Saturday, January 28, 2012

Waltzes with RPO Jan. 27

Arild Remmereit is a delightful conductor and serious about educating the public..
He showed us how a viennese waltz sparkles -- none of the wide-bowed, regular 1-2-3,
but the second beat ever so slightly early, the 3rd beat ever so slightly too long--

Whether the waltz is associated with laendler, yodeling, the sounds of music, or the aristocratic gatherings in Viennese ballrooms, there is something in the beat that
makes you want to dance.

Joseph Werner selected two Schubert waltzes (he wrote over 100 of them) (along with 600 songs, 9 symphonies, quartets, quintets and pieces for every instrument),
small 45 second pieces.

It inspired me to write a 4.5 second "waltz"

4.5 second waltz

no time to
prepare you
ONE two three
hurried two ... three
sparkle, spin, spin

The Tchaikovsky Allegro con grazia (from Symphony 6 in B minor op. 74) is actually in 5, not three...
and if you listen to the Mahler 4th, the 2nd movement, there is a second violin turned a whole step higher to give an edge to the melody!

Illuion, illusion. We have the time we have, but we don't like to be unprepared --
for what? Let us dance! Shall we, then, waltz?

Mozart: three German dances, K 605
we didn't hear the Waltz from Les Sylphides (Chopin) -- arr. by Glazinov
but all repeats on the Emperor Waltz and both the 3rd and 2nd movements of Mahler's 4th.

Uplifting sparkle for a rainy, albeit not icy, January evening.

O Pen February 1 - prelude to discussion + poem "Word of the Day"

Poems for February 1

What Kind of Times are These: Adrienne Rich
This Is the Dream by Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge, translated by Robert Bly and Robert Hedin
Brother Can You Spare a Dime by William Heyen
3 poems from Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology: 99 poets among the 99%
I will not by Kathy Engel (p. 38)
Build the Apocalypse inside your garage. (a Pantoum) by Jules Nyquist (p. 78)
World Conditions Are Such by Leah Zazulyer (p. 114)

(we won't have time for it, probably, but I'd like to include it:
I would like to describe -- by Zbigniew Herbert

The day before Groundhog's Day, and the start of a new month in 2012. As it is an election year, perhaps each month, we should spend some time with poets who challenge us with their voices -- how do we occupy the Earth? which shadows do we admit to seeing, or only pretend to see, or ignore completely.
The 3 poems taken from "Liberty's Vigil" are " show us the deeper human meaning that is far deeper than the words, yet indicated, somehow, by the words" to quote co-editor Dwain Wilder. I also have a poem in this anthology -- and met Alice Weiss in Cambridge on December 30, 2011 whose poem, Dewey Square (the OWS of Boston) is also in this anthology of poets from 22 of the United States and 6 countries.
Kathy Engel's poem appeared 1/27/12 in splitthisrock poem of the week.

my poem:
The Word of the Day

scro bic u late: having many small
grooves; furrowed
spells scour/bake; it rhymes: you’re late
sounds like crows, skewers, all that’s scraped

a four-syll-battle cry that ends with ATE
as in consumed, as in greedy as in abominate
accelerate, confiscate, asphyxiate,

as in what we break, but do not plough
as in what we hate but still allow as in
land-rape, scape-goat, throat-cloak,
bloat until scope inflates, as in I had

a dream, a poem, a word (in a word) made
for planting –
a new word to a-
light, yes, we’re waiting for a furrowed word
that moves L from the loud clack of cloud
to the soft strummed could.

All of this written because of one word.


From Karla Merrifield, Co-editor of Liberty’s Vigil: (send 1/27)Our poems CAN make a difference. Read the moving story of
homelessness at shared by Jules Nyquist and Mary Strong Jackson, (p 59: The New Homeless Rage)

In her introduction, she starts with the statement of her belief that poets are the world's most experienced decision-makers. Of course, the idea of best word, best order -- or simply the decision to pick up the pen and write; to decide on topics of poems; verbs; images, figures of speech, stanza breaks

So much depends / on weather / and the thin/ quality/ of mercy.

and then we continue to decide as we revise.

