Tuesday, July 31, 2012

comments on July 30 poems taken from June 2012 Poetry Magazine

“Chi cerca la vita, trova lo stile; chi cerca lo stile, trova la morte.”
Italian poet Eduardo De Filippo

(English translation: Searching for life, one finds form; searching for form, one finds death.”)

Today was a day of synchronicity... stumbling on the above quotation-- and then what
"Vermeer termed “dead coloring” or “underpainting” (a technique pioneered by Titian (arguably the most influential Italian painter of the High Renaissance) and frequently employed by Flemish painters, as a means of creating a layered effect on a canvas." -- which suited the poems by W.S. di Piero about art: Cezanne, a shoe box and Vermeer.

The 11 line "On a painting by Cezanne" evokes still life objects --the first 3 lines layer adjectives to stone, the pear, and doubles nouns of bread hills, tablecloth snowfall. The next two lines leap into the powerful image "The dog of work gnaws the day’s short bone,SNARLS a mountainside into lavendar and green." A single line about the viewer, "In the mind where objects vanish, almost is all." then another two lines about the elements, and the final three lines where the INVISIBLE is copied... "to improvise the soul of things and remake solid life into fresh anxious unlifelike form."
How to talk about this poem without quoting each line to show how with words, di Piero creates the paradox of "Nature Morte" -- the living stilled in death -- that "anxious" uncertain vibrancy of new, coupled with the opposite.

The three poems, taken from Poetry's June 2012 issue which coupled di Piero's poems with his essays from "City Dog" gave us some insight into the mind of the poet --
and his family: "The voices of my world were not tender and unquestioning". Snarl returns, "Everyone around me, it seemed, spoke in the brittle, pugnacious tones I still hear when my own voice comes snarling out of its vinegary corner." In a way,
objects in a still life become like family circumstances" filled with "extremity of unease and rage" I see in the energy of Cezanne's brush
(Although Martin referred to his Mont Ste. Victoire as peaceful... I find it unsettling.)

What we discovered in these poems, was perhaps related di Filipo's search for meaning, especially in "The Shoe box" a sort of collection of life-blood in memory, contained in rhymed, sonnet form. The rich texture of the diction (opening line: A high school mash note’s stammering lust),"snapshot glare" and the "loose joinery" of the first sentence, looped in five lines, then moves to dreamspeak to a colon marking the Volta. New sounds... "a wind-harp’s warp, words yarding across staves,
fluty sounds ribboned to sad, screechy tunes." bridge to "things" which turn out to be abstract, wish, desire -- all that lies in the thin veil between life and death...
ending with what we pack into our own bag of collected, protected items: fear.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring is a one sentence, "thin" column which starts with a painting, a blends into the here and now of a contemporary pierced girl. The discussion veered into what we see and judge... but as di Piero says in his essays, what counts to him is the "signature form (of) feeling. Then just about any line or stanza or phrase will enact in miniature the weave of the entire poem,
"unconscious squawks through the finer tones of consciousness." as in his final 4 lines: pearls not sea-harvested
but imagined seen put there
by a certain need and fancy
because love says it’s so
picture that picture this.

The hinge of "so" -- emphasizes the picture, but also refers to how love determines the way we imagine...

Levertov's "invocation" has a prayer like feel with a great wish for the protection of what we cherish, value, the calling on the Lares, or Roman household deities... The language allows for multiple understandings of both fear and hope in the second (final) stanza:
Deep snow shall block all entrances
and oppress the roof and darken
the windows. O Lares,
don’t leave.
The house yawns like a bear.
Guard its profound dreams for us,
that it return to us when we return.

Dove's November beginnings, works a magical music in the sounds of each of the 3 stanzas... one person wanted "zephyrs" instead of zithers at the end, to keep the wind image -- but the sound is far more effective. Winter... and aching in secret...with a tongue-in-cheek way of passing the dark times (memorizing a gloomy line or two of German) but promising to play the fool in Spring...

Although the discussion went in many directions, it was a satisfying romp through a small sample of June 2012, Poetry.

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