Wednesday, July 1, 2015

O Pen : Poems for June 29

The Thing Is, by Ellen Bass (see June 18)
Let Me Tell You What a Poem Brings by Juan Felipe Herrera
ORAL only :
Kiss over Zero by George David Clark
The Untied Stales by Paul Hostovsky
Always Something More Beautiful by Stephen Dunn (see June 25)
In Love, His Grammar Grew by Stephen Dunn
Brothers in Arms by Carl Phillips

We had discussed two of the poems, and this is where I enjoy the variety of two different groups, rather like being a teacher with the same material taught in two different sections, or even teaching the same book from year to year, but never ever repeating the prep in quite the same ways.
For Ellen's poem, everyone appreciated the uncomplicated way she deftly moves through the body, from the visceral "no stomach for it", to holding a face, looking deeply into the eyes of life, as if to peer beyond the physical-- nothing fancy, a plain face, without sacred violet eyes, but the inexpressible whatever it is about doing that, that allows you to love life again.
The ambiguity of "body" -- as in the physical body, or the normal person, the " you say, yes, I will take you" which could be both yes, I will say these words again, or, yes, I will feel the sense of these words again. We spoke as well of the difference between sadness and depression, and the title. The thing is... as both cliché, but also, emphasizing "is" -- the thing being love.

We skipped over the Herrera -- no one chose a favorite of the 10, but I mentioned his energy, the flawless English which can melt into flawless Spanish, and the discussion came up about how a National Poet Laureate is picked...

I do love the group though. Today, I picked poems which made us laugh no end! It wasn’t the poems themselves, but the camaraderie of the group, who took a poem called “Kiss Over Zero” with these opening lines:

anything over zero is zero
anything over one is itself

Imagine 14 different people giving explanations of what the 11 couplets mean – from stories of romances and marriages gone sour, to admiration of mathematical genius.
some said, "an intellectual exercise, no feeling which ends up as nonsense... we don’t know what anything means... others, a little negative (double negative...) and one summarized it as a fun night of casual sex...
How do you read this line: and the minute hand eating its tail --
the clock's minute hand, or the tiny hand of ... well... an ouroubouros? Intriguing, and the more time we spent with it, the more we found.
for instance this couplet:
"the memory of laughter
is a lamp over one"
do you pronounce the stress O'ver one,or, over ONE? Can you hold both meanings?
The footnote mentioned the inspiration of the poem coming from a course in translation and a line in Bei Dao* where one student read ‘over’ as shorthand for ‘divided by. So, a misty poetry, is behind it all -- and how does THAT change the reading?

The Untied Stales... or shall we say "slates" or skate over the unbound ties of united...
a small gem of a poem. The choice of verbs leads us to politics... bleeding/ spilling... and David brought up Elizabeth Bishop's poem, Geography. The adverbs describing the child scribing the title of her map brought forth ideas of childhood as well.

We found reading the Stephen Dunn poems line by line more gratifying than stanza by stanza, and a second reading of course allows a chance for repetitions, tenses, sounds to work their magic.
See comments about 14 different people giving explanations. Always Something More Beautiful” also had a variety of opinions.
Is it a poem about a jogger running a race... a simple progression of the pursuit of beauty, perhaps odd, perhaps daring, or something someone else remarks, saying “beautiful” “as if something inevitable about to come from nowhere is again on its way”.

In Love, His Grammar Grew by Stephen Dunn reminds us of the relationship between grammar/glamour about which I just heard Mary Szybist speak. The rules of grammar, told as a love story, is beautifully executed. The one short line, which starts after a sizable indent "... For love," makes it clear love making every bit as amorous for language as for the body.
"/he wanted to break all the rules,/light a candle behind a sentence/named Sheila,"
Does it matter who Sheila is-- or simply the fun of a named run-on sentence and knowing she is "queen of all that is and might be", created by the largesse of grammar.

The last poem "Brothers in Arms" by Carl Phillips also ripened, read sentence by sentence...
What kind of comrades...what sort of struggle...Echos of Gertrude Stein who when asked, "What is the answer" answered... no answer... then what is the question." Phillips seems to struggle to reconcile himself with himself in the poem, although any allusion to being black and gay is not evident. Some of the enjambments feel awkward, but perhaps that is the mood of the poem.
The key, "gratitude’s the one correct response to having been made,
however painfully, to see this life more up close.", one senses is something he cannot feel.
There’s a rumored
humbling effect
to loss that I bear no trace of." with "humbling effect, far to the right, is immediately refuted: "It’s not loss that humbles me."

