Monday, May 23, 2016

Poems for May 18-9

You might know the musical setting of the RL Stevenson poem, “Let Beauty Awake” by Ralph Vaughan Williams:

Cloud Study, for instance might send you to look at Constable Clouds and the Great Wallendas:
For a start with Wallendas:
And here:
Constable Clouds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the Wallace Stevens, you can hear James Merrill reading it here:
Merrill starts reading at about minute 51:15

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

follow-up two poems for May 11-12

We didn't get to these three May 4-5:
we will not discuss "Forgive me"

When the sun returns by Sarah Browning. (Rundel)

The conceit of the poem seems to be chiding us for wishing... Perhaps the "arc" is both rainbow, but also a bit of Noah's Ark and seeing God's promise. Reality...
Our culture seems based on myths and promises. How many times have you heard
"I would have loved to be..."
Do you answer, "well, what’s stopping you?"

What is real? Are we most alive in that wish?
The title reminds us of how easily we are tempered by the weather...
and how preposterous our chase after what is fleeting -- perhaps never will be...
"Here is our real life — 
a handful of possible peonies"


Uncoupling by Craig Arnold (1967-2009)

This is a poem filled with anagrams.
Teamwork = Two Makem
to get her : together, get to her, got three
a lithe prison: relationship
count on a mimic: communication (I am not uncomic)
listening skills: silent killings
grim area: marriage.

Cleverness that works. My question to the group is why this poem, published by Poetry in 2008, appears in the daily poems on the net NOW.
Some people thought the poem addressed communication -- some untold story of the "I" in family and fail... Others thought it a mood poem...

Craig Arnold disappeared while hiking a volcano in Japan.
His wife, Rebecca Lindeberg is also a poet and her Elegy, "Love an Index" is dedicated to him.
(in the Rundel library)
The epigram:
"To the hands come / many things. In time of trouble / a wild exultation." -- Robert Creeley
In her poem, "Love, a Footnote" she makes a list. It includes her comment, "I love words that can inhabit more than one part of speech, as in A MATCH or to match. Feeling as a way of knowing what you're going to think about something.

In the second part, she has an epigraph from his poem "Mistral"

"They are your heart stutters to see
the letters of another alphabet
a vast lace of calligraphy
a hundred thousand characters of praise."

Losing Language: A Phrasebook
All the phrases for what you say about someone who died, next to feelings that create the person.
My sympathies: I fear to say something that might make it worse.
He was a wonderful father: whatever else I may have thought of him. 

Poems for May 11-12

For Both Groups: see May 11-12 supplement
Autumn Passage by Elizabeth Alexander
Species Prepare to Exist After Money by Brenda Hillman (American Poets, Spring/Summer 2016
Half The People In The World -- Amichai
Carousel by Jaya Savige
The Dog Misses you by Alan Michael Parker

Mother's Day Poems:

**Autumn Passage
"On Suffering which is real"... the opening line of Elizabeth Alexander's poem, I am reminded of Auden and "Le Musée des Beaux-Arts -- (responding to the painting of The Fall of Icarus, in that Brussels Museum by Breughel):
About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters:
how well they understood. Its human position:

The anaphor "On" works like paintbrushes applied to "suffering, mouth, miraculous dying body, beauty, dazzling toddler and grandmother's suffering; the blues and greens of a dying body turn into paint to apply to vegetables. Likewise, fragments link as the beauty of hair, links the dying, as if transgressing the period, jumping down a stanza break to "on the dazzling toddler.
Strong words like Glory, (three times); communal fealty, magnificent. For me, the words create a beautiful abstract painting of associations -- how one person transforms a general to a specific in large category like vegetable or flower, and arrive at eggplant, and chrysanthemum... vanished skyscrapers made many think of 9/11. The burning fever, of the body, still working... leads to thinking of forest fires, political unrest...

Back to the title... Two words. Autumn. Passage. Taken separately, a time of shutting down...
transition. Autumn passing, autumn as caught in the act of passing, the passage of autumn, and the poem keeps growing.

