Friday, October 3, 2014

Poems for Oct. 2

Late September by Charles Simic
The Something by Charles Simic
A Sense of Place by Billy Collins
In the Room of a Thousand Miles By Billy Collins
Memorizing “The Sun Rising” by John Donne by Billy Collins
The Sun Rising by John Donne (1572–1631)

Poems for Lunch – follow-up to our discussion 10/3 – contrasts –
between two poet laureates, work of a contemporary poet with one 4 centuries ago... style and content...
As ever, I am grateful for the contributions and comments in our discussions~
As if on cue, this morning, sent this poem by Michael Broder:

Last night,

I dreamt of making sense,
parts of speech caught up in sheets
and blankets, long strips of fabric
wrapped loosely around shoulders,
goblets, urns, cups with unmatched saucers.

You were there, and the past seemed important,
what was said, what was done,
feelings felt but maybe not expressed,
signs randomly connected
yet vital to what comes next,
to a coming season,
next year’s trip to Nauset Beach.

I woke up wanting to read a poem by that name,
and I found one with a lifeguard’s chair,
a broken shell, gulls watching egrets,
home an ocean away.
Poem-a-day follows with a statement from the poet:
“I wanted the poem to enact the dream it purports to recount. If dreams are wish fulfillment, then this dreamer yearns for some kind of cognitive coherence. The sense the dreamer seeks turns out to be nonsense, and yet poetry finds a way of making it sensible after all.”
—Michael Broder

I had noted in the flyleaf of my copy of “The Voice at 3 am”(published 2006) from an article about his appointment as National Poet Laureate in August 2007,
“what you encounter in dreams that does not correspond to reality we perceive with eyes and ears ... faith in the miracle of imagination” and “you won’t like most of what you read, but whatever you like, read that.”

Late September, the final poem in “The Voice” creates a dreamworld which starts by stating “The mail truck goes down the coast/Carrying a single letter.” and then continues by personnifying a seagull as bored, forgetful juxtaposed with the foreboding of tragedies in the making. The next stanza leaps into the past and what you thought you heard... Who is “you”? And how does he know what this “you” is thinking? Is it himself? And why is the sea weary?
He taps into a universal fear: pretending to be rushing off somewhere/and never getting anywhere loosely connected with the sea’s “many lifetimes”. Finally he ends up with
the feeling of Sunday, which for him involves heavens “casting no shadow...” and tombstones which huddle “as if they, too, had the shivers”.

As opposed to whacking the reader over the head with “Last night I dreamt”, he seems to start in the middle of a dream... wakes up to a memory and ends with setting his feet in dawn. Which poem works for you, and why?

a few thoughts on Simic and Collins:
Both poets take a stance, creating their own “film”, sharing their imagination—inviting us to consider our own landscapes, and what we think we see, have seen.

The Collins “A sense of Place” has a passing bird, which makes us think of Simic’s mail truck,
accidents of weather, and surprising adjectives such as “snarling” for the drawing of the fish; shrouded for the cove on the coastline... alarming for the green (approaching tornado?) The “if”, repetition of “might have” sets up a beautiful contrast with the actual landscape...

To contrast the staccato feel of Simic with the flow of Collins blending an easy-going vernacular with erudite overtones:
“There is a menace in the air/of the tragedies in the making.”

“But as it is, the only thing that gives me/a sense of place is this upholstered chair/with its dark brown covers,/ angled into a room near a corner window.”

The contrast between “Memorizing ‘The Sun Rising’ by John Donne with the original is also fun as a deft commentary for what is involved with spending time with something to value it... lines such as the metaphor or “walk three times around this hidden lake”, the plank of every line, the personification of the poem as walking by his side, the pun on the word stanza, which is Italian for room.

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