Saturday, October 11, 2014

Poems for Lunch -- October 9

At the Coast by Peter Sears
My Dance Card Is Full by Vicki Snitzler
No Problem by Peter Sears
Night Fishing by Peter Sears
At the Old Cemetary Outside of Fossil by Peter Sears

The poems by Peter Sears are part of his "new and selected" entitled, "Small Talk". It's super special for me, as he was one of my advisors at Pacific U. I'm glad he was elected as Oregon's Poet Laureate and that this new book came out. My selections... somewhat haphazard, to give a "sense" of humble self-confidence that combines a certain lightheartedness with depth… Sears knows how to string us along, for instance, nodding with approval at the audacity of the speaker of the poem who is involved with being himself, as if not even aware he is SOP only to realize maybe he's more weird than we might like. I respect Sears because of his unique and inventive way of thinking.


“At the Coast” was also the last poem in his book, “Tour” — so even though he makes a comment that he's not sure it "coheres", he’s hanging on to it as. His comment, recently re-reading this poem written in 1970, in Lincoln City, OR where he first penned it: "Looking back now at the poem, I think it sounds better than it is. In the last stanza it opens into a love poem and then, in the last sentence, reverts to the "I". The question of the last sentence is asked of the "you."
Reading aloud, it comes alive… reminded Jim of “Suzanne takes you down” and Leonard Cohen… For me, it made me think of “aporia” — where Socrates gets you at a loss to say something to respond( especially to that last sentence…) I noticed you used “glaze” for a different poem — was curious if there were a connection with pottery. We tried different sorts of possible understandings of the “you" — all of them OK.)

The Snitzler gave us different impressions from the poem title — is it a sense of elation — MY dance card is FULL! Yippee—
Or sorry— no room for anything else… just going to join the square dance and keep dancing home…
Flavors of dance, and a sense of the different partners — how we change flavors because of the music, the partner…

“No Problem” came from Green Diver, last poem in the first section…
(we LOVED the surprise at the end — the inventiveness which corrects assumptions!)

At the Old Cemetery Outside of Fossil. : (so good, we just oohed and continued reading more.7 sentences. 3 lines, 3 lines, 2 lines, 2 lines -- (which imitate the feel "a little snaky/as if I'm trespassing) ... the double mention of whirl,(about "my size" and leaning to left/right... and the surprise ending of the wind wanting to dance with the SOP, alone there in the cemetery ). Brilliant.

The Old Woods: (The setting balances dream, childhood,the memory of the kid; the halloweenish spookishness twitching without saying the word “witch” or spell, or magic; the aliveness of the interplay w/ present.)

Night Fishing: from his book, "The Brink" in the section called "Night Fishing"... Love the teddy-bearish feel of loneliness. How great to know it breathes easily… love the mystery of rain blurring… )

Long After I’m Gone: made us all choke up, the metaphor, the feel of time from long ago with a kerplunk like Sal's blueberries... Jim decided this poem should be posted in Laundromats...
Father/daughter... how a memory will rise up like toast... ornery blue jeans spinning until "dry as crackers"...
The daughter's comment, "this is taking// a lot longer, dad, than you said it would"... how that helps
against "each day falling faster and faster away".

7. Dear Giant Squid #2. I had to read the other one in his chapbook, "Luge" too we loved it so much.
This first letter starts out, "This is a fan letter. I don't care what the Japanese scientists say, I saw them on TV getting all excited about how they have photos of you....etc.

Part of the fun was reading the poems in different ways: one person/one stanza; one person/one line — then repeat — one person one sentence — so a short sentence really stands out. Like “The Old Woods” - 4th line: “I’m small.”

I love doing this — so people really notice the pull of syntax against line break, pay attention to the choices.

