Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 23

Ode to my Hands - Tim Seibles
two poems to honor Philip Levine (b. 1928- died 2/14/2015)
What Work Is
Our Valley

The Blizzard by Phyllis Levin
About Not Writing by Naomi Replanski

I also read aloud a Lucille Clifton poem that Carmin had mentioned:
Here Rests, by Lucille Clifton

Ode... hymn of praise -- so a beautiful thing to be grateful to hands showing us how "they love us" and on we gallop through five digits, five senses and ideas about hands we might not taken time to notice -- how we need them to "talk" how they also can be mischievous and get us into trouble, and to culminate on a note of gravitas --
I just wanted to know
what the strings would say
concerning my soul, my whelming
solipsism: this perpetual solstice
where one + one = everything
and two hands teach a dawdler
the palpable alchemy
of an unreasonable world.

Not only are the images delightful, but the stanzas entice and intrigue us with suspensions and enjambments :
Stanza 1:
each thought
leaning on its horn. I see you

waiting anyplace always

Stanza 3:
kind quintet x 2
rowing my heart like a little boat
upon whose wooden seat I sit
strummed by Sorrow. Or maybe

I misread you completely
and you are dreaming a tangerine, one

Stanza 4
all the touches
untouched: the gallant strain

of a pilfered ant, tiny muscles

Stanza 5

Once, I played
viola for a year and never stopped

to thank you

This would be a good poem to re-read -- as we did with Philip Levine's "What Work Is" on which we spent almost 45 minutes, although the group had visited it in the past, without so much discussion. Was it because the Seibles' poem preceded it that the turn in the poem from
the waiting in line for work took a turn to the brother, and the simple act of loving--?
After beginning we an assurance that we all know what work is, and imagining the scenarios of waiting for work... to end up with realizing we don't do something so simple as giving a kiss not because of usual reasons, but because we don't realize what work is...
The strange melding of tenses, give a sense of a man's life unfolding, living in a past, but reflecting about it decades later. As Marcie says, it is a little bit like watching a movie -- seeing it, and then, later discussing what it means to you.

Our Valley is another wonderful Levine poem -- but more transparent in the gorgeous lines
evoking the silence and grandeur of this valley in California. The use of words like "salt",
"dust" the repeat of "carve/carved" the sense of a "still small voice" gives a sacred aura.

Not to be confused with Philip, or Levine, the Phillis Levin brings us to the lizard part of our brain in a blizzard, when our survival mode behavior meets the emergency. There is a satisfying ending of the shovel scrape but the poem adds new layers of discovery where neighbors play a new role in emergencies, and we resort to what makes us feel safe...
Discussion included how humbling it is to be reminded of the weather;
as humans, we welcome a challenge and even become a bit self-congratulatory about weather challenge.

We ended on one of Philip Levine's favorite poets... a short, succinct and beautifully rendered poem that moves through the rhymes in short lines. How lovely it is that rhyme can carry and suggest new directions to a writer.

Replanski addresses the gradual process of dying...
without frills. no waste. Perhaps echoed by what Levine is striving for w/ choice of experience.

Terrific discussion thanks to terrific poems. This summary is only a dent.

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