Friday, June 26, 2015

Poems for June 25

A selection of Juan Felipe Herrera (available orally)
Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew
Is it Better Where you Are, by Christophe Salerno (poetry foundation post 6/2)
Shades by D.H. Lawrence
We Wear the Mask by Lawrence Dunbar
Always Something More Beautiful by Stephen Dunn

Is poetry at risk of dying? What poems are picked for daily consumption by such agencies as Poetry Foundation, Poetry Magazine, Garrison Keilor's Writers Almanac. Who is the audience?

So, in listening to "Let Me Tell you What a Poem Brings" by the new US National Poet Laureate, we understand a poem is not something to pin down, and even if you compare it to a shopping mall, cannot be compared to a commercial venture one enters, with an inside that might catch you by surprise, pull at your senses. The mist/missed becomes central.

I asked if anyone had a favorite, and Terry proposed "Song out Here".

One of the criteria is to wonder, would I read this again in 5 years and still find it pertinent? How is a poem pertinent? What do we look for in poems?
Perhaps rap and jazzy sounds are in, and support a feel of today, but will they become a simple object of curiosity tomorrow?

In the line-up, I picked a contemporary poem, referring to 19th century Keats, then two poems by poets of the late 19th century, returning to a pick by the June Issue of Poetry Magazine.
Is it better where you are? Involves a "you" that could refer to Fannie Brawne, (the poet spelled it "Braun") Keats, the reader... The poet's last line "These scraps I work at like a crow" feels like a door slammed in the face, which changes the tone-feel of the title to an edgy sarcasm. My question to the group was whether the line breaks supported or interfered with the flow of the meanings. For instance, the "I keep watching the same meteor" (meteor as noun) endgames to "meteor/shower videos on YouTube, where shower acts like a verb.
Similarly, does the parallelism "my arrhythmic heart/aches for the kind of dramatic arc"
draw you in or push you out?

So what does this poem bring you? or fail to bring?
Do we believe the loss of smell will show you will fail at being? And what is the wonder over the weight of meaning?

From there, we enter the underworld of D.H. Lawrence, who according to the American Academy of Poets write up, "believed in writing poetry that was stark, immediate and true to the mysterious inner force which motivated it." This poem, in a book published in 1919 uses form, opening with a question, followed by tercets which echo the end rhymes (gleam, flame, me/seem, same, me; flower, strive, listen; our, deprives, glisten; morsel, tremble, hand; parcel, dissemble, understand) and the closure, "For I have told you plainly how it is."
Really? What is "it"? and to whom is he speaking? there seems to be a subtle communication with the dead, the shades being spirits of the underworld-- perhaps all that we the living shirk? Mysterious, sensual.

From there, the powerful rhetoric of Lawrence Dunbar, son of freed slaves, born and died in Ohio: 1872 – February 9, 1906. The strong rhyme does not interfere with the message. The four times "We were the mask", as title, as opening line, and twice indented could refer to different understandings of "we" -- universal, the mask specific to Americans, the "us" as the slaves, and return to the universal. The break of pattern: subtleties/over-wise/sighs/ (3 lines) sandwiched between guile/smile and while, followed by the indented "We wear the mask"
gives a sense of disparity between inner and outer mask. Note the interweaving of the final 6 lines:
we smile / cries
sandwiches (we sing,... vile/mile with "otherwise, we wear the mask.

Returning to contemporary, the poem by Stephen Dunn from his book, "Lines of Defense".
Is the 6 line, free verse stanza too artificial, or does it imitate the sense of thinking while running, ruminating on lessons learned. Read sentence by sentence, we notice an uneven gait, the occasional internal rhyme. Who is the man with the famous final kick? Death? God? the author of the poem, a different contestant -- all of the above? The last line renders "Beautiful" overheard, and also incorporated and interpreted by the speaker of the poem as the kind of unexpected that has occurred before, pulling the title in yet another way -- always something more beautiful in beautiful.

We ended with "Endings" which appeared in Nimrod's issue "Circulatory Systems" Spring/summer 2015. -- as reworked in my book, "Golden Smoke" -- ah... a hint of pain without a final "n".
end without a final d, a hint of an equation , let "n" equal... a sense of unfinished.
We will resume the Rundel sessions September 17 !

Jim gave me a present -- a copy of a page of I'm not sure from what book, but it starts with "They" and goes into an examination of Eastern and Western mind, the first, containing multiplicity and the second a unity and oneness. Consciousness and form, energy or manifestation are not radically separate... More on this in the Fall.

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