I don't know about "most experienced" -- but certainly the requirement of decision-making and training, help decide what actions to take in daily living,
and the poems help bring a candle to them for the reader.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

O pen January 25: judgments: embarrassment; what touches us

Poems for January 23 (meaning the week of Jan. 23 -- apologies). We met 1/25 !

From Sue Ann Simar, Editor of 10 x 3
The Vigilante
Be up at sunrise, a look of determination in your eye./ Seize your weapon and follow my tracks./ Black on white, a savage fate...the striking arms of the reader.
Flyleaf by Michael Gessner
Trees Again by Francis Santaquilani
About Face by Alice Fulton
St. Roach by Muriel Ruykeyser

Perhaps a theme of the poems this week revolves around judgment and what touches us.
What makes us squirm, reject others, shirk from touching the unfamiliar? Perhaps it is an innate, protective mechanism for our survival, but when it has to do with judgment about another person, we tread on grey areas.

The comment by Sue Ann Simar is on the latest edition of the ezine 10X3: the idea is either to choose 3 poets w/ 10 poems, or 3 poems by 10 poets — flyleaf was taken from a previous issue of it.

In the first poem, Flyleaf, the sweep of sounds makes rounds through four stanzas which some bumps of mixed metaphors, such as the rough spot of a “fist” which doesn’t quite work for the idea of an onion-skin flyleaf that could flutter along with “a feathery crowd/of angels jostling in awe”. Perhaps he could have used soapbubbles for a metaphor for the fragility of creation, wonder and its collapse. Marcie came up with this comparison: you ask a question, and someone answers by singing a tune which does not correspond. Why the improper use so easily...than this instead of as this with the slant rhyme of fist/this ?

We enjoyed the second poem, "Trees Again" even more than "We are Tiger" by the same poet (discussed last week). Joyce brought in research on kudzu and we spent a few minutes listening to James Wright read his poem, "Kudzu" outloud. The juxtaposition between the angry frost and suffocating blanket of kudzu gives an ominous upper hand to the frost. The shrill EE sound in 6 mentions of tree, three, leaves, weeks, week-end, the trees still not tree, until the wind bites into the kudzu, and tree becomes tree again, works to support the metaphor. The G's on the penultimate line, contrast with the trees, happy to seen for what they are, (not gaudy,(nor part of a medieval knight and dragon story), or gaping ghosts). The "or" hanging as the last word enjambs to the surprise of the father's stern, pointed face.

A good example of a poem which in just a few words creates a powerful image, captures a scene and describes the struggle of speaker with his father without telling us about it.

About Face: The recognition of embarassment as key ingredient of our authenticity, vulnerability— and how beautifully title and final sentence work.

Last week, we saw Levin’s comment about “premeditated” poems and the importance of imagination. I felt with the first poem, the poet was close to being surprised at what he didn’t quite expect. And yet, compared to Santaquilani’s ending line, which comes as a real surprise to the reader, the difference lies perhaps in being close to the truth of the emotion expressed. In Fulton’s poem, she captures the teen-age tone of what is hip and what so, like, totally, embarassing. It is clever, and captures us in the mirror, reminding us to face up to things. The last stanza pens the uncontrollable result of embarrassment
one never wants to pretend. A mirror we almost appreciate. and then her brilliant
“I almost admire it. I almost wrote despise.” Which brings us full circle to the title, About Face. About losing face; about how our face betrays us. About saving face,
and this “it” of coming dangerously close to authentic. She didn’t write, I almost wrote despise IT. She almost wrote despise – that general landscape of facing something unpleasant in ourselves.

