Monday, June 6, 2016

Poems for June 1

Cid Corman: Poetry becomes that conversation we otherwise could not have.

At the Store by Jane Kenyon
-- from Otherwise

Two Lives by Carl Dennis
--from April 18 issue of the New Yorker

Marching Through a Novel by John Updike

( ) by Brenda Hillman
-- from Boston Review

Ex Machina by Camille Rankin
-- from Verse Daily

We discussed at length what makes a poem distinguishable from prose in
the first three poems. The first creates a sonic snapshot, replete with the sound
of the flagpole pulley associated with Charles Ives' music. The phrasing and rhythm saves it from prose. Some might have chosen different line breaks, punctuation, but a sense of "motley" as in "dappled or checkered" applies to the overheard conversation, the "theme and variation" of people coming in and out of the store as well as the music. A lovely celebration of what daily lives in this town are like.

In the Carl Dennis poem "Two Lives" allows a suspended time frame, worked to allow on multiple levels --
the life one lives, that might not have been, but is because of fate -- for the father, the son, the speaker of the poem as writer and his experiences before.
The sound of a line like this:
"And shady streets crushingly uneventful." the alliterative "sh" of shady and crush, which clash, and further class with "uneventful" provides commentary on what makes life worth living.

The unrolling of these lines-- the first two feel self-sufficient, but are expanded, as
if rolling yet more meaning with the 3rd and 4th that follow.

"To decide that the real world, so called,
Is overrated, compared to the world of novels,
Where every incident is freighted with implications
For distinguishing apparent success from actual."

Later, another long sentence unwinds with this kernel of thought
of how he is "ensconced in the life he happens to be living"
Musing on the difference between a life
Deficient in incident and a life uncluttered.

With a poem, conducted in lines, arranged rhythmically, there is an energy in the compressed meaning and texture of sound.
A gentle tongue-in-cheek tone also lends a believability that builds up to the last unexpected twist at the end, opening up yet another possibility.
A novel handles multiple issues but doesn’t zero in on a point... whereas this
poem does. The long poem imitates the long process of trying to understand a life...
without needing to rely on four volumes of a novel.

"Marching through a Novel" is witty and fun. However after commenting on that, the "dazzling quicksand" is just that... and the discussion didn't go further.

The Hillman poem is intriguing. How do you "pronounce" the title --
(without being Victor Borges!) (Don jokes: Parent Theses) Judith quoted a remark in a book by Hirschfeld book attributed to Charlie Chaplin— “Movement is liberated thought.” The "gesture" of what is said in parentheses is perhaps what resonates in the line, "“the visible stands for everything , including the invisible." Hillman peppers the poem with Portuguese and the untranslatable word "Saudades" -- a word that has no exact translation. A slant reference perhaps
to Elizabeth Bishop who parodied "Love's the boy stood on the burning deck" -- the 1826 poem by
The best-selling Liverpudlian poet Felicia Dorothea Hemans.

Curious -- why the small I (i) -- the poem begins with mother/daughter translation, then segues into how the daughter imagines the mother as a youth. It is hard not to quote the poem in toto...
"In/ my mind she stands on the deck of a ship with
several languages in her brain, holding her
notebooks. As the sea knows time, her words
know air. Her imagination is full because she
is young, and she is not a bit lonely, just as a
word is not lonely."

We hear her childhood, the revolution... we learn
"She has a precise
interior world; she has a body like a poem,
fragile but strong, orderly and unknowable,
very capable of doing things."

We learn
"Soon she will see
her own mother. There is no one like her, there
never has been, there is no one like another
person. The visible stands for everything,
including the invisible."

The poem ends with an invitation to the reader --
"There now. Let’s begin our life, com
saudades, looking for what is here."

Ex Machina by Camille Rankin (not to be confused with Claudia Rankine),
even with a dramatic reading by David, left the group shrugging. Unlike Hillman who gives us a poem that leads to layers of wondering, the tercets feel undeveloped and unconvincing.

We ended with another Hillman.

Some Kinds of Forever Visit You by Brenda Hillman

The unknowns are up early;
they browse through the bronze
porch bells. Crows
call & late
apples blaze
toward western emptiness.
In your illness,
the edges hesitate;
like the revolt
of workers, they
will take a while…

Here comes the fond
mild winter; other
realms are noisy
& unanimous. You tap
the screen & dream
while waiting; four
kinds of forever
visit you today:
something, nothing,
everything & art,
greater than you are
& of your making—

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