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!

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