Friday, August 2, 2013

poems for August 5

Poems for August 5
What provokes memories? What language provokes us? What part of an audience do we identify with?

The Pasture by Robert Frost
Taking Out the Trash by George Bilgere
That's Incredible! by Michael Robbins
Under the Window by Elizabeth Bishop
After Apple Picking by Robert Frost

Although the discussion didn't delve into these questions, we thoroughly enjoyed quite different "voice" of each of these poems -- the New England overtones in "Sha'n't" and "may I", in The Pasture, the growing boy's voice in "Taking Out the Trash", tones in an anniversary poem for 9/11 which disguise what it is until the last stanza, the rich layers Bishop provides us from the name of the Brazilian City to reference to Shakespeare's 7 stages of men
finishing with the memorable "After Apple Picking" which marks transitions from summer to fall to winter; wake/sleep, past/present
Invitation to two different audiences. The first emphasizes cleaning, clarifying; the second nurturing. the first studied, the second sentimental.

On Apple Picking : one of the poems that "will be hard to get rid of". We all noted the poem's "feast of the senses" -- only one is missing — taste.

Back to The Pasture -- 8 lines, each stanza ending with the same line, with a gentle sense of invitation,
without any misgivings about what it would be like to accompany Frost in his work.
Tim Kendall mentions that "Not only are the two stanzas linked by the soothing vowel music of the repeated 4th line... but also by attachment to ancient pastoral tradition signaled even by the title.
Spring: connection w/ Muses – so, poetry steeped in classical education.
calf: Virgil: Eclogues... otherwise known as Bucolics – care of cattle.

The Georges Bilgere poem is filled with delight -- remembrance of a father is only part of it -- we all
laughed in the first stanza where taking out the trash "is not something I'm ever going to do" -- and of course, the poems starts and ends there and gets you thinking about what gets thrown out, along with losses...
Even the word "model son" has a sense of the way parents shape their meet the grown up world of shaving, smoke, bad news. The juxtapositions of hat/rake and tilt/father; smoke/bad news provide a pleasing simultaneity like a cubist painting. Do we need to be told "these are the losses I'm mourning/this morning"
or is this last stanza necessary to get us to think about loss?

"That's incredible" is another clever poem that masks it's intention with cliche and vernacular. By the time we arrive at the bomb in the final stanza, the overlay of weapon-filled/military vocabulary becomes clear.
Don't be duped. this is a poem written for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 hole. What are our "holes" -- what do we hold, pour out-- and do we know our "ass from our elbow" ? The mention of "gloaming made us think of these lyrics:
In the gloaming, oh my darling
When the lights are soft and low
And the quiet shadows, falling
Softly come and softly go
When the trees are sobbing faintly
With a gentle unknown woe
Will you think of me and love me
As you did once, long ago?

The Elizzbeth Bishop, Under the Window poem gave rise to a long discussion about Ouro Preto the mining town in Brazil, which means Black Gold and in the 17th century was called Villa Rica because of the Gold rush. We talked of all the details -- how ecologically this could be a contemporary poem speaking of water, of people on the street, still quoting Shakespeare's 7 ages of men...
The opening line allows the reader in: The conversations are simple -- but the poem illustrates that nothing is simple... Among the details, humor in the observations: for instance:
Here comes some laundry tied up in a sheet,
all on its own, three feet above the ground.
Oh, no--a small black boy is underneath.

The bumper sticker on the truck ("with the syphilitic nose) which has an echo of Isaiah "Here I am" quickly turned to FOR WHOM YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING.
By the end, small snatches of disparate conversations return as examples of the "seven ages of man":talkative, soiled and thirsty. Oil in the water... which once all the animals and people drank, saying this is good.
The last stanza where the reflections in the ditch of standing water, "like bits of mirror--no, more blue than that:/like tatters of the Morpho butterfly." leaves one with a sense of irreparable destruction.

We carried the blue into the Frost's ladder in the apple tree pointing to heaven... but which ends with the question of having made a wrong choice, the "overtired…" indicative of perhaps not being careful in what "wished for".

Kendall refers to the form as "free from blank verse; and ambition to record rhythms of natural speech put aside."
To quote Reuben Brower: "the poem comes to the reader through sentences filled with incantatory repetitions and rhymes and in waves of sound linked by likeness of pattern" -- never predictable.
A poem addressing transitions, summer to fall, fall to winter; past to present; waking to sleep. and sleep mentioned 7 times... woodchuck – hibernation...a time to mull over, reflect on one's actions.

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