Friday, May 2, 2014

Poems for April 28

different version of Losing It by Margaret Gibson

Poem by Mustafa Köz : (Turkish poet)"As you know how to look,"
Do Not Trust Them by Mustafa Köz, translated by Mesut Senol
The World Seems -- by Gregory Orr
In My Long Night by Charles Simic
Questionnaire by Wendell Berry
East February by John Ashbery

The same discussion about the Margaret Gibson poem ensued -- a way for those who had missed April 21st to hear Martin's view that the speaker of the poem was wearing two simultaneous selves, although this version is tighter, shorter.

With poems in translation it is always curious to me how some "untranslatable qualities" will point to something inherent in the culture. For instance, the Mustafa Köz poems had a palpable sense of Koran, Sufi infusion and arabic metaphor. What do we trust in terms of what society, religion, even our dreams inform us to believe? What metaphor might we be missing with "true ruby and iron"? What political shifting might be in this line: "what excuse can the land have if the roads were surrounded"-- or is it a geographic reference to shorelines, rivers other boundaries?
The poem's stanzas shrink from five lines, to three, to two, to one, as we see the process of writing down is also to tear down whatever you believe.

"Do Not Trust Them" provides a perfect segue to Orr's poem, whose title, "The World Seems" provokes multiple possibilities to inform our understanding of meaning. How do you complete "The world seems"... an adjective, series of adjectives, a verb? How does the first line completion "palpable and dense
The world seems, vs. the world is... the homophonic "seems/seams where one stitches something real, the other points to abstraction. The discussion kept returning to "naming" as a way of recognizing our universal need for love and a means to understanding, and connecting. Bridging the world through words is a complex procedure, and plenty has been written about "sound of sense", disposition of words on the page, use of the senses. English is strong at communicating, with a rich vocabulary that is highly evocative. Orr's poem positions us as "namers" poised in a world of things, landscapes, connected to an inner, higher source. I return to the idea of "bless" in old French, where the verb blesser means wound, which opens us up for benediction and healing. The idea of joy as desperate, two intense words which pull against each other as ecstasy and despair. I love the idea of the hope of joy, exiting as word into the world. Perhaps also, I/thou, and the limitation of labeling, is akin to needing to write down/tear up.

The Simic poem reminded us of the Dark Night of the Soul. Leaving the old country and churches, yet like a spider, veiling the vaults with webs, dangling above the altar... Marcie brought up the story of Irene for the Grandmother stanza: Her death was described this way: (Irene... after falling asleep upon our Lord) It furthered the chuckle we already had of the grandmother looking pleased to be done with /
burying other people. Crow... often the satirical bird for priests and allusion to the lure of Gold
far removed from the treasury of the heart.

We admired the mastery of Wendell Berry's poem --the cleverness of "questionnaire" which asks a question but then orders you to include prescribed details in your answer. imperative. Three times he says “please” with the imperatives. Is it the same tone each time? He builds up starting with something one can list (poisons) to abstractions, such as “evil” and ethical/society-related reminders (sacrifices), ecology and then the bottom line of a child’s life and the future. The imperatives underscore the impact of each small decision we make.

The Asbury was a wonderfully random series of overheard conversations, as logical as talking about months as directions.

For Gregory Orr: In a review of Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved from the Virginia Quarterly Review, Ted Genoways writes: “Sure, the trappings of modern life appear at the edges of these poems, but their focus is so unwaveringly aimed toward the transcendent—not God, but the beloved—that we seem to slip into a less cluttered time. It’s an experience usually reserved for reading the ancients, and clearly that was partly Orr’s inspiration.

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