Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 13

1) I am in Need of Music — Elizabeth Bishop
2) #64 — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
3) Visions at 74 — Frank Bidart
*4) I am in Need of Questions -- by Naomi Shihab Nye (
Her note: “We all find outselves involved in projects of activities that confound us — when or why did I say I would do this? What was I thinking… I needed a poem for myself that said, “pause longer. Think again.”
5) Head Handed by Brenda Shaughnessy
6) Mrs. Cavendish…. Stephen Dunn

So just what are we in need of? Bishop will remind you, in case you forgot, of the pleasure, the lush, sensuous comfort of melifluous sounds -- labials, sibilants, fffffff, tttttt, the alliterations accumulating in the line "There is a magic made by melody" where the rhyme scheme changes from the embraced envelope of abba// acca/ to def def. From the speaker of the poem, the reader also sees the beneficial power of the music... whether or not a conscious need, indeed, allows us to view the person in need of such soothing perhaps differently.

I just love the loping, playful way Ferlinghetti weaves words for the eye, while painting a picture of whatever it is he's seeing. The lines stagger down, each one leading to yet another surprise...
wait, where did "some still in togas" come from -- and we feel as if the stage is set 2000 years ago, only to jump to a now of a carnaval with some gypsy lady telling fortunes... and her fingers full of
the thin rings of
her former lives
each one of them enough
to enlighten them
as to what love or life might be

But the key is that Ferlinghetti is giving us eyes to see, not judge... so with this set up, how do we land on these lines? And her lips
almost at their ears
in which they hear only
the very distant roaring
of their own futures.
Note, this is from A Far Rockaway of the Heart. (1998)... cf w/ Coney Island of the Mind....

As Martin remarked, "that which can enlighten us we ignore: the poem shows two halves of our lives, invites us for when we will be ready to hear...

The discussion on the Bidart poem was divided. Some were troubled by the "dot" that separated the two halves, as if two separate poems. The clever use of line break: the opening:
The planet turns there without you, beautiful-- where beautiful could be planet or a "you"
and then towards the end:
you think, as you watch it turn there, beautiful.-- again, planet, or the person observing it...
I love a poem like this, working a dream-like thought, the abrupt sound of "it’s", the portent of the knock of what we know will happen.. and yet, the poem does not convey a fear of dying. What "Weird joy" do you experience? For me a line which really gripped was
"something crowded
inside us always craving to become something
glistening outside us"
rather like the poem "Enough" we discussed last week. What IS that for each of us?
And what does the speaker of the poem mean to say: "To love existence
is to love what is indifferent to you"
but certainly the poem offers us much to think about what we feel on the inside, perceive, ponder about the outside.

Naomi Shihab Nye's poem gave a good discussion as well:
Who is the I... one imagined riding in the car... two people on a journey.
Why the title and What questions are needed? It is not a poem that addresses an urgent need-- but the title perhaps has something to say about questions. What do we ask, perhaps should be only asked after thinking what it is we would want to ask, or take time to think the other might want us to ask. And yet, this is not a poem urgently telling us something...but rather showing the speaker trying to convince herself to slow down. pause. think...

On the American Poets website, they quoted today Naomi Shihab Nye:
“When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

Amen. And this is a poem that accomplishes that!

For the Shaughnessy poem, I was delighted to see that this was one where she was proud of sneaking in "jimmies". Question: What word are you proud of sneaking into a poem? What word would you never put in a poem?
Shaughnessy: I’m equally delighted to have gotten the German word Nachtraglichtkeit in a poem (it’s a Freudian term which means “second act” and refers to a kind of reliving of trauma) and the word “jimmies” as a funnier substitute for “sprinkles.”

The poem takes clichés and runs in surprising directions. A fun run... but an embarrassment
of glitches doesn't go to much further than that.

The final poem was such a pleasure, we'll look at more of this persona Stephen Dunn has created next week.
-- She’s smart...
What do we find out about Stephen Dunn... or rationale and reasons, and project into a
older wiser lady with him.

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