Thursday, February 20, 2014

Poems for February 13 + 17: scattered thoughts

The Fist -- Derek Walcott
Apricots by Jennifer Grotz
What’s in my Journal –by William Stafford
Now You See It Now You Don’t by Valerie Bandura
Whethering by A. E. Stallings
Uh Huh: Hi, Hula Tooth by K. Silem Mohammad*
Sleepers Awake by John Ashbery

Poetry: February issue opens with three previously unpublished poems by the late Larry Levis, who writes of the “small confetti on which our history is being written, / smaller & smaller, less clear every moment,” in “Twelve Thirty One Nineteen Ninety Nine.” History resurfaces in this month’s issue with A.E. Stallings’s “The Companions of Odysseus in Hades,” Julia Shipley’s “The Archaeologists,” *K. Silem Mohammad’s anagram versions of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Ocean Vuong’s “Aubade with Burning City,” on the evacuation of Vietnam.

Valentine's day is always a good time to look for poems that address love. Walcott gives us a physical grip on passionate and addictive love. Grotz presents the contrary of passion with choices... like a review of a line of suitors. From there, to choices of what we record, how a journal invites an ars poetica, as life story. More choices, in the "Now you See it" and Whethering -- which makes of the conditional hinge "whether" a noun or gerund...and just what do we expect from a sonnet broken into the level of the letter? The fun of the Ashbery, contrasting sleeping authors and commentaries on the works they wrote in the first stanza echoes in a series of proverbs and caveats.

February 17: O Pen
As above but not the Walcott or Grotz or Ashbery.
Added Shakespeare 135 to foil the K. Silem Mohammad
and in tribute to Maxine Kumin, "Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief."

This poem and the Stallings, are "perfect" poems -- images, metaphors, beautifully in place.

I find it fascinating to discuss the same poems in two different groups. Although in a smaller group, there is the advantage for each person to share perspectives, in the larger group, there is a bigger pool of experiences. I never know which poems will elicit associations or how people will bring their own tragedies and triumphs to the work. In "O Pen" in the "Now you See It" poem, the discussion included commentary and judgment on the father, whereas the Rundel group stayed with the narrative, the heartbreak of how to handle mental illness, and the layered meaning of the title. For the Stallings, Judith in "O Pen" saw clearly a scene of an abortion; the Rundel group picked up on the mirroring of the rain,
of a memory of loss.

For the Mohammad "sonogram" John suggested this supertitle: Eat every carat and pea on your plate

Sent to O Pen Monday, Feb. 17, 2014:

Below, a TED talk that brings a spirit of gratitude to all the potential given to us each day. I certainly am grateful for our discussions.

Thank you Bobby for bringing in your story of hosting Maxine Kumin. To follow up the first poem today, I add Maxine’s words from “The Emily Project”
"It occurred to me reading that poem that often we say the poet has one song and sings it over and over. Well, I think it's certainly true that poets build on their own obsessions, and as I was reading about that dream of the origins of the baby, I remembered this earlier poem. This is from Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief, which I wrote as a poem for my mother on her eighty-fourth birthday and it too . . . I like to call this my sex misinformation poem.” MK


I am born at home /the last of four children. /The doctor brings me as promised /in his snap-jawed black leather satchel.

He takes me out in sections/ fastens limbs to torso /torso to neck stem/ pries Mama's navel open /and inserts me, head first.

Chin back, I swim upward/ up the alimentary canal/ bypassing mouth and nose holes/ and knock at the top /of her head to be let out /wherefore her little bald spot.

Today my mother is eighty-two/ splendidly braceleted and wigged. /She had to go four times to the well /to get me.

If you continue to scroll forwards and back— you will see all 10 poems by her: Bobby mentioned her favorite was “The Envelope”, so the link will take you there.

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