Wouldn't you want every school child to read St. Roach and then discuss racism? Whether street, saint or S.T. Roach*, black coach who was noted for his active role in integrating sports, civic affairs, this is a multi-layered poem by activist poet, Rukeyser, who died on Lincoln's birthday in 1980. The violence and injustice she saw, in the United States and abroad, led her poetry to function as a mode of social protest. She felt a deep responsibility to comment on human issues and was particularly concerned with inequalities of sex, race and class.
St. as Saint, or Street, or S.T. followed by roach.
Carmine was reminded of Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

The biblical tone “for that” (six times in the past tense) followed by “and that” (four times in the present tense) and “but that” (twice, present progressive accusation followed by present tense answer that shows it is not based on reason), weaves the importance of the roots of our language, the cultural connotations of songs, food in order to know someone else. The verb touch (close to the sound of teach) is used twice; past tense in 2nd line and first line 2nd stanza and present tense on the final line of the poem.

The cause and effect of “they” on “I”, is powerful, swallowing up the “I could not tell you apart one from another” repeated again as for that I could not tell one from another.
Roaches as metaphor for despicable, are yet, fast, slender, and according to the poet, witty replete with a culture of their own and if given a chance, lovely to the touch.

for more poems by her: (Book of the Dead)

*If it is S.T. Roach,

From David Sanders: (who will speak on his new book on Frost at W&B 2/2)
Frost's "Figure a Poem Makes," is one of the few prose statements he actually prepared for the press. It's a brilliant knotty essay he composed as preface to his 1939 Collected Poems and used in all subsequent editions. In it he says that the poem "has an outcome that though unforeseen was predestined from the first image of the original mood--and indeed from the very mood. It is but a trick poem and no poem at all if the best of it was thought of first and saved for last." He concludes the whole piece by saying, "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting. A poem may be worked over once it is in being, but may not be worried into being. Its most precious quality will remain in having run itself and carried away the poet with it. Read it a hundred times; it will forever keep its freshness as a metal keeps its fragrance. It can never lose its sense of a meaning that once unfolded in surprise as it went."

From Kathy: oscar award nominee: 15 min film:

From Joyce: Wright reading Kudzu:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

article for Poet Talk (February issue) The Kingdom of Mattering

The Kingdom of Mattering
by Kitty Jospé

"Mattering" is a current term one hears when talking about the idea of relevance/real world learning in education. Just as one might hope for the day when students do not ask "What does school have to do with anything?” as poetry appreciators, we might hope
for the day no one will see in the margin of a poem, “who cares”. Naomi Shihab Nye, judge of the 2011 splittherock poetry competition refers to a “kingdom of mattering” this way: “topics/subjects of essential collective care, poems embodying deep witness, speaking up in hard places, not shuddering or seeking popular favor -- poems of responsibility and elegantly shaped conviction.”

She has chosen as finalist, the poem by Leona Sevick, “White” about which she says, “This judge was dazzled by the subtlety and utter power of the poem. Worlds within and behind visible public worlds. Everything we don't see and hear – private, precious pulse of identities.”

