Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Poems for Dec. 2

Perfect for Any Occasion by Alberto Rios (and Rundel)
Thanks by W.S. Merlin (and Rundel)

At Rundel we also discussed poems by attendees whereas at Pittsford we also discussed
The People of the other Village, by Thomas Lux
Not Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Jennifer Hecht

A perfect post-Thanksgiving poem, and think about what it is we do, what we say... Perfect for Any Occasion -- whether it be Thanksgiving, Winter Solstice, any time we celebrate some ritual, any time we don't... How many expressions do you know with "Pie"? Easy (simple) as... apple pie order... pi... American as apple pie... pie in the sky...
and what do we do with pies? bake, eat, throw in a face, throw together whatever there is and cover with a crust...

Rios takes all these meanings of pie and organizes a two part poem. As one person said, it's a free-ride on acceptance, and part 2, of rejection; an exploration of fitting in or not, anthropomorphism of a pie as immigrant...
There is so much that is pleasing about this poem. We know immediately Mr. "I-can-do-no-wrong" and how funny he is a pecan pie... Think of Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution saying, "let them eat cake" -- although a pie has the rounds of a revolution, the 3.14 circular existence, sliced in so many ways.

Merwin's poem is much harder to follow as he provides a disturbing mix of "thank you" both like a prayer or supplication, and automatic habit, like the polite smile we paste on when we're scared. First stanza, we have no problem with the general, generic thanks... but the second stanza, thanks seems to be about personal survival, third, the news of the day, perhaps a "thank goodness it wasn't me", and by the fourth stanza, with the entire earth falling apart, as chaos of growing cities, felled forests, and no one listening, the darkness of such disconnection still has the ember of "thank you"... Gratitude is a powerful gift... what allows us to continue, sustains us. How do you read it-- as Candide filled with optimism in face of all the cruelty in the "best of all possible worlds" or as a Kafka-esque dirge where thank you is the one salvation... Listen.... we are saying thank you //... nobody listening...we are saying thank you...
How do you feel about saying "thank you" now? How do you feel about being more attentive?

"The People of the Other Village" starts out with an observation of someone not of that village... simply, "they hate us".
Three times the formula of doing this/that is repeated, but with a subtle change of pronoun:
We do this, they do that.
They do this, we do that.
We do this, they do that.

What happens before this is said? Both sides do harm to the other side. The final line:
Ten thousand (10,000) years, ten thousand
(10,000) brutal, beautiful years.

10,000 years spelled out; written as numbers; doubled B of the paradoxical brutal/beautiful -- without any example of the beautiful-- this is a dark poem, in which "beautiful" is nothing more than a word which has not stopped, will not stop the brutality. And how will you act after reading this?

Not Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Jennifer Hecht gave me pause, until I read more about her, her work to help people contemplating suicide. Brilliant parody of Frost, a hint of Dante's dark woods, and deft turning of words.
David gave us some insight with this background: "Stopping by woods" was written in June on the anniversary of the death of his 4th child who died after a few days... Originally titled “New Hampshire” the long original turned into the familiar rhymed verse we have come to know.
Hecht takes it a step further, by deforming the familiar "promises to keep" to the opening "Promises to keep was a lie."
That it ends on "It doesn't matter where I sleep." stresses the fact that "home" as focal point is not the goal. Staying alive is.

"On Reaching the Age of Two Hundred" announces a mythical situation, reinforced by mention of the Sibyl at Cumae.
What is he trying to say?
What happens if you live forever...
perhaps it is a curse along the lines of "may you have 100 mansion with 100 bedrooms"
Given what happens to the speaker of the poem, living to age 200 requires either a large amount of acceptance or denial to want to continue another minute.

Dec. 3

The Rundel group admired Mike's long poem "Full Circle 2 -- Connectivity". Using the conceit of "one to one";
man to man' toe to toe, eye to eye, face to face, moment to moment, hand to hand, he takes us through a life, ending with dust to dust.
His poem, "And He calls Himself a Father" is a touching anecdotal poem with a surprise twist.

We saved Kathy's poems until she returns.

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