Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Poems for Dec. 15

Hour Of Sadness by Israel Emiot, translated by Leah Zazulyer
When Giving Is All We Have by Alberto Ríos
Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye
A Debris Field of Apocalypticians – A Murder of Crows – by Dana Levin
Dear Sir— by Hannah Sanghee Park


I hope the local poet, Leah Zazulyer will come and tell us about her work translating the poet Israel Emiot. There is the school of thought to "trust the poem, not the poet", but as I prepare the selections of poems from poets walk and read the tidbits of background, it helps place the poem, to better examine it like a jewel in its setting. The hour of sadness takes the word "divorce" without hammering it down to mean only one thing... how would you finish the sentence,
"Even though I have given myself..."
what does it mean to give yourself a divorce? In the poem, perhaps a divorce from the loved one no longer present -- but one senses it could be just as well a divorce between body and soul...

What a contrast with Rios who provides the reader with truth put in overly neat phrases... however, beyond the smooth and simple surface, beyond the singsong,
the poem ends with a wonderful enjambement:
Together we are simple green. You gave me

now how are you going to finish that without sounding trite?
and then to say, "you gave me /what you didn't have"
do you expect the speaker to say " and I gave you
What I had to give—
without sounding important or self-righteous?

together, we made
Something greater from the difference

The poem has served him well, Rios explains, to emphasize the importance of giving without grudges/tallies.

How refreshing to return to Naomi Shihab Nye -- intriguing images told with rich sounds, making each line unusual:
"so little is stone" arrives after two stanzas of flammable examples --
a sense of celebration as absence occupies the air... and the delightful
"shuffle of losses and leaves," as if leaves is a verb as well as noun --
and the inviting crackle of all there is to do waiting...

The Levin poem reminded us with its contrast of registrations of something
Billy Collins once said: "slap the poem around until you know what it means." Interesting edges to illustrate the repeated line: "The fact of suffering is not a question of justice".

The poem by Park comes from p. 16 Fall-Winter 2014 Vol 47 of American Poet.
Word play, but without leaving a sense of ending "in wisdom" after delight,
to rephrase Robert Frost.

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