Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Poems for November 30/December 1

Sent out w/ email:
However you celebrate Thanksgiving, may it be a time for gratitude. I will look forward to our meeting a week from tomorrow. Since we are not meeting this week, I share with you a podcast link from the Poetry Foundation: “Poetry in the Aftermath”. 0

If you listen to it, You will hear also a poem by Fanny Howe. Although it is not available to “nab” this one is:

I found all of it interesting, but wanted to share something a little more upbeat for discussion, hence the first Whitman poem. Although it is a share picked by Carolyn Forché from podcast this poem calls for courage; a time to pay attention and choose ways to be daily and continually attentive.

Her other poem pick:
from We Lived Happily During the War BY ILYA KAMINSKY

Long, too long America BY WALT WHITMAN
How wonderful by Irving Feldman
Amphibians by Joseph O. Legaspi
November by Maggie Dietz
Poem by Muriel Rukeyser
The Leaving by Brigit Pegeen Kelly
The Traveling Onion by Naomi Shihab Nye

7 poems is a lot to discuss in a short amount of time... but given Thanksgiving, we are missing a week.
I also sent to the Pittsford bunch the podcast link from the Poetry Foundation where I found the Whitman,
chosen by poet Carolyn Forché. Her other poem pick:
from We Lived Happily During the War BY ILYA KAMINSKY

podcast link from the Poetry Foundation: “Poetry in the Aftermath”. 0

If you listen to it, You will hear also a poem by Fanny Howe. Although it is not available to “nab” this one is:

The Whitman poem calls for courage; a time to pay attention and choose ways to be daily and continually attentive.

Whitman: It is worth reading and re-reading this part of Leaves of Grass. How does it fit into the whole? This snippet reminds us that we are full of opposites... makes us wonder who we are as "en-masse" -- what has changed since the time of slave-holders and abolitionists in our country? How do we learn, conceive of the next step? A timely snippet.

"How Wonderful" plays with sound, repetitions, contradictions as if in a Buddhist dream scratching the dreamer to irritation... Literate light to light litter of falling words is brilliant.
It feels like an agreeable spoof on us, reading the poem as if at a large Thanksgiving dinner
whirling with conversations explaining, agreeing, disagreeing, but how wonderful -- or is it,
that here we all -- and to hang on to how you can "quietly be yourself"...

Amphibians -- as immigrants and cleverly and thoughtfully portrayed...
the toughening of the passage.. the shell-less eggs as metaphor... amphibian as being on "both" sides and morphing from one culture to another, adapting.

November: Fun and cleverly set up with slant rhymes and end-rhymes a/b/a
do/moon as sandwich bread for cries which sets up the next tercet:
trees/bees setting up the next tercet with "foliage"

I love the last tercet's opening: "The days throw up a closed sign around four...
but she takes it to a universal -- this isn't just about daylight savings... or mindfulness of the moment, but about the part of us that wants something, and realizing now's not the time. And did we even notice the fool's good we could have wanted? Are we ever "dazzled enough" ?

For Rundel, we'll discuss the Rukeyser and Kelly next week.

For Naomi Shihab Nye: a lovely sense of history, geography and an onion...
as one of the small forgotten tears worth shedding
We don’t cry unless we cut into something...

onion as metaphor.
onion is a newspaper.
Onion as lesson on how to add to the stew, yet be silent.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

email for send out of poems for November 16 and 17

Next week’s selection has a bit of many things. A soothing poem posted in response to the elections; Lyrics of Leonard Cohen, a Villanelle written a few years ago using his lyrics, a little reprieve from Billy Collins, and a sample from a fine writer I just discovered in APR. Enjoy —
Line up:
Good Bones by Maggie Smith
Going Home by Leonard Cohen
Listen to the Hummingbird by Leonard Cohen
To Leonard Cohen -- A Villanelle – by Barbara Braverman
Steer your way, Leonard Cohen
1960 by Billy Collins
what the window said to the black boy by Clint Smith