We left feeling we had spent a valuable hour with a man who produces good work, revitalized, appreciative of the power of imagination,
Feeling Just a little more connected to our human realities.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ekphrastic poems for October 6

The Starry Night by Anne Sexton
Rembrandt's Late Self-Portraits, Elizabeth Jennings (1975)
The Self-Portrait of Ivan Generalic by Gjertrud Schnackenberg
The Village of the Mermaids by Lisel Mueller
On Seeing Larry Rivers' "Washington Crossing the Delaware" at the Museum of Modern Art by Frank O'Hara
Washington Crossing the Delaware by David Shulman
Monet Refuses the Operation- Lisel Mueller

Ekphrastic responses:

For the Anne Sexton: ( how different from Hopkins’ “Terrible Sonnets” filled with elves and dazzle ).
Note how she repeats” “This is how/I want to die. “ But the second time she continues with a colon— in the final stanza — the pull of the “into that rushing beast of the night” — the vital energy to which to abandon oneself. I found it interesting that her 8th collection of poetry, “The Awful Rowing Towards God” derived the title from her meeting with a Roman Catholic priest who, although unwilling to administer last rites, told her "God is in your typewriter.”

I feel in Sexton’s ekphrastic response, she captures Van Gogh’s energy — understands his manic affliction there in St. Rémy, which is shared with the reader by the epigram. She has put herself into the painting, feeling the aliveness, where her identity can only interfere.

The next poem is a marvelous contemporary response by a woman to an old master from 400 years ago! In today’s discussion, it came up that Rembrandt did the most self-portraits of any artist — over 40! Perhaps he loved painting so much, he used the subject best at hand (himself)… Jennings captures both a poem addressed to any “you” who reads the poem, as well as the “you” of Rembrandt who captured life in paint, in an excitement of portraying a breath of truth! She addresses Rembrandt, the self, and also the bonus old age adds to a self-portrait.
Sadness, joy, what to reckon with… Would this message have worked as well with a different painting? Can we look at this painting in quite the same way having read her words?

The self-portrait of Ivan Generalić is a hard poem. The portrait from 1975 was the one in the powerpoint which showed the bald man against a turquoise background. No villages, hills, animals. The complex rhyme scheme seems to clatter as religious references in the tercets build, build, to the final squares of black.

The Larry Rivers’ painting with O’Hara’s response. Note how O’Hara includes the title, the artist and where the painting is… the tongue-in-cheek tone of a poem written in the McCarthy era, challenging some of the clichés (don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes… and the whole idea of truth — George Washington and the Cherry Tree) in a sort of irresponsible use of language with a ? and ! interrupting the flow of a sentence as if telling you how to read it… General Fear as persona… or the General who fears… or just fear, general…
Both painting and poem unnerve, create a different feel to the “myth” .

By contrast, the Shulman poem to the realistic almost iconic view of George Washington crossing the Delaware, gives an energy to the crazy idea of his campaign. Each line is an anagram of the title! And it’s a rhymed sonnet… so perhaps the unimaginable form belies the unimaginable feat which set in motion our country. In my book, a lot of fun!

The Monet Refuses the Operation is a wonderful dramatic monologue where a woman takes up Monet’s voice… and sums up impressionism, and takes the physicality of painting and his serial paintings to metaphysical realms.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Poems for Oct. 2

Late September by Charles Simic
The Something by Charles Simic
A Sense of Place by Billy Collins
In the Room of a Thousand Miles By Billy Collins
Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne by Billy Collins
The Sun Rising by John Donne (1572–1631)

Poems for Lunch – follow-up to our discussion 10/3 – contrasts –
between two poet laureates, work of a contemporary poet with one 4 centuries ago... style and content...
As ever, I am grateful for the contributions and comments in our discussions~
As if on cue, this morning, sent this poem by Michael Broder:

Last night,

I dreamt of making sense,
parts of speech caught up in sheets
and blankets, long strips of fabric
wrapped loosely around shoulders,
goblets, urns, cups with unmatched saucers.

You were there, and the past seemed important,
what was said, what was done,
feelings felt but maybe not expressed,
signs randomly connected
yet vital to what comes next,
to a coming season,
next year’s trip to Nauset Beach.

