Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Poems for January 27

study 39 -- William Kistler
13 Ways of looking at a Blackbird -- Wallace Stevens
The Introduction – Billy Collins
Fictional Characters by Danusha Laméris

Truth, fact, fiction and how we perceive ourselves and others... sounds like a grandiose aim, and yet, these four poems guide us to think about the "how" we proceed to shoot arrows in this direction.

Paradox is useful, as in Kistler's study, filled with "thinking about people and things" about it,
which echoes in his mind as he contemplates each week's "mudslide of facts".
The opening line, "beginning where we had never fully been", gives as little clue to the "we" as to what sort of beginning is addressed. By the end of the poem, one could think it is about America, built on
the Declaration of Independence, penned by a man who sired children to his indentured slave, who would not benefit from such ideas. And is this not true of "actuality" where, with those led by noses into cellphones, are at risk to know what reality is.

I found this "study" which Kistler explains as "language in the service of insight" more intriguing both linguistically and intellectually than his catalogue of loss last week, in which the reader and study ended by "craters of sadness,/rubble covered by what the wind brings, / wounded eyes lost in the mind of loss. What bothers me though, is a sense of reading someone shut up in his "study", ruminating alone,
with no emotional lifeline for the reader to pull.

Stevens celebrated poem gave rise to a discussion of the many ways we understand even such a thing as a blackbird -- mythological connections; a sense of the sinister; a sense of the shadow following or completing us; How do we understand something? Observe? Looking is perception with the mind involved,
with both spiritual and physical eye. There is also whimsy of having "thin men of Haddam" (and imagining business men in suits in Connecticut" and the paradoxical bawds of euphony, which combines plebeian with elevated register. I see a wink in non-sequitur of assumption: "The river is moving./ The blackbird must be flying. Above all, what I love in this poem are the parts I've always cherished that stand out as if printing on yet another new fabric with each new reading.
Part VI: The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.

and again this shadow in Part VIII
I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

and my all-time favorite which addresses time and nuances of beauty sounded/implied:
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.

One thing is sure, there cannot be just ONE way of looking at a blackbird.

Carmin shared the Billy Collins poem with this comment:
"occasionally I come across a poem that requires me to look up many references and after the time spent I am left unsatisfied. For this type poem I delight in the following Billy Collins poem."

With his delightful drip of irony, Collins juxtaposes "let the poem speak for itself" with a conversational, "surely you know, but of course" and a plethora of obscure details, including highly diverse possibilities for "monad".

We ended the hour with a good discussion of how we as readers attribute consciousness to one another by taking what Dennett calls “the intentional stance”: I imagine that you are (as I am) able to decide and intend some meaning. I imagine that, in that way, you are like me. You, dear fictional character, like me, real life person inventing my life as I go along, sometimes want to exit the path someone is mysteriously creating for you.
We brought up examples of people who have multiple lives... or thoroughly double lives... how to allow yourself to live more fully than your parameters...on or off the page.

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