Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Poems discussed Jan. 26 from Poets Walk

Choose by Carl Sandburg
A Woman and Her Dog by Stephen Lewandowski
Late Fall by Eleanor McQuilkin
passage from San Ildefonso Nocturne by Octavio Paz
beware : do not read this poem by Ishmael Reed
Communion by Jessie Belle Rittenhouse
Which Side Are You On? Janine Pommy Vega
Touched by Deborah Tall

The power of the spoken word is often ignored in poetry, where a line is read as if looped to the next like a sentence. However, pacing, pauses, intonation, dynamics are as important to the reading of poetry outlaid as the playing of music.

In the first poem, Choose, there is no way a reader can say the first line fast, or pronounce "clenched fist" without a feel of clawing, chewing and spitting. The second, "open hand held out waiting" has a breathlessly- tongued lightness to it. Not really onomatopoeic, but yet, the of meat of the meet, will depend on the how of our approach. Short and to the point... and worthy of being memorized.

See February 12 discussion of the Paz, Reed, Vega.

Lewandowski has been interested in Haudenosaunee folklore for a longtime, and so it was fun to hear the various
comments. His answer to the group about the inspiration behind the poem"
"I was struck when I first read this story by its similarity to that of the Wily Odysseus and his Faithful wife Penelope. You may remember that she was putting off the suitors who argued that "Odysseus must be dead after all this time so why not choose me?" She told them that she had to finish her weaving first, and each night she herself (though she did have a faithful dog who was the first to recognize his master's return) unwove what she had woven that day. Just to finish off that story, the Old Dog died after he roused himself to wag his tail at the master's return, and then Wily Odysseus slew all the suitors.

As far as I'm concerned all literature is contemporaneous, so I am just sticking another little poem onto an idea which has appeared and will continue to appear. Most native americans emphasize cycles in their religious and philosophical thinking (as contrasted with European thought that was/is either linear or opposing opposites). Also any of their thought of the moon is bound to also be about women's bodies and cycles."

What distinguishes a time-tested oral myth, such as "A Woman and Her Dog" alludes to vs. a poem. The opening stanza creates a dreamlike setting, woman and dog sitting in the moon... and there is a certain aggressive jolt
about the fire, where a stew boils while she embroiders.
Penelope, waning and waxing, unfinished business, renewed, still unfinished... I'm wondering if the question might be "Should she ever finish her work", vs. the prediction of the end of the world should she...
Where does certainty about the end of the world come from?

In a different poem, "Perhaps the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo, there is a sense of the importance of the kitchen table as gathering place, as altar for food, as hearth around which everything from gossip to baby's teething at its corners happens. I love the line, "Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children." Such a warmth in this living poem, unlike the myth with a 3rd person, unidentified "woman" at a remove from us.

For the Eleanor McQuilkin, I was inspired by listening to Wallace Stevens reading his poem, "The Poem That Took the Place of a Mountain" with all sorts of pauses that one wouldn't know to read without hearing him, as if the poem were gasping for ox y gen as if climbing the mountain it would become.
In this lovely 8 line poem, the title announced, "Late Fall" -- fall perhaps arriving late, or the end of the Fall... the tenderness of holding -- not just Fall, like the end of a life, a hurt bird, sensing the the contradiction of wings, not as springboards to another place, but folded, the way a bird will snuggle into itself to sleep, holding the center of itself, protecting its heart.
If you pause after the "just enough" in the 6th line, pause after "afternoon"/ in my hand/bird
watch the "stillness of autumn" broken, just like "breathing just enough" and "its wing folded"
the breaks not telling about breaking, and yet we sense it, knowing Winter is next.
To quote GB Shaw: "play fast to get the agony over with... play slow – to enjoy the glory".

Although we enjoyed the Nocturne, we felt limited by the fact it was only part of a passage.
Is it a reference to the town where in 1721-24 rose the splendid palace of La Granja, built for Philip V called "the Versailles of Spain"? Around the palace, Philip V ordered the laying-out of a huge garden with fountains which was also inspired by Versailles. Not a bad place to talk about what poetry is: laid out, with musical fountains, light/shadows, the dignity of human endeavor...

Ishmael Reed's "Beware of this Poem" was a great hit -- the play of mirrors, the way the poem itself becomes alive, and when asking Ishmael about the poem, his response: Glad that you liked my poem. I didn't know how to end it. The statistic cited during a radio broadcast gave me the last lines. I don't think the broadcast could have come up with disappearance as "only
a space in the lives of their friends...

We ended on Jessie Rittenhouse, who presented the popular American mainstream poetry that Ezra Pound, modernism, James Sibley Watson and The Dial were reacting against. The another/smother embracing this inner line has something to be said for it, juxtaposing humans vs. cows...
One neck folded on another,
What superb complacency

Janine Pomy Vega: Comments included:
dramatic in its content. The opening stanza is a wonderful invitation:
Where does my anger come from
at the laziness, the prosaic?
How many times will you enter a room
and leave it vacant: in and out,
in and out, visiting a temple of possibility
and never leave a gift on the altar?

The poem tile is "gift on the altar" which is how the words feel. She mentions Kabir and Rumi,
with some contemporary spin: "Read the coins you've thrown down into the dirt,
they spell integrity"...
Now what does that mean? In this poem, meaning slips just like the "you" and placing it on "this" side or "that"
so that the repeat of the title as final line and question, is thrown back to you to think about -- how the "ordinary" and the "miracle" the "you" and the "wind" are no more "you" or "me" -- as she sums up:

Oh, so that's it, finally:
No more you or me than that mountain

and that mountain/there.
And no mountain.

(I can read this 3 ways -- how about you?)

Touched, by Deborah Tall gave rise to many stories and a lively conversation. What is it about a stranger thinking they can touch a pregnant woman's belly? How differently we treat each other now...or do we?

Would a stranger seeing a tag outside your clothing tuck it in for you, or has our
sense of space changed.
Comment about Japan subways which perhaps might be crowded...but in terms of how Caucasians are intimate -- they consider caucasians lick each other like dogs...
feel/field day.
meeting some one as stranger... but w/out touch

What a treasure this poets' walk is!

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