Species Prepare to Exist After Money

One participant brought up the question: how long are you prepared to spend on a poem?
What is in a poem that makes you want to examine it further? In contrast to the Alexander poem,
the lines did not expand into associations with something recognizable, but rather left the majority of both groups with a sense of "why this detail? What to make of a nest of H's, seven tiny silences, and the metaphor of the world borrowed from Joyce, a large, almost unpinable "it". The poem was read, as two stanzas but only briefly responded to. I don't know if reading it line by line, or sentence of sentence would have helped. One person thought of the movie "Black Rain". It was a pleasure to read about bacteria able to warn each other in color, and I half expected the poem would help us assign meanings to the other details. Certainly reading "chemical for sensible" and "nationless, not sensible" were a pleasurable overlay and hinted at
meaning-making through sound, but without providing enough clues to feel or understand "nothingness has come to pass".

Half the People in the World
From ambiguity to categorical. It would be nice to be able to read such a poem in the original and see what nuances we might miss.
One participant brought up Stevens' Poem -- Man with a Beard

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
If the rejected things, the things denied,
Slid over the western cataract, yet one,
One only, one thing that was firm, even
No greater than a cricket's horn, no more
Than a thought to be rehearsed all day, a speech
Of the self that must sustain itself on speech,
One thing remaining, infallible, would be
Enough. Ah! douce campagna of that thing!
Ah! douce campagna, honey in the heart,
Green in the body, out of a petty phrase,
Out of a thing believed, a thing affirmed:
The form on the pillow humming while one sleeps,
The aureole above the humming house...
It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.

But Amichai goes further... implies that the choice of "love" or "hate" has a consequences... and finding one's place in spite of it. It is hard for us in our protected environments to imagine
living in the Middle East, to be exiled, underground, "perpetually acting out death" between flagpole and bomb shelter... the list "cat, stick, fire water, butcher" is hard to understand
without his context. I'm not sure if it's like tossing the dice, in a "rock, paper, scissors" game.

The next poem, perhaps also is not written by a native speaker... The opening line rather clunks. The accumulation of L's in the second stanza are distracting, just as the s's in the third stanza as if trying to find words with similar letters... a sauropod is sedate? a soda-pour of stars?
Perhaps a carousel of cues -- stories as spinning sonic coins, but hard to fathom.

In the final poem, we enjoyed the fun of language. However, it seems a circuitous route to say "I love you, and am lost without you". Associations:
coupling and dogs...

Dog barking at the portrait...
Queen Elizabeth’s words on our election

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Poems for May 4-5

No theme binds the poem this week, aside from hubbub of National Poetry Month.
The first from Rita Dove's book, "American Smooth" (National Poetry Consultant),
The next two featured in "American Poet" new books;

Fox Trot Fridays by Rita Dove
Golden Oldie by Rita Dove (from collected poems 1974-2004; see NPR interview with her 5/5
Blue with Collapse by Thomas Lux (from American Poetry, Spring-Summer Issue 2016)
The thing is by Ellen Bass (a useful poem for condolences...)
The Poppies by Jennifer Grotz (mentioned in a book review in American Poetry**)
Forgive me by -- by Laverne Frith (Verse Daily 4/2/2016) (did not get to)
Autumn Passage -- Elizabeth Alexander (another National Poetry consultant)(did not get to)
Uncouplings by Craig Arnold (Source: Poetry (October 2008) (did not get to)
When the sun returns by Sarah Browning (did not get to)
see May 11-12 + May 11-12 supplement.

** Her newest book, "Window Left Open" (3rd and best collection whose attitudes and rhetoric can echo that of Larry Levis and Robert Hass. 'She doesn't want the language, she wants the something' is how Grotz ends an ekphrastic poem about Grease's "Boy with a lesson book".
That authentic something, that sense of how to live, remains a goal throughout the long lines and large pages of this relatively short volume. "Piano on top of the Alps" and "Sundials" symbols for poetry itself (Zbigniew Herbert), "do not make a shape themselves but rather inspire ideas bout shadows, about symbolism in parallel."

