Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rundel Poems for Lunch -- September 18

Seen from Above by Jennifer K. Sweeney
Music at My Mother's Funeral by Faith Shearin
You're the Top by Tony Hoagland
They Sit Together on the Porch by Wendell Berry
No by Mark Doty

potpourri of poems

Seen from above, blends a repetition of “steady” applied to trains, “missives” from other-where, dislocation ... and you think you might be entering an idea about winter’s reach as “steady” connects to icicles, leaves, people with their clocksongs and deaths.
At this point the tone changes; maybe the poem could end there—“keep the fire lit/
things are not as they seem.” But the poem insists on an enigmatic instruction about bell-ringing, with both feet off the ground. What has this to do with the title?

What do we look for in poems? Intrigue, mystery but yet, which invites in spite of not being able to put our finger on it, that leaves us feeling satisfied.
The tercets allow the eye to tumble from “other-where—
from “clocksongs” through white space, “and filled-up lives” .

The next poem, Music at My Mother’s Funeral, in one unbroken stanza, starts in media res, where the mother is part of planning the music, but leads to “the soundtrack of her life”. The humorous details, including the music of the seat belt reminder she ignored
paints a delightful picture of a woman who knew her own mind.

How different from the memory of a Grandmother in Hoagland’s poem, also written in triplets, but with the unwarranted enjambement of un-/ politically correct. Diction, word choice is pleasing and captures the age of Cole Porter – whose lyric is bright, beautiful and useless – the ending words of the poem, which at first comes as a shock, as if it is the grandmother’s life, caught in her ignorance about the world, or her red high-heel kicked into the chandelier. It led us into a discussion of how we remember grandparents, as opposed to our own parents. Jim went on a tangent about what’s broken in society
the juxtaposition of Ghandi and Napoleon brandy, the suspension of “just” and prohibition (shelter of a dry martini). The speaker of the poem establishes an adolescent view of the flavors of this woman compared to trivial rhymes, that transitions to how she saw herself – which surprisingly seems no different, and sad.

The Wendell Berry portrait could be played in d minor, a sad end of life snapshot,
with the word “dark” used in 3 different ways: night, without light; and death as the dark doorway.
Doty’s “No”
With all the hard “c” and “cl” sounds, the vivid adjectives (alien lacquer, ruined wall paper, smell unopened) the turtle, like God, is the one in charge, at the center of everything. A delightful poem in both conceit and manner. As I mentioned in the August discussion of this poem, Doty captures the world of the child, and layers in this line, "I think the children smell unopened," both their own "unsmelled" lives, as well as understanding the unopened secret of the turtle they hold to each adult face. The verb “heft”, the slant rhyme of “unlit”, with “single” reinforce the sense of possible which they love, that “he might poke out his old, old face”.

Because we had some time left over, we also read Lisel Mueller’s poem “Things and Naomi Shihab Nye’s, “The Art of Disappearing” and Mike noted how we could end many of the poems sooner –
Seen from above: “things are not as they seem”
Music: but it did not seem to matter.
You’re the top: suspended in a lyric by Cole Porter
No –the single word of the shell

Wendell Berry was the only one where such a cut would not be good.

Jess had the idea of saying just the last line. Applied to Seen from Above
Seen from above
from other-where
last leave winnowing
with their clocksongs
like chaff from a scythe
keep the fire lit.
(end there.)

Applied to the Doty:
Because they want us to feel
in their own hands, want us to feel
he’s the color of ruined wallpaper
nothing but the plummy leather.
They know he makes night
as they do. His age
from which they are excluded,
building anywhere. They love
the single word of the shell.

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