Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day after Solstice: UU Dec. 15; O Pen Dec. 14 + 21

Solstice and three discussions of poetry dealing with titles like
Winter Night, Christmas Circular letter, Sabbaths, Shapes, White Morning, Corona, Bread Boy, Enemies, Stifled.
Without knowing the "stakes" of the poem -- without knowing the discovery the poet shares with the reader, it would look like each title announces an aspect of the Christmas season, even "Stifled", written by "anonymous" as a summary of political frustrations in congress. It reminds me of all the flavors of Christmas notes --
the cousin who comments on world affairs, the missionary who comments on spiritual work; the weather reports, family measurements, or the philosophers who note human behavior and the natural world.

Sarton captures a prayer-like feeling with an Antiphon -- as if birch trees in winter under starlight call for a different kind of radiance than what we expect with dawn.

How does this relate to "preparing for a new year" and the familiar call to "prepare for a re-birth"? There's "no telling" -- "who can say that darkness falls" ?
I love the way Sarton captures mystery -- the way W.S. Merwin in White Morning
loops us into an end of summer in the pasture rich with vetch, velvet of wild thyme and straggling eglantine -- leading us, without any punctuation or guideline through an "age of mist" to the sound of crows in white air, "their wings dripping"...
and whether it is the lights breaking in their tongues, or the cold, and this sense of stories that mainly have to do with vanishing.

So this magic of waiting, this intimacy of being, ensconced in a whiteness Merwin is generous enough to share with the reader -- the "I" not appearing until the 9th line, but then so present, up to the penultimate line, "with friends in the shade they have all disappeared/ most of the stories have to do with vanishing.

As Jim says, "so this nature opening up the mind bit -- how did that work out for you?"
The same with Dante Micheaux's poem, "Enemies -- in the sunlight, they, or you, become invisible... and the rich line: "Remember what makes one human, / animal, is not the high road / but the baseness in the heart.
One as unique person; or example of universal principle, human as animal, alive; high and low as base -- the baseline start -- or whatever it is in the heart that is not loftly...

As with Celan's Corona -- crown, or arrangement of petals, or flames of the sun,
Who is friend: man and leaf? or man and autumn? The WE that allows us to shell time, return it to its shell -- the beauty of a word that is both noun and verb,
the one the evidence of what is left; the other the act of dispensing with what holds what will be left. Just as a day of the week can be seen in the mirror,
and the sense that much more is mirrored... we check -- are you male? female?
what dark words are exchanged? This inner being shared, on view -- an invitation to know that it is time for a stone to be as flower, unrest to have a heart, that it is time for time to be. One can almost translate the last sentence, "such is time."

One word, many meanings -- so it is with Ruth Stone's "Shapes" -- as noun,
a plurality of form -- but what is the shape of hands, what is the completion of a moment in a film, one line of a poem, a sketch -- in that pause in space, "a violent compression of meaning/ in an instant within the meaningless." Again, the lack of certainly in the outline, the blur -- the just out of sight -- and accepting it.

And what stories do we tell? What do we write to each other at Christmas? The news of births, deaths, some travel, the small pieces that mark a month in a way our mind wants to remember... And then, perhaps an idea of a man coming to the country to bargain for trees... and the idea of taking a tree at three cents, to send to a dollar friend...

It is hopeful to hear someone like Wendell Berry note that even on the heels of justified despair at the waste we've made of the world, we can still find "angels of the thicket" -- unaccountable happiness -- "the way it turns up like a prodigal/who comes back to the dust at your feet/ -- or the uncle you never knew about, who flies a single-engine plane onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes into town and inquires at every door until he finds you asleep midafternoon...
it even comes to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

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