How did I stumble on Poppies? well... Paris Review, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.. who says:

"What I love about poems is how they change in the light of repeated readings. Now this is true of most art (and I guess most things), but because poems are (often) so short you can actually experience the change over a series of days or weeks of rereading, or even, still, over the space of years. When I first read Jennifer Grotz’s “Poppies” all I could tell you was that I liked its sound. I didn’t have any idea what the poem was about. I just liked letting the words fall off my tongue when I read it aloud. It was elemental, and I think almost every poem I love is like that for me. At a base level it just sounds good. “That’s how the rain comes” just sounds good. “Black pepper and blood” just sounds good.
Multiple readings eventually lead Coates from sound to sense, and he began to detect some of the ideas at work in the poem:
Grotz writes of our constant desire to tame the world, and even the righteousness of that desire (“shouldn’t we love all things equally back?”). She writes of the anguish that ultimately comes from trying (the poppies are beautiful but only “like the feral cat who purrs and rubs against your leg / But will scratch if you touch back”) and then, finally, our sadness at the whole thing. “Love is letting the world be half-tamed,” Grotz writes. I think you could say that about a lot more than just the natural world that she is addressing. That’s a lesson we’re constantly learning."

I find it interesting to know "where" a poem comes from -- which editor decided to choose which theme, and which poets to elaborate on it... what was the poet surrounded by -- what time, place, circumstance... how much of that particular allows any reader, any reader at all, to connect to some universal?

I'm also interested in connections such as a line from Jennifer Grotz, "Love is letting the world be half-tamed." (Poppies) and thinking about "Let it come/like wildflowers,/suddenly, because the field/ must have it: wild peace." This is by Amichai and the poem, "Wildpeace" was written between the period of the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Week after week, I cull my pick of poems, so often finding a theme... that depends on the threads of universals. What seemed to be a chaos of poems, swept into music...

But to discuss the poems in order:
Say the title -- Fox Trot Fridays -- like "quick-quick slow and" of Fox trot -- not easy to dance well as one of the smooth dances which changes tempo. The enjambements are delicious --
the opening couplet, where "tuck in" at first is self-sufficient applied to a day, but then, falls through the stanza break to "grief"... followed quickly by the fun of "lift your pearls (innuendo, girls, lifting chest -- but also white teeth, and all that you value...) Smooth, with the long O, simmered in the sibilance of "slow satin smile" -- "easy as taking/one day at a time" -- perhaps bringing a smile to the reader, who knows
that's not always easy... followed by a hint at creation... stolen entry into paradise, indeed, count your blessings... the sweep and space of a song, the wonder in it --
Don't you want to read this poem now, discover for yourself the multiple ways the words create magic?

In the next poem, also by Rita Dove, the speaker of the poem is "caught in a tune" -- a moment, hearing an old song, (listen to the Supremes singing "Baby, where did our love go")... The long O appears this time in "crooned"... also the last word of a series of enjambed lines evoking the lyrics sung by a young girl. The speaker turns the air conditioning off, as if to allow the heat of the moment (the lyrics "burning, yearning, whenever I'm near you" are not detailed, but you can feel the "young girl dying to feel alive"). But then, the "off" is enjambed through a stanza break where present and past blend in -- and the sentence continues through another stanza break, to possibilities in the future, echoing the "discover" hanging before landing on "a pain majestic enough/ to live by." Again,another brilliant poem by an amazing poet who gives us a feel of effortless balancing between opposites.

The set up of the Lux poem, with no breathing space and a discombobulating rhythm, long and short sentences, presents quite a different feel. The juxtapositions of "hope" as a last word of a line to the hyperbole of "Then I read a few thousand history books." is both ironic, funny, but also sad. I love his "lies"... his allusion to Othello -- who we know if affected far more than "a tittle, a jot".

Ellen Bass also does not let any space to allow breathing... The thing is to love life -- its tangle combined in one relentless mass: a declarative sentences, the repeated "when grief" ending in a question. A final declarative sentence.
Comments of the group: No stop... grief unrelenting... semi-colon... like sob... gasp...
sequence of images... things held dear... vanish... what left is weight..
Many remembered the Jo MacDougal poem we discussed a few weeks ago: This morning...
There are 100 places I cannot go. The only cure for grief... is to live life.

Grotz speaks of sadness... the kind that hides and lingers, without letting us in on why she starts with that... How the poppies lead her to questions... how she leads us with an enjambed "with unstoppable force" with not only a line break, but also falling through the white space of a stanza. She gives us scissors... of moth wing, blackbird, that allow us to transform the world... to reflect as she does on a disheveled stand of poppies in the sun about loving things back, and how clouds will come... and the reader can follow all this, without understanding.

discussion: Christian song, vs. the "There will come soft rains"short_story about nuclear warfare...
polarity... what we want to see in nature... vs. the duality of pros and cons...
sadness – recognition we control... Crow Climate: natural wisdom how humans idealize wilderness...
“Poppies” originally appeared in The New England Review.