I woke up wanting to read a poem by that name,
and I found one with a lifeguard’s chair,
a broken shell, gulls watching egrets,
home an ocean away.
Poem-a-day follows with a statement from the poet:
“I wanted the poem to enact the dream it purports to recount. If dreams are wish fulfillment, then this dreamer yearns for some kind of cognitive coherence. The sense the dreamer seeks turns out to be nonsense, and yet poetry finds a way of making it sensible after all.”
—Michael Broder

I had noted in the flyleaf of my copy of “The Voice at 3 am”(published 2006) from an article about his appointment as National Poet Laureate in August 2007,
“what you encounter in dreams that does not correspond to reality we perceive with eyes and ears ... faith in the miracle of imagination” and “you won’t like most of what you read, but whatever you like, read that.”

Late September, the final poem in “The Voice” creates a dreamworld which starts by stating “The mail truck goes down the coast/Carrying a single letter.” and then continues by personnifying a seagull as bored, forgetful juxtaposed with the foreboding of tragedies in the making. The next stanza leaps into the past and what you thought you heard... Who is “you”? And how does he know what this “you” is thinking? Is it himself? And why is the sea weary?
He taps into a universal fear: pretending to be rushing off somewhere/and never getting anywhere loosely connected with the sea’s “many lifetimes”. Finally he ends up with
the feeling of Sunday, which for him involves heavens “casting no shadow...” and tombstones which huddle “as if they, too, had the shivers”.

As opposed to whacking the reader over the head with “Last night I dreamt”, he seems to start in the middle of a dream... wakes up to a memory and ends with setting his feet in dawn. Which poem works for you, and why?

a few thoughts on Simic and Collins:
Both poets take a stance, creating their own “film”, sharing their imagination—inviting us to consider our own landscapes, and what we think we see, have seen.

The Collins “A sense of Place” has a passing bird, which makes us think of Simic’s mail truck,
accidents of weather, and surprising adjectives such as “snarling” for the drawing of the fish; shrouded for the cove on the coastline... alarming for the green (approaching tornado?) The “if”, repetition of “might have” sets up a beautiful contrast with the actual landscape...

To contrast the staccato feel of Simic with the flow of Collins blending an easy-going vernacular with erudite overtones:
“There is a menace in the air/of the tragedies in the making.”

“But as it is, the only thing that gives me/a sense of place is this upholstered chair/with its dark brown covers,/ angled into a room near a corner window.”

The contrast between “Memorizing ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne with the original is also fun as a deft commentary for what is involved with spending time with something to value it... lines such as the metaphor or “walk three times around this hidden lake”, the plank of every line, the personification of the poem as walking by his side, the pun on the word stanza, which is Italian for room.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

poems for September 29

Speaking Is – by Cara Benson
To an Old Square Piano by Robinson Jeffers
A Gift by Amy Lowell
An Ending—Howard Nemerov
Solitudes by Margaret Gibson
Theme for English B by Langston Hughes
They Sit Together on the Porch by Wendell Berry
A Rune, Interminable by Marie Ponsot

A full slate of poems which started with "speaking" -- and how we speak up, or voice, and ending with listening to Eileen Aroon as "A Rune" reminded paul of "Aroon" which means "a loved one".

Ending of a season, a time, and what is lost along the way, what remains true within us.

The first poem felt delightfully cubist -- geometry (including the comment speaking is a "trap -- e void") and odd assortments of objects, where a chamber pot and helmet fit side by side; the conundrum of the witty reversal of "not customs— accounting" in what is declared or not.
What is our custom, what do we account for general customs we don't speak out about,etc.
Associations included Frost's "Out- Out..." the fatigue at the end of the day and survival vs. "those that lifted eyes could see";
lay-out... If you take the title and last word: Speaking is... accounting...
Judith was reminded of the Cocteau film, Orphée – l’oiseau chante avec ses doigts deux fois...what comes out of radio...
I can't remember who said “I hope whatever team you’re playing on, wins...” or why...

but however it is -- most of us agreed, Benson's poem was worth reading again.

Jeffers poem felt more dated (remember he was born in 1887!) old-fashioned but not treacly...
a sense of wearing down... the piano respected for its own history...with lovely deep O
sounds and end-rhyme ABC ACB.

Lowell's "gift" felt like anything but if the expectation was something not sludgy. Self-centered creepiness? a bad joke? Amy-gist as imagist, an epithet Judith said people applied to her.