Leonard Cohen. In tribute, I share the links to the lyrics of songs mentioned in the David Remnick article in the New Yorker:

“Bird on the Wire
“The Stranger”
The Famous Blue Raincoat

For Clint Smith you can read his other poems in American Poetry Review (APR Nov/Dec 2016) published.. All very compelling.
“Something you should know”
“The Boy and His Ball”
“what the fire hydrant said to the black boy”
“what the window said to the black boy”
“On Observing My Home After the Storm”t

You might enjoy exploring his latest book: Counting Descent.
Clint Smith: How to raise a black son in America is one of the TED talks.

The first poem :
Good Bones by Maggie Smith

The refrain, "but I keep this from my children" works quite effectively to consider truth, what to share with children, and how to reconcile a world that may offer them the 50% terrible... Of course children do not necessarily have to know that life is short, or how an adult shortens it. But the tongue in cheek becomes more serious when she repeats mid-way, "Life is short and the world is at least half terrible, and for every kind stranger, there is one who would break you..." The long line makes it hard to balance the more positive 50% one wants to sell as "real-tor". How to you sell the world is perhaps not the question so much as "what would make the world sellable". She asked first the question, whether it could be beautiful, but ends with an moral imperative--
you COULD make it beautiful. Are you? Re-read the sentence putting an accent on "You", the the verb, "make" the the ultimate goal, "beautiful."

I love that Rundel Library has inscriptions on the outer walls:

He made it beautiful.

Leonard Cohen's going home allows us to think not just about life on stage, adopting a suit/costume/role
but to think about how we are who we are. David brought up St. Paul, Corinthians... see through glass darkly...
Enigma of the public persona and the intimate private self, as if Leonard/I go back between a
deep reality speaking all the time... and the voice which says you are missing the mark.

Hummingbird captures the same idea -- don't listen to me -- but the bigger voice of God.

The Pittsford group got into a long discussion about the impact of lyrics taken alone without music; what makes some songs work so well, others not; We enjoyed the Villanelle – by Barbara Braverman, which brings up another problem of form vs. meaning. Yes, clever use of lines (given new context) from different songs, but as thread
on which to hang the meaning, it wasn't enough for many.

The muse/girl/infuse... long and short vowels, with a variation of plurals on the second rhyme didn't seem to support an underlying meaning. Two enjambments actually felt off-putting instead of multiplying the layers:

"Cracks in everything let light infuse
your songs...

A wondrous feeling begins to suffuse
my dreams- ..."

but how is this an offer one can't refuse?

Rondel did read "Steer Your Way" and glad for it. Here the end-rhyme works in an additive way: rot/bought/God or not/probably forgot/ he will be shot/gradually forgot...

1960 by Billy Collins is a fun poem but not without poking fun at couples, at people who don't listen, the possibility in our age of recording that an anonymous man, can become part of someone's listening, (which brought up the "canned laughter" phenomenon... ) I wouldn't say empathy oozes out at the end, but there's an edge of sympathy.

We ended with a discussion of "what the window said to the black boy" by Clint Smith, and I read aloud as well the "What the Fire Hydrant Said to the Black Boy" as well. The perspective is perfect... the metaphor right on--
glass shatters... but that's not the end of the story, much as the boy is labeled as "broken material" from the start...
The last two sentences leave us with a feeling of hope: Each individual counts. Together, no one is invisible.

to show how many of you there are
that none of you are the same
that the more shards there are

the more ways there are
to refract this light
that envelops us each day.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

discussion the day after elections...

To quote from the Nation:
"The immediate response to Trump’s election is one of opposition—we commit to obstructing, delaying, and halting any attacks on people of color, women, or working people that may come from a Trump administration. But we must also understand why millions are angry and anxious, and why they voted for the cruel hoax that is Trumpism."

