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?

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