Sunday, April 10, 2016

Poems for April 6- 7

The Singing by CK Williams
Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry by Howard Nemerov
They shut me up in Prose – (445) by by Emily Dickinson
The visible and the in- by Marge Piercy
The Florist Wears Knee-Breeches by Wallace Stevens
Chaïm Soutine: The Errant Road, 1939 by Cole Swensen

The poem by CK Williams was selected from the article about him by Mihaela Moscaliuc in the last issue of the American Poetry Review speaking of “contact zone”, i.e. of the need and willingness to meet, engage and be moved by the “other”. “You must suspend judgment, without assumptions, be willing to reconstitute and reconstitue your private truths,resist the temptation of constructing the other in your own image, embrace incertitude as you attempt to inhabit another’s way of being in the world.”

What do we recognize; how do words invite our thinking; what is mirrored back to us?

We spent a long time on the CK Williams — reading it both stanza by stanza and line by line, which brings out a lurching rhythm that corresponds with the feel of the story… One person thought it would be interesting to give the poem to a rap singer…
Add some feeling to the words, which by themselves point to a lack of connection… The longer lines feel like narration, the shorter ones like small notes… David put forth his theory that really, any poem is about the difficulty of writing poetry… and as Frost specialist, compared how “the road not taken” is like this poem — what “conventions” and the whole deal of “rectify, redo, remake” as revision.
A crucial part of the poem comes towards the end… 3rd stanza before: “No one saw / no one heard /all the unasked and// unanswered questions//were left where they were.
The fact that there is no punctuation makes the “meaning” difficult… just as he points out. All the unasked questions are both object of “no one saw/heard” and subject (left where they were), mirroring the two people — one “singing” the other “observing the song”.
One person described the long discussion as a Rorsach test, revealing everyone’s personality and how we respond to race, to what is in control or not.

The Nemerov is an example of all poetry can provide… the sound of zzzz starts with “sparrows”, moving to the weather (freezing and drizzle) preparing us for the silver “aslant” in “invisible”. What is the line? If it had been prose, the last word would not be fell, nor the rhymed couplet at the end.
For Emily, the unrhymed quatrains except for the last two lines, juxtapose a “they” which seems quite conventional, as opposed to poetry. If you pronounce capitivity, as “captivi -tie...” it will rhyme with “I”. The question came up of who “Himself” is – the bird, or God.

Marge Piercy is clever with her title that implies an “invisible” as the inner part, or part in which one enters. The anaphor, “some people”, repeated three times, “some” repeated twice, completes a catalogue of people, as well as how we notice the “other” or not.

Again, the responses of the group, revealed the variety of attitudes possible both towards the poem, but also the way we wear our visible selves, and to what extend reveal what is let in.

Wallace Stevens plays with a title that throws us into the 18th century, a world of dreams, and a question of what is real in our subjective way of understanding.

Rae Armantrout, a language poet, captures a similar idea... how we think we recognize something, re-cognizing it in multiple ways. The possibilities, discoveries, the unasked,
unanswered questions... the way language creates meanings. Associations...
Comments ranged from “A well-loved child has many names” to Plato’s opinions on poets, satisfaction of music, repetition...
paradox ... thinking we’re seeing the same person...
periclitus... Voorhees... Funestes Memorius...

The group agreed that the Chaim Soutine painting is more powerful than Swenson’s interpretation of it... what do we recognize in image? How is that different than from just words along?