In our group, Bernie reminded me of the saying: in the morning do something to make someone happy;
in the afternoon, do something to relieve someone's suffering. I typed up his poem... and now,
can't find it...

Thank you all for the thoughtful discussion today. Herewith some uplifting “shares” from the group.

From Bernie:
"This American Life asked Sara Bareilles (Broadway’s “Waitress”) to imagine what President Obama might be thinking about the current election and Donald Trump, but can’t say publicly. Leslie Odom, Jr., performs the song.”

From Emily: (and Carmin)
"Anthem" by Leonard Cohen

from Maura, enclosed, “Pause”.
I also read The Expatriates by Anne Sexton

And Judith shared excerpts from Carl Sandburg: 4 Preludes

I do hope you’ll consider attending the PUSH performance on Nov. 16 at Kodak Hall.
Here’s info about it:
Also p. 10 of this week’s City Paper.

It’s all about artists… how you create art.


NY New York's official state motto is simply Excelsior (Ever Upward)
And what mottos perhaps need changing?

poems for November 9-10

United by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg
Kites by Stephen Burt
Learning to Float -- by J.R. Tappenden
maggie and milly and molly and may -- E.E. Cummings
Mr. Pratt by Myla Cohn Livingston

For the day after elections, it is great to read a poem called "United" where each state's motto points to how disunited we are as a country.
NY New York's official state motto is simply Excelsior (Ever Upward)
Let's hope we can keep in that direction!

I love the tone of the poem -- the puzzlement... and the conclusion: "How wrong we are about one another." I love that Naomi asks "Idaho's motto (“Let It Be Perpetual” ) what the "it" is?

"Who chose these lines?
How many contenders?"
could be asked of each state.
New Mexico, “It Grows As It Goes”—now this is scary.
Two dangling its.

A little humor, for something quite serious seems to be the tenor of most of the poems.
(Especially the Cummings and Livingston at the end.) Ginsberg too, in spite of the thread
of loneliness.

It might be trite to ask: Which poet would you invite to go shopping at Wegman’s with you?
But the key in my mind lies in the final verse: "what America did you have" -- perhaps we don't have an image as did the Greeks of Charon and the River of Forgetfulness that runs in the underworld... but just before we die, what America did we have?

I love how Ginsberg's lack of punctuation heightens the ambiguity of phrases like
"lost America of love past blue automobiles". America of love + love past blue + automobiles
and America's love of automobiles.
The poem starts out with Whitmanian sense of world teeming with abundance...
followed by reference to disconnectedness of being homosexual... but even there in this part:
"I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?" this could be 3 separate questions Walt poses to 3 different grocery boys, as well as the "you" being us asking such questions.

What did you have Walt Whitman... what do we have here...

It is a haunting poem, literally with a ghost of the Great Democratic Bigness of our poet who Sings America..

For the next poem, if you look up Stephen Burt, you will find he is a cross-dresser, but totally comfortable about it, without jeopardizing his relationship with his wife. Nationally known, he has given TED talks about poetry well worth a listen.
The Kite is a delightful poem -- a feel of swooping here and there gathered. The two shortest lines:
"you try"
"to keep us"
Of course, the strings attached are the contexts:
The beginning:
Complete in ourselves,
we look like scraps of paper anyway:
left alone, we could tell

our mothers and one another our owners’
flimsiest secrets and play together all day

until we became intertwined, which is why
you try
to keep us permanently apart.

last stanza:
"It seems to be up to you
to keep us
up in the air, and to make sure our paths never cross."

A small reference to Longfellow,
My Lost Youth -- which starts by the sea and in the beginning quotes an anonymous 'lapland song' :"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

It's the sort of poem filled with luscious sounds, pleasant to say, follow, feeling one almost
understands something, but without need to peg it further, even though knowing there is something more for sure, to understand.

