Thursday, June 30, 2016
Poems for June 22
Lines After Orlando by Jeff Oaks
The crowd at the ball game by William Carlos Williams
INVISIBLE – by Ann Giard-Chase
(winner of the April Ekphrastic challenge responding to “Into the Mystic” by Robert Dash.)
Comment from the artist, Robert Dash, on his selection: “After reading all of the wonderful poems over several times, and letting them sift through my days, I’ve chosen the poem ‘Invisible’ by Ann Giard-Chase. ‘Invisible’ because it has a sense of eternity, of blending with the Great Mystery. The centerpiece—’Listen! Can you hear the stars?/ They speak of a light you cannot see,/ waves that won’t lie still/ but swirl and flail like fish/ in a net, like wings or sails/ caught in an invisible rolling sea’—is a joyous celebration of the wild miracle that is existence. The poet welcomes grief into her lines, but I feel her fierce love for life, and all these elements echo what my photograph means to me. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this inspiring process, and thank you to all of the poets who sent their fascinating work!”
Darkness of the Subjunctive BY PAUL HOOVER
Walking Around - by Pablo Neruda Translated by Robert Bly
MEMORY of MY FATHER.................. by .Patrick Kavanagh, Collected Poems.
Happy Father's day to all fathers... This group of poems wasn't particularly geared for "role of fathers" or celebration or memories of fathers growing up, but each week, no matter what the poem, whatever is happening in the world has a way of sliding in gently.
The first poem on first read, could feel like one person is being talked about... but on second read, each line could be a different person... who was killed in Orlando -- and who was the father of the killer and how are we all at risk both for striking out, not knowing how things build up in us until released like a time bomb, as one person put it. We don't understand much about insanity, the difference between "anger and anguish"... and yet the poem goes on further to suggest a strange American dream, "people/ you were allowed to imagine were beautiful". It is a haunting poem where lines point at more than the recent incident in Orlando.
The second poem takes as setting the metaphor of baseball, as American as apple pie... to look at how a crowd functions at the game. Comments included:
baseball as one of the more intellectual games --and how the couplets in the poem unfolded in a similar mathematical detail the uselessness of the crowd, the venom, the beauty in detail, and the ending couplets leave you wondering -- how do you "laugh in detail"...
"Williams fears and loves the convergence of unity and diversity in baseball. Their apparent classlessness makes the crowd far more progressive than the game itself, thus justifying a poem about baseball that only glancingly mentions what happens on the field. 'Spring and All' generally promulgates aspects of democratic culture apt for the modernist keen to observe fragmentation, cultural breakdown, disarray, and the reversal of traditional subject-object relations (observing the seers seeing rather than simply reporting the seen). The modernist's fan-centered game bore out Jane Addams' more overtly political question: Did not baseball belong to "the undoubted power of public recreation to bring together all classes of a community in the modern city unhappily so full of devices for keeping men apart?"
Our group went on to address the power of the crowd in the awakening of fascism... 1909-1939 and
social tensions in baseball, exclusions of Jews, blacks, racism baseball as the national agora.
The third poem (see last week, the choice by the poet running the ekphrastic challenge -- "Here, Said the Ocean..." -- the lovely call and response action.) gives a sense of Buddhist thinking... how can you hear the stars (or one hand clapping) understand energetics of what we cannot rationally see? The group felt the poem bordered sentimentalizing here: a sorrow without a name/
streaking through the cosmos...but on the whole enjoyed the poem... the sense of mindfulness as energy.
The artist who chose the poem says this: "I’ve chosen the poem ‘Invisible’ by Ann Giard-Chase. ‘Invisible’ because it has a sense of eternity, of blending with the Great Mystery. The centerpiece—’Listen! Can you hear the stars?/ They speak of a light you cannot see,/ waves that won’t lie still/ but swirl and flail like fish/ in a net, like wings or sails/ caught in an invisible rolling sea’—is a joyous celebration of the wild miracle that is existence. The poet welcomes grief into her lines, but I feel her fierce love for life, and all these elements echo what my photograph means to me. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this inspiring process, and thank you to all of the poets who sent their fascinating work!”
Darkness of the Subjunctive BY PAUL HOOVER, led us to discuss the grammar of the subjunctive... "if" clauses, conditionals. The epigraph is this:
If it hadn’t rained, we would’ve gone to the beach.
— Phuc Tran
The story of chaos being given sense organs, and going mad because of it came up as well as
Plato’s cave where only shadows can be perceived... The dark, invisible reflecting in "mood" not tense of a verb... the shading that adds a feeling, wish, desire, not the actual "thing" is indeed mysterious.
How do you understand this part: "If we had been born, lived our lives, and died,/
we might have existed"??? The old saw, "A poem should not mean, but be." came up, as
meaning reduces possibilities... for infinite possibility cannot mean. I don't know if I would agree with Richard Eberhart who said, "If I could only live at the pitch of madness..."
Love the sense of humor in the story (told two ways by two different people):
two Boston Ladies on hearing the answer to "Where can I get scrod." reply,
"I never heard that in the pluperfect subjunctive... "
See Chaos machine: Columbus, Indiana... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdN6cv9bSnI
The Neruda poem, translated by Bly captures the ravages of man, nature, a bit of the political climate in which Neruda lives, and yet, harkens to universals, and such stories as Ulysses, the strange surrealism of Bosch, Eliot's tubers underground (I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,)
I love the opening:
"It so happens I am sick of being a man."
It is repeated again third stanza:
It so happens that I am sick of my feet and my nails
and my hair and my shadow.
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
The juxtapositions of the repulsive with the beautiful -- the underneath with the mask with undertones of Zorba the Greek... lead to this line near the end: "there are mirrors that ought to have wept from shame and terror,"
I am reminded of the Polidori photographs of Cuba in the ending:
courtyards with washing hanging from the line:
underwear, towels and shirts from which slow dirty tears are falling.
Yes, we experience "the whole catastrophe" ...
Paul read aloud for us the Kavanagh poem. We discussed at length the last line:
"I was once your father."
It seems to point to the inching away forced by age -- and yet there's a tenderness in the word which keeps a father alive. One definition of old: "it’s all buttoning and unbuttoning."