Friday, March 18, 2016

Poems for March 16-17

Reading Plato - by Jorie Graham
Among Women by Marie Ponsot
Windchime by Tony Hoagland
Anti-Anxiety Poem by Carrie Shipers
Dirt by Jo McDougall

What happens with poetry,or any art, when you slow down, break it into sections, piece it together in different ways... The word "practice comes to mind... Right now I am working on a difficult prelude (Rachmaninoff #2, op 16)which requires slow, deliberate practice that doesn't sound at all the way it will once I take it up to tempo. But without it, the beauty of the fabric of the piece will be at risk with sloppy mistakes, missed notes and only an approximation of the piece.

We can read essays about poets, see their honors, but to find a poem and stay with it for 45 minutes in a group, allows discoveries (not answers). We took Jorie Graham's poem first line by line, which felt fragmented; the second reading, we read two lines at a time, allowing the phrasing to come out. The third reading was stanza by stanza. The group agreed, without such an approach, we might have read it, enjoyed it, but missed out on so much.

First, the title... What does Reading Plato have to do with making flies for fishing?
"Lie" and "lures" are first words... with "flies" rhyming with the unspoken plural of "lie".
A cursory summation would be the idea of fish taking the flies for something "real", and Graham's skill in creating a reflecting world.
As a big picture person, I love the idea of a well-crafted poem where each details adds to a satisfying unity of an important idea. She does this. Plato's allegory of the cave, recreated for fish... how "ideas" and imagination are what keep us afloat... how knowledge "skips across the
surface"... dis - member / re- member, as in put back together.
Comments from the group:
flashes... intentionality... consonants... fragmentations... like a fish... underwater...
what is reality... people in the cave only see the shadows...
rhythm... the fly fisherman’s rhythms...
mosaic (not abstract art)... they add up... water refracts.
fuzzy: where fish stop and men begin. like Escher drawing.
take what we learn from the group...
misrepresentation... fly.. men...
vivid... old man (perhaps going blind)... on his way to death... transfiguration deer hair
far in the lifespan of man... and specific man...
garden. symbol of the Virgin Mary. Eden: beautiful lie... What is your tiny garden?
ambiguous without being obfuscating.

The next poem also has an intriguing title. How do you understand "Among Women" -- exclusionary to men, or what it is like, "among women" as in Achilles, hiding so as not to fight... an unfinished reference of who among women is blessed...
The contradiction in line two is marvelous, calling on the various meanings of "wander" -- both physical and mental. Not many (physically impossible, restricted). All (escape in the imagination-- Dickinson's "No frigate like a book" comes to mind.) the close sound of "wander" and "wonder". The Peddler is allowed to wander, and brings the smell of the wild, unpegged life,
"sleep where you will... do whatever when, choose your bread and company...

Another enigmatic line: The Grandmother warning, "Have nothing to lose"... No one can steal your thoughts if you keep your mind intact, private and active.
How do you read the repeat of endure? to endure "endure", or simply the repetition of survival surviving. The parallel with the wild, once young man, and the imagination of his wife, "smelling" the lifestyle of the peddler. Reminiscent perhaps of the Raggle-taggle gypsies.
Curious how "man" is the end word rhyming with the final word of the poem. "as best they can" (women)

Tony Hoagland's poem is a tender love poem, speaking to that most annoying detail that endears someone to us. We had a good laugh when Paul shared his laugh about the wind chime inserted in the nightgown! Two stanzas of description. Then, the reflection of the poet... and the entry of the idea of absence of sound... that soundless urgency of trying to do something, with the "unfinished" business haunting us. That turn of thought allows the poem to dwell on why the poet will stay with this woman... the delicious language "problem scrunched into her forehead/the little kissable mouth/with the nail in it." Perfect encapsulation of opposition -- I love you, not.. I don't love you, but do...

The anti-anxiety poem gave us rise of laughter, perhaps in part, because it was filled with useless worries, and being told not to worry about them. But does it work? Is there intrigue?
Could the poem have ended on "nameless dread you'd do anything to avoid"? Perhaps a different title then... How to read the last line: Don't worry that worry might be all you have.
Glib? Moralizing -- don't waste your time worrying. But how is that "anti-anxiety"?
I far preferred Carrie Shipers' poem we discussed last week (In your next letter,/
please describe)

Following up on Jo McDougall from last week, ("This morning") we read the three sentences in this 7 line poem. Fierce... final. Dirt having arrogance...brings out a primal emotion.
Carmin brought up the song "Dustbowl Dance" Mumford & Sons

Dirt, knowing she's from the dustbowl... a culture and life we don't know. Dirt... metaphor for what one goes through losing a daughter.

Each week, I write these notes, for me, to recreate in my mind the amazing energy of 17-23 people gathered, sharing the reading aloud of poems. I need to tell the poets how much we enjoy reading and sharing their words. How they are our honored guests.

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