By the time we arrive at the ending lines, it is not a feeling of bitterness, resignation, but a quiet acceptance: "Not knowing exactly what it’s
come to is so much different from understanding that it’s come
to nothing. Why is it, then, each day, they feel more the same?"

As ever, such a gift to share insights. Thank you all for participating!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Poems for June 25

A selection of Juan Felipe Herrera (available orally)
Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew
Is it Better Where you Are, by Christophe Salerno (poetry foundation post 6/2)
Shades by D.H. Lawrence
We Wear the Mask by Lawrence Dunbar
Always Something More Beautiful by Stephen Dunn

Is poetry at risk of dying? What poems are picked for daily consumption by such agencies as Poetry Foundation, Poetry Magazine, Garrison Keilor's Writers Almanac. Who is the audience?

So, in listening to "Let Me Tell you What a Poem Brings" by the new US National Poet Laureate, we understand a poem is not something to pin down, and even if you compare it to a shopping mall, cannot be compared to a commercial venture one enters, with an inside that might catch you by surprise, pull at your senses. The mist/missed becomes central.

I asked if anyone had a favorite, and Terry proposed "Song out Here".

One of the criteria is to wonder, would I read this again in 5 years and still find it pertinent? How is a poem pertinent? What do we look for in poems?
Perhaps rap and jazzy sounds are in, and support a feel of today, but will they become a simple object of curiosity tomorrow?

In the line-up, I picked a contemporary poem, referring to 19th century Keats, then two poems by poets of the late 19th century, returning to a pick by the June Issue of Poetry Magazine.
Is it better where you are? Involves a "you" that could refer to Fannie Brawne, (the poet spelled it "Braun") Keats, the reader... The poet's last line "These scraps I work at like a crow" feels like a door slammed in the face, which changes the tone-feel of the title to an edgy sarcasm. My question to the group was whether the line breaks supported or interfered with the flow of the meanings. For instance, the "I keep watching the same meteor" (meteor as noun) endgames to "meteor/shower videos on YouTube, where shower acts like a verb.
Similarly, does the parallelism "my arrhythmic heart/aches for the kind of dramatic arc"
draw you in or push you out?

So what does this poem bring you? or fail to bring?
Do we believe the loss of smell will show you will fail at being? And what is the wonder over the weight of meaning?

From there, we enter the underworld of D.H. Lawrence, who according to the American Academy of Poets write up, "believed in writing poetry that was stark, immediate and true to the mysterious inner force which motivated it." This poem, in a book published in 1919 uses form, opening with a question, followed by tercets which echo the end rhymes (gleam, flame, me/seem, same, me; flower, strive, listen; our, deprives, glisten; morsel, tremble, hand; parcel, dissemble, understand) and the closure, "For I have told you plainly how it is."
Really? What is "it"? and to whom is he speaking? there seems to be a subtle communication with the dead, the shades being spirits of the underworld-- perhaps all that we the living shirk? Mysterious, sensual.

From there, the powerful rhetoric of Lawrence Dunbar, son of freed slaves, born and died in Ohio: 1872 – February 9, 1906. The strong rhyme does not interfere with the message. The four times "We were the mask", as title, as opening line, and twice indented could refer to different understandings of "we" -- universal, the mask specific to Americans, the "us" as the slaves, and return to the universal. The break of pattern: subtleties/over-wise/sighs/ (3 lines) sandwiched between guile/smile and while, followed by the indented "We wear the mask"
gives a sense of disparity between inner and outer mask. Note the interweaving of the final 6 lines:
we smile / cries
sandwiches (we sing,... vile/mile with "otherwise, we wear the mask.

Returning to contemporary, the poem by Stephen Dunn from his book, "Lines of Defense".
Is the 6 line, free verse stanza too artificial, or does it imitate the sense of thinking while running, ruminating on lessons learned. Read sentence by sentence, we notice an uneven gait, the occasional internal rhyme. Who is the man with the famous final kick? Death? God? the author of the poem, a different contestant -- all of the above? The last line renders "Beautiful" overheard, and also incorporated and interpreted by the speaker of the poem as the kind of unexpected that has occurred before, pulling the title in yet another way -- always something more beautiful in beautiful.

We ended with "Endings" which appeared in Nimrod's issue "Circulatory Systems" Spring/summer 2015. -- as reworked in my book, "Golden Smoke" -- ah... a hint of pain without a final "n".
end without a final d, a hint of an equation , let "n" equal... a sense of unfinished.
We will resume the Rundel sessions September 17 !

