Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blow by blow analysis of Elemental by Dean Young

Before coming up with even a SENTENCE to talk about the nets of connections in this striking poem, I found it necessary to separate all repetitions and overlaps.
In the current issue of American Poet, p. 9, CK Williams writes in an essay entitled, "That sense of Wonder and Exaltation", about what he calls "the syndrome of the sinking heart". It summarizes the reaction of the group on 5/23.
From the cowboy lovesong tone in "dearheart" to the meanings underlying "summarize", as in sum up, reduce, wrap up -- Dean Young will invite you to read again and again this one poem.
To use some of CK's words, you will "be so taken aback* that you think, 'My god how did he DO that?" and then, "envy and dismay turn to admiration and awe, which in turn lead to delight" then finally a reminder of what poetry is about in the first place.

I hope you will re-read this poem, admire its power to give you a different way to consider love, life, death, elements, words...
Elemental :
title. 4 elements: the first one mentioned is fire.
Spark (stanza 1) to sparks (stanza 2) – nouns –
The first – “has it say over the fire”
The second, plural, extends to apply to “we”
Stanza 3: burning: adjective for woods, then noun
Fire alliterated in final stanza with forever and fixed –
This end won’t summarize our forever.
Some things can be fixed by fire, some not. (things / not opposition)

Walked turns to wade to imply water.
Fireflies then are connected to wet grass.

Air: -- first stanza. Already you’re in the air.
Repeated in penultimate line of fourth stanza and
last line (fifth stanza) of the poem.

Night: first line;
sleep as noun, verb in stanza 4;
dreams stanza 5

Fire – implied light in the night
Water – dreams mostly composed of it (putting out fire?)

What is summarized? It must be explained by what is not.
1. Night cannot summarize day;
(implied summary in the spark’s say… which rhymes)
2. quiet doesn’t summarize the song
(can’t go on long, as duration, -- in 3 line sentence, with two songs and long.

Implied spark also is not long, but has its “say” over fire. (mysterious)
( 3. song cannot summarize internal spark)

4. Coming won’t summarize leaving

Waking (won’t summarize) sleep
Nor sleep our dreams
Implied summary of fireflies and ice
Winter/ summer

5. Your body in my hands won’t be summarized by your body far from me.

Final: 6. this end won’t summarize our forever.

The complicated syntax of stanzas 3 and 4:
Enjambments of line: wade/ coming/ leaving
Stanza leap
Ice, Winter, body, (stanza leap)

The implied parallel of waking summarizing sleep;
Sleep our dreams;
Are fireflies over the wet grass dreams? Sleep? Referring to the brevity of how long one stays (leaving);
The ice isn’t melting, but settling in an abandoned glass. (transparent container)
Also dreamlike;

Ice leads to winter which cannot summarize summer,
Implied parallel with warmth of body near which cannot summarize the body far.

Such complexity of enjambment, further meshes the imbedded images in a 5 line sentence to end with glass, followed by another series of enjambments in a 4 line (one word starts on the end of a line, to make 4 lines) ending with me.
Confusion of syntax, fuses the image.

Instead of saying your body "near", he says "in my hands", and "far" is exacerbated by my hands are nowhere; (and nowhere rhymes with air)

Nowhere is extended to boundless, flowing dreams.
End, as boundary, as completed life returns full circle to the idea of what fire can fix:
(cold, dark) which of course, is started with a spark – as if triggering the heart, crying. The repeated question Dearheart, why are you crying, resolves in the last line stating “we’re already air.”

May 23: Dean Young, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Poets Laureate

Open : May 23, 2011

Dean Young : Elemental
Is it Possible -- Sir Thomas Wyatt
From The Poets Laureate Anthology.
Epigraph – Archibald MacLeish
Separation – W.S. Merwin
Selecting a Reader – by Ted Kooser
Halley’s Comet – Stanley Kunitz

Dean Young:
Kimberley brought in his book Recklessn ess and mentioned how he writes about trying to avoid traps to arrive at a a poem that leaves you w/ more questions than answers…” As Mallarmé put it, three-quarters of the enjoyment of poetry lies in discovering, little by little, what it means.

Elemental, which relies on repetition, reversals, enjambments (like sneak attacks on meaning) has both flow and startling imagery. Dean Young interlaces the connections between “fundamentals” by saying what cannot summarize one thing into another. Before his heart surgery, he almost died, and so perhaps this experience provided him this striking love-poem which addresses death and survival (from the late Latin supervivere: to live after death).
It’s the sort of poem one doesn’t fully grasp – yet reads again, and find the pleasure of digging. It seems to come from stream of consciousness yet there is plenty of crafting of opposites, repetitions, contradiction which adds to the complexity and deeper clarity.

With the fire image, one person thought of cremation; another of 9/11. Others might think of Whitsuntide and Pentecostal fire. With further study, the title prepares us for interconnected spark/fire, fire/water; fire/air.

The repetition of summarize, asks the reader to reflect on what it means to “sum up” one thing, reduce it, abstract it, outline or wrap it up in another thing – just like two people in love; or the pull of dark/light, tangible/intangible, winter/summer, coming/going. One thing is completed by another, perhaps, but the spark which provides the “fixing” part of fire (light, warmth), the spark of life beat in the heart, cannot guarantee perpetuity, and skirts the edge of burning up.

The poem is from the collection “Fall Higher”. Was Dean Young reading Sir Thomas Wyatt whose penultimate stanza of “Is it Possible” mentions "To fall highest , yet to light soft"? However, Wyatt’s poem punches the reader with the word possible, which hisses to create a quite different tone. Even with the sizzle of the repeated sound in “summarize” in Young’s poem, the “spark” connects to water and air and dream with overtones of Roethke’s villanelle, “The Waking”. There is a long softness to the song, where as the clipped syllables of Wyatt cut the rhetoric into diamond hard facets.

This five stanza poem, which poses 3 stanzas hemmed in by the relentless question “is it possible” addresses very universal aspects of human nature, not confined only to the times of Henry VIII. The two stanza answer, repeats the sandwiched “possible” with the switch from “it” to “all”.
Leave can be understood both as “permission” and men leaving their ladies after the licenced marriage.

For Merwin’s modest, early three-liner poem titled Separation the one WITH punctuation in the Merwin selection that Billy Collins picked (saying
"I have long envied Merwin’s ability to transcend punctuation”)
We went around the table to say what these three lines evoke –

Here are many of the responses:
Kathy has used it to send as a sympathy card.
Another feels the reassurance that even Absence is a presence.
Another feels Absence pulling the many colors, length of a life.
Another feels Absence: the thread can’t fill the space…
Then the discussion turned to the nature of the needle: how it pierces.
How it is difficult to thread. The sound of the word stitch – and what it means to have visible/invisible stitches.
One was delighted to understand it right away. Another said she wasn’t sure if she truly understood it.

How simple. A title. Separation
Which could mean death, divorce, being apart. And how words in two breaths touch us.
We admired Ted Kooser’s humility in his poem about the “ideal reader”. The detail that strikes me is the moment: “at the loneliest moment of an afternoon” -- this is a reader who won’t hoard, practical, and yet, regardless that she puts the book back on the shelf, there has been some intimate connection. The wet hair, rain, raincoat details affirm the everyday carrying on of life, which he captures in deft strokes.

Stanley Kunitz’ poem “Halley’s Comet” allows a situation to offer wings to small boy wishing to be noticed. As Collins says in his introduction, "the deft way it shuffles together the domestic and the cosmic." Especially poignant as Kunitz’ father commited suicide before he was born, which gave some readers a different understanding of the "coarse (rhymes with course) gravel bed" of a rooftop.

We will discuss the next two poems June 6.
Rita Dove's "Day Star" -- an empathetic portrait of a wife and mother who commits the terrible sin of doing absolutely nothing right "in the middle of the day".
And Mona Van Duyn's sonnet, which compares love to a sensuous seismic catastrophe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Rainy, cold Monday 5/16: Tu Fu, an epithalamium, Neruda and Hirshfield

Open discussion: 5/16
According to Gerard Manley Hopkins “Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
When weeds in wheels shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens…”

There is indeed an “echoing timber” in the birds, that “rinses the ear”
With a heightened sense of “juice and joy”. But, Spring can also be filled with other tones. Fresh rings for royal weddings, or thinking of old friends, or keeping quiet in those hours before the business of birds announce the morning.

Before the Discussion of :
Tu fu: Alone, Looking for Blossoms Along the River
Carol Ann Duffy: Rings
Pablo Neruda: Keeping Quiet
Jane Hirshfield: The Supple Deer

I read outloud: ee Cummings

there are so many tictocclocks everywhere telling people
what toctic time it is for
tictic instance five toc minutes toc
past six tic

Spring is not regulated and does
not get out of order nor do
its hands a little jerking move
over numbers slowly

we do not
wind it up it has no weights
springs wheels inside of
its slender self no indeed dear
nothing of the kind.

(So,when kiss Spring comes
we'll kiss each kiss other on kiss the kiss
lips because tic clocks toc don't make
a toctic difference
to kisskiss you and to
kiss me)
I Also read my poem that appeared in Nimrod: Spring 2011 issue called Growing Season. “When the sun shines on the windowpane in spring”.
It’s a splendid issue – and if you’d like a copy, they are offering the issue for $6.
Let me know if you are interested.

Tu Fu : Emily mentioned “no mono aware” an empathy toward things," or "a sensitivity to ephemera," is a Japanese term used to describe the awareness of impermanence (Jap. 無常 mujō), or the transience of things, and a gentle sadness (or wistfulness) at their passing.
The two translators I know who have worked with Tu Fu are Sam Hamill and Kenneth Rexroth, but I don’t know who did the translation.

How much is the translator and how much the poet? The words alone, empty, endure, frail, bamboo quiet, shrouding create wonderful tension with profusely, vociferous glories, impetuous, red blossoms glaring with white;
Although not oxymorons, frail splendor and crush of peach blossoms opening ownerless create a mood of the opulent energy of spring independent of any of human doings which contrasts with full fear of spring. The last stanza combines
Tu Fu’s fear and wish, the passing of blossoms scattering by the branchful although I doubt Tu Fu would have anthropomorphisized with the adverb “gladly.”
On the other hand, the adverbs for the way the conversation between Tu Fu and the buds will be conducted is perfectly believable: delicate, sparingly.

Carol Ann Duffy’s occasional poem – the over-use of “ring”, repeat of “I might” with variations on line-break for emphasis, the “wring in pain” that comes to mind
With the sonics associated with fingers “ringed in rain”, makes you wonder if she should have declined to write this epithalamium.

“She is best at – perhaps the best at – writing the intensely private emotion, the silent moment of unshared grief that turns a life inside out, the kept secret, the undercurrent, the edge of the lie inside the truth we set our lives by. In other words, we have found ourselves in the odd position of having a poet laureate who writes the kind of poetry that tackles the least public of all our feelings. Instead of a poet of public noise we have a poet of private disquiet.”

You might enjoy reading this poem by her:
Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring,
if you like.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
 Carol Ann Duffy

or you might enjoy Robert Graves’ poem, A Slice of Wedding Cake:

Why have such scores of lovely, gifted girls
Married impossible men?
Simple self-sacrifice may be ruled out,
And missionary endeavour, nine times out of ten.
Repeat ‘impossible men’: not merely rustic,
Foul-tempered or depraved
(Dramatic foils chosen to show the world
How well women behave, and always have behaved).
Impossible men: idle, illiterate,
Self-pitying, dirty, sly,
For whose appearance even in City parks
Excuses must be made to casual passers-by.
Has God’s supply of tolerable husbands
Fallen, in fact, so low?
Or do I always over-value woman
At the expense of man?
Do I?
It might be so.

