Friday, May 2, 2014

Poems for April 21

April is the Cruelest month? (see TS Eliot: The Wasteland)
Ted Kooser says no! His pick shows what April can be like with the Eliot swept aside.
This Morning I Could Do A Thousand Things by Robert Hedin

Flirtation by Rita Dove
Daytime Begins with a Line by Anna Akhmatova by Yusef Komunyakaa
Losing It by Margaret Gibson (with reference to Bishop, "One Art"

Until 1751 in England and Wales (and all British dominions) the new year started on 25 March – Lady Day, one of the four quarter days (the change to 1 January took place in 1600 in Scotland) and see news clippings about celebrations of New Years in April in SE Asia. This weeks poems have to do with Beginnings, endings and possibilities in between.

I love this group -- how a retired professor will give a new take on TS Eliot, how a former dancer who carries an encyclopedia of quotes around in her head will come up with a quote from A.A. Milne's "Now We Are Six" such as :
And so in the end he did nothing at all
just basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl,
I think it's disgraceful the way he behaved
He did nothing but basking until he was saved.

as we discussed "This Morning I Could Do A Thousand Things" by Robert Hedin, indeed a delightful poem which made some of us think of EE Cummings. A little everyday 2014 but each detail made extraordinary, such as mention of a shopping mall where you can walk by "bright stables/Of mowers, juxtaposed with the choice "just lie/Here in this old hammock,
Rocking like a lazy metronome,/And wait for the day lilies/To open. (which in April won't be soon.)
The positive attitude takes a turn at the end: The sun is barely/
Over the trees, and already
The sprinklers are out,
Raining their immaculate _
Bands of light over the lawns.

"immaculate" rather disrupts the meter -- but miracles are never an orderly thing.

The poem by Rita Dove (from Poetry,1982) certainly elicited a lot of discussion, summed up this way: "flirtation is a good title for a poem where specific things are alluded to... shakes us, then puts us into larger experience-- and yet we are parsing this poem like a bunch of lawyers... "
What would Rita have to say!

What a contrast with the recent poem by Komunaayaka. Knowing a bit of his background might influence his attraction to the time period of Ahkmatova and what she had to go through. However, what interests me is to look for universals that lie in a poem like this inspired by "a line" from a different time period, by a woman in a quite different place, do that makes us glad to have read it. The crux lies in the juxtaposition of wealth on "Millionaire street" where people wait in bread lines. Here Komunyaaka asks: Did the two poets learn it took more
to sing & reflect the burning icy stars
of poetry where privilege & squalor
lived beneath the same ornate ceiling?

He answers the question... saying how their tears bring them to laughter over pages of snow-blindness, anger "almost keeping them warm" as if to remind us of the possible flowers that come through the cracks in our own contemporary, American version of privilege & squalor.

Since we found two versions of the Margaret Gibson poem, we decided to view the second version next week.
It is shorter, more direct, does not contain as many references for instance to Elizabeth Bishop's famous
One Art. It reminded us of Freligh's "Wondrous" where loss makes artists of us as we weave new patterns into life. The recognition of "losing it" as caregiver, allows us all a level of vulnerability that we ttoo, are losing it, will lose life as we think we know it, which makes room for compassion for both Elizabeth, the speaker of the poem, and her alzheimer-striken husband.

** by contrast, a few weeks later, the Rundel group discussed the Komunyakaa, the Hedin and Gibson. It is a privilege to discuss the same poem with different groups.
For the Komunyakaa, we spoke of Akhamatova's modernist lens, and why we are drawn to struggle. The discussion veered somewhat into politics, idealism, corruption.
New thoughts: The Line, could refer to one of her poems -- or perhaps reference to the bread line, experienced by Anna. Field of Mars (war) after mention of a palace built for a lover, echoes in the "two minds" where snow falls. At the end, snow-blindness could be the tears blinding the eyes in the dual reaction to absurdity.
The dualities abound -- hot/cold images as well as privilege and squalor, tear/laughter; burning icy stars.

For the Hedin: We focussed on the tone, and the ambiguous way to understand "1,000 things. The onomatopoeia of "rocking like a lazy metronome" allows us to slow down and observe -- meditate on all the coulds of obligation and desire to admire, transforming something quite ordinary into something extraordinary.

The Gibson poem was received just as Martin had understood it-- a poem about one person, who is losing it, talking to herself. Of course the "you" could be someone else too, but it is even more frightening to think of a "we" which is a disassociated single person, holding onto herself for dear life. What is OK (is a giraffe OK -- a good luck charm, a memory of childhood that keeps you feeling real?)
I shared the link to the elegiac issue to Kurt Brown that appeared in the Boston Review and this beautiful poem his wife, Laure-Anne Bosselaer found in his "unfinished" poems.

That kiss I failed to give you.
How can you forgive me?
The kiss I would have spent on you is still
There, within me. It will probably die there.
But it will be the last of me to die.
for Laure-Anne

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