Jim gave me a present -- a copy of a page of I'm not sure from what book, but it starts with "They" and goes into an examination of Eastern and Western mind, the first, containing multiplicity and the second a unity and oneness. Consciousness and form, energy or manifestation are not radically separate... More on this in the Fall.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

poems for June 22 -- special visitor... Dane Gordon

It is one thing to read words, but so different to hear them read by the person who wrote them. Not all poets are masters of elocution, but Dane is. In his quiet philosopher's voice, he engages those around him with important questions. What makes a poet? Perhaps the depth of his reflections on the nature of existence. How in the beginning, life started as one cell and its connections, then self-replicated. His poems explore relationships; the material for them is always there, but the poet's role is to be alert to the flow of activity.

On the cover of his book, "The Logic of Death" is the replication of the memorial plaque in St. Petersburg to Serge Esenin, who was so distressed by the savage way the soviets were treating his village, that he committed suicide. The cover of The Wound of Faith comes in two versions, one the original woodcut print and one the regular print of two columns, the connections to a larger vault on the left-hand side only suggested, and an incomplete wooden vault springing
towards the right, under which the title lies in red letters.

Can peace absolve death? Can a relationship broken from the start be repaired? Can our sorrows, wounds, quieten enough to hear voices we could not have heard earlier? (addressed in the title poem of his book, "The Wound of Faith.) The person who has wound or flaw is what attracts us as if to gives us faith, possibility. Perhaps time repairs, and you can use the example of what we remember. How many of us agonize over the 30 years’ war? How many of us will agonize the way those who survived the Great War did, understand what it meant for the 20th century, centuries from now?

He did read for us:
The Logic of Death – Dane Gordon + Night Before the Battle discussed 1/19

The book is organized by wars, beginning with "the war to end all wars" progressing to World War II, the Vietnam War, and the title poem comes from a section on the Bosnian war.
Here Dane mentioned Sarejevo where he taught. The city lies as if in the center of a saucer, surrounded by hills. His philosophy classes continued – but at night, as during the day the men would fight. He told the story of the photographer dedicating his work to those who died in the Bosnian war ( poem "Aux Mort de la guerre en Bosnie p. 66) and the poem "The Contradiction" on page 67-8. To quote the poem: . "Is human community a deep current and animosity the turbulence of the surface?" Can we remember what we once thought of people when they were our enemies, but now whom we treat as friends? What is the contradiction of spirit against spirit – one heart beating against itself. "Is there a greater spirit... who could take the contradictions in his hands and like a Potter can mold the separate pieces into one?"

Can a poet have any influence? Perhaps the world falls into 2 types of people... those who react to the flow... and those who try to take a lead. (see his poem Birds and Saints.)
In the introduction to "The Wound of Faith"(A Feeling Intellect and a Thinking Heart p. 8-9, Two Visitors) Dane explains "In the area of religion the responsibility of philosophy is not simply to be critical or dismissive, but to respect opinions when they are sincerely held, no matter how strange; to try to understand them, to try to stand on their side, and then, to be critical.

discussed 2/26/15: A Furnace Door. Reading it for us 6/22, Dane referred to a course on Ethics, where Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire was used. Dane was surprised the students did not understand how cruel it is to destroy someone's self-illusions,as in the case of Blanche and how necessary it is to sympathize, empathize with them first.

also, from his new book the Wound of Faith
the title poem p. 45
37-8 – Three Truths : Epicurus: and the physical;
a question that rides/... above/ all explanations; (it has not been answered, but "continues to be / asked.
For what provides/ our life with meaning/ is not in the physical,/yet seems to hold /the otherwise meaningless /elements of the physical/universe together.

87 Not that at all.
final judgement. " we’ll reach into the tangled mess of our lives... and draw from it one thing... one untarnishable good and will hold it ... do you recognize? and we will recognize and weep regenerative tears."

He ended by reading "Forgiveness: a dialogue" the final pages of the book "The Logic of Death".
Here the intricacy of forgiveness, revenge, the problem of needing death to understand; that forgiveness... the pale sister of hate... does not want, the only member of the family of life that can hold it together.
and on goes the dialogue...
without forgiveness, no hope, no bearable life, we of all people are most miserable.
what did you learn? that forgiveness is beyond our reach, unless you reach beyond it.

There is something healing to take the step of saying, “I forgive.”
if you think your hate will change our love for humanity, you’re wrong.
carrying a grudge – like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.