Learning to Float -- by J.R. Tappenden (Jennifer) is also a "mouth feel" of a poem.. with reference to the Aesop's fable of the great Oak and the bending reed...
The wide open spaces... silences and suspensions... create a journey -- perhaps a bit like Joseph Campbell's man with a thousand faces... Bernie brought up Haroun and the sea of stories--
not one phrase seems awkward... familiar is turned, the way times change... and we need to rethink
and unlearn our roots, stop clinging to what was to better choose how to stay afloat.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

O Pen -- poems for November 2

Morning by Bernard Shore
A Blessing by James Wright
As I Step Over A Puddle At The End Of Winter, I Think Of An Ancient Chinese Governor by James Wright
Testimonial by Rita Dove
Seasons v. Seconds by Steven Deridder
The Plain Sense of Things by Wallace Stevens
Owed to Pedagogy by Joshua Bennett

It is rare that one can receive a long explanation from the poet, but Bernie explained the first one and I received a long email from Steven Deridder Seasons v. Seconds. (see below).

Having two groups reading the same bunch of poems with different results testifies to the malleability of poems to resonate with circumstances. With the James Wright and Wallace Stevens poems, it would be fun to have them come and tell us just what was going through their minds. I'll save discussion here, as much has already been written about them.

Rita Dove's poem works sound, repetitions, a sense of biblical before the story started.
Joshua Bennett's poem (which appeared in the October issue of Poetry Magazine) is likewise a skillful working of line and stanza breaks. The sister's switchblade // eyes is a great example. Confusion of the voice, tension along with mathematical terms... abstractions balanced with a story of a boy, his mother, sister, in steadily flowing tercets
ending up with the unknowns.. how we deal with them.

Deridder's comments:
"It can be a love poem or not, it doesn't matter much for the meaning. Love has a funny way of finding a way into anything of compassion :).

The person who saw humans as fruit is on point with their ideas, though the fruit itself doesn't have to be human. Living things rot in time, some need a helping (or loving hand!), and they all gravitate toward perfecting their 'biologically preprogrammed' purpose (for lack of a better term).

The whole set up of the first three stanzas is a kind of an enticement + shaming of the reader to pick the speaking fruit, but in the final two stanzas, the fruit finally admits it can only wait the night.

Forth stanza is a personification of a split (of personality, of desires, of whatever buzzword). After attempting to shame / entice the reader, the fruit (human or life symbol) disassociates its own traits from its conscious self (maybe, out of self-consciousness?). Anyways, when the light of the sun goes out, it takes all forms of visual beauty. Even the fruit knows it can't be plucked, tasted, and wanted (or loved or useful, thus have a purpose) if it can't be seen. Which leads in to the last stanza: the 'good tastes' of its musical insides will become embittered by time and neglect (though in actuality, both are only vehicles for its own shallow, 'plastic' vanity, but that is the next level of subtext).

All of this is trying to imply that biology, or the nature of things, plays a role in the inner rot of the soul, as it so naturally happens to many humans, and even the domesticated animals I've seen. The first three stanzas introduce 'nature' in the general sense, show how it fattens things up just to kill them, while also building up the character of the fruit, as it is like a shaming salesman for its self, and being incredibly vain. Though in that forth stanza, it seems to have a higher level awareness of just that, then it warns the reader in the fifth that it can only wait the night. 'Bitter comes faster than anything of this Earth' = not much of a choice (at least for it, the fruit that wants to be plucked and wanted and tasty).

Oh, quick note: I think I may be using the word 'vain' in a different way than it is usually used. Basically, I mean it in that the fruit only thinks (thus cares) about how to get what it wants, only acts and speaks toward this regard, though it is being a poetic salesman and doesn't come off as feeling or sounding very vain... which was intended, but because of that, I am unsure if I should or can call it vain"

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Rundel - October 27

A Time to Talk -- Robert Frost
The President Has Never Said the Word 'Black' by Morgan Parker
Life is fine by Langston Hughes
Lines Written Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey by Billy Collins
The Kite by Joyce Carol Oates
All Hallows Night by Lizette Woolworth Reese

See October 19 for the first three; -- no O Pen, but discussion at the Jewish Home, bringing poetry to Bernie.
See Oct. 26 for the next two.

