Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Poems for January 20

Oasis in a Moment by Sohrab Sepehri
excerpt from "The Oasis of Now"
Bird at the Window by Sophie Cabot Black
Grand Central by Billy Collins
Hello Central by Ron Padgett
study eighteen – William Kistler
study thirty-nine –by William Kistler
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens

We did not have time to discuss 13 ways of looking at a Blackbird, but our discussion last week reminded me of the importance of choosing different lenses, and going beyond a singular monocle. Martin's comment about so many people reading poetry, then writing more poems, allowing a bubbling up --of... and here I need to lamely fill in my words: different ways to think about life and our place in it.

Where do you go with the word "Oasis" and then again, what can we know of poems in translation where rhythms and sounds are traded for one translator's lens... And what does it mean to call something "central" or "Grand Central"? And what does "study" mean? Part of a series to represent many multiple moments? I respect poets who use language in the service of insight!
The marvelous discussion about translation, prose vs. poetry on Monday could very well continue ad infinitum. For those who were not present, we never did arrive at the last two poems.

You might like to read the “blog" in the New York Review of Books by Charles Simic, which feels like a “poem in snatches of prose”.

(see attachment: Short Days and Long Nights)
What rhythms, metaphors, poetic devices make it seem “poem-like”? Is this any different from a passage from a Novel?

John kindly provided two excerpts from Dickens which I also attach. (see attachment: two prose passages)
I propose that for those interested, enjoy further explorations — but we’ll return to our usual group discussion of specific poems.

The Bird at the Window was perhaps the most enigmatic of the poems discussed. The ingredients: couplets, with formal caps at the beginning of each line, but no period, words which stretched both towards those preceding them and those following, as if to borrow context for both. I picked the poem (Source: Poetry-- June 2008); from an article by Billy Collins in which he refers to
her volume The Exchange. “Her poems are difficult without being too difficult. They make you do some work, and of course the work of poetry is not work if it is good. It’s pleasure. You do have to pay attention, and if you do, you get rewarded. There’s a lot of different poetry out there that doesn’t reward attention because it is impenetrable.

The juxtaposition of bird and woman, what lies inside and outside, what each could do, and how others would perceive it, has a bit of Steven's "13 ways of looking at a blackbird" but this is not a poem about perception as much as balancing desire and craving of the inside self with the outside self. There is no conclusion, but rather a brush of "almost" understanding which could prompt the reader to meditate on possible worlds of meanings.

What a relief then to read Collins' poem, which travels along the billboards of the NY subway system. As David put it, he "skewers our self-absorption in 8 orderly lines." And in 8 lines, enthusiastic contributions about time as measured by clocks, space traveled in trains, and astral possibilities in which we seek order in the chaos of the stars. The slant references to the Bible, Lucretius increase the pleasure.

The Padgett story of Central provided chuckles of recognition and an urge to share similar stories of lopsided layouts of towns, and how not only a building, but meaning is endangered as time goes on.
Although we discussed what makes a prose poem, a poem, the role of sound, metaphor, rhythm, in the end,
does it matter? Padgett ends with a line which combines emotion with architecture, involving everyone who reads it to feel the universal desire to be the narrator, also saying:
"... I answer "Here" in a voice
that makes me feel useful, like a brick."

In Study 18, this novel form of "poem" which is more meditation falling neither as potential poem nor prose uses rich diction, an ambiguous "look" which stands out to observe what the speaker presents as a heavy rubble punctuated by the funeral knelling of the word "gone".

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