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.

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