Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Poems for September 30

Wedding Cake by Naomi Shihab Nye
Sea Surface Full Of Clouds by Wallace Stevens
2 stanzas of "Man with the Blue Guitar" -- Wallace Stevens
In Love with You by Kenneth Koch

“Almost anything great that has survived the test of time has a riddle in it, a long arc between comprehension and understanding.” from interview with Ange Mlinko

The first poem has plenty to puzzle about -- from the surprise of a mother giving a stranger her baby so she can spend an hour washing her hair and changing her clothes, to the question of whose "mother" is claimed by "my" and onward to the end line knowledge a baby knows: a small finger, funnier than the whole arm. What is layered in poem and metaphor of dress, ritual, etc. brings the reader back to a universal recognition of an alphabet coiled in baby curls, the cooing, mewling of "new, new, new" and so much to "chew", an ache associated with a nub of a dream, the proprietorship to protect innocence, the power of detail. Delightful, and yet, not transparent -- meanings layered in title, dress, dreams, not yet lived experiences to come.

By contrast, the 1923 poem by Wallace Stevens creates a symphonic painting, like a theme and variation.
John pointed out the 6/8 time of a barcarolle; we had fun with textures of umbrellas, chocolate, patterns, colors, sounds until Martin pointed out the disquieting feel of juxtapositions and negative vocabulary. Judith thought more of Raoul Dufy and his spring-like colors, as opposed to the hectic and confusing chaos of Art responding the World War I. Is it just an experiment? Is the music like the Elizabethan court musicians, who were in fact spying on the nobles for whom they performed.. Why the interpretation of the sea in French? If it is a virtuoso exercise,
it is more imaginative than contemporary ballet demonstrating correct movement. The sea IS imagination...
Judith pointed out "pistache" -- French, which could easily be mistaken for "pastiche"...
Richard explained from his sailing experience about jelly fish on the deck ("breakfast jelly yellow streaked the deck") and other images... and my guess is that we could have puzzled for quite some time about the nature of change, clouds, sea, surface and what muddles what.

The two stanzas of "Man with the Blue Guitar" allowed us to continue a discussion of the imagination.
John mentioned Baudelaire and "le Mauvais Vitrier" -- persecuted by a malevolent man for not having rose-colored glass... things seen are as seen -- but the function of seeing is an act by each individual... how do our attitudes affect our vision?
Judith mentioned a purple trombone in the store next to the Little Theatre... which seemed a suitable seque for the final poem by Kenneth Koch. Part insouciant O'Hara, part "stop the world I want to get off"... part love poem to the world and wonderful images that make a reader feel alive:
O what a physical effect it has on me
To dive forever into the light blue sea
Of your acquaintance!

It's the kind of poem one wants to read over -- in different ways, allowing each line, linebreak to sink in:

It is beautiful, when October
Is over, and February is over,
To sit in the starch of my shirt, and to dream of your sweet
Ways! As if the world were a taxi, you enter it, then
Reply (to no one), "Let's go five or six blocks."

The questions are more like prompts to participate than phrases requiring answer:
Isn't the blue stream that runs past you a translation from the Russian?
Aren't my eyes bigger than love?
Isn't this history, and aren't we a couple of ruins?

and on it goes -- as if on skates sweeping us along -- to the end which is the opposite of pinned-down, predictable, explainable -- and the exclamation point allows room for mutated, sad... breezed, revivified
"unabdicated" -- which somehow implies a choice to abdicate which falls in our own court.
Water! your tear-colored nail polish
Kisses me! and the lumberyard seems new
As a calm
On the sea, where, like pigeons,
I feel so mutated, sad, so breezed, so revivified, and still so unabdicated—
Not like an edge of land coming over the sea!

No comments: