Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October 10 Tranströmer, Bly, Rilke

As a segue from Robert Bly, it is only fitting to leap to one of the poets he translated --
Tomas Tranströmer – who just received the Nobel Prize, jokingly referred to as Mr. Transformer.
Tomas Tranströmer
After a Death,” as translated by Bly
After Someone’s Death trans. By Robin Fulton
Lament trans. By Robin Fulton

The Sonnets to Orpheus – First Series - #8
(transl. by A. Poulin)

Taha Muhammad Ali : Revenge

on translation: Robin Hunter and Rilke; Patty Crane and Transtrome

Thank you everyone for the great discussion today! (10/17) Thank you Kim for sharing the Robert Hunter translation of the 4th Duino Elegy . The link to see it (and Maureen Hunter's wood block print)
All of the elegies:

It was hard to pick poems from Collins' new book "Horoscopes for the Dead"- so I'll be glad to lend it out next week. One of my favorites from this book is "Symbol". You can hear Billy read it here:

Also, if you want to check out a different translation of our Swede, Patty Crane does a good job here: plus you can hear the Swedish:
Poem : Like Being a Child
Compared to the Robin Fulton --
Line 1: Sudden Patty: "enormous
Line 2: jerked over Ptty: pulled
Line 3: mesh Pty: sack's stitches

Stanza 2
Line 1: insult affront
Line 4: look forward take pleasure in

Stanza 3
Line 1: glimmering wooly hat : shimmering wool hat
Line 2: stitches weave
Line 3: straits bay
crowding teem
Line 4 earth land

list of poems for Oct. 31/Nov. 2 + and a small note or two

Poems for October 31 and Nov. 2

From Kathy:
--- Eavan Boland (reading at Berkeley, at minute 6:58)
--- “Of Antibiotics and iPods: On the Troubles, Irish poetry, and the details of an old Dublin Kitchen” ( interview)
--- THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2011 @ 5 PM Plutzik Reading Series, Eavan Boland, Hawkins-Carlson Room, Rush Rhees Libray U of R

Eaven Boland: The Pomegranate
Kay Ryan: Things Shouldn’t Be So Hard
Janusz Szuber: About a Boy Stirring Jam
Jane Hirshfield : Three-Legged Blues

Wednesday Nov. 2:

Hayden Carruth: They Accuse Me of Not Talking
From Kimberley:
Adrienne Rich: Storm Warnings
Rich's work, the poet W.S. Merwin has said, "All her life she has been in love with the hope of telling utter truth, and her command of language from the first has been startlingly powerful."
Margaret Atwood: The Door

If you have a teenage daughter, Boland's poem, "The Pomegranate" captures a glimpse of the depth of the Persephone/Demeter story -- the archetypal break, the letting go of what is most precious, because all a mother CAN give to her daughter are "rifts in time". The nine line "She put out her hand and pulled down the French sound for apple..." ends with "by the time/the story was told, a child can be hungry."
The short, staccato sentences in the present tense pierce the internal thoughts --
as the love and blackmail story handed down from ancient times weaves into a modern story. If Yeats and Sylvia Plath had a love child, it would be Eaven Boland, someone said. Boland seeks to bless the ordinary, sanctify the common.

Kay Ryan's poem is characteristically funny, yet never without prodding us to think beyond the words. We enter a world of "should" which of course, indicates this is not how it IS, and a small snapshot of philosophy along with how we wear down the things in our life -- how we too are worn down by the "grand, damaging parade" --
which has an ominous "better watch out" as we balance our public and private lives.

It's refreshing to have non-Hallmarked moments and language.. Like the boy stirring jam,
seen by his grown-up version who understands, like Robert Hayden, how little we understand of the details -- whether "love's austere offices" or how important it is to give our full attention to whatever we are in the act of doing -- for only that will provide memory and meaning.

Hirshfield's 3-legged blues is a pure delight -- tone is "Buddhist meets the country western" which provides a delightful tongue-in-cheekness.

Storm Warnings: Adrienne Rich
Perfect alignment of barometer, measuring the pressure and internal weather
"weather abroad/and weather in the heart alike come on / regardless of prediction."
Without giving personal details, Rich provides us powerful contradictions and images -- glass, shattered fragments, and glass as protector, sheathing the candles; how clock and weatherglass are no guarantee of control of time -- what are instruments but simple proof of naming, a proof AGAINST something that has nothing to do with what it will do in spite of our measures. We can only keep the windows closed, draw the curtains, shield the light against the draught whining through the keyhole.

brrrrr. It is not the storm -- just the warning -- and we know, storms come and go.

Hayden Carruth takes another view of storm -- if words are what the speaker feels -- and yet he is struck dumb... it strikes us harder to hear the question: "To which love can you speak/ the words that mean dying and going insane/
and the relentless futility of the real?

Finally, the Door -- by Atwood --
an amazing tour de force of repetition and variation that take us through a life --
ever at the edge of crossing the sill, but not until the very end.

Thank you Kathy and Kim for your choices!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oct, 17 Hoagland, Bly, Tranströmer, Rilke and Bilgere, "Jane"

Tony Hoagland: Please Don’t
Tomas Tranströmer : Elegy
Rainer Maria Rilke: excerpt from 4th Elegy

So, what does a brilliant 20th century American in his late 50's, understanding the pitfalls of soul-killing aspects of America have to say about the 85 year old Bly?
It depends which part of Bly's career we look at -- and also the change in our country in the last 50 years. To summarize Hoagland's article on Robert Bly in the Sept/Oct. issue of APR, "the US government is involved in multiple conflicts; citizens are more economically polarized and manipulatedby ever more sophisticated, pervasive forces of media and consumerism. "Everywhere one looks, one sees human beings with heads down, focused on handheld devices, phones and computers. Thanks to technology, awareness is more far-reaching, yet more narrow than ever. It is richer in potential and yet ever more degraded in practice. As Rilke would say, we reach for everything and grasp nothing. " (Tony Hoagland on Bly, p. 48)

How refreshing then to read Hoagland's "Please Don't -- and the fresh diction of words like "swobtoggle" all "dizzy / Gillespie" as he describes our illusions of grandeur, which like flowers, grass, remain dreams of significance...
It is complex being human -- and although conditions may have changed, the problems remain.

Elegy reminds us -- loss is everywhere -- but deep in us Joy remains -- "balanced within, like a gyroscope". Elegy gives us room for celebrate "music's voiceless half" -- and just like Bilgere's Jane, headed for a "facility" -- as if a storage place for the aging can be made "facile" or covered up by a different name.

Whether addressing lament, by saying it needs to be embraced by the realm of Praise,
the bottom line, whatever time period is that part of our duty as humans is to celebrate Joy as it comes, to prepare us for our eventual death.
Whether the tone be tongue-in-cheek, or somber, upbeat or pessimistic, the theme bears out the complexity of what it is to be human.

Oct. 10 (2)Transtromer, After a Death, Rilke Sonnet to Orpheus I-8, Revenge

Two versions of "After a Death" (Bly) and "After Someone's Death,” as translated by Robin Fulton. Tranströmer imagines the aftermath of something momentous, the moment after.
Rick gives Bly the edge, if only for his conciseness and more conversational word choice which may have something to do with American English vs. Scottish English. Either version, a very unsettling and humbling poem.

The images of Winter, the sense of inner landscape, the shock which leaves us unable to see beyond the snow globe shaken all around us moves along the skis into a Swedish forest, where loss is further evoked by old leaves, compared to pages of phone directories -- without saying anything about additions and subtractions, just that names eaten up/swallowed by the cold. (Fallon adds "subscribers' names)

Is there a difference between "feel" and "hear" a heart?; having a shadow"feel" vs. seem, more real than a body.
The leap to the samurai -- the hero, where the line breaks on "insignificant" applying both to the man, and his armour of black dragon-scales.

For Rilke, imagining Orpheus, how do we understand?
What is the difference between Lament and Regret -- the disconnect of unsayable thoughts flying around us like moths.

