Wednesday, March 21, 2012

First day of Spring... Confederate, Union, Endangered species, a little rap in your shakespeare and yes, no, maybe...

Today, we started off, re-reading the Tate — and I made a few comments about the ode, as a way of looking at something from different angles,
and Tate's curious way of using words in unexpected combinations which stripped them of their implications. In my scribbles to myself I had jotted down something about the afterlife of poems -- what it is that
1) after reading the poem, re-reading it, you still like it?
2) you feel you have gone nowhere, and feel embarrassed (for the poem, or yourself)
3) you come to a sense of impasse
For the poems today, luckily, it felt like #1 .

How much one might need or want to know about the author, the time, is sometimes not as interesting as the "frames" that other people bring -- so it was special that today, the group presented me with a special thank you bookmark, treats, and Maura brought in seeds of Blackberry Lily for everyone. We all are thankful for the "seeds" planted in our discussions.

Back to Tate and the Confederate Dead:
His eye roves over place and time. It is autumn,and the leaves return 4 times. It took 15 of us to read it, one stanza at a time, including the 4 couplets. The slight changes in the refrain increase in intensity, the leaves, first "flying, plunge";there does not seem to be a relationship between what happens before or after the refrain. The second refrain, "flying, they plunge and expire"; (following a stanza that repeats "you know" three times, there is an idea that "you" is engaged, and the poem tells you "turn your eyes to the immoderate past". The third refrain follows the result -- "you will curse the setting sun." The refrain now has "you" cursing, and the "leaves are crying". Following by an aural engagement -- a contrast of a mute "you", (a mummy, in time), with the moribund female hound. The final refrain uses the first person plural and predicts how we will explain what the leaves do.
What shall we say? What shall we do with the act? And the poem ends with an indented line, starting with "Leave now", followed by four lines -- and this marvellous image of a snake, who "riots with his tongue through the hush" (although we cannot hear the words of a snake), this snake, the sentinel who will count us too, when we join the dead.
The more I read this poem, the more I admire its tension of unusual juxtapositions -- for instance the "brute curiosity" of an angel's stare, which (like Medusa) turns you to stone... the immitigable pines, the smoky frieze /of the sky... A perfect place to introduce Zeno and Parmenides-- for how are we to understand man?

In the Lowell, it is not so much the diction as his way of combining a checkerboard of impressions, starting with the demolition of the Boston Aquarium, and sight of the St. Gaudens Civil war relief, combining child/man, history/modern times… leaving us to question war, and what it is to "serve the republic".
The 17 quatrains gallop along; a predominant sibilance, repetition of fish, loss.
The almost comic mention of yellow dinosaurs who will deal the work of the modern,
grunting and gouging to make a garage followed by the comparison of parking spaces luxiating like civic/ sandpiles" and Puritan-pumpkin girders. Finally in the 7th stanza, we see the connection with the Union Dead. Snapshots of history and this idea of the final burial ditch, and the lingering image of giant finned cars --
the fish are "free" or disappeared; our society slides by on grease... are we part of a savage servility? What is it we have done, think we have done, what is it we will do? Will it be more of the same, repeating over and over?

For fun, we just listened to the Jayne Cortez and rapping sonnet — the fun of interpretation as an oral art…
Ending with the Stafford. The more personal we can make our examples, the more chance is that we strike a universal…

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