Friday, April 27, 2012

O Pen April 25

The day BEFORE "Poem in your Pocket" day...

A Cat in an Empty Apartment, by Wislawa Symborska (2 translations)
(Clare Cavanagh, vs. Walter Whipple; Cavanagh's comment about this: Ms. Szymborska “looks at things from an angle you would never think of looking at for yourself in a million years,” Dr. Cavanagh said on the day of the Nobel announcement. She pointed to “one stunning poem that’s a eulogy.”
“It’s about the death of someone close to her that’s done from the point of view of the person’s cat,” she said.
The Pattern, by Robert Creeley
Another Song(Are they shadows that we see?) by Samuel Daniel
The Needle by Jennifer Grotz
Man Carrying Thing, by Wallace Stevens
Ghostology, Rebecca Lindenberg

How we tell a story, how we couch our terms, how we “thread the needle – where the poem is the eye, and memory the thread stitching in an unraveling world... to use the metaphor of Jennifer Grotz... how we lengthen experience with our thought, understanding the fleeting pleasures, as pleasurable, not because understood, but simply allowed, until as in Ghostology, everything becomes song, and an opening.

In a way, the sequence of poems makes a poem. An empty apartment, where a cat notes the absence of the occupant; a poem exploring pattern, as thought pulls words into consciousness, a reflection on what it is that we see in the shadows of our thoughts and experiences, threaded into yet another poem, understanding that the poem hovers on the border of understanding, which if understood fully, takes away the vitality of the poem to constantly challenge us, bring us to new levels... always a song, an “open door, opening”.

We discussed the two translation sof Szymborska’s poem. The Whipple seems more literal, whereas the Cavanagh seems more vernacular, capturing the emptiness from a real live cat’s perspective. Not “one does not do that to a cat.” But “You can’t do that” –
as if the cat had a special relationship with the person who is no longer returning. Cavanagh prolongs the questions of options: Climb the walls? Caress against the furniture? This suggests there had been a climbing onto a lap, a caress against the now missing person.
What’s a cat to do? (not as Whipple continues, “in an empty apartment” – but the BIG question: what is it we are supposed to do when someone dies...) The question marks in the Cavanagh are at the beginning. In the middle: “What remains to be done” is a fragment ending with a period, followed by instructions: sleep and wait. Perhaps for your own death, or the return of the missing... not Whipple’s question, “What more is to be done?” which seem seems to follow the list of the cleaning out process.
Somewhat off-subject: Good notes for a eulogist – be sure you tell the truth.
A cat might keep us honest, the offended paws have nothing to do with niceties of how we want to remember someone, but the real sense of loss of a 3-D person, with virtues and faults.

The Pattern, by Creeley has a stuttering feel with the linebreaks. It/ stanza break, it wants to/ be free / where it might be I, or I speaking, -- “it” is unable to say what “it” wants “in the direction/ of its/ words.” The imperative, “Let (stanza break)(Let x... as postulation, is repeated in the indicative, and x by association could be “I”.)
x equal x. x/also equals x / I... the doubling of “speak” and end, solo position of “I”
the highly charged “such”, which could vary in syntactic weight, falling onto the surprise of “undone” which begins the final stanza. For puzzle people and linguists, a delight of a poem – for others, an experience in frustration.

The 16th c. Samuel Daniel provided the epigraph to Jennifer Grotz’ poem, “The Needle”,
and evoked in some the 1930 radio program, “The Shadow” long-intoned by actor Frank Readick Jr., has earned a place in the American idiom: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" These words were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a musical theme, Camille Saint-SaĆ«ns' Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel", composed in 1872). At the end of each episode, The Shadow reminded listeners, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.... The Shadow knows!"
In others, a little Keatsian Negative Capability, with a little “gather ye rosebuds while ye may” – from question, “are they shadows” and a meditation on pleasures, ends with timely advice, “When your eyes have done their part,/ Thought must length it in the heart.”

Jennifer’s poem does this: varying a line in the present tense, which recalls something in the past tense... Memory “stitching” (three times) and understanding it is no guarantee
for holding time, truth, life in place, “where only vendors, and policemen stood in place”.
Ending with this image of market and order-keeping which continues, contrasts beautifully with the needle stitching – not lost in a haystack, but rather, as small as one needle can be in the large tapestry of life.

We read the Wallace Stevens both without the words in the parentheses, and with them
in couplets. Note that the parentheses starts with a command, “Accept” and does not end with a period, but rather a comma after the closure. Since each line is capitalized, “A horror” can be read both as an independent sentence, or as an aside to the parentheses.
Stevens gives us instructions about what a poem should do. He ends with the fate of
the bright obvious – if it is cleaned up – it will be ever so numb

Ghostology is a lovely neologism – the poem an example of it with plenty of “white space” between a trio of couplets, a quatrain and two more couplets with short lines.
I find the punctuation delightful – with and without commas for small breaths between stanzas, the separation of “is” and “not” combined in the double negative “Nothing/isn’t
song, cut by a line break!

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