Monday, July 11, 2011

Open discussion July 11: Poetry mag: David Ferry,

Two poems by Michael Chitwood (from Verse Daily)
(At the Dock at Dusk; Going)
The Poet's Occasional Alternative by Grace Paley
Picks from Poetry July/August:
Two poems by David Ferry:Little Vietnam Futurist Poem
The Crippled Girl, The Rose
Spencer Reece: The Manhattan Project

I love this paragraph from poetry magazine (see above) announcing David Ferry as recipient of the Ruth Lily Prize.
"One of the qualities essential to being good at reading poetry is also one of the qualities essential to being good at life: a capacity for surprise. It’s easy to become so mired in our likes or dislikes that we can no longer recall, much less be, that person inside of us who once responded to poems—and to people—without any preconceived notions of what we wanted them to be."

Michael Chitwood probably has an enormous capacity for surprise and ability to blend paradox: in the first poem of anthropomorphized boats, filled with the sounds of tethered boats at a dock, "drawing an inch and a half of water in a prolonged kiss"
the reader is tucked and tied in the same way, invited as well to "test out what we know" -- how much space we too take in our tippy, tricky walkings, and pausing to reflect on the safety of being tied. The wide mouth of them and the slender Lord,
Buoyancy. Without once using the word "float."

His second poem, also plays with perspective as it lopes down in the page in short-lined couplets -- ending with the word "glint". He allows you to think about the properties of a river -- where the small creek or brook can run a "trickly, cunning"
and you feel the flow imagining both butterflies siphoning out water, and the water rising by itself into reeds like music. Delicate, sensitive, delightful. No preaching. Allows the Ohio to be broad-shouldered rather like La Fontaine's Oak,
while the small river is "un roseau pensant" -- the thinking reed.

Although I enjoy Grace Paley, lack of punctuation is a distraction for me in this poem. I do enjoy the idea of feedback from a pie… and a feeding of one's self.
One senses a wise grandmother... one with a toddler to watch, friends, people who appreciate her cooking -- whereas a poem has a less certain reception.
We wondered if she was related to the CBS Paley and Paley park… and looked it up -- tables, chairs and a lovely waterfall...

For the first David Ferry Poem, Maura remembered the picture of the naked Vietnamese girl (Kim Phuc)
and we admired the skill with which Ferry prepared the scene, which, without the title, could have been so many other things. The pejorative "pajamas" followed by "hideyholes" the unspoken napalm, and the odd syntax of the end lines of the penultimate and final couplets leave you wondering what kind of "future" could be played... what way will we see as we live our stories?
"Into the way that that was how I saw them.

The trees of the kind that grew there establish the place.
We know that way the story of what it was."

The Crippled Girl -- The rose
and of course, the girl arose -- arises in our minds as Ferry conjures up her face.

"It was as if a flower bloomed as if
Its muttering root and stem had suddenly spoken,

Uttering on the air a poem of summer,
The rose the utterance of its root and stem."

How simply a small change of language:
"In what it keeps, giving in its having." turns into

"That what it is is kept as it is given." -- a private and quiet poem.

Finally, the "short story" or prose poem, which sketches briefly the story of the Atom Bomb -- a crazy quilt of details. Just like the silence of the rose,
"The quietness inside my father was building and would come to define him."
Imagine being the designer of such a bomb, knowing what it did to human beings in two cities.

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