Friday, November 7, 2014

Poems for October 16

a few poems that appeared this week... some old, some new.

To the Happy Few by W.S. Merwin
Composition by John Ashbery
Preludes by T. S. Eliot (chosen by Poem a day, 9/26/2014)
The Emperor of Ice Cream – Wallace Stevens
two versions of Poems by Zen Master Dōgen (Stephen Berg)
Postcard to Herself -- Peter Sears

If Poetry is supreme fiction... what world does the poem create?

In the first poem, Merwin addresses a fictitious "happy few" who escape identification by some larger corporate or national body... in order to address the question of identity... who are you "without a word /of explanation/
and only yourself/as evidence--

as if the division is about the self (you without a word... only yourself) and others (explaining you as evidence).

In Ashbery's poem, the reader has a view of a day, as if portioned into tv, news, perhaps a memory or two...
I find the ending delightful. What is home? The fact that we can't define it, and the speaker of the poem tells us it is a nutty concept, (although not "rented depression"in the pure and troubled time of next month...)
and the play of intermittent "now and then" is broken into "now" / "then" -- and imagining them as lovers,
then as your lovers...

And speaking of nutty concepts, surely "home"
is way up there on the list. I feel more certain about "now"
and "then," because they are close to me,
like lovers, though apparently not in love with me,
as I am with them. I like to call to them,
and sometimes they reply, out of the deep business of some dream.

How different the TS Eliot...fragmented, depressingly so, free verse and yet a hint of form:

His soul stretched tight across the skies
That fade behind a city block,
Or trampled by insistent feet
At four and five and six o'clock;
And short square fingers stuffing pipes,
And evening newspapers, and eyes
Assured of certain certainties,
The conscience of a blackened street
Impatient to assume the world.

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

The Stevens strange juxtaposition of living and dead, another modernist poem tomes have been written about.
with little time left to discuss the "Versions of Poems by Zen Master Dōgen" or the fine Peter Sears poem,
which goes beyond modernism to look at self as a young American in Europe,
"So, ruffled, she went sluffing by the sea,
sealed in the pink envelope of herself."
and ending with a cryptic irony,
Soon she would be home,
she thought, with only herself to tell about.

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