Thursday, January 28, 2016

poems for January 27 (and two from Rundel Feb. 4)

Noah, to His Dove by Leah Falk (from Verse Daily)
Prayer for Travelers by Leah Falk (from Cargo)
Poppy Field by Mary Buchinger (link to Klimt's painting of same title)
Unity by Pablo Neruda, (1904 – 1973)
Cotton Candy by Edward Hirsch (1950... )*
For Telly the Fish by Toi Derricotte, (1941...) (look up painter Alice Neel)*

*Discussed at Rundel on Feb. 4 -- see the end of the article.

I don't often pursue a poet that I find on Verse Daily, or other sites, but did so this week, discovering Leah Falk. The first poem intrigued me, perhaps because I couldn't fathom the confusion. The group proferred a few ideas: that Noah could be poets, and the Dove as peace... the delivery of the Torah, through the Dove... but the question remains, what is the book of animals, why is the dove "torn out", and why does Noah's heart "still; dip a trench that fills with rain"? Or is that God's heart?
The second poem had some striking images of ocean, night and brought up a discussion of airplane travel, what connects and disconnects us. The turning point in the poem is towards the end, when "we" is introduced. I think it could end on Prayer.

"The attendant turns the lights out, and just then we remember
what we learned at birth: the big star that keeps us alive

is the tongue of a bell at noon, endlessly tolling
the mourner’s prayer."

Instead, it continues, "No wonder we gather

the night around us as long as we’re in the sky, loving how
it encrypts our bodies, refrigerates our grief.

Really? Is this to do with the "No wonder my seat mate confesses: he drinks a whiskey
and narrates another part of his life story to a tape recorder.

Leah, who shares the name of Rabin's widow. How does this all fit in?
The next poem, coupled with the Klimt painting of poppies, explored the three trees in the background as well as the poem, written in tercets. What delightful language:a meadow --
unrolling like a loaded exhale—
the blowsy breath of a mob of flowers.

Such words bring the painting alive!

Such a different tone in the penultimate stanza:
In the far distance, rising from the spattered field,
three tall trees cross a ribbed, skim-milk sky,
the middle tree, severely bitten—

and twice, Christ and the robbers... and ending on robbers...
The last line felt a bit glib: What landscape is possible without fruit and robbers?

Why the title? Why not "Christ and the Robbers and leave out the last stanza?
The poem spreads like a quilt... The poppies reminded a few of the WW I, "In flanders fields"

After these three, it was a relief to arrive at Neruda's poem. No struggle to follow the words, wonder how they were intended. Everything circles...and the poem creates a mystic tone... as one person put it, like watching a movie with the guy writing with a voice-over...
Does it matter what happens the next day...? Another mentioned how
wonderful it is to read a poem that doesn’t demand poking and justification, who wrote it, or who translated it... but, really, can we say that...

The next poem, "Cotton Candy" was an example of poetry at its most glorious! Two quatrains embrace a seven-line stanza. The first evokes a physical memory of a boy eating cotton candy with his grandfather. The second tells you that it is nothing -- just like the spun sugar that disappears when it hits the tongue. And then, wham, the third stanza brings you the memory sharp as a bell -- the power of this something that disappears, (candy, grandfather) and the resilience of memory to resurrect it. The threading of fingers, spun sugar, blue air, the way he can taste it still, but it disappears as soon as he breathes. Beautifully sustained narrative of the experience.

**The final poem also refers to a painting by Alice Neel

A kitchen table with a vase of flowers, behind which a yellow shade is slightly pulled down.
Who could not love Telly the fish seeing how tenderly the author cares for him, providing him not just with a painting but with anthropomorphized empathy!

The poem encourages the reader to think about the tiniest bit of life...
caring for things...

Many of the poems addressed water... but for Telly, it made a boundary he broke, jumping up to give a kiss! Not slimy, icky, the poem assures -- and then gives this wisdom:
"For all
our fears of
touch, it takes so long
to learn how to take in."

The hurt of breathing... his death... the burial where he could join the "bigger water" of life.

Rundel Discussion: Perhaps because the Pittsford Group had poems which addressed water, another painting, travel... the last two poems, discussed at Rundel with the Taylor, Seibles and Kunitz poems (see Feb. 3-4) had less of a "wow" reaction. The line that came out for the Rundel group in Cotton Candy was the penultimate one in the 2nd stanza of the Grandfather, "an old man from the Old World" evoking an immigrant experience. The taste of memory -- both sweet, but quickly disappearing, remains.

For the Derricotte, the Alice Neel painting and opening line were met with a certain skepticism. Really? How do you know Telly's favorite artist -- which other paintings has he seen. The speaker of the poem comes across as god-like, with the final stanza acting as testimony of the caring in the relationship with the fish. The language is rather flat, like a diary entry with sloppy grammar. The ampersands give a sense of "and, so on" as if details are of fragmentary importance. The group felt the poem could have ended with the 2nd stanza. "How do you stop the hurt/of having the breathe." which makes a link to life struggles. However, we would have missed out on the tender goodbye. The poem is more about the author than about the fish...

I find it amazing how the discussion in both groups tempers my reading, reception, (enjoyment level) of work.

No comments: