Friday, October 18, 2013

Poems for Lunch: October 17

Living Room by Marie Ponsot
Persimmons by Li-Young Lee
A Fantasy – Louise Glück
The Sound Of Trees – by Robert Frost

How do form and meaning work? We'll start with a "tritina" and end with a version of Robert Frost who experiments with rhyme but understands the importance of the "meter-marking argument" and function of rhyme. (The text used for discussion is that of the original versions of this poem
is as it appeared in the August, 1915, issue of The Atlantic Monthly. There are some differences between this text and the text of the poem as it appeared in later editions of Frost's poetry.)

We read through the Marie Ponsot poem in several ways -- stanza by stanza, as well as line by line to slow down the way the words combined and recombined. Highlights noted: the sound -- of K's, P's, M's, D's...
one conditional "if" among 3 stanzas of things at risk of breaking, aching, buckling --balanced by a positive final line using the end words, and a repeated hypenated word in each stanza. (paint-stuck; house-warm; storm-hit; wind-break) The title,then is understood not as a room in a house, perhaps with a family picture, but a "living" room, where life-space is alive... which is to say, colliding, joining, separating..."if we force it open the glass may break." How do we frame what is special to us? That is what we must put up as wind-break. Truly, a must-read.

We discovered much about persimmons, and memory in Li-Young Lee's poem, and a sense of "ripeness" which comes at a time we may or may not notice. This much longer poem winds mother, father, persimmons, into a satisfying metaphor of a fruit confused with the word "precision" and other words now forgotten. We noted the precise instructions of how to sniff, eat, chew. What gets you into trouble? fight, fright? And what comforts? birds, yarn. And did you know every persimmon has a sun inside, something golden, glowing? This is where the poem turns and loss includes blindness.
Louise said it reminded her of Wallace Stevens, "13 ways of looking at a blackbird".

Glück's "A Fantasy starts out with a vernacular "I'll tell you something:" Who would guess it would be followed by "every day/people are dying." And then, to add to the suspense: "And that's just the beginning". From there, the funeral home, the birth of widowhood, the sequence of how we cope with grief for which there really are no guidelines, only prescribed motions. The "suddenly" in the 3rd stanza underlines the arrival of people who will participate in mourning, in contrast to the sickroom, the months of isolation. The final stanza goes to the heart --
the desire to move backward -- not to perhaps the great intimacies of our back story -- but "just a little".
Powerful poem indeed.

We ended with Frost and the "sound of trees" -- what the wonder is.. the contrast of rooted trees and people who wish to "unroot"... what we say, but don't do, or what going is about... what is reckless, what needs saying, and how do the trees say it? There were as many responses to the poem as people in the room!

Another wonderful session!

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