Wednesday, November 20, 2013

O Pen -- poems for Nov. 11 (Armistice Day)

Droplets by C.K. Williams
The Letter by Dana Gioia
Seeing for a Moment by Denise Levertov
Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
Radishes in War Time by Stan Sanvel Rubin
Apples in War Time by Stan Sanvel Rubin
Noise by Alicia Hoffman

11/11 when day and month match, and eleven marches like two soldiers lined up to remember
those who died in battle -- and might-have-beens layer, pocked with pauses remind us that no matter what experience, the well-crafted poem "unfastens the psyche's fortifications" to quote Jane Hirschfield somewhat out of context. If we steel ourselves against pain, we lose sight of the constant shifting involved with living that has nothing to do with "finding solutions once and for all".

The first poem by C.K. Williams threads one sentence into four stanzas filled with commas, hesitancies,
on a rainy day in fall. The sounds, particularly the "f"s have a tremulous quality played against
the relatively hard "d"s (din and downpour) "g"s (gush, gutters)and final nasal of the first and last words (Even / again), rain, not, note, nocturne, own. Interior "n"s, (planted, piano, constant, inside, mingling, intensity, wondering, longing, anymore, never, instant repeating "ings" push the "faltering, fading" into its own radiant passing. The intimacy of an "I and you" allows the reader insight into the thought of endings, in seasons, in storms, in living, juxtaposed by the practice of notes.

Whether stillness is the white space, the curved breath of a comma, the way consonants embrace vowels,
each of the poems present a texture of "moments" that allows objects of the world to change.

Hirschfield remarks “A good poem turns fresh ground inside us, to meet fresh need. Gioia addresses the universal nature of expectation, which drives our desire, attitudes. Where is that letter that contained "life instructions"? Surely it went astray... and we laugh at the irony. Martin pointed out how expectations have changed looking at pre and post world war II; Judith quoted from As You Like It,
and it seemed the poem succeeded in "ploughing" us to identify new ways of recognizing need.

The Levertov poem: One comment was that it had to be written in first person, as it was addressing something quite impenetrable. "It" is repeated 4 times: It was... three times. It was a cocoon; it was deep water; it IS first things -- foiled against the word, eschatology, learned as a child:
( "The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell’.) Kathy thought of Merwin's poem, "The Old Ones" -- they have come the whole way.
Dogs as Cerberus or plural watch dogs roused from sleep... Levertov takes "Seeing" as understanding in glimmers of things -- something that happens "for a moment" if we are there to perceive it.

The "war poems" roused much discussion -- Abraham/Isaac, and what didn't need to be; the short history of human kind and how Neanderthals acted (only able to cooperate in small groups) vs. Homo Sapiens ; the lie next to the cud... corrosion of tissues... analogous to corrosion of truth.
corruption... collusion of profits...

The two Rubin poems at first blush seemed "slight" -- which the discussion seemed to discount. Wartime brings us to a certain way of thinking... so a "distant" war as metaphor is less powerful than the images Owens provides us. Comments: heart of the radish lies on the red surface, bleeding...
apple ... no one tending the orchard. // Apple as reminder of back home. Forbidden fruit... Greek legend.

We concluded with Hoffman's poem, the final one in her book, "Like Stardust in the Peat Moss".
What is noisome... and what is it we say we do, tell about, as opposed to the silent unfurling being of a fern.

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