 Let us look at the poem."
It starts with Instead, which drops out of nowhere, followed by the verb “spotted”, the only completed present perfect verb. The speaker of the poem, thus, sees her/his mother as if in a spotlight in the back row of an auditorium. The first line breaks on “tiny” enjambed to “chair in the back row” on the next line which emphasizes something unsettling about the distance.
If the poem had been written as a newspaper article, one would gather facts about an immigrant mother attending a school reading competition in which her son and daughter participate. There would be no synesthesia, bright rainbow of threads flying through air as loud as a train; or the mother’s English bent and twisted, filled with whiffs of garlic and fish sauce. There would be no juxtaposition of the mother/worker with the mother who cooks and chatters her children to sleep.
The poem does not mention the rehearsal this mother makes in her mind on how she would appear, does not mention sacrifice, maternal pride that her children out-read the others, and yet the reader is given the details which give this away. The mention of the children’s secret hope that their mother would be silent, in public, moves to the next phrase to home, where they are wrapped in her chatter. No mention of love or its complexities.
The question comes up about the importance of knowing about the author, the times, the cultural context. Would that change the impact of the poem? What is it that we seek as we read and write poetry? For some, each poem is a jewel to be read without any prior knowledge. For others, the framework of biography, or interview helps create an entry into the poem. Others again, like to have a combination of both. For some, it is a way to become aware of one’s own inner landscape, for others, a way to appreciate a moment away from the stresses of the day, and on and on.
Let us consider for a moment, the message of an artist, and how it is embellished by biographical knowledge of context, and the work in and of itself. How, for instance
would you see Jan Van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man?
If you didn’t have the title, you would know, yes, it is a man. It is a portrait, although whether or not it is a self-portrait is still under dispute. How do you want to see this painting? Volumes have been written about it, which, if you are an art historian, may pique your interest. However, what does a 21st century ordinary person see in this 15th century portrait? Does it change our view to know this is a revolutionary painting using one-point perspective, and a turn in the tide of portraiture as a tool for the aristocracy? Does it matter that it is part of the rediscovery of Greek and Roman art, or moving away from anonymous universal expression serving Church and State towards art as personal expression executed by a recognized individual? What if you only admire the brushwork, the meticulous detail where each brown and grey hair on the five o’clock shadow is apparent? Is there a thought of wanting such an artist to do YOUR portrait, or perhaps, to imagine yourself in a new context?

To connect poem and portrait, imagine saying in response to the painting, “I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a turban like that” . Then think of title of the poem White which connects racism and the blend of all colors, and readers who say, “why should I care about these kids and their mother” or “who cares about craft”.
What completes our perception of the “worthiness” of a work?

This week, I happened to stumble on multiple interviews of poets I respect by poet Brian Brodeur. Would I pay as much attention if I did not know him, or them?
Brian Brodeur maintains a blog where he asks poets such questions as:
Do you believe in inspiration? How much of this poem was “received” and how much was the result of sweat and tears? How did this poem arrive at its final form?
How long after you finished this poem did it first appear in print? How long do you let a poem “sit” before you send it off into the world? Do you have any rules about this or does your practice vary with every poem? He probes about intended audience, about how the poem fits into the corpus , about how the poem negotiates fact and fiction.

Interesting as the responses are to the questions, you also can skip his biographical introduction, and read the poem he selects before reading his interview with the poet about it. You might enjoy comparing how you respond to the poem both with the background information and without. If so, go to and pick a poet.
Kingdom of Mattering and a Just Poet Reading -- by Kitty Jospé
We are fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to gather once a month at Barnes and Nobles to hear a featured reader and share poems afterwards at the open mic. My new year’s resolution is to attend as many of these as possible, and those who have not yet attended might consider ways to come. David Michael Nixon, MC, carries the tradition of opening and closing the event with a poem written by a non-local poet. In January, the featured reader, Ann Putnam read poems which conveyed a “sense of mattering”. As fellow poet Ron Bailey says, “her mind is ever descriptive” which applies both to the introductions to the poems as to the poems themselves. She left me wanting to cheer for moons, flying dreams, tick-tocking clocks (even the one that makes the revving up sound of a Corvette on the hour!) birds, horses, and things that make us cry.
After her reading people shared work of their own, or of others. Poet Colleen Powderly shared a Carl Sandburg poem, Personality, which fits right in with the Kingdom of Mattering.
Carl Sandburg skillfully addresses the question of personal identity in five sentences, each containing the word “thumb”. 4 singular thumbs; two plural thumbs. Numbers which grow from tens to thousands to uncountable with a sense of ratio: 40 loves to 1 thumb; 100 secrets to one thumb; -- 1,000 wars to one thumb – where thumb is mentioned both going off and coming back, still making its print, without mention to
what it is attached to. The penultimate sentence millions -- no two thumbs alike.
And then, uncountable -- and up to the God of Thumbs we request to explain the “inside” story of this sketch of love, life, separation, war. We know nothing about the thumb-bearer.

