Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poems for February 25th: starting w/ Wakefield

Poems for February 25

The Meadow by Marie Howe
Miss Consolation for Emotional Damages – by Laura Kasischke (Lilies Without)
While They Speak – Titos Patrikios
The Flying Cat by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Promise by Jane Hirshfield

Marie Howe uses an epigraph from Friedrich Hölderlin for her book, Come, Thief (from which "The Meadow" is taken.) I'm not sure of the original German, which has been translated as variously as this:
“But where the danger is, also grows the saving power.” or “where danger is, also lies deliverance”
or “what rescues us”.

In the poem, The Meadow, she starts with a search for words and the meadow, muddy with dreams, which allows a weaving between certain, uncertain, a telephone and a woodpecker; there is no question that a dozen wasps become puttering prop planes, or that the grass be bewildered, that the two older, self-important horses be unable to "design"how the small white pony will escape the fence. Forgiveness hinges on "this small time when you can forget what you are". Perhaps a metaphor for a poem as a walk into words, as mysterious as the meadow remembering how to make wildflowers... The point is not to "figure out" and have answer on how to speak for sound alone, listen for and to the cry, identify, understand. The journey is search, choice, and faith:
human, your plight, in waking, is to choose from the words//

that even now sleep on your tongue, and to know that tangled
among them and terribly new is the sentence that could change your life.

In contrast, The Kasischke poem is a rollercoaster for sound and rhythm -- no regular couplets or line length here. What is "the" embarrassment? As fundamental as Adam and Eve becoming aware of their nakedness? Kasischke repeats "it" over and over, providing more and more possibilities -- meanwhile the title echoes in question -- why "Miss Consolation" like a pageant queen -- and what emotional damages? Perhaps, with the Einstein reference, it is about identifying brilliance beyond race, religion. The bluntly stated inability to deal with a "curvature of a 3rd dimension" holds up a mirror of the danger of falling into a sameness out of shame for coming from a place that seems to be different from the one in which you find yourself.

David was reminded of Marge Piercy's "Barbie Doll" -- the cutting off of the nose -- the final ending in the casket where all you can say is "isn't she pretty" and pay lip service to what is sold as a dream life.

The Patrikios sparked great discussion -- and the question of what it is that we bring to poems from our own experience and beliefs. Is the poem just a snapshot in a cafe -- about a writer, writing about freedom and love? Kathy reminded us of Adrienne Rich saying "as long as we can't agree, at least we will have something to talk about." This is such a poem. How can we truly talk about freedom and love without knowing its opposite? The "how could you say" can be interpreted in different tones -- perhaps accusatory, perhaps
responding to something we have not heard, as if to ask the person who said it, to explain further, with the conviction that the fact that these things have been spoken of, means there is possibility for freedom and love... Patrikios believes that poetry should do this: bring people together, help readers discover something new about themselves and to address and provide answers to problems that have gone unnoticed.

Perhaps the third item is not so much "provide answers" -- but to reflect about aspects of problems that have gone unnoticed. The fact that there was so much discussion about these nine lines indeed brought us together, helped us discover something new as we listened to each other.

The Flying Cat came to the rescue at this point and reminded us about our versions of our careers of worrying... What is our private language of pain? And what do we transpose onto our animals who cannot tell us in words how they respond to life? Regardless, we are the ones who must look at our own "black holes in space or the weightless rise of fear".

Binding the poems together, was Jane Hirshfield.
I quoted from Philip Levine who seems to echo some of the thoughts in the interview link.

“Some things you know all your life. They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.”

What is it that we mean when we say "Stay"?
The pause of stillness allows us to recognize our relationship to everything around us.

Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered,

How does "always" work as the final word? So, we go back to the title, "The Promise" read again,
and note how each thing has such trouble being still. How constant our shifting, our love.

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