaps has something to say about questions. What do we ask, perhaps should be only asked after thinking what it is we would want to ask, or take time to think the other might want us to ask. And yet, this is not a poem urgently telling us something...but rather showing the speaker trying to convince herself to slow down. pause. think...

On the American Poets website, they quoted today Naomi Shihab Nye:
“When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Amen. And this is a poem that accomplishes that!

For the Shaughnessy poem, I was delighted to see that this was one where she was proud of sneaking in "jimmies". Question: What word are you proud of sneaking into a poem? What word would you never put in a poem?
Shaughnessy: I’m equally delighted to have gotten the German word Nachtraglichtkeit in a poem (it’s a Freudian term which means “second act” and refers to a kind of reliving of trauma) and the word “jimmies” as a funnier substitute for “sprinkles.”

The poem takes clichés and runs in surprising directions. A fun run... but an embarrassment
of glitches doesn't go to much further than that.

The final poem was such a pleasure, we'll look at more of this persona Stephen Dunn has created next week.
-- She’s smart...
What do we find out about Stephen Dunn... or rationale and reasons, and project into a
older wiser lady with him.