And we ended on the metaphor of currents and waves... the process...
"Is human community a deep current and animosity the turbulence of the surface?"
"The surface rages and/destroys most of us/who try to sail there./Can we believe/that deep currents flow? And the questions continue.


I had distributed these, but he did not read them
p. 15 I Suppose
p. 25 Apart from Vision
P. 72 Grief is a Dark
Also these titles which I find intriguing in these poems.
A feeling intellect and a thinking heart— prayer to no one (bleak landscape of our choice… ) vs. p. 22 (Prayer) p. 27 (The Lord Tarries all the time.)
34—If the Universe were a person

41 April (with acknowledgements to Geoffrey Chaucer
As in God, all die — p. 66 – (p. 65 As in Adam.... )

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Rundel: Poems for June 18

The Thing is, by Ellen Bass
Blood on the Wheel, by Juan Felipe Herrera (new US Poet Laureate)
An Irish Airman Foresees his Death, by W.B. Yeats
Prayer of a Man in Snow, by Israel Emiot (tranls. by Leah Zazulyer)
Wound of Faith, by Dane Gordon

I love a poem that touches me, and have the feeling that this poem, without any need for analysis or explanation, is telling me something I am so glad to hear. So it is with Ellen Bass' poem. How simple to say, "The thing is to love life..." but it wouldn't be believable for me without her set up of the first sentence winding down 5 lines. It's the delight of pausing on, "The Thing Is" -- and wondering, but what exactly is this thing, and how would I pin one major thought as "the thing" and then falling onto the first line, "to love life" which repeats, "to love it even" and then start the "when's". Three times, "when"... no stomach for it, when grief sits with you, when grief weights you... and the heaviness of grief also winds into textures of heat thickening, heaviness of water, into an "obesity of grief". Three times, the word grief. I love the last sentence, also wound into five lines. Love this poem, so effective in its 16 line package, reminding me of Kahil Gibran's metaphor of the heart being a cave carved out by sorrow, therefore, larger to fill up with joy.

But words like that lack credence is said too glibly, too easily. It's like a composition by a great composer. Sure we can isolate the tune, but it's the harmonies that tug at our heart.

I picked an older poem by our new US Poet Laureate, filled with anaphor, "Blood" (45 times, not counting three times, "Tiny blood", three times "It is blood time", "What blood", Only blood.
We discussed the voice -- the "how of the poem, if the overuse of the anaphor risks boring the reader, or if the idea of "boring" as in drilling a space, a hole, to force the reader to think about the price of blood, the pulse of each person's blood, the livingness of blood, the shedding of blood, the truth, violence, conflict of blood. If this poem were a painting,
I would see reds splashed in dramatic, chaotic lines, crossing the border with Martin Luther King leading the charge along with other brave voices that have the courage to speak.
We concurred that the occasional rhyme seemed incidental and didn't interfere. If the repetition bothers us, perhaps the poem's strength is to push us to think about what we close our eyes to.

We read the Yeats, written a century ago, in the context of WW1, and voice of the Irish airman... which brought up other famous airmen poems. The close clip of the meter, the crossed rhyme keep emotion at bay like the airman, who suspends judgement about who he loves and hates,
the prophetic "waste of breath" of the years to come -- the pernicious waste of war, how human beings have always waged it, always will, the useless rhetoric around it offering explanation.

The Prayer of a Man in Snow, if read without a context, could lead to an understanding of a child, and obviate any sadness. However, knowing the suffering of Emiot in WW2, the gulag experience, the unjust persecutions, snow becomes the mask -- the whiteness being an erasure of life, an empty, unguided loneliness. How even numbers attach to snow, are replaced by it.
And what if your life were reduced to one, cold, isolated, sameness? I shiver at the power of this poem.

We ended with the title poem of Dane Gordon's new book, Wound of Faith.
One question for a poem like this, is how the eye and ear will work together, depending on the reader. The short lines do not ask to be read as enjambments, and depending on the reader could feel fragmented, jarring, or simply add a breathless quality to the ideas.
Indeed, we forget we made a decision... and here, I wish the poem would give us specifics, instead of staying in the speculative realm of philosophy. Is it the "wound" of faith -- or the branding of our decision about faith that marks us? In what way does faith wound?
What deep experience has the narrator had that brings about such a poem?

