Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Poems for August 25

How do we remember -- what details help unleash a story, "the taste of a hush from far away" (see Merwin's poem "Drinking Tea in the Small Hours"... how do we perceive "Loss" -- like a last name, a brother named, then taken away, the nearness sensed, in words that do not belong to us, (and as reader, feeling they breathe...)

from APR, July/August 2014
Locked by Jennifer Grotz (note last line: "I mean the man" not "I mean the mean"
three of the Nine poems by W.S. Merwin
The Laughing Child
The Mapmaker
World Without Glass by Pamela Sutton (correction: worship, not worship)
Swift Trucks by Erika Meitner

the selection of poems also echoes some of the themes of last week: “It’s never the aboutness of anything but the wailing underneath it” (Frank X. Gaspar.)

Line up: a young poet reading her poem stanza by stanza; 3 poems by an older poet using the "suspended, unpunctuated line" -- read line by line; A poem squeezing meaning out of stone; a composite poem starting with trucks. (the last two poems read stanza by stanza).
Forgive the typos-- lately I have been making interesting ones... Female Futurity became “female futility”… and there were several in the poems. Reading out loud is a good check!

We started by saying outloud "the taste of a hush from far away” -- a little magic to sprinkle into the idea of 5 Thurs; 5 Fri; 5 Sat. and 5 Sundays in the month of August, only to set the tone of energy into 5’s which morphed into a small excursion of polyhedrons … I love a group that can be comfortable with such a start!
There were multiple points where we quoted Steiner's “All acts of communication are acts of translation” as we took words, crafting ideas about a poet’s intention and our own ideas to match to them…

Locked: Martin pointed out the psychological, David and Judith the lack of craft of the metaphysical poets…yet a poem working the sound and conceit as if to follow their footsteps. David said about this line:
"but now there is nothing left to be solved like a riddle" (“If it had been my student, I would have said, take more force than finesse—) DS

Other points of intrigue about this inner landscape poem-- how it ends, bringing in God -- how He only loves the "strong thief /I mean the man who breaks his heart for God

(strong…. is the important word — like Donne’s "batter my heart”— but thief implies a different cunning and there's a discordant unrest of the urgency of breaking the locked heart--to seize "what is left". we don't know the why behind the lurching from what the speaker "thought I wanted to be" -- not the key, but the instrument for the key... we sense her awareness of something dramatic holding her away from life... Many felt the rhyming trees/key; lock/block/ sends/ascends detracted from the strength, as if she were having more fun with sound play than crafting an image.

Merwin’s poems have the mark of experience the abstractions of the first poem lacked and brought forth a lot of meaningful memories and good discussion.
In the first poem, the innocence of childhood, the wisdom of experience looking back combine using the perspective of the mother and retrospective "later" used twice more. The idea of wicker, and “wick” as “quick” or life… the shaking of the carriage layers a "shake of memory" to imagine the instant, and how it was captured in words-- and ending on the feel of being that happy child, laughing.

Cowbells too “rang” lots of echoes…including a reference to
Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson:
I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind,
Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng,
Dancing, to put thy pale, lost lilies out of mind...[7]

The idea of sound shepherding memory...
the sound of it will make you remember (implies "you’re from around here; I give this bell to you")

My question to the group: how does Merwin earn the last lines…
" he did not tell me that there is no question
in its sound and no place or promise
only the calling of one note at a time"

They seem to flow, naturally, without imposition. Is it the double negative… or two different things. one note: present in moment— one note: sound of the plurality of the legacy.
We enjoyed discussing this, the singularity of being called, outside of a crowd of memories, hints of forbears, history...

In Merwin’s “Mapmaker” he references Vermeer’s geographer — we didn’t discuss the nuances of the differences — of what does a map maker does in the 20th c. that is different from what a geographer in the late 17th c. would do. Vermeer used the same light from a corner window in his paintings; For us, the window frames the inside man and map, outside world: interiority/exteriority ( and the shape of the cosmos imagined in 1668–1669).

John brought up this story: Richard Powers: Galatea 2.2
2 patients – the one by window tells what he sees. Day after day, a story evolves. One day he falls extremely sick and the second patient doesn’t say anything, because he wants the “window bed”. When he is moved there all he sees is a brick wall.

The geographer has to imagine what can’t be seen. The poem is “stilled” in the present suggestion of future, calling on the past.

In Sutton’s poem, David filled us in on the excerpt of Frost:
“between the woods and frozen lake
the darkest evening of the year.”
("stopping by woods…” was written on a June evening — maybe the longest day of the year —anniversary of the death of his daughter. allure of the darkness. giving it all up.)
Quite a bit of discussion about associations with stone… the stoning of women, the “braided stone” (Scottish, says Judith: braid= broad) - how we carve stone vs. print on it… the allusions in the beginning of the poem of glass… something to see out of, into, shattered, the desolation without any vision at all… vs. the end of the poem, in a world without glass, but a crystalline morning… and shattering of wings by wars.

We looked at the last poem from the viewpoint of the composite poem — how the poet captures a chaos, a disturbingness.
We could have discussed all afternoon.
Alan Watts... spontaneity vs. caprice...
Tony Hoagland: Characteristics of the Composite Poem:
1. it likes information; range of realms.
2. aims to capture the irregular character of experience, it’s lopsidedness and illogic. disproportionate and disheveled by design.
3. relative tonal impersonality, offering an appearance of detachment.
4. it refuses the paradigm of a singular heroic speaker... instead brings together diverse voices and sources which exist in counterpoint and , only collectively, create a field of knowing.
5. when the composite poem fails, it might be from an over-indulgence of randomness... susceptible to a lack of progression or to passivity. ideally the parts must complicate and activate each other.
p. 38 – Tony Hoagland – Towards a Postmodern Humanism – APR Mar/Apr. 2014

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