Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March 16

What are we looking for as we read poetry? Even though the Wendell Berry and Mary Oliver poems are so drastically different, both provide a rich reassurance about being human.

The poem written by an anonymous inmate in prison confirms the empowerment of words.
Read the poems!
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Sonnet: "Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!"
Wendell Berry: Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Mary Oliver : Wild Geese
Dreamcatcher :(site:
which is a collection of poetry written by women in prison. Their lives,
feelings, and frustrations are evident in these creative pieces of writing).
Last poem: Salt Heart, by Jane Hirschfeld.

In an interview between Martin Espada and Chard DeNiord in APR's March-April 2015 issue, Espada proclaims:
I think America wakes up and then nods off again. Every time I think things are moving in the right direction, they move in the wrong direction. Whether we’re talking about politics, history or poetry, things move in cycles. Change is not linear. Change does not move in a straight line. We lose ground and then we gain ground back again. ... On the one hand, we now live in a culture that is less literate than it has been in years. On the other hand, this is a culture that craves meaning, and poetry often presents people who crave meaning with meaning they crave.

This issue is timely, with another article on racial politics, citing the examples of the discordant introductions by Terrance Hayes and David Lehman, and an article by Tony Hoagland about race, poetry and humor.

Why humor? When such big subjects are no laughing matter, human is a way, says Hoagland, to let the cats and dogs out of the bag. He cites Paul Beatty, Thomas Sayers Ellis and wonders if poetry and poets lag behind an integrated cultural subtext because they are doomed to be categorically sincere... sensitive to the point of silence.

In Monday's poems, we saw wonderful examples of humor -- the caustic wit of Millay to dish out anger, and the defiance which rides the plow of the "Mad Farmers".

The pick of the poems was influenced by this article,
where a mother puts poems in her daughter's shoes... including also the palliative "Wild Geese".

The Hirshfield poem linked the Oliver-esque, David Whyte-infused, Rumi-overtoned Wild Geese,
to the personal detail of losing a friend. As if in two parts: one the sense of mourning at a funeral, the other a meditation on the heart salts of wanting, of will, of grief opening the second stanza with this line:
"Failure -- uncountable failure -- did not matter."

Measurement, what is unmeasurable seemed to be an underlying theme. Berry captures it in this paradox: Expect the end of the world. Laugh. /
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful /
though you have considered all the facts.

But Hirschfield's Buddhism asks us to ponder the one word that comes from the quiet voice inside us. Is it "come" (as in invitation, as in time marker?) coupled with "joy"--
after wondering where it hides... Our discussion included references to Dickinson, drowsy bees, lulled in lavender -- how the poem earns the final line, without boxing the reader in,
rather inviting acceptance:

The ordinary moment swept in, whatever it drowsily holds.
I begin to believe the only sin is distance, refusal.

All others stemming from this. then come.
Rivers, come. Irrevocable futures, come. Come even joy.

So much more to say about the discussion-- truly memorable.

I meant to bring this up for Dreamcatcher (see March 12 discussion)
beautiful twining of half-remembered / twine of the string where two is both halved, and twisted together.
An idea of sisyphus -- where, the dreamcatcher protects from the reality, so the rock-rolling cannot hurt in the dream, but the last line, plunks us solidly into the living nightmares.
Brilliant use of half rhyme, sounds, images of what thoughts arrive in the dark.

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