Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Poems for Jan 5

Gratitude by Cornelius Eady
Playtime by William Bronk
Holy Pictures by Finvola Drury
excerpt from "Ten Cheremiss (Mari) Songs by Anselm Hollo
Marina Tsvetaeva by Ilya Kaminsky
Winter Landscape by Judith Kitchen

These poems come from Poets Walk, the interactive cell phone connected stretch between Goodman and Prince St. on University in front of the Memorial Art Gallery.
The link to see a complete alphabetized list of the poems and bio on the poets:
There are 16 granite slabs, (Cornelius Eady is one) --
we have discussed the "poem slabs" of Sam Abrahms, Adelaide Crapsey, James Longenbach, Naomi Shihab-Nye and W.C. Williams.

For the poem tiles, we have also discussed in the past
Brooks, A song in the front yard,
Carruth, The Cows at Night
Emiot (trans. by L Zazulyer): As Long as we are not alone
Harjo, Perhaps the World Ends Here
Merwin, For the Anniversary of my Death
Hour Of Sadness by Israel Emiot, translated by Leah Zazulyer

The Selection Committee was interested in any poet that had a connection with Rochester at some point, whether they lived or had lived here, had come here to give a reading and/or workshops, etc. After that, members of the committee nominated specific poems by the poets, sharing and discussing them with the other members of the selection committee. They were looking for quality, diversity by gender, race, time period they wrote in, etc, in making our final selections. Finally we voted on the final selection, with the hope that we would have unanimous agreement from the committee, which in almost all cases we did.

In the selection, I chose the eloquent Cornelius Eady, whose long 5-page poem is only partially represented on the Art-drop site. I am grateful for all comments regarding information this site has (for instance, typos, updating obits, etc.)or in the case of Eady, giving a link to the entire poem.
Born in 1954, Eady’s poetry often centers on jazz and blues, family life, violence, and societal problems stemming from questions of race and class.

The old school, "let a poem speak for itself" does mean the entire poem! On the other hand, the biographical material can often help us better understand a title such as "Gratitude".
Eady acknowledges the education in a privileged private school, as his sentences ring with a Frederick Douglass eloquence and authority. His injunction to love, is not some Hallmark text. The tablet does not have this part of the poem:

I’m 36 years old,
a black, American poet.
Nearly all the things
that weren’t supposed to occur
Have happened, (anyway),
and I have
a natural inability
to sustain rage,
the evidence.

The form addresses both sustained/contained rage.

What a contrast with William Bronk's difficult syntax! The key for me was the quotation in which he says, "Poetry is about reality the way a lens is
about light". There are many ways the mind turns to make "We / Us" work in ways we are used to, and yet, the poem refuses logic. My question was to come up with labels for the tone, and the feeling this creates. Some answers: opaque/childlike/facebookish—revealing everything-nothing at same time, like a palimpsest... (presence that seems like an absence...) Other notes: Adult relationships – images we present to each other... God vs. minimized humans... not mocking... but attempts to understand... Play... and games... time-- what gives the “us” substance...yet Leaves us hanging...without hope...
The title itself condenses "Play" (theatre, as well as playground/game play) and time
another loaded word which can both tick chronologically, or sweep abstractly through seasons of life.

Thanks to Paul, we know more about Prayer and Mass cards, daily missiles... name of person for whom you will prayer. A fun poem with a fine use of adverbs and adjectives.
Mother’s face and Savior’s
muddied or tire-marked

I pick them up

wishing the faithful
were a little more careful

By the time the "do not put return address" appears, we were imagining all the Smyrna's... So many in the US, including NY!

The Hollo really had us stumped -- is it just part of something-- a smattering of notes, a Kerouac strip pasted to a love song, cut out of the apple tree....
It allowed a discussion on how things are chosen-- how possibly, the poet might well have chosen something different, the way Ravel really didn't want to be known as the "composer of The Bolero".

The Kaminsky became more real since Jim's wife knew him at Brighton High School
and we had a long discussion about the plight of Russian poetry after the revolution
and Fahrenheit 451 type atmosphere -- for instance Akhmatova whispering one line of her poem to each guest, who would assemble and put the lines together later out of earshot of the ones who could imprison her. A lovely ars poetica paying hommage to a poetess every much an equal to Akhmatova. It would be fun to FaceTime or skype him to ask him to talk about his poem-- does he write in Russian, which has such sensually meaty texture to it?

Judith Kitchen passed away in November of this year. Her winter landscape and musical texture needed no distraction or ornament, so I objected to the awkward enjambement in the next to last stanza.

is the meaning of white—a day

but on second read, the "this" works, rather like the Zen koan, "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" -- the paradox of live atoms and immaterial souls...

Let us believe the impossible. Let us
slide between two griefs so easily
they seem remote as history. This

is the meaning of white—a day

How eager we are to want a poet to be like us! First I object to line breaks, and then John wanted "knit" instead of "weld" ...
ironically the words chosen for Poets Walk are "trees weld earth"

A wonderful, wonderful discussion. Heartfelt thanks to all as ever.

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