Thursday, February 11, 2016

Poems for Feb. 10-11

Playing His Heart Out by Sharon Chmielarz
January 31 by David Lehman
Your Days are Waiting by Dave Harrity
The Faithless Shadows... by Alexandr Blok
Alexandr Blok by David St. John,
Fresh Paint by Boris Pasternak
Cynthia MacDonald (untitled poem)

The Rundel group did not start out with the Chmielarz, but with "Lessons" by Vanessa Stauffer, discussed last week at Pittsford. (see Feb. 3) Indeed, both groups enjoyed this one. We looked at the "reverse nature of origami" picking up on the 2nd stanza mention of "a web of scars" which prepares the last stanza's "scraped shin".

"Playing his heart out" has much admirable craft, including line breaks and the contrast between the first stanza which sets the scene and ends with a period, as opposed to the waterfall of the event unfolding in the subsequent stanzas. Chartreuse living //
room is perfect for a gathering for a wake. The "k" sounds, the rhyming trapped/strapped/clapping/ leading up to the final line of the "black load on his heart" makes a perfect tension of the accordion, and the grief.
The scene felt alive, with the details such as the "afghans saving the sofas", the polka, and clapping, the K sound linking the imagery of location and character with physical red cliffs and cheeks.

Lehman's poem was described by Jim as a well-crafted cupcake one hopes comes from an endless box. Delightful scene again... and a small implied lesson -- don't judge an old man by the speed of his walk -- you don't know how the speaker of the poem knows, but he projects a young man into the thin old man swaddled in scarves. It comes as a refreshing surprise, as much as Vivaldi in a barber shop!

The Harrity was a more difficult poem, with a pull between certainty (certitude)and a baffling "clamor of hooves throbbing in purple morning light" that "narrows us --.
The intriguing title links well with the zen-like insistence on "this" -- the duty to be mindful before the days, waiting to be left behind, pass into sleep.

For the Russian poems, we struggled, and tried to honor the nuances between the lines of the translation. In the Blok, the heaviness of the old, the parallel stone steps of the church, and human steps, the play between dark and light, heaviness of the old, and perhaps the anticipation of the new, came through this appreciation of one poet for another. We are thinking an elegy. Why call shadows faithless? Is it that they shy away from the roll of church bell, the steps...

The David St. John poem sets a delightful scene as well -- meeting authorities on Blok and Pasternak. A small reference to the serendipity of finding a black cashmere overcoat (on the back rack of a Venice thrift store) might also be a Russian clin d'oeil to Gogol...
Mike, in the Rundel group which met on the blustery blizzard-y 2/11, mentioned he also had such a coat, but Gray, and the thrift store was on W. Henrietta... My one question was why he needed to put in "yet to anyone who saw me walking" -- perhaps for the veracity of his feeling of being the most lyrical shadow alive -- but it didn't quite work for me as the Lehman's old man.

Fresh Paint... well... is it a love poem? is You a person or something more abstract.
What whitens a yellowed world? What color is madness or lamp shade, and how is it that even this grows white?

There was a typo on the Cynthia MacDonald poem -- "no epiphany or apotheosis".
One suggestion of a read is to think of Angels, as in how many dance on the head of a pin, and we, as brimless, have no angelic halo -- and what we think of as "good" becomes a combination of angel and fallen angel. Does such "cleavage" make things more clear? Do "immaculate certainties" include the "immaculate conception"? Indeed, language is a paltry vehicle -- and she projects the hats and hosannas into the unfinished sentences: Hush, don't raise... (your hat? your voice? your hopes)
Keep it under your (hat, tongue, belt, ). Hats identify, protect, and provide metaphor for states of mind -- as in which hat are you wearing today. The quiet sound of "perhaps" is indeed a hush of of the unspoken and mysterious and ends the poem.

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