We ended with Revenge by Taha Muhammad Ali -- where the thought of anyone's humanity will keep us from killing -- but as soon as that disappears, we deal the worst retaliation: indifference.

For knowing we all will die, what keeps us from getting close to the truth?

Monday, October 3, 2011

October 3 and Robert Bly, Sam Abrams

The Sept/Oct. issue of APR has a picture of Robert Bly on the cover, with a loose red tie with what looks like colorful fish on it, his long white hair blowing away from his round glasses and steady gaze and what looks to be a thoughtful, yet amused smile.

The issue opens with four of his poems, followed by an interview where Chard deNiord holds a conversation with Robert and Ruth Bly. He starts it with a recent poem,
"You and I have spent so many hours working
We have paid dearly for the life we have.
It's all right if we do nothing tonight.

We've heard the fiddlers tuning their old fiddles,
and the singer urging the low notes to come.
We've heard her trying to keep the dawn from breaking.

There's some slowness in life that is right for us,
But we love to remember the way the soul leaps
Over and over into the lonely heavens.

Thanks to poets like Robert Bly, American audiences have been exposed to poetry from all over the world. Perhaps Bly developed his characteristic "leap" by translating surrealist European poets.

The poems we shared today all contain elements of playfulness.
About Nirmala's Music, Bly comments, "we have to stop denying that the dogs are disappearing".

In the interview, Bly speaks about dying, drawing on Rumi, who writes, "I lived thousands and thousands of years as a mineral, and then I died and became a plant" -- and on it goes from plant to animal, to human being. "Tell me, what have I ever lost by dying?"

He ends with some whimsical question. "A hundred boats are still looking for shore." Is that true?
and then reads the four lines.
A hundred boats are still looking for shore.
There is more in my hopes than I'd imagined.
The tiny roof nail lies in the ground aching for the roof.
Some little bone in our foot is longing for heaven.

Robert Bly: Early Morning in your room;
Love of the Wind
Nirmala’s Music
Tightening the Cinch
Sam Abrams: The Orchid Flower

Early Morning in your room brought up observations about Bly's fun with contradiction -- light-hearted books, such as Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, Kafka... the one leg, and dancing, one eye, and vision of the blind. The sound of coffee, the start of a morning perhaps a cold, grey, autumn day. The tone is unsettling, as he reminisces, comes to term with his life, makes comments like "If you had a sad childhood, so what?" -- but not in a bitter or belligerent way, but rather, coming to terms with confusion. What kind of room? where? Home is understanding what haunts you perhaps.

Love of the Wind repeats the title twice, but again Bly pulls us, but saying
"I've never been an old friend to the wind." Is it the wind's love, or someone's love of wind? We turns to I and a bit of defensiveness -- "don't expect me to be happy about..." We enjoyed following the leaps from sailors, a neighbor's sorrow, a question about what it means that Jesus had no sister, a dog, haystacks scattered in a storm, Spanish armada. And then the last line. "Even old sailors keep their love of the wind." Wind as spirit, as energy...

Nirmala's Music had a mythic tone, primal energy with prowling tigers, and the priceless end of the 3rd tercet. "what does it all mean?"
Two-toned Nirmala -- "the one who finds lost things" and "the one through whom everything is lost." Repeated as last line.

Tightening the Cinch plays the energy of galloping horses, refers to Robinson Jeffers, and has a ghazal-like feel of disparate images linked by echoes of repeated words.

In comparison, Sam Abrams, beloved teacher at RIT and fine poet wrote a fine, clear poems, "The Orchid Flower" -- also good music, image, and a sense of honesty devoid of any complications.

What prompts us to look for illusions? How do we need them, and how does that affect us? How do we live the questions, play with them?

how to play music... how to read a poem.

music score with "play antisocially, without posting to facebook"

one might add, or to one's blog...

How to help recorded messages such as
"Press one if you wish to speak English"
Crescendo, at""if you wish" from a triple piano "press one"
rubato with an agogic accent on "to speak"

and waver as if executing a slow turn on "English."