Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Poems for March 10

Anecdote of the Jar -- Wallace Stevens
Wondrous by Sarah Freligh
Father's Old Blue Cardigan by Anne Carson
After Filing for Divorce by Chelsea Rathburn
When There Were Ghosts by Alberto RĂ­os

Last week, the Stevens poem came up in the context of Marianne Moore's poem, "The Grave", and a look at our human impulse to make order. Here, we are "jarred" so to speak, out of the tendency to understand the world as revolving around us, into a world revolving around the jar -- not on a shelf, or store, but in the "slovenly wilderness" of Tennessee. This round, gray, bare jar, treated with a double negative,
(It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee)
feels like an urn for cremated ashes, an artifact for the non-living. My question to the group was how many read the poem, and understood a series of words, but had a hard time getting the message. For many,
such a poem remains an abstraction with more puzzlement. The preponderance of "err" as sound contained in "round" perhaps is the sonic illustration of the metaphor of human order-making in the context of the chaos of the natural world. As always, helpful to have many minds at work bringing in different experiences.

The contrast with Freligh's poem “Wondrous” gave relief as we recalled what makes us cry. The thread to the memory of reading, especially E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, the parable of sacrifice and what death is all about. Wondrous indeed the ease with which Freligh “spins” the linings of meaning — elegy of mother, tribute to White, and to our humanity, the way someone will say "I'm OK", but you know from the rasp and catch of the voice it’s not quite… The crafting is brilliant: mimetic stanza breaks, "leaving the highway" to the spider leaving life; the repetitions; (repeat of wondrous to contrast with self-judging "ridiculous" when the author tries 17 times to record "she died alone") the "sad math" and exponential subtraction multiples, to underline how grief does not happen in one blow.

Carson poem takes a father's sweater worn by a daughter to arrive at the metaphor of aging akin to riding backwards in a train... but allowing the reader in to relate both to watching a man "go mad inside his (secret) laws." A long discussion about "moon bone", made me look it up, and find it is a cut of bone.
Don mentioned the diminishment paring down from the sky is almost peering, and Judith recalled the long death of her brother, who had wanted a steak, and someone asked him "where shall I get it", and the reply was a store in a place the brother had lived 50 years before. The long shadows, the journey, the obedient but confused child create an eerie tension, as the reader too, wears the cardigan of those we love, now gone, but still with us.

The Kooser pick for American Life in poetry, alerts us to the power of a sonnet, with a title that feels most "un-sonnet-like". Those who have experienced divorce could relate to the comparison with the clean-up the morning after a party, but the poem touched the experience of rupture as well -- the paperwork could also be related to work, leaving one set of circumstances and the "who one used to be". Lovely use of crossed rhyme, juxtaposition of strong adjectives like "accusing cup" the sun "assaulting" the window and "throbbing" head and regret with the "someone" who also trailed and ground in the party food.

The Rios poem reminded some of us of Urrea's book, "Into the North" and a discussion of "smoking", as well as a discussion of the lovely imagery of the projection of a movie, the "unrolling" of a story allowing us to identify with it. Would it be a poem to pull out to recite by heart? Perhaps not, but the image is apt and prods us to think back on our own childhood, how we project and perceive ourselves.

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