Monday, May 23, 2016

Poems for May 11-12

For Both Groups: see May 11-12 supplement
Autumn Passage by Elizabeth Alexander
Species Prepare to Exist After Money by Brenda Hillman (American Poets, Spring/Summer 2016
Half The People In The World -- Amichai
Carousel by Jaya Savige
The Dog Misses you by Alan Michael Parker

Mother's Day Poems:

**Autumn Passage
"On Suffering which is real"... the opening line of Elizabeth Alexander's poem, I am reminded of Auden and "Le Musée des Beaux-Arts -- (responding to the painting of The Fall of Icarus, in that Brussels Museum by Breughel):
About suffering they were never wrong, The old Masters:
how well they understood. Its human position:

The anaphor "On" works like paintbrushes applied to "suffering, mouth, miraculous dying body, beauty, dazzling toddler and grandmother's suffering; the blues and greens of a dying body turn into paint to apply to vegetables. Likewise, fragments link as the beauty of hair, links the dying, as if transgressing the period, jumping down a stanza break to "on the dazzling toddler.
Strong words like Glory, (three times); communal fealty, magnificent. For me, the words create a beautiful abstract painting of associations -- how one person transforms a general to a specific in large category like vegetable or flower, and arrive at eggplant, and chrysanthemum... vanished skyscrapers made many think of 9/11. The burning fever, of the body, still working... leads to thinking of forest fires, political unrest...

Back to the title... Two words. Autumn. Passage. Taken separately, a time of shutting down...
transition. Autumn passing, autumn as caught in the act of passing, the passage of autumn, and the poem keeps growing.

Species Prepare to Exist After Money

One participant brought up the question: how long are you prepared to spend on a poem?
What is in a poem that makes you want to examine it further? In contrast to the Alexander poem,
the lines did not expand into associations with something recognizable, but rather left the majority of both groups with a sense of "why this detail? What to make of a nest of H's, seven tiny silences, and the metaphor of the world borrowed from Joyce, a large, almost unpinable "it". The poem was read, as two stanzas but only briefly responded to. I don't know if reading it line by line, or sentence of sentence would have helped. One person thought of the movie "Black Rain". It was a pleasure to read about bacteria able to warn each other in color, and I half expected the poem would help us assign meanings to the other details. Certainly reading "chemical for sensible" and "nationless, not sensible" were a pleasurable overlay and hinted at
meaning-making through sound, but without providing enough clues to feel or understand "nothingness has come to pass".

Half the People in the World
From ambiguity to categorical. It would be nice to be able to read such a poem in the original and see what nuances we might miss.
One participant brought up Stevens' Poem -- Man with a Beard

After the final no there comes a yes
And on that yes the future world depends.
No was the night. Yes is this present sun.
If the rejected things, the things denied,
Slid over the western cataract, yet one,
One only, one thing that was firm, even
No greater than a cricket's horn, no more
Than a thought to be rehearsed all day, a speech
Of the self that must sustain itself on speech,
One thing remaining, infallible, would be
Enough. Ah! douce campagna of that thing!
Ah! douce campagna, honey in the heart,
Green in the body, out of a petty phrase,
Out of a thing believed, a thing affirmed:
The form on the pillow humming while one sleeps,
The aureole above the humming house...
It can never be satisfied, the mind, never.

But Amichai goes further... implies that the choice of "love" or "hate" has a consequences... and finding one's place in spite of it. It is hard for us in our protected environments to imagine
living in the Middle East, to be exiled, underground, "perpetually acting out death" between flagpole and bomb shelter... the list "cat, stick, fire water, butcher" is hard to understand
without his context. I'm not sure if it's like tossing the dice, in a "rock, paper, scissors" game.

The next poem, perhaps also is not written by a native speaker... The opening line rather clunks. The accumulation of L's in the second stanza are distracting, just as the s's in the third stanza as if trying to find words with similar letters... a sauropod is sedate? a soda-pour of stars?
Perhaps a carousel of cues -- stories as spinning sonic coins, but hard to fathom.

In the final poem, we enjoyed the fun of language. However, it seems a circuitous route to say "I love you, and am lost without you". Associations:
coupling and dogs...

Dog barking at the portrait...
Queen Elizabeth’s words on our election

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