Thursday, May 14, 2015
Poems for May 11
The Makers by Howard Nemerov
The Amen Stone by Yehudi Amichai
Dear Mr. Bukowski, by --Claudia Cornelison , one of the finalists for goodreads April ipoetry contest:
Cheerios By Billy Collins
To My Favorite Seventeen Year-Old High School Girl by Billy Collins
The Dispersed Congregation by Tomas Tranströmer
In the April issue of Poetry Magazine, the final poem is "I look to Theory Only When I realize That Someone Has Dedicated Their Entire Life to a Question I Have Only Fleetingly Considered.
And then a series of flat statements, that aren't necessarily theory ensue.
In the May issue of poetry, the theme seems to be the responsibility of art to record the disasters at the time, in Karen Solie's poem "Bitumen" and Frank Bidart's 32 page "4th Hour of the Night".
The quotation on the back of the May issue says, "When a poem becomes commemorative, it dies" and links to Cathy Park Hong's essay, "Against Witness".
What a contrast to Nemerov's tribute!
Judith had memorized "The Makers" by Nemerov, and mentioned what a struggle it was to commit to memory, and yet, because her brother had done so, and able to retain it, perhaps it was in his honor as well as to honor a poem honoring the "makers" or poets, sometimes also called fabricators. She demonstrated the importance of gesture, pauses, and how they helped her memorize.
This poem, in 3 stanzas of blank verse in iambic pentameter threads the memorable lines such as:
And bones and cantilevered inference
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets,
Star, water, stone, that said the visible
And made it bring invisibles to view
Leaving no memory but the marvelous
Magical elements, the breathing shapes.
How different from the theoretical postulations in the April issue of Poetry!
As for commemorative... I think Nemerov proves Pathy Park Hong wrong. Paying tribute to the past, the origins of poets before the centuries wrote down rules to follow and break, Nemerov pays rightful tribute, in a very alive manner.
The Amen Stone: however you pronounce it, the "so be it" as it is translated, with an echo, as in the Muslim "Inch'Allah" of "God's will" presents us with mission of connecting experience with emotion.
Perhaps there is allusion of violence done, but the tone of the poem is peaceful, weighted by this stone saying "Amen". Who is "a sad good man"? That he exists, and acts in lovingkindness, translated in Hebrew as Chesed; in Christian terms as "misericordia"; in Buddhism as "mettã" points to an important universal. Like a slant invitation to be that sad, good person to gather the suffering of the world up, fragment by fragment. That the poem ends on "Child's Play" is a bit of a conundrum. Indeed, a child learns through play, to make sense of the world. Such a great task takes a child's innocence perhaps. Intriguing poem which illicit a lot of discussion, and a variety of opinions.
Dear Mr. Bukowski is a delightful critique on how to teach poetry. It draws on the power of such small words as "Of", "And", and "For" -- think of all the important declarations drawn up beginning sentences or constructions such as "of the people, by the people, for the people" -- and where does "and" fit in, and did Bukowski have the agency of "by" applied to someone? Knowing his style, of course his words are not "nice" and the ending slices deeper that the wall stained with word blood.
I found the Billy Collins poem equating age with cheerios quite amusing, and in fact googled my birth year with American food invented. I highly recommend.
What makes a "Billy Collins" poem -- usually enjoyable but raises the question about whether it could be a short essay vs. a poem? Is there a deeper meaning, a truth made accessible in a way no other form could impart? Perhaps the depth lies in the reminder not to take ourselves so seriously... But what happens after "enjoyable" wears off? See:
What makes Billy tick? Why are we attracted to it? Why do we ask, "is there more"?
Comments on the favorite 17 yr. old on May 14.
Tomas Tranströmer deserves as entire blog post by himself.