Tuesday, July 3, 2012

poems for July 10 + the need for a Utopia!

1. two translations of Vermeer by Wislawa Szymborska
2. Ingeborg Bachmann: Every Day; I Know No Better World
3. Dreams – by Langston Hughes
4. True Discourse on Power by Peter Grizzi (2011)
5. Providence by Natalie Trethewey

The two translations of the poem by Szymborska brought up the problem of not knowing the original. There seems to be a language for everything -- not just reflecting a culture, but a language music speaks, as opposed to lyrics to a musical; how in Spanish one says, "The bus has left me" but in English, "I missed the bus" -- which gives an unspoken weight to how one views the role of fate, or the individual. As in music,
some phrases speak and stir the heart, whereas lyrics with catchy rhymes, have a witty glitter. Having seen the ballet of Romeo and Juliet by Prokofiev with the choreography of Kenneth MacMillan, I was taken by the language of dance which captured the story,
the skittering pointe of the young Juliette, the love of love as the music arpeggios up with woodwinds, with a swoon down in the strings.

How to understand Vermeer, then. What does Szymborska mean by deserving, or earning the end of the world... and what is the role of a thing of beauty, and what relationship does it have with that? Is it that as long as there are things of
beauty, and until they wear out, fade, disappear, the world keeps going... or is it
that because of them, the world has no right to end?

The Bachmann poems used the same strategy as Advertisement which we saw last week -- juxtaposing contrary ideas. We celebrate heros, but war is not about that, and the irony of medals being awarded "when nothing more happens" alludes to the end of an individual life, as well as the delusion that a war might be over. In the case of Every Day, we felt the poem could end after the first stanza. The discussion revolved around what we really are "celebrating" on July 4 -- how easily we disregard the body count published in the City Newspaper, how every day, somewhere, something awful is happening, and we pay no attention with our summer barbecues and recreation.

I know no better world, as title, is contradicted by the first line asking whomever might know of one to speak. Who are we as a society... this sense of being alone,
and the dead, no longer part of the group of the living. The dream of returning home is caught in the dream of armament, caught in the dream returning home. A disquieting poem, where we would have wanted to look at the German original to try to grasp a better idea of it.

For Langston Hughes, we discussed the timeliness of it, the change and hope in 1963,
which today could not sound the same.

The Peter Grizzi also employs paradox -- what is a true discourse on power, when the word is not mentioned, and the first line starts with the word ghost... Time, space, which we know in THIS life, but which mystics say do not exist once we are dead, and witness: I have witnessed cruelty
break and gulp and sweat then
punch out a smile.
The specifics of how we mark time: storms, weather.

The final poem by the new poet laureate hangs survival from a hurricane on the word "Providence". It's from her book Native Guard. Last week's poem
Ship Island was where union soldiers took confederate prisoners – guards were black.
This poem had a sense of what it is like to be uprooted.

All in all, a fine discussion of how politics, government enter into our lives,
and different voices, time periods which provided us lenses. Human beings have always dreamed of a utopia -- and perhaps art gets us closest there...

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