Monday, August 1, 2011

O Pen 7/18 tabled for 8/1: DH Lawrence, Carol Muske, Maxine Kumin, Mike Meyerhofer, Dickinson

D. H. Lawrence : In a Boat
The Book of How -- Merrill Moore (experimental sonnets)
Carol Muske: To a Soldier
—Lt. Col. Edward Ledford (Verse Daily in July)
Invention of Cuisine( from her 1981 book, Skylight.)
Maxine Kumin: The Immutable Laws
Michel Meyerhofer : New Babel (Michael will be coming to ROCHESTER on October 13th to give a reading at St. John Fisher! His chapbook, Pure Elysium was the winner of the 2010 Palettes and Quills competition judged by Dorianne Laux.
Emily Dickinson – The Sun – just touched the Morning

I was so taken with the sounds and tensions of Michael Chitwood's poetry --"The Docks and Dusk" I wanted another "boat" song and was enchanted by the repetitions, the inner end-rhymes of the Lawrence poem. Although the repetition of "love" can be overwhelmingly insistent, the way the first 3 stanzas use "love" as the end word, first line, then close the 3rd stanza with it, after a perfectly matched "tossed/lost" inner rhyme invites the reader to watch it change place in the next three stanzas. It is in keeping with the instability of watching the stars in the water, and the sudden spark, where even in heaven, stars are not safe. A fringe of shadow limns the poem, so one wonders -- is the speaker talking to a daughter? a lover? And we are wrapped in the question of our own death.

I had made a comment about the delight of poetry and life, when we feel surprised --
and so, the Merrill Moore, the Muske and Meyerhofer poems, whose names might not stir up a reaction or be attached to prior knowledge allowed us to respond to the poem just as they are. How does it change anything to examine a poem "as a sonnet"
or to know who the person is in the title and know the background? What allows a poem to be universal?

Would Moore's poem work, even if you didn't know that Mars was god of war? Would you have paid attention to it differently to check to see if there is a volta at or around the 8th lines? The rhythms one remarked, were regular, like Edna St. Vincent Millay, to create tension with rather irregular questions. How DID God do it?
Is it irreverent to think of him on a ladder hanging the stars as if decorating a Christmas tree? The Book of How -- and its omissions, is a marvellous vehicle for discussing faith and doubt. And then, look him up -- if you are lucky, you will find a copy of his book "Experimental Sonnets", from 1956 and enjoy the wit of this physician from New Zealand!

It gave rise to a few marvellous stories: the nun who said, "The problem with the Bible is that they put a cover on it." and the story of the monk transcribing who raised the question that possibly someone had made a mistake in a previous copying and the head abbott went down to the storage to check who copied who and what. He did not return and so after many hours, the young monk sought him out, and found him with a look of devastation on his face. "The word was celebrate."

The Carol Muske poem, sketches in twelve lines, familiar details with the shadows of war. The enjambments work to draw out the tension and we discussed the em-dash which acts like a diving board to accentuate and dramatize the leap into the next line -- how gold & blood are given time to be autumnal, and military, metaphoric, and colors as first word is followed by a period, cut short. How "armaments" hangs without really being finished echoed by "turning" -- where leaves could be from trees, or the men and women who are given leave, or not, "without color, they die."
A longer, protracted syntax before the word, "die".

If you look up her interview: you will see she had quite an exchange with the specific Lieutenant.

Some reactions to the poem:
soldiers die without growing up/ old enough.
Don’t be taken in -- What price is war? Hand, finger…

Don’t get caught up in syntax/diction… before looking at how the poem was crafted, it was better than after -- the dashes spoiled it.

Even the word "Redemptive" seems odd for Autumn -- until you go back to "not enough Fall to/Make a cliche, the one we love about/ the season's redemptive powers.

A jewel of a poem to be read slowly and many times to see how each word calls another and calls to the reader to meditate -- what would you write to a soldier?

We looked at Wilfred Owens "Dulce et Decorum" -- a very different and powerful poem about war.

Michael Meyerhofer's poem used a different sort of cleverness -- blending in a sense of the modern day life-- gas b/c lazy to walk; the easy clauses of politicians "keep civilian casualties at a minimum" -- and ominous by the fact it's only a goal...
There is a dark underpinning to each flip of line. And you re-read and ask,
what has my conscience asked me to do? what am I too lazy to do with my own feet, but pay lip service to (make sure to give the lecture of civil responsibility); and what should I have written, but haven't... and make a list of what you have allowed,
even said "made sense" ?

We ended with a silly performance of Emily Dickinson :
I'm not sure if this was the poem I saw at a rest stop on the NY Thruway--
but it was a good antidote for feeling the weight of war, the sense of inevitability... mention of the Koran: if attacked, it is your duty to fight;
Krishna saying, go ahead and fight -- it is all this world of illusion...
and a mention of Mark Twain's "The War Prayer", a short story or prose poem which is a scathing indictment of war, and particularly of blind patriotic and religious fervor as motivations for war.

The morning – Happy Thing—

If you aren't sure of how to understand a poem, try understanding it as a sex poem.
Sun (he) – Morning (she) – her crown of dew gone… feebly exiting…

(John provided this one by her.)

Nature at 5
Custom at 7
Laziness at 9
Wickedness at 11

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