I put in "All Hallows Night" for fun...
April-clear (Spring Cleaning) to prepare to ghosts is an intriguing idea...
But instead of "ghosts of the year", only one appears...
How we encounter ourselves...?

Poems for October 26 + two discussed Oct. 27

Beginning by James Wright
Goods by Wendell Berry
Big Bend Park says No
to All Walls -- by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Anti-Grief by Marianne Boruch
Lines Written Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey by Billy Collins**
The Kite by Joyce Carol Oates**

The last two were also discussed at Rundel on October 27.

"The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Are clad in one green hue, and lose themselves
‘Mid groves and copses"

Beginning by James Wright:
Note how the moon drops the feathers INTO not ONTO the field.
How the short sentences per line ask us to stop. How "now" hangs as one word on a line followed by a period. His beginning seems to start when he perceives the wheat, leaning back to "its own darkness". The mood is reverent, tentative, ethereal and holds us... gently.

Merlin increases his syntactical units and alliterative green growth... gayety... good which made some think of Andrew Marvell's "Green thoughts and green shade".
Maura shared her picture of a Percheron ... one does indeed shudder at the size... and we discussed
"shudder" as a response to being deeply moved by awe as well as by horror or fear.
Intimations. Thanks to the human heart... thoughts that lie too deep for tears... Wordsworth

Naomi Shihab Nye: Big Bend Park says No
to All Walls
The title is laid out this way on two lines... with a brilliant result of a poem in the voice of Big Bend not just to express personal concerns of the park, but also an address "To All Walls".

One senses a strong persona in this highly political poem which allows the power of landscape to speak. Big Bend, and eternity... vs. man's clocks (Big Ben without the D) and rules saying who is to govern, get along, etc. What kind of "big bend thinking" do we do, or not? Big Bend as place, river... witness of time. A sense of psalm 23, and although written in 2011, feels freshly penned. The javelina, some mentioned for those who might not have looked it up, is a wild pig...

The comment on The Anti-Grief by Marianne Boruch -- She speaks of the little things that matter... what to cry over...
On the page, many found this poem irritating... but aloud it comes alive. I love this passage
"Alarm and Should Have, two roads
he would not cross, and Consequence
a street over, he ignored completely. Always
an eye out for the great
small peculiar."

an eye out... both in sense of knocked out, (ignored) and looking out -- again both for the "great"
and the "great small peculiar".

Lines Written Over Three Thousand Miles from Tintern Abbey by Billy Collins.
As one participant said "he cocks a snook at everything..."
Collins having fun on our culture’s view of time...
poking fun at poets and their dismay, " the kind that issues from poems
the way water issues forth from hoses,
the way the match always gives its little speech on fire."

Wordsworth's poem was one of the first to experiment with looking at an important historical place, but instead of calling on the history, brings his own experience of what he sees the river... and how this makes a difference in how he perceives what is happening to him. No mention of King Henry, as the scene is to tell how the poet has changed.

According to David, Collins is making fun of a genre.

The dialogue continues with Joyce Carol Oates in her poem, The Kite
(For Billy Collins). The form of the poem, in the shape of a Kite, and echoes of familiar lines...
something there is (but does not say "doesn't like...a wall"), but instead takes the tack of
in the American
soul that soars with
kites that soar!
The wording is tricky as she proceeds "Something there is not/in the American soul"
but a paraphrase is not possible. There is a sly layering of simultaneous opposites,
soaring repeated until the kite's tail encounters TV antenna, (tuttingly aliterated)
the kite
in a

Fun to read, re-read. Although published in 2003, I feel it is an accurate view of 2016.