Hearing the poet read on Sunday, June 21, and again speak with the O Pen group in Pittsford on Monday, June 22, we found out that this title poem came from a couple who he counseled as they explored how to repair a relationship broken from the start. There was no way, except to end it, which they didn’t. Could their sorrows, wounds, quieten enough to hear voices they could not have heard early in our marriage? Such questions are universal, as we imagine the worst... the best... even a defining part of our life. Important questions such as, whether peace can solve death... Dane expects in a year or two he might write a sequel. The person who has wound or flaw is what attracts us. Gives us faith, possibility.

O Pen : June 15--Leah Zazulyer, translator of Israel Emiot

We were honored with Guest Leah Zazulyer, Poet/Translator, who spoke about her work with Israel Emiot, giving a biography and samples of his work, as well as general information about translation. For example, one word which can mean both to dwell/ to cry (Veynen) invites new directions; a sense of liberation from dictionary meaning to embellishment of a larger context.

Emiot, wrote parts of his poems on cigarette papers while he was a political prisoner in eastern Siberia from 1948-56. Others he simply committed to memory. Between 1932 and 1938, Emiot had published four books of poems, in Yiddish, not Hebrew. He fled to Bialystok in the nearby Soviet Union and from there arrived in Kazakhstan where he served 7 years in labor camp. In 1957 soon after his return to his native Poland, two of the 22 poems in a cycle he called "Siberia" had been published in Yiddish. 1958, he made his way to New York, was invited to a historical tour of Israel, and planned on permanent immigration there but was thwarted from refuge there when the night before his departure he suffered a heart attack.
Arriving in Rochester, New York, he became Writer-in-Residence for the Jewish Community Center and edited a tri-lingual literary journal called "Roots".

In the book Siberia, the cycle begins with twelve sonnets, which Zazulyer explains in her introduction, "is a form which lends itself well to meditation, problem-solving or questioning in poetry. Each Dreamsongs begins with an octet memory of some intense and pleasant aspect of his securely traditional childhood surrounded by significant elders. The poem then pivots on his use of this memory as a platform from which to dive into the six lines which confront reality."
Music sustains Emiot, just as music in the labor camp united diverse Jews.

In the poems for June 15, I had sent this out:
“Translating will teach you your own language” – W.S. Merwin
-- As Long as We are Not Alone (Emiot)
-- Recognized by Leah Zazulyer which uses the Emiot title and ending as epigraph
“As long as we are not alone... / We shall rejoice; we shall rejoice...” I. Emiot"
This is from her book "Songs the Zazulyer Sang"

Emiot, who resided here in Rochester from 1958 until his death in 1978 is part of Poets Walk with his poem, "As long as We Are Not Alone" which provides the title for yet another book in Yiddish and Leah Zazulyer’s translations in English. It was slated to appear in December, but hopefully will appear this year, published by Tiger Bark Press. The review by Ilya Kaminsky: “If a great poet, as Randall Jarrell once suggested, is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms to be struck by lightening a couple of times, then Israel Emiot is certainly one of the great poets of the 20th Century. “ He then refers to “A Prayer of a Man in Snow” — which we had the fortune to hear Leah read for us. Indeed, it is spellbinding, and a poem “saved for us from a barbarous century”.
William Heyen mentions “The vacancy and lostness in “As long as We Are Not Alone” are stunning and almost unrelieved.”

Leah read two versions of "Hour of Sadness" to contrast a highly literal vs. poetically literal translation. There is indeed an influence of Rilke's "Book of hours", although Rilke's stance is more reverential than Emiot's wonder at God and what he is doing to him.
She also read:
The Sickly Little Boy (from Strays)
Dreamed up Still Life (p. 55-61 from Siberia)
Prayer of a man in snow (p. 45, Siberia, but also will be in the new book)
(a Hasidic "dudele" -- elliptical sentence structure that is musical, snow simultaneously symbolizing purity, peace, emptiness, godliness, safety and psychic numbness."
She also discussed the Spanish-Hebrew Ladino poetry and many of the uses of "stones hearing" in the Yiddish Lullaby "a stone doesn’t hear but cries" or the tradition of putting stones on graves to say you’ve been there.

We discussed his poem, "As Long as We are Not Alone" starting with the emotional logic behind the epigram referring to the 1961 discovery of George Smith about the influence of music on plants and this poem addressing what kind of contact we have with God. Even if we are alone, we are surrounded by the presence of each thing.
The translation involved German, "Wellen mehr Glücklich sein" and Leah helped us understand "rejoice" as multi-layered with the idea of fortune, luck, a sense that we should be joyful; good;
I believe the poem was written in 1961 and Leah's comment is this: "he’s survived a heck of a lot. read the new book to find out what he’s about."