Nemerov provided relief...
subtle use of rhythm...the pleasure of the sound texture, diction...
language is tough... intensely thoughtful, external/internal.
We discussed weather/mood... exhausting to be always sunny...

The next poem, posted on Writer's Almanac Sept. 11, has a few "cutesy" line breaks which detracted from a sense of waiting-- perhaps Gibson's idea of reinforcing separation, and Solitude.

How satisfying then, to read the terrific Langston Hughes -- although the poem was published in the 1959, probably written earlier. The separation between white and black, a lot more powerful than the waiting loneliness in the Gibson. Hughes poem walks you into a deeper daring to say I, just like you...have my truth to say. We discussed the idea of writing as being "black ink on white paper" black on white... and the "somewhat more" that comes before "free" -- both about race, but also implying censorship of what is written.

We thorough enjoyed the Wendell Berry -- the conversation an old couple can't bear to voice... We talked about different ways of avoiding saying “die”: – he steps out of the picture...
goes first... gone to your reward... laid down w/ Jesus...
kicks the bucket... bites th dust... called home...
you have two days to go...

A satisfying session -- because of the discussion, bringing to life through words, a liveliness about closure.

Poems for lunch -- September 25

The Persona Poem... what lies between the lines...
Sampling from Mo ’ Joe Anthology, compiled by John Roche, RIT
“There are many Joes throughout the galaxies of Poetry”
Cup a Joe – John Roche
Joeness is -- Carol Moscrip
Joe Wrote a Poem -- Dane R. Gordon
Joe becoming – Paulette Swartzfager
Joe the Photographer – Kitty Jospé
Joe’s “March of Time” -- Larry Belle
Post-Gas Wells, Post-Nuclear Missile Silos -- Karla Linn Merrifield
Siren Song -- Margaret Atwood
Strugnell's Haiku by Wendy Cope
+ links to two others.
A Rune Interminable -- Marie Ponsot

I explained how John Roche's anthology "Mo' Joe" came about -- the fun of the reading at BYQE bookshop..
Mike shared a "joe story" about superstar Joe Montana from work where there are a lot of Buffalo Bill Fans...
in his words:
" when a game is coming up there is usually a flurry of e-mails discussing the game, mostly good-natured kidding like “our team is going to demolish your team;” “Oh yeah?! Your team is so bad that [fill in the blanks]” and the like. Once, Buffalo was hosting a team led by an acclaimed superstar named Joe Montana. He was so well-known that people didn’t need to say the full name, they would just say things like “Joe is going to storm into town and take apart your team.” It was all Joe this, Joe that.

One of my friends responded with a short poem that he made up on the spot as he was responding to an e-mail:

Here comes Joe
The Bills welcome Joe
Joe now sad

The response was overwhelming. All these guys who never gave a thought to poetry were suddenly analyzing and deconstructing this poem:

“The symmetry!”

“It starts small, builds up, then fades into an anticlimax.”

“The first line says it all: ‘Joe.’ That’s what the buzz is, the popular sentiment: Joe can do it all, ‘Joe’ is all you need to say. Then, Joe is coming to your town! Watch out! Everybody go hide!! Then the Bills’ response to the hype: Yeah, so he’s coming to our town; big deal. We welcome him. We’re up to the challenge. Bring it on. We’ll give him our brand of ‘welcoming.’ Then: Joe now sad. Three little words that sum up the outcome of the game: Joe’s team lost. He’s sad. His team and their fans are in mourning. Finally: ‘Joe’ again. A single word summing up the disposition of all the sound and fury. Look at Joe now; see what became of the mighty Ozymandias Joe.”

It was just a funny, interesting little interlude that we still remember and kid each other about."

Indeed -- we enjoyed hearing the story!
We discussed what made Joe special.. the humor of Joe who misspells, his journey, the nature of "joeness"how maybe "Joan" the poet would pick up on the O of hope and pOet.
I appreciated that people like Joe the Photographer... his unflinching desire to capture and convey what he sees in spite of the danger.