We will continue with the other poems next week.

I love that Miles didn’t hear Herbie’s chord as a mistake — but as an event — just what was happening at the moment.

For mother’s Day:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

poems for April 20 and 21

The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz by Alicia Ostriker
When Giving Is All We Have -- Alberto Rios
Always on the Train by Ruth Stone
Recycling Center by Brenda Hillman
The Good in the Evil World by Rebecca Hazelton
Decoy Gang War Victim by Carmen Giménez Smith
There is no name yet by Dorothy Lasky

we didn't get to: “John William ‘Blind’ Boone was one of the most successful pianists of his time. His motto, ‘Merit, not sympathy, wins’ guided his path through music and life. His haiku are labeled with the notes of Pentatonic Blues in C.”—Tyehimba Jess – 2 examples below.

Great discussion today — but as usual, poems bring up more than discussion of poems. I did share another Ostriker poem at the beginning— “Spring" (see attachment)
And ended with reading the entire haiku of the last selection — enjoy "C Poems" with music as well!
It must be spring that I would send so much… and of course, next week will have a different drum beat. Take what you will and enjoy!

In view of Earth Day:
1) The cover of City magazine (see DSC05864)
2) Jim’s recommendation of apod: astronomy picture of the day:
The archive starts from June 16, 1998.
3) Phone Governor Cuomo— ​Seven days remain until the 401 Water Quality Certificate decision for "Constitution" pipeline must be announced.​ If Governor Cuomo fails to deny the certificate by April 26th​ his decision making power will be deferred to FERC which will decide for him.
FERC would immediately authorize the cutting of trees along the pipeline route and later begin laying pipe. Let's not ​sit back and ​allow our governor to abdicate his responsibility to prevent the degradation of forests, fields and streams (over 250 ​streams ​would be trenched), and to keep us safe from the harmful health impacts of fossil fuel infrastructure buildout.

Responses to poems:
David was reminded by the Ostriker poem of Elizabeth Bishop — “The Moose”
no matter what happens, there is room for joy.
John was reminded of Boulez “éclat” (dazzling burst) in Hillman’s recycle poem:
(about 10 min.)
There is also a youtube of “éclat: multiples” — about 30 min. of what to my ear is similar.


In a few words: Ostriker: Dogs... innocence and doing things for the pure joy of it... no arguments with feelings, only "authentic projections of the soul"...
Rios: one River's journey to the next... what is a gift... what legacy do we pass on? How does one gift a journey?
Stone: If you think about it, "it" turns into something else -- would you ever have picked the adjective "cheerful" for trash? What mystery lies inside a thing -- what trace in its wrappings?

sending out poems for April 27-8 + Poetry Month

What should poets and poetry readers be thinking about or doing in these thirty days? Enclosed is a link to The American Academy of Poets with suggestions for activities, including a list of poems for “Poem in your pocket day, April 21. In it is also compiled a list from their poster (to be completed with lines and links) of their “Floregium of Poems”.

For April 27-8
For the poem, "There is no name yet" by Dorothy Lasky, I am reminded of Wordsworth's "Ode --
It is very long… so I attach as a link for your personal reflections…
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

You might enjoy this interview with Rios : : It is rather long, but he goes into how words resonate— how each line should be “the best line”and — his idea of “cleramancy” — how with few words, one can cast a spell…"We take a few words from the dictionary… and it’s like looking at the stars, except they are words”. . At the end, I include 3 of his “short poems”. His poem we discussed,
“ When Giving is all we have" he calls a poem of “ public purpose” and he relies on the epigraph to condense the poem into a few words. Rios, river, and his gifting to his son, a sensibility… an understanding about something which has no word, but the words help us get there. I loved the analogy about color — one has yellow, one has blue — green cannot happen without the two together. Thank you all!

Our Library has this saying on the front façade.
"The Shadows are behind you when you walk into the light"

One poet friend brought up the question of "authenticity or façade" in poetry...
This interview by Alberto Rios, reminded me of "mondegreens", the fun of singing Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods" to Fernando's Hideaway... and poems of public purpose, and calling on the cleramancy when words resonate to create what gets us to feel what has no word...