Does it change anything for the reader to know that the poem was written by Carl Sandburg? Do we need to know when the poem was written? Or does the poem stand by itself? What happens when you read it in an anthology where the individual poet is not as important as the way in which the poem presents itself in the context of other poems by other people? What if he had changed the title, or omitted the “musings”?

In the kingdom of mattering, a good poem reminds us that particulars lead to universals, that our experience is not ours alone but in some sense a metaphor for everyone’s.

Personality—by Carl Sandburg
Musings of a Police Reporter in the Identification Bureau

YOU have loved forty women, but you have only one thumb.
You have led a hundred secret lives, but you mark only
one thumb.
You go round the world and fight in a thousand wars and
win all the world's honors, but when you come back
home the print of the one thumb your mother gave
you is the same print of thumb you had in the old
home when your mother kissed you and said good-by.
Out of the whirling womb of time come millions of men
and their feet crowd the earth and they cut one anothers'
throats for room to stand and among them all
are not two thumbs alike.
Somewhere is a Great God of Thumbs who can tell the
inside story of this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

O Pen: Jan. 18. Shakespeare to Santaquilani

A good poem will remind us that particulars lead to universals, that your experience is not yours alone but in some sense a metaphor for everyone’s. We will start with Shakespeare’s sonnet 97: How like a winter hath my absence been (from 1/11.)
Personality—by Carl Sandburg
White – Leona Sevick
A Sleepless Night -- by Philip Levine
We are Tigers -- by Francis Santaquilani

So the poems were sent out... and in the email I mis-spelled triskaidekaphobic, dropping a syllable. Although certainly we referenced Shakespeare's statement/correction/corrected correction, last week, we did not start with the sonnet, but with Santaquilani's poem, as I heard back from him.

This started a wonderful discussion about how different it is to read a poem "cold" with no information about the author, the background of why it was written or how it came about, not even a clue to time and place. If these things are important, the poem will point to them. It is rather like going to the museum, and appreciating a work of art for its own sake, without looking at the title. This is ONE lens
to guide our understanding. A work of art in a museum has some background information erased, and some information added which was not part of its original setting. The equivalent in poetry is to read a poem in an anthology where the individual poet is not as important as way in which the poem presents itself in the context of other poems.

What stimulates us? Engages us? For some, knowing more about the poem, increases the enjoyment. Sometimes it won't change our opinion one bit.
Carmin had looked up Francis Santaquilani, and we gathered from her, as well as his email that "Dad and survival stuff" play a big role in many of his poems. Marcie brought up the point that if someone had said, "this is a poem about addiction" the reader would immediately focus on finding details to support that meaning. Actually, "We are Tiger" could be the relationship of an addict and the Tiger of his addiction... the bite, the hold, the teeth, the way speaker and Tiger are Team terrible, dependent yet unable to trust each other.

Another interesting point: He says he doesn't have time to write,
but Carmin found 180 poems! Does it change anything to know his father is Italian, his mother French, that he moved to the USA when he was six, and quickly shrugged off his French so no one would make fun of him on the baseball field? Does it change the poem to know he has been practising graphic design for the past 16 years?

About the poem... Santaquilani maximizes paradox -- the details such as "picked bones" and the "day sank to its knees" which renovates a cliche of heart sinking, light sinking, darkness will cover the shipwreck... and then, "the day sped to a smudge" and "we are a team". Day/night; Father/son; what one is, impossible to separate from what one isn't.

What attracted me to this poem first of all was the sonic play at the beginning: how the "war" and "your" echo vowels with an R, how war brightens to whirl, the bill darkens to billow and "low" backwards is wol, a reverse sound like war, crunched into the long I of bite.

I warred against your whirl,
Then billowed to your bite.

Now the poem is richer to me for the discussion.

We are eager to key into the background of people -- but I think it is also important to see the result independent of the creator.

