Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Poems for Nov. 4 -- O Pen

From the Poetry Foundation -- Poems for Halloween
"Thomas Moore, Edgar Allan Poe, and Christina Rossetti tell rhyming tales perfect for chilling spines around the campfire. Shakespeare’s singing charmers from Macbeth and Sexton’s “lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind” are some of poetry’s most infamous witches. We’ll never look at tree branches with an innocent eye again, thanks to Paul Laurence Dunbar and Louise Glück; Adelaide Crapsey and Mary Karr ensure the same for darkened windows. Michael Collier and Michael Waters mischievously depict the gender play and genial debauchery of costumes, while W.S. Di Piero and Carl Sandburg warn us that Halloween is a day when real danger might look fake, and vice versa. We get a peek into the demons and spirits of other cultures via Annie Finch and Rae Armantrout: whether you say ghost, genie, or djinn, the tingle in the spine is universal.
“Djinn” by Rae Armantrout
“All Souls” by Michael Collier:
“To the Dead in the Graveyard Underneath My Window” by Adelaide Crapsey:
“The Haunted Oak” by Paul Laurence Dunbar:
“Field of Skulls” by Mary Karr:
“A Ballad: The Lake of the Dismal Swamp” by Thomas Moore:
“To -- -- --. Ulalume: A Ballad” by Edgar Allan Poe:
“Goblin Market” by Christina Rossetti:
“Her Kind” by Anne Sexton:
“Song of the Witches” by William Shakespeare:

I picked three from here: What is real, and what spirits lurk in trees... followed by three poems

Theme in Yellow BY CARL SANDBURG

Ordinary Life by Barbara Crooker
Study by Alicia Hoffman
The Lost Garden by Dana Gioia


I love this group! I love that Judith, as the walking memory, will pull out the pronunciation of Samhain (don't pronounce the M) and Rich picks up her invitation to set All Hallows by GLÜCK to music, and the wonderful interactions as we all strive in our way to understand the threads pulled up by the poems.

Annie Finch seduces the reader with sound, stiching past/present, neolithic amber, ancestors and dual meanings (veil, leave). What hedge of memory do we peep through, peel away, preserve, we who "die ourselves". This poem is satisfying, and a perfect meditative trigger for All Soul's.

I didn't know that the superstition of looking at the moon through tree branches will bring trouble, but Gluck certainly brings a chill with her "toothed moon" (optimists see a smile, pessimists see a threat)
like the choice of seeing "...barrenness/
of harvest or pestilence." "Come here little one... and the soul creeps out of the tree" transcends the sense of eerie vacancy, perhaps like Demeter longing for the return of Spring and her daughter. I loved the story of believing that Jesus lived in the knothole of a family's magnolia tree! But is such childlike thinking not the realm of poetry -- where truth relies on an army of lies ?(to quote Winston Churchill).

The delight of anthropomorphizing a pumpkin who speaks in the first person in Sandburg's poem reminded some of his children's stories (Rutabaga Tales) set in the land of Liver and Onions.

I had read the Barbara Crooker poem "All Saints" in the beginning -- and we enjoyed yet another way of looking at "ordinary" -- where the usual accidents didn't seem to happen. The sounds (alliterative B, L, P, SK's) the rounding of edges from "squares of light" to "circles of sunlight", the chuckle elicited by the line "I peel carrots and potatoes without paring my thumb" the magic of the baby's roadways made in the "sofa's ridges and hills" paint a magic that we often forget to tap into.
The final 10-line, comma-stuffed sentence, speaks of the meal consumed only to illustrate the pause of a different kind of light:

The chicken's diminished to skin & skeleton,
the moon to a comma, a sliver of white,
but this has been a day of grace
in the dead of winter,
the hard knuckle of the year,
a day that unwrapped itself
like an unexpected gift,
and the stars turn on,
order themselves
into the winter night.

We are not the ones in charge of the stars turning on. But are left with an example of how to unwrap a day like a gift.

Alicia Hoffman's opening poem from her new book, "Starlight in the Peat Moss" works on the same theme. She picks an artist’s word, Study, and like Michelangelo, carving away stone to find what is revealed, calls on Light to help us see beyond the ordinary.
X-ray leads to the reassurance that “It’s not a far stretch, this dark/room of ourselves.”
But Study might also be the location, or the continuing verb of what we do to render
into art and word what is so close to us, and yet not known.

Finally, the Dana Gioia poem, the Lost Garden, gave rise to a long discussion about desire --
how he treats the "subtraction of desire..." as a quality. What is loss? Why is "cool" for something normally hot, something positive?
We brought up stages of grieving and how it is a blessing to be reminded of the
image of who we are inside oneself... "Oh I still have that inside me."
We don’t wish for what is not... the game of "if only" or "I wish, which impoverishes the present.
We better understand the "I want" of the way we were, still can glimpse the possible "perfect Eden"--
Luscious language, beguiling with an old-fashioned flavor, yet avoiding cliche.

All these poems ask to be read again, pondered again.

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