Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poems for December 3

Taking the Hands -- Robert Bly
Gone & Gone by Rodney Wittwer
Here, Bullet -- by Brian Turner
A Soldier’s Arabic -- by Brian Turner
Arboretum – by Louise Glück
Benjamin Britten: Ceremony of Carols-- (excerpt: Spring Carol by William Cornish)

December is filled with secular and sacred celebrations -- I'd be pleased if you have any poems that come from traditions you would like to share.
I included an excerpt from Benjamin Britten's "Ceremony of Carols" which is based on Middle English poetry and some links so you can hear how the music surpasses the words. (It's on my mind as I'm singing the Soprano part Dec. 8th!).
If you do not know the music by Benjamin Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, you can hear it here: -- first half.
“The majority of the text is taken from The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems, and is in old English. Because of this, a translation is provided as well as notes by Tom Ajack.
Note that in the middle ages, Christ’s birth was celebrated in Spring.

Gone are my notes from the wonderful discussion... so I will try to reconstruct an echo of the discussion. We started with looking at our hands, considering what we "cage", protect, receive, give touch, further to Bly's 5-fingered poem. Thanks to Maura who sent a follow-up picture of hands.

Wittwer's seven stanza poem uses ampersands for "and" which for some was disconcerting, for others, creating a hieroglyphic sense of mystery. The dreamlike sequence and fine use of sonics support a sense of elegy, the "we" turning to "everyone" in the final stanza, which challenges our belief that we have an idea of where we are, what we are doing, until we are "gone." Are there more than two senses of "gone" indicated in the title?

Brian Turner returns -- we started the year with "Eulogy",one of his poems from his book "Here, Bullet" published in 2005. The title poem, discussed Monday takes the bullet's message but of course, admitting that "here is where I complete the word you bring/
the way it is..." "A Soldier's Arabic" reminds me that one cannot paraphrase a good poem -- of course, one can point out from title to last word,
the pinnings of language to words, that begin and end, starting with the word for "love". It moves to how we write, English from left to right, and Arabic from right to left, and puts into question beginnings, ends, as veiled and unknown as death, written by "cursives of the wind."

Much is written now about Louise Glück. Her teacher Stanley Kunitz, remarked in 1966 about her intensity and strong voice, and since, critics have awarded adjectives such as “chilling,” “supremely reticent,” “distant,” “scrupulous. Perhaps -- but I find poems such as "The Purple Bathing Suit" and "Arboretum" point to her ironic humor that is most pleasing. To start a poem with "We had the problem of age, the problem of wishing to linger." after the title, "Arboretum" sets up a few sparks about what it is we try to "plant for the future" or try to preserve -- or indeed, plant and then crowd out, not to mention celebrate only to find out our zeal to promote something we find attractive is invasive... The mock humor of "we asked/so little" repeated with different line-breaks and completions is highly effective,
mirrored in the ultimate question "How did we manage to do so much damage..."
In the same way, in a counter-pull is the repetition of "we were correct" which pulls at "checked", which could be countered with the repetition of desire.

The harp and two sopranos capture something beyond the words in the Benjamin Britten duet based on the Spring carol. I'll play it on 12/10.

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