Monday, January 6, 2014

O Pen : Poems for Jan. 6

Full Moon by Elinor Wylie
What the Heart Cannot Forget by Joyce Sutphen (see also comments Dec. 16/2013)
First Snowfall in St. Paul by Katrina Vandenberg (see also comments Dec. 16/2013)
Selective Service by Carolyn Forché (see also comments Dec. 16/2013)
Ode to Repetition – by Ellen Bass (see also comments Dec. 16/2013)
Ode to my Suit -- by Pablo Neruda

What I love about our discussions is the way 19 people can gather and share a wealth of insight...
The formal rhyme scheme, with the last line of each stanza hammering 4 beats, the density created by the spondees create a foil to the ephemeral and hidden nature of the moon, perhaps as inner wolf call.
Judith and Donna both lent their knowledge of Elinor Wylie, whose rather tragic life echoes in the first poem -- and David summed up the uncanny sense of conflict between the outer "flesh" and inner "bones"
as "unfittingness" which Neruda's Ode counterbalances with the integration of man and suit.

Threads of political unrest in Neruda, summed up by Kathy as "unbearable lightness of being", do not incriminate as the anti-war, anti-warrior tone of Forché's poem, with its graphic details of dead bodies in trash bags. Unlike a man speaking to his suit, even a suited man being buried, her poem takes as point of departure the making of snow angels, ending with their imprint as corpses. A flight of innocence ending with what feels like the death of hope...
What do we make of "ritual" coupled with coffee and regret... the black and white collapse of hours? "In what time do we live that it is too late/ to have children. In what place/
that we consider the various ways to leave? The question shifts. "We'll tell you." -
You were at that time
learning fractions. We'll tell you
about fractions. Half of us are dead or quiet
or lost. Let them speak for themselves.
We lie down in the fields and leave behind
the corpses of angels."

Even if we were to lie down in fields like fallen soldiers, it is equivalent to tracing only their souls in the snow.

What does the heart remember? What can it not forget? These are two very different items.
Sutphen reconstructs a history of the earth in an animistic manner -- rock, cloud, turtle, how a tree bears witness and re-members in the next to last stanza, which like the opening one contains two sentences:
And the skin remembers its scars, and the bone aches
where it was broken. The feet remember the dance,
and the arms remember lifting up the child.

Judith came up with the concept of how the final stanza "positivizes" the "negativizing" of the title.

What do we praise? Would you think of praising "repetition"? Ellen Bass' poem balances
phrases containing details with a more lyric foil for the sea, or moonlight "rinsing parked cars".
Shifts in tone, point of view, that point to the richness of what we might think is "the same old".
What is familiar, and how anything can ever be the same becomes a celebration of how we allow ourselves to enjoy "repeats".
"One morning
one of us will rise bewildered
without the other and open the curtains"

reminds us of our mortality, and the same "...faultless stars
going out one by one into the day."

Back to my suit, for a little conversation about what is worn... what wears... how it is that words can trigger such a wealth of feelings and memories, allow us to look again at all that can be reflected in the mirrors of poems.

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