Monday, December 10, 2012

poems for December 17

Poems for December 17 : NOTE: THERE IS NO MEETING DECEMBER 24
but we will meet on December 31.

Reindeer Moss on Granite by Margaret Atwood
Perhaps the World Ends Here by Joy Harjo
By intuition, Mighty Things by Emily Dickinson
Baby Villon by Philip Levine
My Cathedral by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Prophecy by W.S. Merwin

Apparently, the world is pronounced as coming to an end, again -- and Jim brought in the spread from the NY Times Sunday paper of poems addressing this. Beginnings and endings are a great topic of conversation, and the poems read aloud and shared
above, all seemed to share in an understanding of cycles and connections.
We did not have time for Linda Pastan's "Mosaic", originally slated for discussion.

Starting with Atwood, whose conceit in "Reindeer Moss" works such a tiny living thing, stanza by stanza from the large, (language is gallic -- which as John pointed out penetrated most of Europe)to smaller units. Dialect, (David mentioned Yeats on Ezra Pound's translations, "clear as if said in dialect") then syllable, and the specificity of sound. And yet, like water wearing down boulders, cliffs, mountain tops, the moss, spores as rumours (both sound, and an invisible spread of what is understood) penetrates -- perhaps an indirect hint that language too can have such an effect. The tone and spirit of the poem has an ancient feel of reverence to it,
as do the Dickenson and Longfellow poems, "Intuition asserts itself" and tall trees contain the same awe of cathedrals.

In the Dickinson poem, the question of "who asks" and "who is you" takes a back seat, to the larger idea that "mighty things" don't need justification... It feels rather like we are eavesdropping on a delightful snippet of conversation where "omnipotence lisps" and in which we "overhear" sea in the see; eye in I.

The Longfellow sonnet has perfectly embraced rhyme until the final two lines...
"...listen, ere the sound be fled,
And learn there may be worship with out words.
Almost everyone had a favorite memory of a "sacred place", a childhood outdoor space where trees arch into an architecture of sacred proportions. Carmin referred to a relative who calls himself a "blue domer", worshipping the unhampered largeness of the sky. Kathy thought of Wendell Berry's Timbered Choir.

In Philip Levine's "Baby Villon", the details evoked everything from Kristellnacht to child soldiers in Africa, outcasts and boxers. Indeed, if you google, you'll find many boxers and the dates, 1924... But the last lines "knock us out". What humanity to imagine someone, who is everyone, as brother, cousin, as self, transformed
by the pain.

Joy Harjo: "Perhaps the World Ends Here":
I love the title, which mentions end, and the opening stanza which starts with "the world begins" and the metaphor of table: what do we bring to the table? set on the table? do at the table? from "a" table, to "the" table, to a specific series of "this" table, is repeated 4 times. (as house, as starting place for war; as where we birth, and lay out the dead; sing, pray, give thanks). The 3rd and 4th stanzas refer to table as "it", what we chase away from it; what happens under it; instructions and making men/women at it-- as if to carry a larger sense of "table" as life and life's instruction manual. The middle of the poem, not only made me chuckle, but provides a reassurance about our human imperfection :
"Our dreams drink coffee with us, as they put their arms/around our children. They laugh with us at our poor/falling down selves and as we put ourselves back/together once again at the table.

Ending with Merwin, his "prophecy" demonstrates what Dogen says, "One side of your hand is in the daylight./The other side is in the dark."

So... how will the world end this December? We take each word, to understand
the sound of world, as our "year" comes to an "end" -- only to begin something,

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