In contrast, Atwood's siren song, which repeats the word "song" as it wraps around the secret of the ego... and co-dependence, draws us in with the first line:
"This is the song everyone would like to learn..." the voice is universal, seductive... only you-- only you can help-- coupled with "you are unique" -- aren't those two things we'd love to believe? Boring song... and darn it, it does work every time (to our unspoken down fall).

We had fun imagining Strugnell... we read it line by line and played around with reading only the first lines together, the second and the third to see if that might help out his Haiku... a fun teaching non-haiku poem,
rather Falstaffian.

The Rune, Interminable -- people picked up the key of "unhurrying", the timing of time, both as first forms of life, in seed, the winter/spring of wintergreen as the poem's rich rhyme, the O's of first word "low" and last word "lost" against the tick of the I.

Reading at Brockport -- " A Different Path Gallery" September 27, 2014 : post-reading ruminations

I love readings... it's more than a birthing process, bringing a poem to its audible life to sit in the light of an audience...after the gestation period in which each poem grows...
there is also the "nursing period" where often another layer of revision takes place...

Dream Lens: one of the Borderliner poems shared-- I'm not sure "madeleines and mad lenses" worked... but realize how much importance I attach to "The Joy of Cooking" -- as poems such as "Butter Butter" (to be published) and "In Mother's Kitchen" (Gathering Lines) also come from there. Dream Lens, unlike the other two, one recounting a slant memory of my mother's madness, the other the processed foods which had nothing to do with the recipes from scratch, deals with the mystery of a dream -- combined with Proust's memory triggered by a Madeleine dipped in Tilleul. Does the poem do justice to the conceit of "attending to what is before us?" with its feet in the hopes and dreams of a 14 year old girl? The point isn't "what to make of the mystery of hidden messages" in a dream 50 years later. The Poem isn't ready yet... goes into the "to work on" pile.

On Spells : interesting concept of "wordless charcoal" that's in my poem "Golden Smoke", and section of a new book I put together in June of that title. R: came up as a letter when I first started writing poetry -- the tool for Regret. This time, it is for "Rise" -- the lower case r speaking: "hold up your corps" -- the verbal match for "are" connected to "we, you, they" -- the little i rolling a head of wonder... s snaking into a mobius strip emphasized by e for ease of silence... OK for sound and spell in a reading, but not publishable.

The ekphrastic poems worked: the Lewis Hine photo -- already per for

I love cleave poems. I had read "On silk road" at Litsplosion, but here read "An Old Japanese Mask" -- that will be a good one for Valley Manor 10/15...

I also read Madonna and Child -- in the section of Golden Smoke I call "color for burnt land" -- it was OK, but revised it, and realized "In Cappadocia" is stronger.. both have the spirit of "there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground"

I thoroughly revised "Stealing a Line" -- going back to think about what "wailing under aboutness" meant in an interview with Lucia Perillo. It's now called "wailing" -- my friend Linda says my first ending in response
to my mother's "All I want is a little white pill to end this all" of "I told her, go ahead" might be alienating to the reader. She's right -- much better to include the reader and ask "what would you have said" -- and allow such a thought to be one of the many one shuffles in one's head witnessing someone else's despair.

The "Evening Thief in the Storefront Window" I revised to be a "Joe the Evening Thief" -- in the spirit of
Joe the photographer... which I read. I am so grateful to John for having put together this anthology.

Grateful to the 2013 Fringe poetry chain which provided "Next" which turned into Golden Smoke, title poem for the ms I put together in June which needs re-submitting after revising.

I did read the Cummings' inspired "Sea of faces" -- little face dots like iiiiii's which I had read better at Litsplosion -- and in the second half of the reading, following a Q&A, explained the process of composing like Cummings, but combining musical settings which use his poetry as with the background of his paintings as lyric.

The fun of reading the Lord's Prayer backwards in a new, "selected" Backwards activity. Good for certain readings.
Not sure this would work in a book -- inspired by Robert Marx -- and I wouldn't have known about him without photographer friends...

the story of my roommate (also a poem workshopped by JP in August) in "No Orioles Sing in the Willows" seemed to work, as did "Real, tailing" -- a kind of prosy way of visiting the rice terraces near Guilin, prompted by the sign "do not climb the tailings" -- what is real following, or what tails "real"... not a bad question...

