Tuesday, November 24, 2015

poems for Nov. 18

Sent in body of Email:
When Giving Is all we Have -- Alberto Rios
from APR - Nov-Dec 2015
The Sun Got All Over Everything Gabrielle Calvocoressi
To the People of 2060 by Carl Dennis

Around Us by Marvin Bell
What Was Told, That Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207 - 1273

Liberty by Edward Thomas, 1878 - 1917
Going Away by Howard Nemerov

For Rundel: the first 5.

A meaty series in which to contemplate light and dark as we inch towards winter solstice...

I am grateful for contemporary voices and the American Poetry Review who provides 6 issues a year for sampling them. With climate change increasingly on the radar, it is refreshing to see how many ways one can use "Sun" -- perhaps in the first poem, there's a bit of 16th century John Donne, who calls the sun unruly for different reasons than "making a mess of a day". The conceit of the sun, acting like something sticky that has spilled over everything starts as a visceral and sensual heat, that interferes with a girl's plan to grieve, which we find out at the end, is her mother.

When Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) coined the term metaphysical poets, he meant it as an insult: "Metaphysical poets" such as Cowley and Donne, he wrote, used their conceits to present "heterogenous ideas ... yoked by violence together"; "they were not successful in representing or moving the affections.
What would he have to say about the penultimate lines, the juxtaposition of "somewhere my mother was dying"/and someone was skinning a giraffe. Calvocoressi picks up on incongruity,
the "ridiculously" blue sky, the way some remember the sky on 9/11. The incongruity of forgetting a death entirely, along with forgetting about the global consequence of icebergs melting leaving polar bears without a place to stand. This is highly successful and moving.
In the same way, the colloquial tone, "so broke" (and the distraction of buying groceries she can't afford), the appointment with anguish, forgotten because of the sky... with the cracked yolk of sun all over it.

The conversation between sun and girl, the response of the sun pouring over the girls, the erotic instead of the yahrzeit candles, the pull of living against remembering the dead...
The poem affirms life by putting grief on the table...
Elaine shared her research on the poet, whose mother committed suicide when she was 13.

The sun scorches in a different way for the people writing to the people 45 years hence.
How much emotional juice, and how much narrative cleverness? I love the play in the 5th stanza, "as a problem we're free to pass on". Although not everyone agreed it was a successful poem, it did bring up anecdotes of how we used to plan for the future... and the necessity to continue to do so. But is the heart moved? One person brought up Hayden Carruth's poem: I could take:
I could take
two leaves
and give you one.
Would that not be
a kind of perfection?

But I prefer
one leaf
torn to give you half

(after these years, simply)
love's complexity in an act,
the tearing and
the unique edges —
one leaf (one word) from the two
imperfections that match.

But that's a different goal and message.

Around us, by Marvin Bell seems also a poem addressed to the future, although there is no sense of urgency. The line breaks seemed arbitrary, just as "whatever good we did" sounds a little too facile. I'm not sure that if we keep pines, silvery stream, a smooth bed of pine needles, someone will necessary give a sound of thanks, although I do love the sound of of "a zipper or a snap"-- but it's too vague to think we have saved nature, done any good. One person offered that a practicing poet is a dancer" -- in this case dancing around nature, gliding through the twilight and hoping it will be there. How would you read "whatever good we did" -- equal weight on "good" and "did", "good- we -did", or a slur without emphasizing "did" at all?

The Rumi, regardless of what one says about translation, is a lovely psalm of praise for the Creator. The placement and lineation of "What was" gives a beautiful sense of oneness in a convincing wrap of mystery.

For the Thomas: the rhyme weaves between pattern and liberty from pattern, the moon, both white and dark... a meditative piece of poet and moon, capturing the darkness of war, the darkness of loss, the importance of not to be shackled by inaction.

The Nemerov is a metaphoric war,"Keeping our faces to the front, there is
A moment, after saying all farewells,
when we taste the dry and bitter dust
of everything that we have said and done
for many years, and our mouths are dumb,
and the easy tears will not do."
as he faces exile, forced to leave one position for another --

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