Thursday, August 16, 2012

poems for Aug. 27

Bruegel – by Paul Carroll
War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy
Two poems by Sherman Alexie
Dear Emily Dickinson; Curse #7 (p. 20, APR)
Studying Poetry 3,000 years from Now by Dara Wier (p. 31 APR)
Late Night TV by Dorianne Laux

Maura brought in Billy Collins' poem "Moon" -- reminding me of the power we have to "people our imagination" and not feel so lonely. Hello Moon -- let me introduce to you to a part of me, and put things into perspective. Delightful.

So was the first poem, "Bruegel" filled with vivid imagery (children cough and drop away like loose buttons), cold (magpies/thicken their feathers for the night) and hunger of winter under the endless green sky hanging like "a block of ice above/endless plots of snow, the sense of the precariousness of life, swinging like the sign by the inn, by one hinge. Without going into the suffering of the narrator, the painting of the Hunters by Brueghel reminds us that life was not easy then, much as we might idealize peasants dancing... Brueghel,
as title, is tribute to this genius who could paint "people caught in a breath, the death to come, hidden." Brilliant poem, where, to reference Mark Twain, the "lightening" is at work, not a mere description of lightening bug.

We remembered the uncertainty of Breughel's time... the massacre of the Innocents, the protestant revolt -- and this morning, hearing the massacre of more innocents in Syria... Interesting that Paul Carroll is dancer and lawyer, defending environmental rights... which perhaps are responsible for the hint of stilled movement and justice. into the nested layers. Carroll does not say "who is near the end" -- or who "we" represents linked to the Breughel painting -- but binds us all together with it.

Carol Duffy, British poet laureate captures the difficulty of being a war photographer -- how, to witness suffering, and in order to "do the job" be impassive. The etymology is interesting, coming from 1660s, "not feeling pain," the meaning "void of emotions" is from 1690s. Photographic vocabulary is a perfect metaphor -- for instance, the pain arriving in the "development", which Duffy captures: "Solutions slop in trays/beneath his hands which did not tremble then/
though seem to now." The poem goes on switching from war zone to two words: "Rural England. Home again/to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel" -- ordinary pain? The poem veers back to the emerging photo ("Something is happening") recalling the stranger caught in the photograph, the cries of his wife, the blood in the dust.
To juxtapose the "job" with human concerns hits with full force here: A hundred agonies in black-and-white/from which his editor will pick out five or six/
for Sunday's supplement.
The use of rhyme, (must/dust; tears/pre-lunch beers... where/care) reinforces job/feeling disparity.
Rich remembers Brahms Requiem and the lyrics "all grass disappears", and talk came up of the civil war...

Sherman Alexie is a refreshing poet -- able with a sense of humor which yet works like acid to carve out a point. We enjoyed imagining the world of Emily Dickinson, and the civil war, how "God-hungry" is also "God-defying"-- what did she know of what happened in the "greasy grass" oiled by guns, carts, men?

Curse #7, makes you wonder what the other curses are... did he write Curse #1-6?
What a brilliant move to make someone feel both sides where two wrongs have a chance to re-assess what needs to be right...

Dara Wier takes us through odd syntax to read through her lines a few times,
as if in a double-take. We started the discussion speaking of uncertainty, of negative capability... echoes of Auden's "Of suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters" -- but who are the "old Masters" we will remember next century, let alone next in the next millenium...

Dorianne Laux' poem has amazing turns, creating all the spooky "unrest" of late night, insinuating some TV but what is striking is the role of the "I" -- who has the power to make a creepy character disappear -- and then the choice:
" though if I do the darkness / will swallow me, drown me."
It is good to ponder "By what untraceable set of circumstances" the late night character on TV... simultaneously with the idea that
"Somewhere in the universe is a palace/ where each of us is imprinted with a map."

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