Monday, August 10, 2015

Poems for July 27

My Daughter Describes the Tarantula by Faith Shearin
Natural Disasters by Faith Shearin
Song for Lonely Roads by Sherwood Anderson
Begin Summer by Ingrid Jonker
The Coney by Paul Muldoon

Two poems from a new collection by Faith Shearin, Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015.

The first about a spider most consider dangerous, from a childlike point of view woven with wisdom about the need to be understood. Beautiful web of sounds, light d's (delicate, die, tidy, dry, decorated, mild) f's and s's which bespeak fragile and silk, and two enjambments which augment and extend meaning: "threatened they fling their hairs trying/
not to bite"
what a surprise -- not to attack, but in defense, not to do harm. Clearly we have misunderstood if we understand such spiders as a threat, "and suddenly her description becomes/
personal..." What brings us to identify with another living being?
The poem allows a child's voice to carry what I call a stubborn, "Little Prince" wisdom, with a hint of E.B. White's Charlotte.

The other short poem doesn't have such charm, addressing the conceit of "truce". Perhaps one can balance large-scale law of nature vs. small-scale family quibbles in 15 lines, but the group was not convinced it was successful.

The third poem is 100 years older, indeed, a song, filled with rhythms of a searching person seeking to bargain with the gods. Some enjoyed it, some felt the poem short-changed a possible personal narrative.

The poem by Ingrid Jonker, an anti-apartheid South African, creates a delightful, yet ominous
scene of a child at the beach ending with the hint of a tinkling ukulele, charming, vulnerable, sweet...
"your mouth surely is a little bell
tiny tongue for a clapper"

The pleasures of sound:
The sibilant sum-mer /sea
interrupted by "the cracked quince"
the sound of the waves in sk and ch of sky and child
and visual pleasure of double l and double o in balloon.
Sticky sweet pleasure of stripy sugarsticks -- under which are "ants of people".
The teeth of gold arriving after the "gay laugh of the bay" is unsettling.
Yellow with the occlusives in "bucket"; and the odd detail -- "forgotten pigtail".

Without background, would you have guessed at some danger?

Thanks to Paul Brennan, I was happy to include "The Coney" -- pronounced "cunny" which means rabbit in Ireland. Listen to these sounds animate the half-acre garden: p-st-ck / c-fl-st / f/c/garden:
"last year's pea-sticks
and cauliflower stalks"
Delightful dialogue where we learn the name of the cauliflower is "all year round"and that the garden is not particularly an easy place to grow things; and who's the coney, stripped of its bathing togs, to "parade/and pirouette like honey on a spoon:
How did we get from garden to swimming pool?

David did recite from memory the Windhover:

Kathy's comments:
The group did make comparisons between Hopkin's skill and Murray's mediocre ability with language in her poem "Survivor-Forever". (on poets walk) Even though she had a powerful message her language skill did not rise to it. David brought up Elizabeth Bishop as a poet who can move readers and do it with very simple well crafted language.
Questions that I raised were:
---What are the purposes of poetry? For some people, the poem "Survivor - Forever" may be so heartfelt that they will treasure it forever. Does that make it a good poem?
--- Does and can anyone today write with the glorious sound of Hopkins? And would it be valued? Would it just be imitation? A great wonder of "The Windhover is that it is explicitly Christian yet can speak so powerfully to non-Christians, even atheists!
For me, during our O Pen discussions, there are the dual and often nearly simultaneous thinking processes of 1. analyzing the skill in a poem and 2. the simple, "How did I experience it; how was I moved by it?". At O Pen you honor both types of response. I had recently read an article about a newly published collection of essays by literary critic Helen Vendler. It was the perennial debate about responding to poetry - "Was it good?" versus "Did I like it?"

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