Wednesday, April 1, 2015

poems for March 30

(Winner: Seamus Heaney’s Sonnet # 3 from Clearances
“When All the Others Were Away at Mass”
A person protests to fate by Jane Hirschfield
Dreaming in Swedish – by Philip Levine

Wipe that Smile Off Your Aphasia, Harryette Mullin
Basketball Rule #5 by Kwame Alexander
Go So You Can Come Back by Jared Harel
Night Dirge -- David Michael Nixon

Although we discussed the first three poems at Rundel, this session of Open confirmed both the "multiverse" of possibilities of understanding depending on individual readers, as well as the subjectivity within each that allows one response to a poem one day, which may well yield a quite different reading and response another.
To me, that is the sign of a good poem. Similarly, what we choose when it comes to a poem and how it reflects the need for the “how” we arrive at the choice seems to shift.

For the Heaney, the Monday group remarked the contrasts between the cutting sound of cold comfort and the intimate scene at home peeling, where the meditative work wraps them, leading to "pleasant" and "gleaming"; the coming together of tools, the "fluent" dipping knives. David, our Robert Frost expert, reminded us that Heaney was a great admirer of Frost, and the repeated "Fall" in the first stanza reminded him of "After Apple Picking" and addressing mortality.
The richness of the poem increased with each comment, which is another sign of a good poem.

In the Hirshfield, our reading focussed on the "middle" where it seemed not so much a riddle, but rather a struggle of getting two pieces together and quite a few comments about the idea of "wake" as enlightenment and finding a source of strength.Kathy helpfully reminded us of the 3 main tenets of Buddhism: everything’s connected, everything changes, pay attention!
Perhaps a metapoetic poem, perhaps a slight reference to a story of Thich Nhat Hanh who fell in love and remained true to his vows as monk.

Dreaming in Swedish provoked also a different discussion. The group focussed on
"He must be the mailman." as the pivot sentence. We spent a long time discussing the role of mailman--
the role of delivery no matter the weather... The personal note in the penultimate stanza, "What does this seashore near Malmo/have to do with us, makes us think beyond dream to relationship and what it is to communicate to those we love -- how our responses to loved ones are so often inadequate.

The "new" poems:
The provocative title of Mullen's poem distressed some, delighted others and allowed many different readings. Imagine life without simile... don’t hide behind the smile... By using "as" in multiple ways, none of which feel usual, the reader can approximate the feeling of being aphasic -- but also, explore contexts in which indeed. David gave some examples: "I'm as onion as I can be, peeling off my layers" or Today, I'm as grassfire as myself, ready to flare. Maura picked up the way you can also read the poem focussing on the second "as" of each fragment, which picks up on things that matter for a human being: we go, fear, expect, get, know, imagine, hope, promise...(or not) and see this mirrored back to us. It makes you think about language and reminded some of E.E. Cummings... the multiple ways we make sense of nonsensical phrases. Whether annoying or humorous, perhaps that is also a statement about response to originality --
as one of my artist friends states, "a normal person is someone you don’t know very well.
a wierdo is someone who has different hang-ups than you."

Joyce had drawn my attention to a wonderful book called "The Crossover" by Kwame Alexander which tells a story in poetry of twin basketball-playing brothers, a pro-basketball father, and clues as to why he quit. The characters of the mother, the boys, the father leap out of the pages. I shared the beginning lines of the poem about an anti-climatic victory supper, and asked people to imagine the middle up to the last two lines where the teen says
"I understand more than she think I do.
But is hummus the answer?"
Now, this is a boy who can use the word "obdurate" but hides it from his friends, to be cool. The poem sets up the actuality of a teen's present moment with background of the pretenses that hide the truth about the health of the grandfather and father, laced with the mother's way of addressing fear. A very humane and touching story.

Interspersed in the sections are rules, and so I shared Basketball Rule #5 (below)"
you stop
your game
you’ve already

On March 2, I had sent an email out, spilling the contents of the Jan-Feb 2015 issue of the American Poetry Review. There were also 3 poems by Jared Harel.
Why did I pass over them in the list below? I ask myself. And, what prompted me to accentuate the pell-mell mix of ridiculous things in the poem "Go instead of guiding people to appreciate how he creates a poem about loving...
I also read aloud: "upon hearing that someone has forgotten their laptop, iphone, watch, dog leash and sneakers at airport security" -- depending on your mood, the recognizable landscape of daily objects and airport security, will tickle your fancy, or not. Yesterday I heard a wonderful story of a metal tree with jeweled leaves that made it across the US/Canada border, but was stopped in the security belt at the Toronto airport -- and a mini-art appreciation show ensued.
A poem should begin in delight and end in wisdom... but what does that mean to each person?

Go so you can come back,
says my wife, meaning go but don't linger
in frozen foods, or forget
where you parked, or chat up the cashier.
but the poem then proceeds with the second sentence... 24 lines long, and which ends with a clobbering
"no place like home" to come back to.
Depending on your mood, you will like or be annoyed by the different meanings and use of love:
and go because I love you, though I also love
those parmesan pop chips,
and to love is to leave
room for longing, ...

I am always grateful for the chance to share our variable moods, how we pin our life's experiences to share insights into how we understand. Today's session was filled with poems, starting with reading a poem about April Fool's day published in 1900, and a variety of poems, pulling heart out of words in myriad ways.

Beth Bachman: series of poems which seem more like fragments called “Wall”. No punctuation.

Alex Dimitrov: The Hall of Mirrors p. 8

Article about “Vital Books from 2014” by Arielle Greenberg.
Claudia Rankine: Citizen: an American Lyric (“documents the commonplace racist encounters so deeply embedded in American Life” – it is our duty as writers to “hack away”—keep slicing at that which seeks to entrap us.)
two other politically charged books:
Jan Clausen: Veiled Spill: a sequence
Emily Abendroth: Exclosures
Katie Ford: Blood Lyrics (praise the human, gutted, rising)
Lauren Ireland: The Arrow (stylish, melancholy, fragmented)
Hoa Hguyen: Red Juice (collected, 1998-2008; informal, domestic, irreverent, sloppy/precise; warm/brusque; historically impermissible stuff)
CA Conrad: Ecodeviance: (Soma)tics for the Future Wilderness
Rachel Zucker: The Pedestrians (low effect prose poems)
Olena Kalytiak Davis: The Poem She Didn’t Write and other poems (unstable self at the heart of it)
local BOA press: John Gallaher’s In a Landscape (71 chatty, contemplative poems in 3-stanza long lined procedural form , written over several years while listening to John Cage’s piano composition of the same name and reading Cage’s SILENCE.
etc. p. 11

13 poems by John Skoyles: (teaches at Emerson College and poetry Editor of Ploughshares).
Jenny Browne: Welcome to Freetown

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