Thursday, July 9, 2015

Poems for July 6

What We Might Be, What We Are by X.J. Kennedy
The Surely – by E.E. Cummings
There is a gold light in certain old paintings – by Donald Justice
At North Farm by John Ashbury
The Gathering Evening by Alberto Rios
Human Habitat by Alice Deming

The first poem is filled with rhythmic fun whose potentially serious title seems to be discarded for nonsensical “ifs”. One person suggested this be a new model to replace a Dear John letter... What I love about the poem, is that a savvy group like O Pen will come up with good questions: How does the title work, and what would change if it did?
Are the rhyming and wit distracting or do they engage us to seek a pattern to what seems to be a puzzle? For instance, note how the rhyming 2nd and 4th line of each stanza end on a strong beat, but the 4th line contains reference to relationship; The 1st and 3rd lines end in a dactyl, except for the curious pincushion with the extra beat of the indefinite article before it. By the 3rd stanza, the pairing stops and there is only one “if” with the final stanza declaring (with two lines for “you”, one for “I”) the decorative ribbon and mosquito, which are as far apart from each other as Bali and NJ.

“There’s a hellavah good universe next door.” – E.E. Cummings
How to read "The Surely" -- as a grammatical billiard game, or as I found out, an actual one:
"English" means to put the spin on the ball; caroming suggests a "carom shot", used in billiards, and certainly one can imagine the spinnings! Or, maybe the poem is a versatile Ars Poetica, filled with synesthetic details, visual delights of misbehaving words colliding together and Cummings having as much fun as PDQ Bach, creating new ledger lines for music only to have the staves crumble under the weight of notes? (Reminds me of the poem I sent out of the Communist Manifesto, where all the letters have fallen into a black heap) Poem of the Day: fallen
BY JÖRG PIRINGER (jörg piringer works in many forms, including visual, digital, and sound poetry, as well as music. In "fallen," piringer combines a visual sensibility with computer programming skills to tumble text from the English translation of The Communist Manifesto into a pile at the bottom of the page. The result is a mass of letters stripped of their original meaning and representing the failure of an idea.—Geof Huth.

There is a gold light in certain old paintings – by Donald Justice: Beautiful poem, with each stanza labeled with a number, as if 1, 2, 3 were separate instances, held together only by the title. Perhaps three different paintings : Christ on the Cross, with the light "sharing its charity"; Orpheus, with no light, and only long O's of sorrow, even that, desirable as something to prolong... and then the complicity of working in the world with "uncle" .
One of those poems which satisfies without need to give explanations. So many associations came up: Martin recalled a sermon reminding us that the idea of working faster was not to have an exhausting 60 hr. week; Milton: sonnet on his blindness... Mahler : kindertotenlieder. sorrowing for dead children. Dark Elegies ballet... -- but the final stanza does not wrap up the poem in light, or sorrow... but rather a hope, even though knowing nothing is here to stay. The work will be clean and good.

North Farm by Ashbury is on Poets Walk -- two stanzas with commas-at-the-end-of-each-line (except for one : enough) and two questions, made Paul think of Santa Claus. I love the specificity of the title -- which pulls at the indefinite "somewhere" -- the sense of an inevitable "someone"-- and the universal question of whether one will be recognized.
The contradiction of "Hardly anything grows here,/
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal" likewise holds paradoxical truths simultaneously without seeming impossible, or needing explanation. One person recalled the depression, how even though they had little, they felt rich.
As Ashbury says, “most poets who give us meaning don’t know what they’re talking about.”

I had included this w/ the poems: John Ashbery (born in Rochester, July 27, 1928) (he reads the poem, followed by interview). His new book, Breezeway was reviewed in the New Yorker and also noted in American Poets which remarks, “Ashbery’s latest offers a collage of marginalia brought to center stage and eerily lit by a submerged psychic disturbance, as in the poem “A Breakfast Radish” where he write, “Whatever we’re dealing with catches us/in mid-reconsideration.” We might call this whimsy if it didn’t seem like a “cloud of knowing” to comprehend our own unknowing.
cloud of knowing” – 13th c. book...

Rios: A poem that starts this way,
Shadows are the patient apprentices of everything.
They follow what might be followed,

and continues to explore possibilities of shadow, which could be immigrants, dreams, what architects think about when designing buildings... and those who have passed before us... all linked with patience, waiting-- is one of those poems to read and read again. Please do! I am speechless.

Deming: powerful poem to make us think about environment and human nature. The conclusion troubles me -- does she earn such an ending? For some, it did.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?

One of the more difficult lines was this:
"Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood."
the closing line of a stanza that starts with:
"Being is either actual or potential."

But here you say, give me the filling in between "message and action": so here it is:
The actual is prior to substance.
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,

Out of context, the layering seems contrived. But with the mention of Stonehenge and Turner, many looked up possible paintings such as this:

other paintings available here.

So much more to say. What I love about the discussions is the way lights turn on in the heads and the respectful sharing. It doesn't really matter what is said, it's like a light show on a poem presented as some amazing dish to taste -- all sorts of colors and flavors. I can't always remember the nuances, or do justice to the discussion. Forgive me, dear reader. Read the poems and tell me what you think.

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