Friday, April 5, 2013

poems for April 8

Prayer in My Boot by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Trees -- Philip Larkin
A Boundless Moment -- Robert Frost
three poems by Cavafy offered by Knopf:Aboard the Ship; Birth of a Poem
and Ithaka: Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

A week flies by and I think, yes, I could use a prayer to pull out of my boot,
and then laugh at such a self-serving thought and start to reflect on what prayer is.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the sort of poet who will help such a reflection. The juxtaposition of "prayer" and "boot" is not carried further than the title, but allows a generous scaffold for
many directions, including association with Crocodile Dundee pulling a knife out of his boot. The anaphor of the object of the prayer, starting with "for wind... including a world view and ending with the specific "for every hopeful morning/given and given"
contains an undercoat of praise, infused with meditative reflection on the entire
spectrum of human condition... A wonderful poem to read again and again.

Larkin's trees rustle with rhyme that is not dull or expected. The "something almost being said" is worthy of wonder, the questions, the way we attach our subjective understanding of
new leaves in spring, as if they SEEM to say, "begin again afresh." David reminded us of Frost "Nature's first green is bold... which ends with "nothing gold can stay."

The Frost example though, was a different type of tree experience with the paradoxical title: "A Boundless Moment" -- which defies any containment of time -- as if to prove Frost's dictum: "Poetry is one permissible way of saying one thing and meaning another." The fact of March and imagination of May hang in a twilight of timelessness.

We ended with three poems by Cavafy.
The first, "Aboard the Ship" conveys specific memory of a friend in a sideways fashion rather like Frost's boundless moment... He is still alive in the sketch but very gone. The repetition of "out of Time" refers both to the timelessness, accessible through the soul, and the actual physical "Out of Time. All these things, they're very old—/
the sketch, and the ship, and the afternoon."
I do not know enough about the original, but suspect this is a very fine translation.

The second, six-line "Birth of a Poem" provided lots of discussion! How simple -- (tongue in cheek!): imagination captures a slight thing, then renders it in sensual form: tactile, aural, visual, evoking fragrance, taste. Don recommended "Man and his Gods", by Smith with an intro by Einstein which talks about impulse towards religions, how Egyptians had many names for self: you, your shadow who goes on adventures at night; etc.

Ithaka invites the reader to come up with a "life philosophy" such as:
Unless we are primed for finding something inside... we won’t find it...
wealth is the experience you have...
the road should not deceive us...
We started with a prayer in the boot, and ended with metaphorical boots walking as if reciting a meditative prayer.

Kathy encouraged us to listen to Sean Connery reading it on this utube.

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