Saturday, April 9, 2016

March 30-31

How We Made a New Art on Old Ground by Eaven Boland
Poem by Thomas McGrath
Long Night Full Moon by D.A. Powell
The Tradition by Jericho Brown
Blue Dementia by Yusef Komunyakaa, 1947
The Gardenia by Cornelius Eady, 1954

Again and again, I pinch myself-- how is it we gather each week and again and again, find such sustenance from poems? Given two groups reading the same sets of poems, I find it interesting how differently the discussions go. Whereas on Wednesday, there was an engaged discussion about "new art on old ground" and the mix of history/nature poem and how to separate them, Thursday's group was less interested in the conceit. I find it always mysterious that a well-crafted poem leaves so many paths to follow.

To start with Eaven Boland, the first glance reveals quatrains, staggered as if a dialogue: justified lines: history;
indented lines: nature.
Rhyme of Estuary and history... truth and turn... rust, (metal) and how blood, oaths, armor "are unwritten." It's wonderful to have an Irishman who tells about the "whin bushes" whose color does indeed change from electric yellow, depending on the weather. Also, filled us in on the Battle that took place on the Boyne in 1690 -- one that determined which king, which religion would dominate...
Lucky to have an English professor who reminds us that the nature poem until the romantic revolution was a celebration of historical interest...
Sweet corrosion as oxymoron,
a sort of "digestive process", with a lingering loveliness? Shadows, shallow ford, bushes, the hush of silence in the sounds of the poem.

What ground (in art) is ever new, entirely? We build on what we know, on what has been, and also, no matter the changes of landscape, weather, we build on recognizing repetitions. Words help us sort it all out. We see what the poems says... until a change of weather...

McGrath provides a foil for this poem -- I love the opening line -- "I don't belong in this century"
and indeed, if we do not belong to our land, its history... how do we belong? I love the tone he establishes in the 2nd stanza, "I don't mean"... ending with a one line word. "Lost". The intimate "thou" gives it a sense of love poem, in spite of the bitterness about false values, twice-mentioned emptiness, like "stability" our modern fallacy...
People brought up McGrath's background as a dock worker, people whom Martin referred to as "smart ass guys". Smart, down to earth, which reinforces the contrast with the more poetic "gold wheel, silver, sun, moon", the more intimate and sacred overtones of the ending line, "Be Tou these things."

The next four poems are powerful examples of words well-chosen and placed to tell a story that elicits shock, horror, empathy. The title, "Long Night Full Moon", although in the reader's mind, broken into "long night" and "full moon", combines struggle with lunar madness, and light. However, the light,in three sources (fire, full moon, and the implied television sets on which one sees the news) does not illuminate the fact of a murder. "You only watch the news to find out..." sets a possible recriminatory statement about how we respond to media, what touches us or not. The tone of "station identification -- "Forecast ahead, but first" but it is not a word from our sponsor.

The author-poet explains:
“This poem was inspired by the death of Michael Brown, particularly the way in which Brown’s death and the ensuing protests were covered (or, in many cases, not covered) on mainstream media. Social media and the #BlackLivesMatter movement kept this story from being buried or ignored. This poem is about witness, the most powerful tool we have against injustice and state-sponsored violence, terror, discrimination, and murder. The poem is not an elegy. It is a report on America.”
—D. A. Powell

The next poem, "The Tradition", 14 lines with a rhyming couplet, matches trios that start with flowers and end with three names of those killed What we do to flowers... what happens to murderers, how complicated the world is, how police are doing a job no one wants... how truth and violence, and definitions get skewered in circumstance...

Komunyakaa's poem also brought a different flavor from each person. How do we hear a story, understand a life, read poetry of Witness... ? In the days... repeated, three times, and then today, and three men... How does one walk out of one's self/dreaming; lose oneself
all up inside love? The blues, the saxophones, or notes traded with ghosts.

We ended with Cornelius Eady's portrait of Billy Holiday. As Judith quoted Kipling, "If the daemon comes upon you, drift and obey" and extended the metaphor calling on an old fashioned water tap... to describe the quality of poem taking over.. Gardenia...the title, ends with the grit of her life, like a fist -- if a fist could sing -- a haunting image to consider.

I hope these few jagged notes will leave you wanting to read the poems again, and see where the "ponderings" take you.. I

No comments: