Wednesday, May 4, 2011

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, na├»ve; 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 --

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