Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Poems for October 22

Poems for October 22

In the October 2012 issue of Poetry, Wiman shares his task of “reading a century” and selecting poems from the last 100 years. What makes a poem memorable – and what helps it “last”? What helps the reader to navigate a poem, enjoy the puzzles, or conversely, give up in desparation? Below is a selection of poems to test, some relatively new, reflecting new experimentation, some relatively familiar in form, although perhaps novel in scope... Read what gives you pleasure and I look forward to hearing from you!

Without a Word – Richard Wakefield
Two Translitics of Louise Labé (16th C. French love sonnet #8: translitic – an experimental form of translation)
The Courtesy of the Blind -- by Wislawa Szymborska
The Short Answer –John Ashbery
excerpt from an interview with John Ashbery that tells about Frank O’Hara and Auden
Why I am not a Painter – Frank O’Hara
5 i poems

The discussion was disrupted after we read the Sibyl James.
People enjoyed the Wakefield, who unlike the Washington author of the Coyote poem last week offers THE way to pronounce it, albeit with a large dose of humor. What do we put in our "lexicon" and why? What is food, what is foe? What does an animal understand about us? We discussed how do we organize reality by words but not scent and the force of syntax moving through rhyme with no commas.
A little Robert Frost imitation cum humor in the last 7 lines: "If coyotes shrug away an unconcern/he did, and took up his unhurried gait./A hundred yards away I saw him turn/his head to give a last, dismissive look,/then glide without a sound the way he came,/begrudging me the little time he took/ to find that I was nothing he need name.

The idea of translitics takes translation into a different direction. What happens to 16th century Louise Labe's sonnets in a contemporary voice. The first imitated an imitative reference, keeping the sonnet form; the second, from the book "The White Junk of Love Again" by Sibyl James concentrates on the voice of the original poet, not the form, and somewhat regarding the theme, but certainly capturing a sensual unconventionality. An example:
So don’t ask me how I am,
just hand that ragged girl in the gutter
roses, and watch her salt smile,
laughing like all that red must hurt.

the speaker's "salt smile" is a new way of saying "smile through tears";contrast of red: ragged and roses and rhyme girl/hurt.

There's a blues song feel to lines like "Love loves changes, leads me/on a leash. Some days so choked/I get beyond this ache like breathing.
the sun turns to "that hand/pulling my face close, that old heartbreak/unfolding like a creased schedule of trains.".

Interspersed in the translitics are poems which are totally original based on the overall character of the poem sequence, the Labe persona and interplay of James/Labe voices. They grow out of wanting to speak out on other side of her life than love.
But do they? For instance 05.

If I owned it, I could burn this house.
I'd tie firehoses into knots
so the water wouldn't come, let the flames
lick up like State Farm money. They'd buy
a ticket somewhere, rent any room
in any interchangeable hotel.

I'm sick of this suburban, off-the-hub-of life.
I'll rent a flat in Paris, talk literary in cafes.
I'll make my heart a map and change direction
easy as a weather-vane in love with wind.
Sunrise will bring strong London tea, half cream,
and set behind the mariachis in my plaza.
I'll love the one with dark eyes.
I'll throw camellias from my window.

I hear Beijing, Oaxaca, names
like night trains in my head,
that hard sweet rhythm like good-bye.

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