Tuesday, January 28, 2014

poems for January 23

Poems for January 23

p. 42 The al-Mutanabbi Street Bombing by Brian Turner
p. 137 Untitled –Ibn al-Utri
Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes
Market Forces Runon by Tony Kranz
p. 248 Verses for Everyday Use -- Fadhil al-Azzawi

Page numbers refer to Al-Mutanabbi St. Starts Here, edited by Beau Beausoleil.
Last week, we left off with “After Rumi” by by Janet Sternburg (p. 67, Al-Mutanabbi St. Starts Here). Now, 4 more poems from this anthology including an elegy for someone who perished in the bombing, and a 9th century lament. It seemed fitting for Martin Luther King day, to include Langston Hughes' 1935 poem. What makes poetry timeless? Satisfying? What poems draw us in, demanding something in us change?

In the Turner poem, we picked up on the "poetic devises" which unfold the story line. Perhaps the most striking was the repetition of the word "broken" first for sounds, then for the neck of the water pipe, bouncing like a goose with a wrung neck-- as a man runs past "broken sounds of the wounded". Broken also is the tradition of sitting at a cafe in discussion, smoking. In the stanza that brings us to couples in California, the"k" of "wake at the break of dawn" echoes along with the light dusting of ash of the poems
booth old and contemporary, as time goes on. In spite of the destruction, most felt a sense of hope, as though the wisdom of the words, the act of the lovers can transmute acts of violence.

In the 9th century Ibn al-Utri poem, the subtle reference to internal division and strife is layered in the Mongol invasion. Victims of those who want power comes in different forms.

We read the Langston Hughes stanza by stanza, with everyone joining the chorus "America never was America to me", and individuals reading each phrase starting with "I". Hughes hooks all the individual I's, in,
after the italicized "who are you" - draws us in to think about what we veil and mumble as the poem rumbles to declare "O let America be America again" -- where each "ME" becomes part of the "We" that will make "America again"!

Such an orderly syntax is in direct contrast with the run-on phrase that elaborates what falls from the sky, and what triggered the explosion that has blown books and bones to bits (all those B's collect into the rubble). The poem demonstrates its meaning by the form where what falls in fragments...results from Market Forces.. while in our name, America's flag waves.

We will start next week with the Verses for Everyday Use. I pointed out how, out of 4 pages of verses, I have only chosen a scattering, and reiterated how we don't know contexts, nor the accuracy of translation. Words can be translated one by one, the the worlds in which they live cannot.

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