Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 1


April Fools’ Day makes me think of the “trickster” – and what better realm than poetry to find him/her at work! Truth is often better understood through artifice, Dickinson's "tell it slant" and we will see, it never is "simple" in poetry -- and yet, it is so gratifying when we feel the "silent, intense,/mimetic pattern of perfect sense."

April Fools' Day by Lawrence S. Pertillar** (contemporary)
The Poem – by Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Poem by Forrest Gander
A Night in the Royal Ontario Museum by Margaret Atwood
The Simple Truth -- Philip Levine

April Fools' Day: comments included an appreciation of pegging cultural foolishness,
where we roast in our own juices... ideas in mass culture spread like illness... and we discussed the subtle ways in which rumors start...
Without pegging the sickness, we understand, "To feast on the remainder of sensibility!"
is the celebration of fools who have already done much damage.

Pertillar uses end-rhyme in the opening stanza (for 1854) he then launches into an exclamation-pocked (5 !) series of irregular lines, that probably would deliver well at a slam reading.

Nabokov uses ear-rhyme, such as bare/there; rhyme/time;/unknown/stone; words/birds
and even double rhymes with think.../ aloud, and pink... cloud, in three stanzas to describe the poem by what it is not: sunset, mirror, lyrical click, cacodemons (bad daimons)and two stanzas to demonstrate the process of what it is: the thundering mystical poem.
The last stanza reminded Marcie of a Rousseau-like painting. Each stanza uses visual and aural imagery. A delightful sense of humor appears in the 13 syllabled, longest line "not the things you can say so much better in plain prose." What works in poetry we concur with Nabokov's demonstration -- is what pleases our ear, compresses the image, awakens the heart.

Forrest Gander's poem does that indeed: The form takes the shape of a mummie, where head, shoulders, torso, legs are swaddled... Forrest responded to my email asking him about the poem this way:
"The form-- with the close rhymes is also part of the elegy since I wrote
it for Robert Creeley. Yes, I want the indication that a person (who dies, for instance) might be said to "go dark" like a window goes dark. And then, what is there to
say? And then the ending has several ambiguities as you all have noted.
The dead leave us what we call them-- to wit, their names.
And also, they-- whatever we call them-- simply leave us."

We might complain that we can’t identify "meaning", but at the same time we don’t want to. The real poem is about discovery. Frost. This poem, with the lines coming back to center to land on 4 letter words, can be read in many different way -- so several people gave it a whirl: Here is one rendition:

Some (we say we know)
go (like a window)
Pathetic any remark
They leave us
what we
(we) call them.

He captures the relationship of "some" and "us" -- how we determine the other-- with a hint that the "us" has been touched, and has become as much "them" as "they" are. This is not called "The Poem" (to explain/demonstrate) or "A Poem" (to hint at a specific meaning),
but simply "Poem" reminiscent of the style of Robert Creeley.

It reminds me of the Cid Corman poem below:

It isn’t for want
of something to say
something to tell you
something you should know
but to detain you
keep you from going
as long as YOU are,
as long as you ARE.

here in the space of the poem, the words open up, invite
linguistic imagination... but the conditional hinge, "as long as" repeated twice with shifting emphasis on "you" and "being" emphasizes the poet will end... one-ness... I can only be here, if you are here.
subject-subject relationship.

To contrast, Margaret Atwood's "A Night in the Royal Ontario Museum" plunks the reader
into the after hours of a museum and all the history it contains only to invite the imagination to enter in. It was uncanny to have almost everyone feel they understood exactly this imagined situation, and the atmosphere of being trapped, lost... We all laughed at the appearance in capitals of the signs "NO EXIT" and "YOU ARE HERE". Sandra remarked the chronology of history, David, the dissolution back to our component elements... and we also discussed why this poem would be a favorite of my 86 year old poet friend who no longer gets out and about. Perhaps we too create those "idiot voices" that repeat canned information someone has contrived about what is seen, has been:
voice jogged by a pushed
button, repeats its memories
and I am dragged to the mind's
deadend, the roar of the bone-

We are lost, figuratively, inside "a man-made stone brain". Perhaps one can think of Yeats and sailing to Byzantium... where art is the keeper of culture, passed on to future generations.

The last poem, by Philip Levine, captures the irony of "truth" which can never be simple.
It takes a long "ramp" to the heart of the poem containing a compressed narrative:
"My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love."
The rest is about the fact of truth -- the important things do not need fancy elaboration,
we know them... After this 3 line sentence, the poem asks the reader to "taste" what he's saying -- although we don't know any more of the story. One would be hard-pressed to "explain metaphor" : a question: "is it onions or potatoes", "simple salt" "wealth of melting butter" -- our choice, unswallowed, like truth stuck in the back of the throat, silent, which no words can express.

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