Friday, December 20, 2013

o pen : December 16

Last year, in December, I had shared Jane Hirschfield’s "A Hand Is Shaped For What It Holds or Makes” which ends with these lines:
"A life is shaped by what it holds or makes.
I make these words for what they can't replace.”
As this will be the last session of “O Pen” for 2013, I thank you all, grateful for your revelations and responses to “hold” after sharing.
As the Dalai Lama said of Nelson Mandela this week, “The best tribute we can pay to him is to do whatever we can to contribute to honoring the oneness of humanity and working for peace and reconciliation as he did.” Sharing poetry is one place to start.


Dream by Eileen Myles
The Cloud – Percy Bysshe Shelley
(Published with "Prometheus Unbound", 1820.]
Mentioned in The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng)
Christmas Trees by Robert Frost
Taking Down the Christmas Tree by Jane Kenyon

So what do you think of when you hear the word "dream"? Sentimental "follow your dreams", sweet dreams,
midsummer night's dreams and folly, deep and troubling sleep, Martin Luther King-like dreams?

The physical nature of dreams is chaotic, with thoughts creating scenes that jump, are interrupted... whereas the idealization of dreams seeks a unified fulfillment... What works for me in Eileen Myles, is the repeated words, that create "recognition links" -- so "small signs" travel through a stanza break to:
I saw a brown
sign with wisdom
on it
I saw a brown
one leaning
with wisdom
on it

one leaning

and then, leaping through yet another stanza break
to a fringe of a mirror/leaning
first, over a pond,
then leaning against...
the moulding
cardboard or

wood which materials do you
does your wisdom prefer

which a- BREAK*

At this point, some emotional truth seems to emerge -- something universal enough for a reader to care.
I felt brave to
have touched
her love the screen

never mind the door, dogs and cats coming in and out,
now the sign is TWO signs and there is fear
and three forms of fading... and another emotional truth:
"because I do not want
you to have died in vain"

The question arose why people struggled so with this poem, but have enjoyed other "dream" poems.
Certainly people had a lot to say about it!

Reading the Shelley, but with the context of a prisoner in a Japanese war camp in Malaysia hanging on to it, heightened the appreciation of "Cloud" and poetry. The internal rhymes, slant rhymes, alliterations give something solid to recognize in spite of shifting shapes "between earth and heaven".
The last stanza, particularly the last lines, make the reader feel the power of the cloud-- the true possibility, one might say faith, of hope

"Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again."

The Robert Frost Christmas letter provided us a wonderful stage of a New England farm where a crusty farmer considers the offer of a slick city man regarding trees suitable for Christmas. The art of common speech,
blended with beautiful images, personifications, allow both a meditation on human nature, but also the relationship of humans to trees. There is plenty of craft to admire in such a long narrative poem,
but more evident in Jane Kenyon's "Taking Down the Christmas Tree. "Olfactory" light, and the very tactile sound of "tick, tick, the desiccated needles drop".
There is a wrenching sadness, with the moon shining with only "half a heart"... a destruction (pulling limbs)
which makes the ten year old feel "depraved". Comments included how we murder the trees to help us be merry.
The idea of the "kosher kill" where we give thanks to those we kill.
It is easy to read dessicrated...vs. desiccated...

The tone is not uniform, but ends with a surprising
"If it's darkness
we're having, let it be extravagant."
Perhaps the dark foreshadows Kenyon's Leukemia...
but even then, I find hopeful to linger on the final word, "extravagant"--
a full acceptance of the moment, of taking down, rather like "full catastrophe living".

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