Wednesday, December 11, 2013

poems for Dec 9

Poems for December 9
No Option by Byron Hoot
Applesauce by Ted Kooser (W.A. 12/3)
Days -- -- Billy Collins
Cave — by Mark Levine
The Dead – William Helen
Untitled by Ryan Van Winkle

I had a chuckle looking at the last names of the authors of the first and last poems-- but what is in a name is quickly dispelled by a title, or clever refusal of one. "No Option" starts with a limited choice of breads, which if used to teach ESOL might well be confusing. Why are choices limited to White or Wheat? The discussion brought up all the "might have beens" locked into childhood and how the poem elicits both things and people that may have been lost, as well as how our experiences are "ingrained".
Kooser's poem about apples also allows access to memory, and then develops both an inside/outside, kitchen apron with sailboats to sailing the world that brings a sense of "fractal" lines tracing a person in more than one scene. Perhaps my favorite part is the delightful anthropomorphism
"as if all
the apples were talking at once,
as if they'd come cold and sour from chores in the orchard,
and were trying to shoulder in close to the fire.

Mark Levine's "Cave" provided many levels, perhaps an association with Plato's cave, and how memory shadows what we want to remember and truth... Is the boy the younger version of the speaker of the poem, the "echo" the equivalent of walking into a telescope backwards, equally distorted?
The diction of the second stanza mimics a difficult passage, to some metaphorical woods
We wended through a half-formed unintelligible
brushy wood to a place I knew called "cave"

and the final sentence has an contorted syntax equally enigmatic:

I wanted one, back then, when I had something to offer,
when I wasn't in this place, where light passes through me,
when I wasn't like this,
which is what,
when I wanted one,
as he, poor boy, wanted me.

I wanted what? a boyhood? a chance at something missed by wanting to be so grown up.

If not a sense of failure, certainly a sense of great sadness, emptiness.
The Dead gave rise as well to much discussion: Indisputable details of the Holocaust followed by clouds, reassurance of memory -- THERE you are... but also perhaps a sense of desperation in the "HERE I am", unable to join those who have passed on. He sees them "for the rest of his life,
doing all they possibly could—
forming, obeying the wind."
The ending reminds us we do not have control.

Billy Collins gentle irony was a good antidote, and we ended with the "Untitled" which is a style the poet has adopted where the epigram will create a portrait -- and the words in the epigram will appear in the poem
-- calling it "untitled" leaves a sense of anonymity, and yet, there is a vastness in remembering living connection where time is not in short supply.

As ever, these short notes do not do justice to a rich discussion -- pondering the ways words can pull
associations and details of our lives, experiences, and shared with others.

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