Tuesday, October 30, 2012

poems for November 5

The Hurricane by William Carlos Williams
Poem in October -- by Dylan Thomas
Writing: Howard Nemerov
Sonnet #5: Shakespeare
Latin Lessons by Floyd Skloot
After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

I can't remember now why I chose these poems... Was it to contrast music, form, old and new... indeed, those are things which interest me, and the discussion today came back to Frost's essay "The Figure a Poem Makes" which talks about music and meaning and that sense of wildness we want pure. But in the end we need ideas or else all poems sound alike. I also trust a group will find meaning in a collection of poems no matter what poems come to mind.

We started with the Hurricane, well, of course, because we had Sandy which opened up many questions... just like the poem. I asked several people to read, and then to silently think about how each person would read it, and what to make of it.
How often do we lend attention to a poem this way? What do you make of the "it" in the last line: "it said, go to it." Is it the tree? the hurricane? How many ways can you say, "go to it"? is "it" Heaven, or part of the idiom, "get started". What fun to romp through two sentences and five lines and realize the game could last a long time. But, we do want to pin it down. Pin our human associations to the tree,
imagine ourselves as the "you" as easily felled as the tree, be grateful that our haven of a home was perhaps safe, and only the garage damaged, or... or...

The Dylan Thomas published in Poetry magazine in February 1945 is so filled with music and image, no matter if you prefer one to the other, there is no rivalry here.
David mentioned the form as pindaric ode and a very wordsworthian celebration of childhood...and some commented on how the music is very nice, but what's the point-- a certain impatience that is satisfied by the penultimate stanza.
Marcie pointed out that descriptions of the present (the poet's 30th birthday) are in rain, whereas his past is remembered in sun.
Whatever reason we loved this poem, we marveled at the intensity. Rich brought up whether it would be a dated poem, too rhapsodic for now-a-days -- and a musical parallel comes to mind. Why do some pieces of music never age -- maybe interpreted slightly differently in different ages, but still strike the heart?

Nemerov: David came up with the perfect sentence: This poem is about how we trace ourselves, trace our thoughts. Look at the hard C's, that reproduce the sound of the skates.
World and spirit... physical and cerebral are connected like our bones linked to nets of stars—our tiny efforts of creating symbols to something much more vast! Through writing, like the bat, we can figure out
just what our thoughts are; figure out how to communicate something larger than ourselves. What is the “point of style” – the stylus point; the reason for... and what is character – the physical form of a symbol
or temperment. How beautifully put that each of us try to understand the world, but can only understand
what we can reproduce through out hand, our thinking. Miraculous, repeated, this time to think of the world as a great writing. And with all this powerful presence and creation, we know it cannot last.

Wow! I love this poem. It is not disheartening, but an almost tender way of reminding us, for all our efforts, all our pen scratching, we will not be able to preserve a record of human presence, let alone start
to scratch the surface of understanding the large universe in which we live. And yet... this tool of writing,
this writing that writes us, this writing which leads us on journeys, is a key to something much more.
Such beautiful skill!

Shakespeare: Sonnet #5
what a sonnet! Who would have thought that "unfair" is a verb? And what about "Leese" in the final couplet? Much can be written about this early sonnet with no personal pronouns. Although we did not discuss the structure, (3 quatrains that end with a colon), the repetition of the same thing first objectively, then emotionally,
we appreciated the role of memory -- that the savoring of love is best before we forget.
Show cannot be preserved, but substance can.

Floyd Skloot: Latin Lessons -- a tour de force, where it is not clear it is an elegy at first and what leaves a mark on us.

Frost: After apple picking.
Delightful -- with unexpected surprises in line length, meter, rhyme, and how Frost can take an ordinary detail and make it apply to a larger meaning. We talked of the natural rhythms, of sleep, dream, and the fatigue of a life spent, where, even with all that red-cheeked possibility of apple, enough is enough, and next year... humbly, we accept, there will be new apples, but we understand "what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is."

As ever, I am so grateful for so many shared understandings of these poems.

PS. David shared the differences of the Frost poem with the final version:
I cannot shake the shimmer from my sight /I cannot rub the strangeness
a that was "the" and Magnified apples appear and reappear, / ... and disappear
It could be an earlier version... poems are process, metamorphosis, like apples...

No comments: