Friday, December 9, 2011

Poems on Poet Walk - Nov. 30 Ashbery, Brooks, Carruth + Nye

Why do we pick a poem? Would we pick the same poem at a different time? Have you ever wondered why you liked something in one way, at one time, then changed your mind? or discovered something new that intriguedyou in a different way, or made you dismiss what originally attracted you? What goes into our “selection” and “appreciation process”?

ABC: Ashbery's "North Farm" is accessible and yet, addresses a subject as complex as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. What is the nature of our desire for more than we think we have, (or don't have) and desire for what we think we need? The opening of this 14 line poem, "Somewhere someone is..." starts in an indefinite sense of space, hurtles the verb "travel" forward with the adverb "furiously", and whizzes through blizzards, heat, torrents, to a three-part question on the 3rd line. "But will he know where to find you, recognize you, give you the thing he has for you"?
Concurrent is the sense of gratitude, that in spite of hard conditions, there is enough. Bursting sacks, streams filled with sweetness, and the ominous detail: "birds darken the sky". The final question pivots with "is it enough" with different extensions: a dish set out at night, but is it enough as well, that we think of him sometimes (like the somewhere) but also "sometimes and always, with mixed feelings."
The repetition of "you" as the last word of 4 lines, the lower case h for twice-mentioned "he" and him, the singular use of "we" reinforce a sense of the understood, targeted "you", a hidden, mysterious "he" and a sense of relief to be included as reader in the "we" with mixed feelings.

Gwendolyn Brooks "a song in the front yard" read by Almeta Whitis on the eventual "cell phone tour" plays with time, so that the voice can be speaking as young girl, or grown up "bad" woman. The flat rhyme of the last two lines of each quatrain
is just enough to be enjoyable, especially with uneven line length.
The adjectives: hungry, (on the same line as rough, untended)
charity children, brave stockings add texture, setting up the "front yard" appearance with the allure of "back yard". In a way, the poem seems to be more a portrait of a judgmental mother who is missing out on knowing the many sides of her daughter. Why the title of "song"? Perhaps because a song can express yearning, sing the blues, tell the story like ballad, and rise up to carry beyond the parameters of the front yard, where it starts out.

The Cows at Night -- we have discussed before -- but Maura brought us the link
of the trumpet and tuba calling in the cows -- who will come home even without "When the Saints go Marching in" -- but what fun!
The enjambments allow a pause for phrases to sink in on the line they leave,
as well as carry the meaning to the next word.
leaving for light / faint stars
through the mist / of mountain-dark
sad / and beautiful (sad is repeated as end word, mid-word and first word)
The delight of seeing: I saw / the cows.
(great breathings)
could I explain / anything.

We discussed the last line -- what would happen if it were omitted:
And then / very gently it began to rain. It helps soften the sense of being caught in a moment, a sadness, not knowing what to do, yet not wanting to leave.

We ended with Naomi Shihab Nye's "Shoulders". (Also read at UR Library Dec. 7)

list of poems sent:
North Farm: Ashbery
A song in the front yard : Brooks
The Cows at Night: Carruth
May my heart always be open to little -- ee cummings (not discussed)
Shoulders -- Naomi Shihab Nye
It Wasn't the Wind: Linda Allardt (not discussed)
A Woman and Her Dog : Stephen Lewandowski (not discussed)

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