Friday, November 28, 2014

Poems for November 17 (report from Kimberley Ferrance) _ Nov. 24

1. Judith: Although she could not be here for our Nov. 3 discussion including Grass Fingers by Angelina Weld Grimke, she will share an 1868 letter from Angelina to her newly discovered nephews...
2. Although we discussed somewhat that beauty of this poem, read aloud, here is the audio version: followed by the written version

Poems: (see discussion November 5 at Rundel)
First Song by Galway Kinnell
The Cellist by Galway Kinnell
Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell

To Spareness by Jane Hirshfield
The Sentence by Anna Ahkmatova

Each one of these poems demand a quiet space to allow the words to resonate beyond the sounds they make.

Kimberley reports: Our minds ran away with us a little with the sexual inuendos in the Cello poem. The First Song evoked appreciation for simple things and how sometimes you may find the beauty in something that others wouldn't have thought to. The Sow went as expected, Emily expressed her love of all animals and cherished the sow. Everyone was wondering if there was a story behind the Saint Francis and sow connection outside of him being patron saint of animals. Jane Hirshfield wowed many people, especially all the detail and examples of spareness she includes. As a group we recalled that we all always love her work and never came across a poem of hers we didn't like. The Sentence was looked at after a handful of people had gone since it was 1:15ish. Also, it felt like a fragment and that it needed some context. We compared two translations of the second stanza and marveled at what a difference the translator can make. I had recalled that this was part of a longer piece but never can pull things out of my brain when I need to. So I refreshed my memory at home and shared.

*** from Kimberley:
For explanation purposes, I think it best to start from the micro-perspective and put the piece in context with the macro, therefore anyone can explore as far as they wish. My main source for this information is The Complete Poems of ANNA AKHMATOVA: Updated & Expanded Edition; 1994; Translations by Judith Hemschemeyer and Editing by Roberta Reeder. (forgive me, I forget my APA citing format)

The Sentence is seven (VII) of a fifteen part poetry & prose cycle entitled REQUIEM. This part is dated June 22, 1939, which is the actual day Anna’s son, Lev Gumilyov, was sentenced to a labor camp in Leningrad. Therefore, the title is literal. Of course we can all then explicate that the “stone word” is a metaphor for the verdict passed down. (or not, who am I to interpret for you)

Lev Gumilyov came from the union of Anna and Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna’s first husband. They met in 1903 when she was only 14, then married in 1910. By the time of The Sentence, Nikolay had already been imprisoned for taking part in a counter-revolutionary plot and executed in 1921.

REQUIEM is described as “a tribute to the ordeal of the victims of the Terror and women who waited in the prison lines hoping to get word of them,” and is “based on her (Anna’s) own experience in Leningrad.”

This is all in the time of Stalin and his “purge” that took place in Russia. There was a ban on publication of Anna’s work from 1925-1940. She began writing REQUIEM in 1935, but was afraid to actually write it down. She recited the verses to trustworthy friends so that they could be passed along, memorized and later reassembled.

REQUIEM wasn’t published in the Soviet Union until 1989.

ref. AKHMATOVA as a “pen name”: carries more weight than that. Her father insisted she change her name when she was just a teenager and had begun writing poetry. He did not want his name to be associated with the trade of a poet. The name comes from a maternal ancestor.

Poems for November 24
Eaven Boland
Atlantis—A Lost Sonnet by Eavan Boland
The Lost Art of Handwriting by Eavan Boland
The Lost Land by Eavan Boland
The Journey by Eavan Boland

In “The Journey,” you write that “somewhere a poet is wasting / his sweet uncluttered metres on the obvious // emblem instead of the real thing.” What is that “real thing” poets should write about, but don’t?
Well, in that case, an antibiotic. Literally. The poems begins with a riff about that: that there’s never “been a poem to an antibiotic.” It’s at the heart of this fairly long dream-poem. “The Journey” is essentially a poem about child mortality; our own infant daughter had recovered from a dangerous meningitis around that time. But it’s also about the fact that such subjects are extraordinarily absent from poetry. So the poem begins and continues with an argument about the way ornamental language can protect a poet from reality. It’s something I think crops up from time to time, the old debate about what agency language has in a poem: whether it merely decorates the subject or reveals it. And that’s the larger theme of “The Journey.”

Loss:the common denominator:
We discussed at length this line: "An art is lost when it no longer knows
How to teach a sorrow to speak,"
signs for sounds... her words there to imagine the voice...

Thank you all who were present for the thoughtful discussion of the poems yesterday. How great to have a group share so many layers: "How does poetry arise from a life experience…” a summary of Irish history, knowledge such as the translation of Dublin as “Black Pool”; info on the importance of the Boland name; and how to understand the loss, role of language if mute before sorrow and what that means. As promised in my note, I read the poem below.
As we approach Thanksgiving, indeed, one of the wonderful gifts for which I give thanks is this group of remarkable people who gather to discuss poems each week.
I am grateful to each of you for what you bring. Thank you!
With heartfuls of good wishes,

by Eavan Boland

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