Walk-Stitch seems to work -- inspired by the plants in Centennial Sculpture Park at the MAG -- another one that will work at Valley Manor...

Van Gogh's boots from Cadences... a good one for readings and one of my favorites...
Word of the Day -- fun poem for readings, also done at Litsplosion...

I am so grateful for all who came... so grateful for such an opportunity...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rundel Poems for Lunch -- September 18

Seen from Above by Jennifer K. Sweeney
Music at My Mother's Funeral by Faith Shearin
You're the Top by Tony Hoagland
They Sit Together on the Porch by Wendell Berry
No by Mark Doty

potpourri of poems

Seen from above, blends a repetition of “steady” applied to trains, “missives” from other-where, dislocation ... and you think you might be entering an idea about winter’s reach as “steady” connects to icicles, leaves, people with their clocksongs and deaths.
At this point the tone changes; maybe the poem could end there—“keep the fire lit/
things are not as they seem.” But the poem insists on an enigmatic instruction about bell-ringing, with both feet off the ground. What has this to do with the title?

What do we look for in poems? Intrigue, mystery but yet, which invites in spite of not being able to put our finger on it, that leaves us feeling satisfied.
The tercets allow the eye to tumble from “other-where—
from “clocksongs” through white space, “and filled-up lives” .

The next poem, Music at My Mother’s Funeral, in one unbroken stanza, starts in media res, where the mother is part of planning the music, but leads to “the soundtrack of her life”. The humorous details, including the music of the seat belt reminder she ignored
paints a delightful picture of a woman who knew her own mind.

How different from the memory of a Grandmother in Hoagland’s poem, also written in triplets, but with the unwarranted enjambement of un-/ politically correct. Diction, word choice is pleasing and captures the age of Cole Porter – whose lyric is bright, beautiful and useless – the ending words of the poem, which at first comes as a shock, as if it is the grandmother’s life, caught in her ignorance about the world, or her red high-heel kicked into the chandelier. It led us into a discussion of how we remember grandparents, as opposed to our own parents. Jim went on a tangent about what’s broken in society
the juxtaposition of Ghandi and Napoleon brandy, the suspension of “just” and prohibition (shelter of a dry martini). The speaker of the poem establishes an adolescent view of the flavors of this woman compared to trivial rhymes, that transitions to how she saw herself – which surprisingly seems no different, and sad.

The Wendell Berry portrait could be played in d minor, a sad end of life snapshot,
with the word “dark” used in 3 different ways: night, without light; and death as the dark doorway.
Doty’s “No”
With all the hard “c” and “cl” sounds, the vivid adjectives (alien lacquer, ruined wall paper, smell unopened) the turtle, like God, is the one in charge, at the center of everything. A delightful poem in both conceit and manner. As I mentioned in the August discussion of this poem, Doty captures the world of the child, and layers in this line, "I think the children smell unopened," both their own "unsmelled" lives, as well as understanding the unopened secret of the turtle they hold to each adult face. The verb “heft”, the slant rhyme of “unlit”, with “single” reinforce the sense of possible which they love, that “he might poke out his old, old face”.

Because we had some time left over, we also read Lisel Mueller’s poem “Things and Naomi Shihab Nye’s, “The Art of Disappearing” and Mike noted how we could end many of the poems sooner –
Seen from above: “things are not as they seem”
Music: but it did not seem to matter.
You’re the top: suspended in a lyric by Cole Porter
No –the single word of the shell

Wendell Berry was the only one where such a cut would not be good.

Jess had the idea of saying just the last line. Applied to Seen from Above
Seen from above
from other-where
last leave winnowing
with their clocksongs
like chaff from a scythe
keep the fire lit.
(end there.)

Applied to the Doty:
Because they want us to feel
in their own hands, want us to feel
he’s the color of ruined wallpaper
nothing but the plummy leather.
They know he makes night
as they do. His age
from which they are excluded,
building anywhere. They love
the single word of the shell.