Friday, December 6, 2013
poems for lunch -- Dec. 5
Folklore – Dean Young
Symposium – Paul Muldoon
Betty Friedan’s Final Advice – Stephen Dunn
Tanager – Billy Collins
Concerning Essential Existence by Mary Ruefle
Untitled (Marie Howe) by Ryan Van Winkle
Untitled (Abraham Lincoln) by Ryan Van Winkle (tbd Dec. 12)
What truth is handed down through tales, proverbs, or even cliches?
Dean Young makes a provocative collage of "almost" sayings -- that follow the rhythm
and syntax of something familiar, but yet provide an eerie sense of something not being
quite right. "Feeding stray shadows/ only attracts more shadows."
Starve a fever,/ shatter a glass house".
There is an affable tone in sentences like "People often mistake/thirst for hunger so first take a big glug"followed by an anti-war "almost slogan" and a personal comment "I don't want you to be wasted on me" with a totally out-of-context "even though/all summer the pool was, I didn't/get in it once.
And then the game is rolling with repeat of wasted... more proverbs, details of hospitals, TVs, Civil War, until "Your turning point/may be lying crying on the floor."
What is folklore, but shared lessons to help all humanity... but leaving us, after a wild romp, still with the problem of coping with whatever comes down the road.
The next poem, called Symposium, shares a similar technique of borrowing from proverbs. Why Symposium?
Yes, it basically was a Greek drinking party, and perhaps this could be a fun party game. Wiki describes it as a "key Hellenic social institution. It was a forum for men of good family to debate, plot, boast, or simply to revel with others. They were frequently held to celebrate the introduction of young men into aristocratic society. Symposia were also held by aristocrats to celebrate other special occasions, such as victories in athletic and poetic contests."
No only a title with a long history behind it, but the form is a rhymed sonnet. The last two sentences,
conclude like he who has "shot his bolt" ( to have already achieved all that you have the power, ability, or strength to do and to be unable to do more). Instead of "where there is smoke, there is fire"
"there's no smoke after the horse is gone." I love how clever Muldoon says so much nonsense which we can understand without needing paraphrase.
In reading Stephen Dunn's poem, I was glad to hear elucidation about both Betty Friedan, but also a reference
to how to deal with "unintelligible". Why three stanzas? Does "serious fun" deserve a breath after one stanza before plunging into "After the ceremony" -- have you forgotten dear reader, the slant reference to the ship's captain not to marry? But which ceremony, for whom, and why the advice in the next two stanzas.
The tone seems playful, a gentle irony which may or may not include the Shakespearian reference to "heaven" as "vagina". Jim was reminded of Joseph Campbell's "Skeleton Key to Finnegan's Wake" (known as the greatest book that nobody's read). Apparently Campbell's critique provided material for his later, Hero with 1,000 faces).
A different sort of irony is presented in Billy Collin's Tanager, balancing realities. He reminds us of how conditional perception really is.
Mary Ruefle uses parallel syntax to drive her point home -- perhaps her horse joining Muldoon's.
The Van Winkle poem merits more discussion -- but we enjoyed the wave form, the sense of tide coming in and out, sounds, rhythms, and sense of loss of language... "all I ever got from the sea" sounds like a metaphor... and the final newspaper "say" should wake up radar...