Keeping Quiet: Pablo Neruda, from Extravagaria.
Again the problem of a poem in translation.
Any crafting of sound will be at risk; the idea is to match the feeling, tone and convey any cultural implication…
We don’t count to 12, but to 10, or to 3..
Even if we don’t like something, or do something differently, aiming for understanding of what the original is trying to convey is important.
The idea of not speaking, not in any language, and being still, is good advice for any age. Neruda does not preach this. He paints a vision of what this would look like.
He allows the reader in, and the “I will go”, can refer to the counting (as in my turn to count) while the other waits, or the speaking, or the leaving.
Often we look at something and dismiss it. Like a spring branch, not yet in bloom.
But if we wait… keep still, listen, the surprise of new leaves will dumbfound us.
The idea of a “huge silence” that “might interrupt this sadness/ of never understanding ourselves” pins both the personal and collective roles of being human.

The Supple Deer.
An ecstatic experience told in carefully chiseled language. The tension between exact, and possible, exact and an undefined territory such as envy set in the motion of deer pouring through a fence, where deer, fence, observer can feel porous,
So full of “such largeness” of stag turning to stream. This small paragraph detracts from the awe Jane Hirshfield creates in just a few brushstrokes of words.


Yesterday, I went to a poetry reading in a cozy bookshop, where the deal is
a duo who reads, but the audience responds and interacts as the reading goes
on. Language poetry came up along with poetry that seems to lack poetic
devices, or so abtruse as to wonder if inaccessibility is supposed to be
some virtue. Is this poetry: L I GGG H T ?

John Ashbery is coming to Rochester June 2, and is considered one of the
pre-cursors of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets (NY School, w/ O'Hara)… So I'll ask him. What is cool about Ashbery, is the overall impression his SOUND makes, and like a good haiku, allows the reader to elaborate on a poet's experience.
Most language poetry is at risk for self-absorbed abstraction. (I just made
that up — but that could work for a quote maybe.)

Last October we had 3 days of Black Mountain poets, another group of
pre-cursors, and well, and I can't say that many (rhymes with any) of the poems read have stayed with me.

I just received 23 pages of very cool tutorial from Ferris Gilli (The
Heron's Nest) about Haiku. Seems like LANGUAGE poets could benefit — as
"subtle" is neither absence of image, nor a grocery list crowding
associations. Juxtaposition is not something like strips of paper thrown
into a hat, and pasted on a page any old which way. And the show don't tell
rule might help shine some light into the murky corners Of personal experiment.

Monday, May 9, 2011

O Pen discussion: 3 poems from April 2011 issue of Poetry


"The things we love tell us who we are". Thomas Aquinas.
Why do we "love" certain poems? Arts? Music? Expectations often color our appreciation. The challenge of poetry is perhaps to look at the conversation we hold with a poem that helps us understand not just the poem, but who we are.
The April issue investigates poetry's audience.

Poetry Magazine kindly sent us 6 copies of the April issue which addresses the question of audience. What kind of public is addressed? What kind of reader?
Someone who is looking for a narrative which tells a lesson?

On the website, the idea of sharing an anecdote like the story overhead at the Drycleaners in the Dave Smith poem, wouldn't happen in light conversation at say, a superbowl party.
We noted the way the narrator shifted his opinion away from one of irritation (finding the story the woman telling in front of him, a nuisance, making him wait his turn to pick up his drycleaning, "her Creole story drones on"). The poem made us think about stories -- how we tell them, and how we are affected by them.

The word "maybe" separates the repetition of the word "wrong" associated with the man she never married, and the word, "good". "Bad" is not him, but the tire he won't fix. We are reminded not to be the people who cough in comment.
How a woman picks up unclaimed drycleaning, and we have a vision of the man to whom it belongs and are offered an image of redemption. The metaphor of perfectly starched cloth, wash/of memorable words is not trite, -- nor the play of the ending "that leave you standing".

Roddy Lumsden's "Yeast" is a sonic delight*, where the play on "yeast" with variations of the letters increases the pleasure. Whether or not one follows the "story" of microbes,the diction and density knead the reader. It is with relief one reads the last line, "in the throne of his slumber, a mercy seat". Archaic sounds like "juddering" and "gurns" are at odds with modern colloquialisms and invented words like proto-raunch. Each word is in fact it's own universe.

Discussion included what words we can't say... what words conjure up... which images delighted us, or made us queasy.

Lumsden's poem 1979 was another brilliant, but quite different poem.
Set in couplets, the narrative unfolds the tale of an illicit meeting at a hotel --
"smithing in"; twitchy as flea-drummed squirrels...
surprising description, from his shoes (little boats you wouldn't put to sea in)
to wine, "not yet considered bodily fluid" set a tone that is both humorous, yet, captures the dread, which seals the poem as last word. Images such as "dusk's ask" -- that "what's next" and the mystery of a witching hour) and the song of the pipes (doubly compared, "as a face pressed/ to glass as a basketball with a mouth and teeth")enhance the jumpy nervousness of an affair. He slips in statements, about scandal, about how the mind works, without obtrusive preachiness. "You will have heard that the mind works much/ as an oval of soap turned between two hands."

The syntax of the closing couplet, by placing "our shadows' footsteps clatter" AFTER "beneath our own" , the emphasis on the end stop, "own" allows rich associations.
Possession, owning up to our own actions, shadows, fears, dread.

from the poetry website, April issue, discussion guide:
*At the opposite end of the spectrum, we might locate poems like Roddy Lumsden’s “Yeast,” which bubbles with sonic rather than narrative energy, and eschews the grand social dynamics that interest Williams, Wright, and others. Physically small, the sonnet describes the adventures of a miniscule fungus, which “squirms,” “gurns,” and is “born again.” The word “yeast” itself recurs in various iterations, appearing in a scramble of letters at the end of each line: “yes at,” “as yet,” “not easy.” In subject and style, this poem might seem to cater to a specifically poetry-reading audience: it neither concerns itself with “public” events nor hews to conventions recognizable from fiction.

Where would you place the rest of the poems in this issue? Does the notion of a small public trouble you, or do you feel, to quote W.S. Di Piero’s poem in this issue, that sometimes, “not being heard”—or being heard by just a few—“is the whole point of it”?"

Comments of David Ferry's poem, "The Soldier"

In David Ferry’s poem, The Soldier, he takes the viewpoint of a soldier,
writing a letter, who observes, sets the scene of barracks on a Saturday afternoon, empty except for one last soldier shining his boots, himself and a spider.

Conjecture and observation and a weaving of repetitions combine the way a spider and a soldier could be interchangeable.
The way 16 sentences break over 26 lines, and the weaving of the repetitions, now threading line end to line beginning, now repeating the sound with a variation of word, or the internal rhyme of "bell/well" makes a tight nest, metaphor used towards the end of the poem. Just as a spider is self-sufficient, so too the soldier.
The last five beats of the poem hammer in isolation. He is far from home.

There is variation sentence length, some stopped mid-line, a few sentences which loop over 3-5 lines. A pattern of alliteration for spider in Lines 8-14, dust drifts / lie in lazy/ repeat of sea, variation of drifting; does not carry through in the second part of the poem introduced at line 15, with a line the speaker of the poem seems to be writing in his letter. Both spider and "the other soldier" share the ending word "himself" -- for the spider, his guts which attach him to an outer world; for the soldier, something inside of him to which he is heedful.

Listing some of the repetitions allows a better grasp of the weaving.

Repetition of end words:
pass : line 2, line 17
himself: line 14, line 19
soldier: title and line 16 (and internally, soldiers, line 2, soldier, line 4, line 16, )

spider: (line 5, 6, 11)
privacy (line 7) and Private, line 19;
guts: line 5, line 13 (thread of/ unseeing)
sea: 8 + 9
rubs: line 23, 24
mirror: lines 24, 25
I guess: line 17 + 15 (where the guessing can refer either back or forward in the
submissive: line 19; submissiveness, line 26

Note also how the rhythm repeats: the spider “hangs by the thread of his guts”
And the soldier
line 4: “down at the end of the room”
line 18: “sits on the edge of his bed”


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

O pen for May 9 -- set up!

Clean-up Day:
 reflections
 passage from Chose Something Like a Star – Robert Frost: (written in 1947)
 2 examples of Ridgely Torrence (for Frost’s “To Ridgely Torrence/On Last Looking into His 'Hesperides')
 Comments about WCW – Poem –
 Comments and link about David Ferry
 The Soldier: by David Ferry
 3 pdf’s of poems from April issue of Poetry “Yeast”, 1979, p. 13; “Dry Cleaners”, p. 16
 + one Kimberley liked, “ It's That Time" as she really identified with the non-existence of sound that you can actually hear in the middle of the night.

Discussion: 4 poems: Text of "Yeast" below
Yeast: A word you can't quite say/without itching, flinching; it's not easy / to ignore its squirming appetite, stay / your primal juddering. And yes, at / night, each microbe gurns in the salty sea/ of gut and gullet, born again, boldly eats/ as you ate it, brews its own queasy tea/ of proto-raunch which it will quickly sate, / birthing wanderlusting vigors, as yet/ unknown to microscience. They sashay, set/
Out for the toes or gape through your eyes at / your drooping lids, your fat bunch of keys, at/ this internal motel's boss, bellhope, lackey's sat/ in the throne of his slumber, a mercy seat.)

On Monday, May 2, Kathy brought up the feeling of immense “grey” areas we navigate as we try to understand the complexities of what we read in the news.
I found this passage helpful from from Billy Collins’ introduction to Anthology of Poet Laureates:

JFK asking Frost to come speak at his inauguration “as he had something important to say to those of us who are occupied with the business of Government, that he would remind us that we are deling with life, the hopes and fears of millions of people… He has said it well in a poem called, “Choose Something Like a Star” in which he speaks of the fairest star in sight and says:

It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

Below, another poem by David Ferry which gives a personal face to a soldier.

Each of us can make a statement about poetry.* My reflection after Monday’s discussion was that poetry that speaks to the human and humane allows “evidence”
To become art and the comfort of embracing “not knowing” as we come up against the multiple variations that lie between black and white.
* To quote Reginald Shepherd, p. 156 of the May issue of Poetry: “When we say, ‘ this is what poetry is’ or ‘this is what poetry does’, we almost always mean, ‘this is what the kind of poetry that interests me is’ or ‘this is what the kind of poetry that I like does.’

from Lala, a 14th century Persian poet, says this:
I didn't trust it for a moment
but I drank it anyway,
the wine of my own poetry.

It gave me the daring to take hold
of the darkness and tear it down
and cut it into little pieces.

The Soldier – by David Ferry

Saturday afternoon. The barracks is almost empty.
The soldiers are almost all on overnight pass.
There is only me, writing this letter to you,
And one other soldier, down at the end of the room,
And a spider, that hangs by the thread of his guts,
His tenacious and delicate guts, Swift’s spider,
All self-regard, or else all privacy.
The dust drifts in the sunlight around him, as currents
Lie in lazy, drifting schools in the vast sea.
In his little sea the spider lowers himself
Out of his depth. He is his own diving bell,
Though he cannot see well. He observes no fish,
And sees no wonderful things. His unseeing guts
Are his only hold on the world outside himself.
I love you, and miss you, and I find you hard to imagine.
Down at the end of the room, the other soldier
Is getting ready, I guess, to go out on pass.
He is shining his boots. He sits on the edge of his bunk,
Private, submissive, and heedful of himself,
And, bending over himself, he is his own nest.
The slightest sound he makes is of his being.
He is his mother, and nest, wife, brother, and father.
His boots are bright already, yet still he rubs
And rubs till, brighter still, they are his mirror,
And in this mirror he observes, I guess,
His own submissiveness. He is far from home.

o pen -- May 2

1.Robert Frost: To Ridgely Torrence
On Last Looking into His 'Hesperides'
2. Dorianne Laux : Staff Sgt. Metz
3. Wadih S''Adah: Shadows (site if you like Arabic poetry:
4. W.S. Merwin: Place

Frost: What is it we a busy with, rushing off, so we miss, in fact, know we have missed; I love the enigmatic tone at the end, heightened by the question in the penultimate stanza. You don't have to know about Ridgely, but it's interesting to know his "discovery" of such people as Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens!
"Hesperides is both poetry collection and its title poem.
Here in the May-bright square of the city he stood,
//Young, on a morning that now seems a world away;
//When the trees that he stared among seemed of an 
evil wood
//With a silence coiled at the root, aimed straight at 
the day.
//And he thought of a hillside orchard with bees asway//
And he looked at the towers and thought they were 
better in sand,
//Here where the gods he had sickened all year to 
//Portioned his breath and his dreams with a brute 
//Until he remembered with tears his father's hand.