Looking over possibilities... Jo Carson... Robert Hayden (transformative qualities in literature); T.S. Eliot, The Comet, the Owl and the Galaxy... thanks to Astronomical picture a day...
Michael Cunningham, whose work,"The Hours" is translated, "ils vecurent heureux"


American Poets : April-Summer 2016
Role of poet... to explore language, reflect cultural music back to itself, to keep the unusual though alive... (Brenda Hillman) We will discuss her poem, "Species prepare to exist after money" in May/

I borrowed the word "cerements" from the interview with Rosanna Warren... "read poems as poems, not as cerements of Robert Penn.
Citing Catullus's translation of Sappho, "poetry finally is a family matter involving the strains of birth, love, power, death and inheritance."

Music as landscape : organizing principle, threaded with biography.

Marvelous article about Wallace Stevens and his legacy.. "Contemporary American Poetry and the Echo of Stevens"... The poem as costume, as disguise, dialogue... enactment.

The Man on the Dump...
The Glass of Water

"We cannot love the world as it is,
because the world, as it is, is impossible to love.

We have only to lust for it --
to lust for each other in it --

and somehow to make that suffice."

Terrance Hayes: Snow for Wallace Stevens... + references..

"Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right."

"The way up and the way down are one." Heraclitus...

National Poetry Month + April 27

As you might know, April is "National Poetry Month…" What should poets and poetry readers be thinking about or doing in these thirty days? Enclosed is a link to The American Academy of Poets with suggestions for activities, including a list of poems for “Poem in your pocket day, April 21. In it is also compiled a list from their poster (to be completed with lines and links) of their “Floregium of Poems”.

Remember by Joy Harjo
Here and There by Juan Felipe Herrera
Cotton Candy by Edward Hirsch
The Weighing by Jane Hirsh eld
The Moment by Marie Howe
Lyric by Khaled Mattawa
Variation on a Theme by W. S. Merwin
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Dogs at Live Oak Beach, Santa Cruz by Alicia Ostriker
Springing by Marie Ponsot
When Giving Is All We Have by Alberto Ríos
The Owl by Arthur Sze
Eleventh Brother by Jean Valentine
Imaginary Morning Glory by C. D. Wright

The Academy has also made a “floregium of poems” poster with lines from these poems: (lines in quotations)

"If you believe in snow, you have to believe" from Maggie Says There's No Such Thing as Winter by Janet McNally
"I have had to learn the simplest things last" from Maximus to himself by Charles Olson
"Bad things are going to happen" (already discussed) Relax by Ellen Bass;
"Outside taillights slash the night: red and more red" from Remnants by Jim Handlin
"This is the cycle of life" from Design by Billy Collins
" at times uncertain—" And I in My Bed Again by Hilda Morley
"At dusk" - If the Owl Calls Again" by John Haines
"But this act does not count when we fall out of our hearts." The Act of Counting by Nathalie Handal
"It is terrible to come down" Here in Katmandu by Donald Justice (Sestina)
"you don’t know anything/unless you do." Every Morning by Mary Oliver!/20600644
Elegy for my mother’s Ex-Boyfriend by James Kimberly
Center of the World by Safiya Sinclair
Six Months after Contemplating Suicide by Erika L. Sanchez
A View of the Sea by J.D. McClatchy
Stuff I probably did and didn’t by Stephanie Gray
Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow by Robert Duncan
A nameless One by Margaret Avison
Preludes by T.S. Eliot
My Father in the Night Commanding No by Louis Simpson

Slated for April 27

The Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska by Billy Collins
If I Could Only Live at the Pitch That is Near Madness by Richard Eberhart (1904 – 2005)
The Way Through The Woods by Rudyard Kipling
Default Message by Carmen Giménez Smith
Maximus, to himself by Charles Olson
We Make Our Vows Together with All Beings by Gary Snyder
For the Children by Gary Snyder

Short poems by Alberto Rios from interview:
“Each line you read, should be the “best” line,
and gives you something for that day.

Nobody owns water.
Drink some
And try to keep it.

To visit the river quickly,
cut an onion.
Rain falls down wet
and gets up green.

A small story about the sky.
Fire wanted to be bigger.