Thursday, March 7, 2013

Poems for March 11

Poems for March 11

Last week, we witnessed how knowing something about the poem/poet, changes the poem. This week, I thought I’d share a few more poems like that. Do not feel obligated to read the references until you’ve had a chance to enjoy the poem –!

Fuel -- R.S. Thomas (29 March 1913 – 25 September 2000)
On the Farm by R.S. Thomas
Zhuang Zhou, influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE
# 260 -- Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Ode to My Suit – Pablo Neruda (July 12, 1904 – September 23, 1973)
Forgetfulness—Straight Up (hommage to any CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff)

Although we're not sure how to pronounce the names in Welsh in the first poem, we know
two brothers are "no good". No pronouncement about the third: only an open "What shall I say" followed by a whistling in the hedges. The feel is "as though" winter would never leave, and the trees deformed. Just like a painter choosing his colors, this creates a creepy foreshadowing, leading to the final stanza about the girl. Again, we do not know what is meant by "Beauty under some spell of the beast." The images are sharp, piercing, vivid just like the final sentence in a book the girl's face reveals like a lantern: you can hear a shriek "God is love" which feels anything but what you want to associate with the word.

The second poem, only two stanzas compare w/ The Gift which ends encouraging us to "drink from the pool given you." Here, it is machines who laugh up their sleeves. A lively discussion ensued about how we
are out of touch with ourselves because of machines. John summed it up saying, "the car is an elaborate wheelchair for a psychic invalid". We discussed "alloy" as strengthening of material... or desire... Don (I believe) mentioned de Toqueville’s letters about America. Ex. regarding all the indians drunk, after getting payment from the US government for what they traded. "Indians bring in furs and trade for the things which will be their undoing." Are we not doing the same with selling our souls to machines -- whether upgrades of internet, or abuse of Gutenberg's moveable type and printing press.
Every tool is potentially dangerous and it behooves us to examine and identify where the sharp edges are.

For the Man of Tao, we compared two translations -- the version on internet was shorter and had wording which did not reflect the same understanding of "Tao" as the version printed from Housden's anthology "Risking Everything". "The man in whom Tao/Acts without impediment" illustrates the paradox of involvement when absorbed in a task and resultant disappearance of self. This is very different than "The man of Tao acts without impediment". It is not about the man, rather about the Tao. We agreed that Merton's deletion of “he” line 2; his break after being, actions, and use of quotations around “kind” and “gentle” were to stress that the point is not to name and judge something as "kind" but to show it – as you ARE doing it... John brought up the point that this may have been an oral story, and that we are dealing with a culture that prints in ideograms... and further made us laugh when pushing the parallel that going to church does not make you a Christian by extension could mean going into a garage makes you a car.

Emily Dickinson's delightful "I'm Nobody, who are you" was refreshing. The "admiring Bog" now a days, Don offered, is perhaps a blog. We spoke about JD Salinger refusing interviews and how in our culture it is hard to stand up for the view that it is not a negative thing to want privacy. Marcie brought up her AP English teacher from 1966 who gave an example of someone very comfortable with herself and sharing the poem which was successful as the class respected her and could thus trust her to guide a discussion about the
problem of being somebody. There is such a delightful Asian feel to this poem– suggestive...humorous.
I diverted the discussion away from Emily's personal life (perhaps inspired by the energy of the poem which feels like spring peepers ready to multiply) and somehow David brought up Hyla Brook,
ghost of sleighbells in the ghost of snow... and John quoted
The Hours of Sleep:
Nature takes 5
Custom 7
Laziness 9
Wickedness 11

What fun, to imagine being nobodies together –

For the next poem, "Ode to my Suit", I used several different translations and tried to read a composite.. fabulous poem and wonderful way of thinking beyond how we "dress our part". Our skin as suit – what else we are... humanity as material goods.

Richard Feynman: walk w/ father. When you know the word for Nightingale is Rossignol in French, xyz in German, Russian, Turk, etc. when you know all that, you know nothing about Nightingale...

read outloud: Owl by Ellen Bryant Voigt -- which is organized into Stanzas, yet hard to imagine from the suspended lines with no punctuations.

forgetfulness... oversights. mental bad habits... brought up a reference to
Robert Darnton: 18th c. France.
The Great Cat Massacre...

Terrific discussion, which was just that. No agenda, nothing to prove as the poems helped us shed a little light here and there on what it is to be human.

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