For instance, Mr. Shakespeare. Even if it had not been written by Will, the situation he describes is universal. What is it like on a sunny day, when a widow or widower wakes up with a heart bursting with grief, anger, and a loneliness that scrapes at the bone like a heavy bear applying its claws to remove every last bit of living tissue. Sonnet 97 uses physical and metaphorical "weather" plays with the similarities (how like a winter; leaves that look pale) but corrects this "perceived reality", only to correct the correction. If you break the 14 lines into three quatrains, Q1 is statement: comparison of absence w/ bareness of December.
Q2 starts with "and yet" -- how can this be -- it's summer -- and playing on "bare",
"bears" the "wanton burthen of the prime"...
Q3: another comparison: if like widow'd womb -- then any hope of birth
seems like "hope of orphans and unfathered fruit."
Even birds are mute.

Perhaps knowing it is Shakespeare and reading Helen Vendler, analyzing the crossed rhymes and quatrains, and finding a couplet tie in "winter" in the final line
in 4th word of the first line, helps to appreciate what Shakespeare does in his sonnets. Certainly, even though it is over 500 years old, we felt it was far more accessible and the clarity satisfying, unlike the Armantrout of the previous week.

Personality is another poem which does not require background knowledge.
Five sentences. 4 singular thumbs; two plural thumbs.
40 to 1 thumb; 100 to one thumb -- 1,000 to one thumb -- the thumb coming back to what it left still makes the same print -- and of course, mentioning thumb twice in this sentence underlines the difference of what the thumbs are attached to.
Now millions -- no two thumbs alike.
And then, uncountable -- and up to the God of Thumbs who can explain
this brief passage -- through love, life, mother, separating, war. Mere prints -- but we know nothing about the thumb-bearer.

Brilliant poem!

From Sandburg's "personality" we move to "identity". What does the word "white" mean to you? skin color? absence of color, even though science says it contains them all? possibility of blank, or the opposite? In this small narrative,
I copy again white. This poem, White, by Leona Sevick might easily have been overlooked, except for the words of the Judge, Naomi Shihab-Nye who stressed that the final poems presented the reader with an invitation to enter a “kingdom of Mattering - topics/subjects of essential collective care, poems embodying deep witness, speaking up in hard places, not shuddering or seeking popular favor -- poems of responsibility and elegantly shaped conviction.”
About “White” Naomi says, “." Worlds within and behind visible public worlds. Everything we don't see and hear -- private, precious pulse of identities.

Synaesthesia -- having a rainbow be loud... language twisted like a body.
Some people had the poem come out as a paragraph, so the question of the difference between prose and poetry came up.
The line breaks -- end words: tiny,
head, in , her, hand, color, through, day's, all. every, and silent. for, sleep.
An interesting exercise is to write the first word on the following line in a column next to the end words -- see how the separation makes a difference in meaning.
tiny -- chair; day's -- piece-work.
I gave the example of the agogic accent -- how the music can be written with no diacritical marks -- no accents, soft/loud -- but the agogic accent is the interpretive touch of the artist feeling the need to give just a little more stretch to a note before it moves on. Such accents do not happen in prose.
We discussed verb tense -- how only one verb was not descriptive past, or repeated past, and one verb pluperfect. Having one completed action verb works like a spotlight: "spotted" works both as spotlight -- immigrant stands out, and spotted as in "saw -- with an eye that is roaming, looking for something, then pins into vision."

We ended on the Levine: how despite what others might see as difficult, the irongrip of hard work or misery, for whatever reason this man cannot sleep,
in spite of his insomnia, he is grateful -- the bird, like a muse. The childlike image of the snail going to china is enhanced by the way it wakes up -
The snail, awake
for good, trembles from his shell / and sets sail for China.

