Thursday, February 18, 2016

poems for February 17-18

Calling Across by Linda Allardt
Wasn’t There? by Linda Allardt
This Stranger, My Husband by Freya Manfred,
The Poems I Have Not Written by John Brehm
Blue or Green by James Galvin
The Love-Hat Relationship Aaron Belz

A bridge, a question, the delight of the unexpected, knowing, naming, then realizing one knows nothing, and what was named has become strange, the glue of love, the fun of mocking the bombastic, or writing the “anti-ars-poetica” – all could be discussed at length, in this handful of poems. I think of it as a way of opening doors on conversations.

In "Calling Across" placement of the first line starting midway with the beginning of each stanza (after the first one) reinforces the idea of “broken”. The opening line in one complete sentence contrasts with the complexity of the final prolonged sentence. "Calling Across", the title, is repeated in the present tense of two people, who wave and "call across" what seems to be a river, not wide, but icy and deep. The “now” of the moment, is shaded by the bridge that used to be. Introducing two people on either side of the bridge mid-line, with the enjambment of “wind / snatches the words” sets a scene of loss to complement the missing span.
Who is you, mentioned 4 times? Who is I? It could be a friend, a lover, a spouse...two countries.
The sense of sorrow compounds. It is not just one bridge; it is many, and the route from one person to the other on either side is a “long way around”. And this is compounded by two more possibilities: If one arrives, the person one used to know may be a stranger. Worse, the “someone else entirely.../than I knew” is separated from the final three words “than I knew” by the vivid language that describes what once was, now “sunken snags and wreckage”, the river now wider than in the beginning.

How poignant the loss, knowing once the one was able to finish the other’s sentences, read their thoughts. to be so far apart. The break is not sudden.
Line seven, “you on your side, I on mine,” places two people on the same line, but clearly on opposite banks.
Line six, “We stand” / followed by “you” on the 7th line will echo the break after the 14th line (also started midline) “By the time I got there” to “you” on the 15th.

The sounds link the once-was bridge “square-cut stone bulks out of the banks” where the “k” speaks of strong blocks, turns to the “K” in the visible damage of sunken/wreckage.

The second poem is highly intriguing with the title as question. How will one pronounce it? The colloquial, “wasn’t there”, as if to confirm a suspicion to another, or a flat out question. People saw it as an exhortation to pay attention. We expect dark in winter,
but three times, light appears – a season of it; a pervasive sense of it; the “it” can extend to a mystic light beyond the physical light of sun-caught ice and tinsel. The poem is “not ruined by belaboring or explaining”. The question at the end sounds more like a confirmation than a question.

"This Stranger, my husband", picks up the fear of meeting that person on the other side of the bank... Stranger, as adjective and noun; first stanza, past; second stanza, present, with that delightful line of “some old friends won’t come to dinner”.
Third stanza, a sense of what is to come. What counts in the end – as we cannot control names and knowledge – but a chance to accept whatever is as it is, and that perhaps explains the “at last” – if we do, we have loved, finally and truly.

John Brehm’s mock lament is a lot of fun to read, with hyperbolic descriptions of possible poems, which of course, if laid end to end, do sound like the Dorothy Parker quote, “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised".
And what a perfect metaphor to stack them up like the Tower of Babel! -- unfinished and swaying in a thousand different tongues! The thread, “the poems I have not written” is inserted with deadpan wit, breaking hearts (of every woman who left me); compels other poets to ask of God why he lets them live; inspires trees to bow before him, and the wind itself, (after a slick verse of "flutelike lingerings, furious interrogations, passionate/reproofs") to pass over the unwritten poems by this poet... finally turns to the fact that poetry is an attempt to describe a life... So, an homage to poems, and living life like a good poem, and perhaps a chance to question why we haven’t written/lived those poems. As one person quipped, perhaps because we’re with the old friends who wouldn’t come to dinner in the other poem.

Blue or Green seems to be a marvellous anti-ars poetica. "Let me tell you what a poem is!" it seems to say, only to contradict each statement.
Perhaps it is the idea that in modernist times, we have gone from the classical rules that aim for perfection, and embrace the impossibility of contradictions and process which defies any ending. Where is the Green referred to in the title? Even the mention of the blue may well be a lie, since the blue eyes in the dark are something to be taken without proof.

The last line “comes out of the blue” to rescue the poem which up until then looks like an exercise in hyperbole, to turn the poem back to the poet. Right now, he has had enough
of branding paradoxical definitions of poems. What he believes, an alternative to a belief, which is not a fact, is not the question. Let me just have some fun. Without any need for fervor, prosyletizing,....

The love-hat relationship is a delightful exercise that has a clin d’oeil to the people who give such false compliments as “just love your hat”, but mean they are jealous, or mean they want you to recognize they are friendly, want your money, or are just thoughtlessly
judging you on appearances. Superficial. And complicated this verbal communication and relationship! Although he doesn’t ask “What is like a hat?”, the poem will get you thinking about hats, why we wear them, or how, and we judge others who do or don’t. What “interesting” thing will you find for the personality of the person whose hat you like? Let me know!

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