Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Poems for October 14

Love Is More Thicker Than Forget by E.E. Cummings
opening poem: set to music: Uta Fricke Quartett - Love Is More Thicker Than Forget
The Hunchback in the Park by Dylan Thomas
And You, Andrew Marvell, Archibald MacLeish
Andrew Marvell (31 March 1621 – 16 August 1678)
The Definition of Love by Andrew Marvell
May my heart always be open (on poets walk) by E.E. Cummings

I was reading James Dickey's notes on lectures and agree that the Thomas and MacLeish poems he mentioned are well worth the read…
I am curious to know if you think the music enhances the first e e cummings … and for those who have not yet discovered "Poets Walk" on University by the Memorial Art Gallery, the final Cummings poem is carved in granite on the corner of University and Prince.

Monday was the 14th and ee cummings birthday (b. 1894!) -- so of course there were several "poems of the day" as tribute -- one of which was "i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart) and on Writer's almanac "5" which is a visual delight.
The two Cummings poems for today's discussion look "traditional" in regular-looking stanzas and yet both play with syntax to tickle our imagination to think deeper. We know one doesn't say "more thicker" or more seldom,
and what could "less it shall unbe" be? Everyone's mind was set a-whirring, including an association with Corinthians (Cummings father was a minister, so a biblical reference is highly possible -- as in the prayer-like "may my heart always be open). The opposition between "mad and moonly" and "sane and sunly", the sea and the sky leaves a sense of love both as being sandwiched between, and yet, less always and less never, the least and littlest, thick and thin, where "unbeing" and forgiveness and eternal roll all about. One person quoted Sandburg: "I understood it until you explained it to me."
Indeed. For the second Cummings, "may my heart always be open" we have a return to "little" -- poised just like a bird to which the enjambment falls in the first line. The second stanza 3rd line "may i be wrong"
had varying responses: inverted syntax (parenthetical, I may be wrong) as well as a request not to be cast into
an old-man's inflexible thinking proclaiming "rightness". The final stanza has a feel of of "may" as a conditional "should" or "if" to join the "could fail" -- this impossible yet delightful metaphor of pulling "all the sky over him with one smile" with a sense of contradiction -- only a fool could do this, only a fool could fail to do this.
The playfulness invites us to stay with the poem, entertain possibilities -- encourages us to go beyond irritation or annoyance that meaning is not a straight forward shot.
The way in which he takes givens and plays with syntax, underlines the importance of "play", which has a simultaneous layer that is often quite serious.

We both read and listened to the Dylan Thomas and spoke of the problems both of how we "hear" and how a poem is read. A poem is meant to be "heard" -- but sometimes the poet is not able to read aloud to do service to the poem his imagination provided in his head. Sometimes also, as readers,we try to find signs in the poem to guide us, as we receive the words through our own filters. For me it was the "k" in the first stanza — it's a hard consonant— no tongue involved with forming it, and the air has to be forced out, not in the gluggy-"g" way but crackled and spat. The final stanza repeats the words: park, dark, but the bell is now a kennel, the lock perhaps now, a lake. The conversational "Mister, hey mister" the childhood ownership of "sailed my ship" runs parallel to this "old man sleeper". Why only two periods? Who is the woman
that might "stand in the night after the locks and chains // all night in the unmade park"? Whatever is happening, "the wild boys, innocent as strawberries" also do not know, wrapped as they are in their own imaginations, inviting us also to remember such times.

I love the idea of the "And" anaphor in MacLeish's poem as biblical and as the slant reference to Corinthians in Cummings "love is…" and "may…" As I noted, James Dickey called the MacLeish poem "one of the most beautiful poems that the English tongue has ever conceived of." Some felt the floating appreciation of the earth, even without the modern idea of being able to look down at it from an airplane. We did touch down on the 17th century's fascination with planispheres... and this idea of the shadow of the earth as it revolves, crossing all the various countries -- felt also like crossing over time. For some, the shadow of the night coming on was part of a song of joy... for some, a more sombre music. We all wondered what MacLeish was thinking of to title the poem as he did. Perhaps he was thinking of "To His Coy Mistress" -- but in Marvell's 8 stanza "Definition of Love", we have metaphysical "poles", ("though love's whole world on us doth wheel")-- cramp'd into a planisphere. It was helpful to discuss the times, the revolutionary times, uprisings, court intrigues, dictates of fate.
I'm reminded of the Mobile in front of the MAG -- where two arms sweep where the wind nudges them -- but never will meet.

How great to have a group discuss four poems, all embracing "love" in some way -- including quoting the lyrics,
"if loving you is wrong, then I don't want to be right."

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