The light will come, be so powerful just like the memory of vanished stars at the end of the poem.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

O Pen January 11, 2012 Patterns: Stein to Armantrout; sunflowers, quilts

Susie Asado – by Gertrude Stein
Sunflower – by Alan Shapiro (from Tantalus in Love) (answer to Blake’s Ah! Sunflower)
Quilting – by Lucille Clifton
An Oregon Message -- William Stafford
How like a winter hath my absence been (Sonnet 97—Shakespeare)
Money Shot – Rae Armantrout

How do we perceive pattern? If our eyes and ears work together, whether in a calligramme, or an ee cummings' style putallthewordstogether (and then find "tall ewords tog and tether...) or play with sonics as in Jennifer Tamago's poem "red missed aches" which translates to "read mistakes" red mistakes, read, missed aches... we reach out to new discoveries both in what we are reading, but also in ourselves. So I spoke on Sunday, in a talk "beyond seeing" -- where comprehension goes beyond the layers of perception, or what Doty calls "sensurround" but touches the inner, personal parts of our psyche.
Now, in the second week of the "new" year, with a full gold moon that exits in the West as a burning gold sun rises in the East... it's a good time to look at the old vs. new and the ties that bind them. So, Sunflowers: from Blake and Shapiro; patterns from the revolutionary Stein and Quiltings by Clifton; a Shakespeare Sonnet to contrast with an Armantrout poem... an Oregon message -- not really a New Year message -- but one that rings out that we really are alive.

For Susie Asado, I imitated Anne Coon's reading of it from Saturday's workshop on Patterns. If you think of it as a flamenco dancer, and the words and rhythms imitate the hand-clapping and foot-stomping, the mind can see flamenco through the sonics. I tried analyzing the syllable count -- ah first line 6; second line 5, repeated in 3rd, 4th line; 5th line is 5+6...
let's see... Stein had a mutual friend with Gaudi in Picasso -- ah... the cathedral in Barcelona -- Familia Sagrada -- and those crosses made of bread and clusters of grapes for the Eucharist... and maybe Stein is also making religious references with "silver seller"... and the penultimate line, "a nail is unison" -- as in one Son, or Christ nailed to the cross, etc.
One person had looked up information and stumbled on the sexual connotations, and then Marcie chimed in -- I think it is just NUTS. It's the sort of self-indulgent word play someone drunk at a party thinks is just brilliant... To which I add… or the kind of game-playing that the surrealists did. Is walking your lobster in the streets of Paris anything more than self-indulgent, "let me try to get a rise out of you?" And is Satie's directions to play something like a nightingale with a toothache just a way to try to Ezra-pound-it-new? What is art and what is a case of "let's explore what rules are all about."

I was asked on Sunday what "postmodern" is. Good question. It is often used as whatever has happened since Whitman saying "I am large -- I contain multitudes" which requires more than mere form can express. Alice Fulton, known for her experimentation in the 80's and onwards is a "modern" contemporary writer whose first book "Dance Script with Electric Ballerina" also dances intellect among words -- certainly more intelligibly than Armantrout's mysterious and cryptic first part of her poem which relies on a sort of short-hand of the contemporary world.

We made fun of Blake and his weary sunflower, the phototropism counting, (the sunflower does not mirror, follow, shadow, study, mark, but COUNTS) -- and of course there is the sexual connotation too... the cold, lonely pining of neglected youth, the equal cold of the grave, vs. the resigned aspiration of the sunflower to climb up to the sun -- that golden clime...

How different the passion and spunk of Alan Shapiro's poem! Energy in the diction... and the device Shakespeare uses so well of statement, correction -- and then corrected correction. "did I say cup/... of leaves (and already they have been described as alert with quills, spines, prickles) did I say sunflower?
This "there-is-nothing-I-won't-do-to-live" has everything Stafford believes in the
"We are alive" which is muted, smuggled, resurrected, and finally, must be guarded like a secret.

