Tuesday, May 13, 2014

O Pen -- May 12

Hard Life with Memory Wisława Szymborska
Mirror by Sylvia Plath
Benton’s Persephone by Robert Wrigley
Star in the Throat, Fire in the Cupboard by Catie Rosemurgy
Rain Song by Khaled Mattawa
Mother Goose Self-Help by K. A. Hays (see May 1)

Sometimes a poem is so good, just the conceit is enough to carry it, as in Szymborska's "Hard Life" where Memory is personified as "she". I'm not sure if in Polish there is the same gender-rich duality of French with "le memoire" being a written account and "la memoire" being the physical working of memory. One person did speculate about how the poem would change if Szymborska had made Memory "he".
With her inimitable wit, we are taken for a romp through human behavior with someone we care about-- how they can demand all our attention, remind us of details we'd prefer to ignore, and how we build our defenses, sticking to a story or version of ourselves we'd like to think as true. It's interesting how empathy works into the final stanza, where after revenge, memory comforts, and we are reminded, when memory goes, so do we.

Plath's mirror gives another reflection on how we deal with ourselves. What happens when the poet is speaking as mirror? The first five lines proclaim truthfulness.
unmisted -- and homonymic "unmissed" comes to mind. What is missing in this truthfulness? And then arrives the meditation, looking at a wall. How many ways can we understand "opposite wall"?

I think of Apollinaire's calligramme which makes a mirror frame about him -- “In this mirror I am enclosed alive and true like one imagines angels and not like the reflections (in this mirror…

The second stanza reflects the first, another "she". The diction churns: "Searching my reaches for what she really is". Ambiguity augments.
"Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon." -- perhaps romantic associations, but candles and moon are liars because they do not reveal the whole truth -- and the moon only shows one side, and even then, only parts of it as the sun changes what reflects.

How do you understand:
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
(The back of "she"? the back of the person looking in the mirror? seeing as in guiding her back?)

And how do you respond to the "reward" for this ?
"She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands."

Keep reading... and the complexity increases, as if to bring the water of the lake to drown the young girl, to keep alive that terrible fish of the old woman.

Wrigley's poem without looking at Benton's painting still can evoke a lush, sensual imagery that retells a contemporary version of Persephone -- but fixed, as if in paint, where the "curse of desire" is never satiated. Brilliant examples of rich diction, craft of this myth and painting that explore desire.
Setting: first two words. Autumn, Harvest
Sounds: “sh” in sheaves; last stanza: the air would cleave;
Personnification: Knees of oak; gnarly, knobby, quivering;
Passive woman: double negative; “made for his mouth”
Enjambments: heighten tension and yearning.
Rhetoric: balances familiar and formal speech
Juxtaposition of Beauty/Sin: mismatched donkey and horse in the painting;
verb tenses: present/subjunctive/conditional; possibilities that are not actualized
Bank: as bank of River Styx and storage place (bank) of desire.

There's much more -- so do explore!

Star in the Throat: like an ekphrastic poem with its painting-- does an explanation
of a poem help us understand it better? Here, we remained confused.
The diction is rich as are the images but one senses a layering that resembles this line which opens the final stanza.

"I believe the stories got wet and began to bleed together."
The final line lingers deep to resonate --

I’d like the water to douse the match that’s growing out of the bones
of my hand.

What is it the light shows? burns?
I return to the other haunting line at the beginning:

My mother, bless her, is a speck of color in the flush of a great cheek.
I’ve come to ask you to consider praying for that giant child.

Rain Song -- a different way to deal with "losing it" --
note the epigram "After Al Sayyah" -- after the storm.
Just as shorelines change, so do we, as we live our lives.
Rain song, "dialogue of souls", and the radio coming back to pay devotion to "the lifter of harm from those who despair"

The poem starts with the radio blaring and a woman -- but we don't know time or place, and only know she hates clouds. To leap from her question, "where is the sea now" to "Where is it from here, to
What is its name, intensifies the ambiguity as a 7 yr old boy is introduced. It -- as the sea? as the radio? the song? the name of what?

I'd like to read all the poems in the volume, "Zodiac of Echoes" -- the role of chance -- and what "the throb of stars in reachable depths" can mean, other than (perhaps) a reflection of stars in the water.
"Grief bordering happiness" -- could be what the 7 year old iteration, of the writer of the poem, or his more recent self -- but what stays is a melding of storms,
physical, emotional, and symbolic, -- and this sense of amazement that approaches the majestic and sacred of "lifter of harm" which pulls us up.

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