Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poems for May 8

poems discussed in April at O Pen:
Daytime Begins with a Line by Anna Akhmatova by Yusef Komunyakaa
Losing It by Margaret Gibson
This Morning I Could Do A Thousand Things by Robert Hedin

It is a privilege to discuss the same poem with different groups. I added comments to April 21.

New: Homework by Alan Ginsberg.
Mother Goose Self-Help by K.A. Hays (Verse Daily: 3/24)
Rain Song: Khaled Mattawa

The Ginsberg is a brilliant poem -- using the timeless subject of how societies behave juxtaposed with his personal view of clean-up. The strong verbs expand the laundry metaphor and become commands to the reader to wash, scrub, flush, drain, cleanse, rinse, squeeze, dry out.
It is good to discuss what happened in the 50's to Iran, as well as unthinking practices that have injured the earth.
Each word is important and carries many associations:

Ivory: a white and mildly scented bar soap, that became famous for its pure content and for floating in water and could clean anything.
A little nursery rhyme: rub-a-dub dub, 3 men in a tub. Here Ginsberg uses this familiar phrase for scrub.
Bluing works by adding a tint of blue dye to clothing in order to make dingy items appear whiter. Note the pun.
Tattle Tail: usually spelled tattle tale (rhymes with battle/rattle / pail or grail). Here the sense of an animal “tail” perhaps of a rattle snake who will strike.
The word aeon /ˈiːɒn/, also spelled eon, originally means "life" or "being", though it then tended to mean "age", "forever" or "for eternity".

The poem has as epigraph: "homage Kenneth Koch". Alan Ginsberg + Kenneth Koch (1925-2002) were good friends. Part of the “Beat Generation”, Ginsberg strives for a lively, spontaneous, style relying on vowel sounds and witty phrasing and is opposed to “False Poetry” – that is, any writing that is self-centered.
Note the date of “Homework”: (1980) Work to do at home... as a country, as an individual to research... is the subject as true in 2014 as then? What timeless subjects is he addressing? Discuss the title. (work prepared for school, work at home, and research.

Thanks to Elizabeth, we had quite a romp after the meeting with the references behind Mother Goose Self-Help. (discussed with O Pen on 5/12) She reminds us that there is actually good advice hidden in these lines. Perhaps a favorite part is the single line after forgetting the "mother songs", the bowl cracked, whole, shining, sinking.
"It gets a little sad here." The tone is upbeat -- and the last word is song, following "crooked". A fun poem that deftly serves our folk wisdom. Perhaps we don't realize how deeply we are influenced by what we learn in childhood.

Another epigraph was left out with Mattawa's "Rain Song".
"After Al Sayyah" -- a storm reference.

The fact that it is called rain SONG, and yet is from a collection called "Zodiac of Echoes", reminds me of the cyclic nature of nature and changes in topography. The poem mentions storm as a source of flood, but also drought -- where is the sea now?
In the ancient world, it is interesting to see how shorelines change.

The poem starts with a radio and a woman (who hated clouds) then switches to another question asked by a 7 year old boy. The radio returns with what sounds like a prayer
and a superimposed memory of anguish which is not spelled out. The juxtapositions are subtle such as the "lifter of harm" which returns at the end of the poem; the metaphorical storms of men, credit/debt; how we are sheltered from harm, whether it be the "slash of lightning" or the "groaning sky" or the storms "we made" --
the we allowing father/son, or human beings in general.

What makes us despair -- lose hope? What is grief, bordering happiness that allows us to go beyond despair?
A storm is filled with amazement that can rekindle our faith perhaps...a witness of Divine power beyond despair...

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