Indeed we will!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

poems for June 8

Still not done with the batch:
Ballad of Orange and Grape by Muriel Rukeyser (see Poems for May 18+ 24)(Also June 11)
Our Dust by C.D. Wright
Bumper crop – Bob Hikok
Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser
Slaves of Hope Live Only For Tomorrow – by CAConrad (also for June 11 at Rundel)
In A Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed by Jane Hirshfield

June 1

Nostalgia by Billy Collins
Musee des Beaux Arts by W. H. Auden
Musée des Beaux Art Revisited -- Billy Collins

from 20 poems which could save America
Memory by Lucille Clifton
Waiting for Icarus by Muriel Rukeyser;
Bamboo and a Bird, by Linda Gregg;

We discussed at Rundel some of Billy Collins, observing the tone, the wry, gently sarcastic layering which spares the message from overt narcissism, but yet leaves the reader wondering if the poems are in the category of amusing truffles, an end of the meal nicety, as opposed to a main course one would want to chew slowly to prolong the savor slowly to to be consumed.

We did not discuss "Nostalgia" but my guess is that the group would appreciate, as did those on Monday, the clever conceit of the poem to examine the "radical selection" we use to recall the past, and how we process time, sculpt the story of our lives. Using dates that hint of unspeakable horrors, and dances with such jerking and hurling names as the "catapult" and the "struggle" point to a deeper surface of how we as humans use denial to survive. On the personal level, it tends to extrapolate an incident, glorify it, with a left-over taste of complaint against a sense of the tawdry present. However, collectively, nostalgia can pose a dangerous shading of a slim sliver of the truth of what actually might have happened. The discussion ranged from the adage, "those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it..." The satirical tone has something loveable in it, that allows the reader to feel a complicity of facing the difficulty of choosing how to focus on what's important in our lives.

It set a very different tone for the contrast of the two "Musée des Beaux Arts" poems.
For the Auden, we read up to a colon or semi-colon, which dramatized the length of short fragments, longer loops of phrases. The arresting first line sets the tone for the story of Icarus, whose suffering in the backdrop of daily details, is a small unobserved splash.
Perhaps our need to shut out other people's suffering is part of the ego's job. Indeed,
people who exercise extremes of either obsessing over suffering, or denying it completely are at risk for other not particularly healthy responses.

Collins' poem, whose opening stanza changes suffering to "mental anguish" followed by a splendid metaphor of the mind as dark dungeon, addresses human nature in a different way--
and goes on to a different painting, the Temptation of St. Anthony.
What pierces us most deeply? Collins picks up on the "heart of the horrid" -- not just the detail of the hooded corpse, but "the way the basket is rigged to hang from a bare branch";
Not just the gruesome description of a fish, but the concern of "what it is wearing".
The how of our actions, like the tone of voice, contains a truth that is difficult to pin down.
In a way, Collins is remarking on his time period, in as timeless a way as Auden on the skirts of the 2nd World War. We are left, no matter the circumstances, to choose how we dance, choose our attitudes and what feels necessary to focus on.

The Rukeyser Icarus with its ambiguous layers is highly clever. How many "He" and "I" possibilities are there? Are you sure the "I remember" is the same "I", and do we have Daedalus as Father, as well as Icarus, perhaps another "He" as a bystander in a Greek Chorus?
Who says "Just don't cry" and to whom?
Knowing Rukeyser, born in 1913, was an activist, one can take a feminist read to the poem with a male-dominated first stanza, female-dominated second stanza. I like that the poem moves us, and yet the why of it acts like a prism, reflecting multiple facets simultaneously, yet without confusing us.

Comparing Memory to Nostalgia, we admired the power of Clifton's poem. There is no sugar-coating of nostalgia in this memory. Instead, the memory of a daughter's first pair of shoes,
is captured between the way the mother would recount the story, and the way the daughter remembers her mother and what she wanted to be the memory.
“People may not remember what you say, or do, but will always remember how they make you feel.” Maya Angelou.
How to read the "Ask me" will flavor the poem, but the strategy of the mother saying "it never happened” – and yet details of the "white words" and "bully salesman" are clearly given.
What is important is the memory of the conscious decision of mother to insist her daughter be allowed to feel important.

The Linda Gregg poem was puzzling, a little bit like a haiku-- swift brushes that create a small scene in a subway and the speakers observation about allowing space...
Tony Hoagland explains his understanding in this clip below.