Frost seems to be imitating Keats who wrote his sonnet “On first looking at Chapman’s Homer” – much more powerful emotionally than previous translations. Frost also seems to be having fun with Torrence’s collection of poems written in 1925, “Hesperides” – that wonderful Greek garden filled with nymphs and golden apples.
Frost’s poem in rhymed couplets, comes to 14 lines with the title. The opening couplet (title) does not rhyme and the closing couplet uses eye, not ear rhyme.
Clever that the final word, "close" can infer the opposite of "open" as well as synonym of "near". Flowers mentioned, which are NOT what seen, set a tone: fireweed – first flower to occur after fire; bluebell – delicate “gracing” of manmade product; lupine – not a wolf’s jaw, but a bell – a small tinkling of an announcement, unheard and overlooked by a speeding train. Frost as ecologist protesting incursions of man-made technology...


Dorianne Laux's poem, got us thinking about war, how to respond to each other with or without uniforms as opposed to dealing with war as abstraction.
Dorianne really was in the airport, watching a young soldier, so close in line, she can see into his ear – without ear buds. The label of a name; uniform. Details of the appearance contrast with the inner life stanza 2. Her memory of war – abstract, naïve; just as those of us not involved with war see soldiers and battlegrounds as abstractions.

We know what a man does by the shoes he wears… red as blood, as danger…
curb as safe. The POW of the last line. The physicality of being human trapped in his boots... which will carry him into action. Brilliant.

Sa'adah: His poem made one person think of Peter Pan — and a lively discussion — how sun, as light, as power and warmth, can stitch us whole…
Lebanese. After WW2, Arab-speaking poets influenced by TS Eliot, The Wasteland, and French Symbolists, started to experiment as well with form. loosened form and content to express a personal vision…
“Each line a painful wound; each word a splash of blood… “With Sa’Adah, the agony is more intense by the gentleness of his expression.

Merwin: a consoling poem, and discussion about Bin Laden -- Margaret shared a message from a friend: "
"What have we to be so celebratory about … now we have seen the murder of one more to the million. What have we accomplished. Will our foreign policy change? Will our boys come home? What proof do we have he masterminded 2001? Obama should return his peace prize." Incendiary subject, and worth finding out facts and discussing.

The poem, fortunately, gives us something real with its form, rhythm, tone.
Note monosyllables. Vs. planted. Already, going. Touching. Passing.
What creates a sense of origin? Timelessness? How create a memory in the future. Echo of Merwin’s belief that gratification lies in action, not reward. He has planted endangered trees in Hawaii – a tree at a time.
Heidigger on enduring art. Continual exchange/communion between earth and sky. Roots/dead w/ sky leaves/clouds… tree the axis that links creation w/ destruction… a tree that teaches us to live in the world.


One of group (a few years older than me) said she feels the increase in the complexities of "grey". How to understand anything in this reactive USA — and to be an "American" and classified with someone's projection of what that means --
The rub of living in a culture with which one disagrees --

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NAPOWRIMO -- April 30

Spring Bending

Again this season, bending down
sometimes on my knees,
sometimes, half-crouched,
trowel in hand, mind prey
to such thoughts as
why I have the right
to dig up yet unburst bud
of dandelion, burdock’s eager shoots;
why it is that the neighbor doesn’t
mow his lawn, tend his garden;
how it is that the thistles
have spread everywhere;
and maple seedlings have stretched their consequence
in the shade of the jackpine.

Spring weeding, and a look
at the farmer’s field next to the neighbor’s
where what we call weeds are thriving.
and then it comes as a silent springlit prayer—

that bending down into the dirt is not useless,
but rather a yearly ritual—

not a burial, but a
nod to that day.