Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poems for May 1

First Morel
Lilacs by Amy Lowell
Poetry – Marianne Moore
Complaint by James Longenbach
Bumper crop – by Bob Hicok
The Cats by Ann Iverson
The murder of two men by a kid wearing yellow kid gloves by Kenneth Patchen

I love May Day! The first month of May -- maypole dancing -- the celebration,
as the French say, of "fais ce qui the plaît" referring to the weather, after April's uncertain mood changes. What better poem than Amy Fleury's Morel, where in 12 short lines, a sketch of the "honeycombed" cap comes to life in two sentences. Word choice and diction work beautifully here: wood rot; wrinkling; duff and homely damps;and the curious word "caul" which she expands in definition connected to "seer" -- but with the qualification of "meagre".
Small, bashful... A humble prophecy bringing news from "below" and "coming plenty".
Now that I've used almost every word in the poem -- a look at how she "stages" it will complete the satisfaction of experiencing a jewel of a poem.

By contrast, Lilacs is a long poem with a short refrain, many anaphors, a few allusions, such as to Whitman's "lilacs in doorways", the oriental background, ending with the poets's voice well grounded in New England. The repetition and language lull us musically into a mood of reverie, with the image of one flower connecting us to different times and places. No one felt the length cumbersome.

Longenbach's "Complaint" is part of the Poets Walk in front of the MAG where the final stanza is carved into a granite band. Statements about animals wound into 4 quatrains morph to a comparison with a highwaymen, and peddler and that final line "rowing against the current". I'm hoping to find out more about the title
and if it related to the last two lines. The discussion: “paddock" brought to mind horses; (confined on land) "rowing against the current" a more abstract metaphor for the meditation on the bench going against established order.
(as in all the comments about the nature of things seen in animals.)
We admired the segue from whale to drowning man to highwaymen stanzas 4-5 — the long sentence spread for 2 1/2 quatrains with a stanza break (gasp of air) before knowing from whom it is stolen.
To quote James Longenbach who kindly filled me in: Trust the Poem not the poet -- but I do find his answer compelling:

"A "complaint" is an ancient poetic genre (like an elegy or whatever) and I suppose I'm using the title kind of ironically; the speaker doesn't really have all that much to complain about--he's just kind of irritable, cranky, forlorne, bored, running through useless (but quirkily interesting) information in his head; and certainly when the speaker finally reveals where he is, at the end, the suggestions are (as you say) of enclosure and resistance. I suppose that, finally, to me, the poem exists to inhabit somewhat slyly a particular tone--world-weary, bemused; my hope is that a reader might find it just very slightly amusing, especially given its relationship to the verrrrry serious genre to which its title alludes . . ."

Bumper Crop was so endearingly wonderful, I think we all want to be the CEO of the next 10 minutes, and make a decree that every human being should read it!

Cats also provided warm chuckles, identifying ourselves in the safety of the metaphor. What do we find glory in... how do we protect our moods, the pleasure we find in being, and find ourselves remarkable?

I am using the Kenneth Patchen poem now in power points on poetry (at Mercy and for China) to show the fun of title; of intonation; the importance of gesture.

Only two words (without title) and you could have a dog-training session; a jazz singer preparing yet teasing, waiting for the band to start -- or her lyrics... how we "buy" time... But then the title -- murder vs. the soft yellow kid gloves! Isn't yellow associated with cowardice?
two men, two mentions of kid... the new generation killing (softly) the older generation? How would a bass player and a reader perform this?

I love that there are no answers, and how the questions stir up delight in being alive.

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