Quilting by Lucille Clifton does not have the rollicking voice of "Hommage to my Hips", rather "quilts" place, person and action, opposing the intimacy of a woman and daughter to alchimists. This is not to say all is the dense, creamy ,delicious texture of yellow-eyed peas (the color of the woman's eyes-- which is slightly unsettling) nor is threading need and needle a straightforward life --( "this will be beautiful and keep you warm" is part of that life) but bears the marks of the sharp and needled. The alchemists could be anyone in search of gold, anyone is search of answers, certainty, permanence -- but such gold is frozen, like Midas' daughter.
The poem ends with questions. If we dispense with "How does this poem end?"
we dispense with the idea of whether or not to ask for/expect/want an ending --
and finally, what ends what, as separate world spin away from each other?
We shared multiple definitions of "Money Shot" to add to the layers -- and IndyMac as the mortgage company.
No thanks to soggy dough. And how do you want to emphasize the "why don't I"??? --

We will discuss the Shakespeare next week.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012

Poems for Wednesday January 4, 2012!

Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket – by Vachel Lindsay
The Waking - Theodore Roethke
Smoke – Rumi – translated by Coleman Barks
Luck – Langston Hughes
Year’s End – Richard Wilbur
The Curtain – Hayden Carruth


As we start a new year, it's good to review our human nature -- the personal "I",
the universal beast, how it is that we converse, in what conditions we find ourselves.

As an election year, Vachel Lindsay provides us a reminder without too much preaching how we "pet our fancies", and however it is in our human nature that we are unjust, unkind, unloving, we need to "vote against" such in favor of justice, kindness, and make things lovely.

Roethke shares with us the secret of accepting oneself, allowing self-mercy.
Kathy mentioned the line in a Transtromer poem, translated by Rika Lesser: "In the first hours of day consciousness can embrace the world just as the hand grasps a sun-warm stone". So it is as we allow ourselves not to "wake from sleep" but to wake TO sleep -- embracing the process of wherever one is. What is it that we hear listening to the dance between the ears? Inner voices, perceptions, thoughts, feelings. We learn by going where we have to go. The alliterative music, the repetitions of the villanelles, the attention to vowel sounds that pull at meaning: fall away vs. always, yet the same "aw" and "l"; the bright "ee" of keep and near (which ends on "ar" like far); The conundrum of paradox: This shaking keeps me steady. with the "ache" of unsettled and resolute "eh". The route of "lowly" to "lively" to "lovely" which insinuates different meanings -- lovely of you, of me, of being together, being in nature... We can say "it's the journey not the destination" but this poem goes further: there is a celebration and comfort in not knowing.

Jumping back 8 centuries to Rumi's mysticism, Smoke is a delightful metaphor for the
gray areas as wood and flame spit at each other. Part of the problem is that we cannot see the other as they are. Indeed, a different way to understand "wanderers without a face!"

What is luck? Langston Hughes gives us two quatrains -- it is chance -- small,
in the first stanza. In the second, the huge difference between having love,
and only heaven. Promises. And the cruel insistence of "only"-- which makes heaven sound like a shadow of what one would want.

Wilbur extends a metaphor of "shapen composedly" to the structures of what remains in fossils, bones, and "palaces of patience" which could be pompei, a print of a fern on rock, or ice. To start with night as settlement of snow... and end with buried radio, and new year bells wrangling. They have rung before, thus are not ringing, but rang. But we also read how we "fray into the future", rarely wrought except in tapestries of after thought...
The form (5 stanzas: abbacc) fixes a shape and yet the end rhyme does not cloy.

We ended with the free verse of Hayden Carruth's The Curtain.
Like a Sufi painting, we live in our illusions. The inside life of a couple looking at the outside snow, the great machine of death doing its work in the world.
"For a while we close the immense index of images that is our lives—for instance,"
and the reader can try a variation on the list. The "offerings to his implacability" -- whoever it is, fixed in the image... How shall we survive?
Note how the verb "know" is enjambed.. We don’t and cannot and will never // know.
The curtain of snow wavers, falls back --
cheers to a new year!