Thursday, June 16, 2016

Poems for June 8

Poems given on June 8th:
[HERE, SAID THE OCEAN] by Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr.

CASABIANCA by Elizabeth Bishop

Interpretation of a Poem by Frost by Thylias Moss
Grass by Carl Sandburg
The Speaker by Louis Jenkins
Blue by Carl Phillips

[HERE, SAID THE OCEAN] by Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr.
Timothy Green, on his selection: “I’m always looking for the poem that works—but works like no other. With its concise and confident voice, Rodrigo Dela Pena, Jr., created the most unique artistic object to pair with this photograph. There’s beauty to the lines, but it’s also the kind of poem where imagination transcends intention, that pushes the boundaries of what can be articulated until it becomes something truly new.

This is an ekphrastic response to a surrealistic painting of ship on an ocean entitled, "Into the Mystic" by artist, Robert Dash, (Rattle challenge). The artist's choice of poem will be discussed June 22. The title is in brackets... as if also contained in a picture frame. Each element invites the others... ocean to ship...sails to wind, body to music, lyre to bones of ear,
except for the penultimate line of breath and heart... joining the last line, blank face of paper to the ink...
Some thought it reminiscent of Wordsworth, "The world is too much with us"... and Yeats,"Among School Children-- indeed the ship has a phantom feel which for me resonates in the lines
"Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things"

and the interconnectedness...

"how can one tell the dancer from the dance".
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

The question came up, if the poem could stand by itself without the painting.
This is a recurring question about any ekphrastic response -- along with how one art embellishes, or perhaps changes not necessarily to the good, an understanding of the expression of another.

I chose CASABIANCA by Elizabeth Bishop because of the reference in the poem ( ) by Brenda Hillman discussed June 1-- passage below)

...Our mother tells a story of
going back to Brazil in the 1940s for a visit, after
she is engaged to be married to our father. 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.

"Love's the boy on the burning ship" comes from the early 19th c.
best-selling Liverpudlian poet Felicia Dorothy Hemans. She was an ambitious, prolific writer, and produced larger-scale works than "Casabianca" (1826).

The double-twist of Bishop's "Casabianca" turns melodrama into allegory: "Love's the boy stood on the burning deck,/ trying to recite "the boy stood on the/ burning deck". Somehow the figure in Bishop's poem, "stammering elocution" while the burning ship goes down, has more human pathos than the real child in the Hemans' poem. Casabianca was the captain...the father of the boy who told his son to remain with the ship. He didn’t answer him, because he was already dead... What is understood about love as loyalty if the boy is obstinate and burning... ?

Recited after the first poem, the idea of multiple facets of one thing interconnects: Love's the obstinate boy, the ship, even the swimming sailors... (who would like a stage on which to recite...) the burning boy.

The Thylias Moss poem is a deft "interpretation" using a young black woman's perspective recalling history. Unlike the emotional magic in Frost's poem, hers is personal and intellectual.
The quaint New England winter scene of "Stopping by Woods" is transformed We discussed the reference of Jim Crow, but what interested the group was curiosity about the poet -- and how to put ourselves in her place.
Perhaps Frost knew discrimination, understood how difficult it is to belong, but this poem seems not to address any issues Frost has, but rather subverts his poem to speak of the issues of emptiness, boundaries, "fast-to-melt idealism". Snow could be reference to cocaine, and horse as heroin. Her promise? That she bear Jim no bastards -- repeated twice. Are there two Jims? In that case does she sleep with both? Doubly important promise, since black and white is all nature reveals in winter.

It was enough to read the eloquently powerful Sandburg poem, penned in 1918.

A little comic relief delivered with a grim punch with the Louis Jenkins -- what does a speaker speak about? And what is your experience of life? The sermon-like message reminding us life is like a dream, drifts into the inspiration songs, words of which forgotten.

Carl Philips opens his poem with splayed fish, thighs... What does it mean to look for the stuff of dreams?
What throbs blue in the veins of his black daddy's knuckles. Images of black and blue give a bruised picture, paint the ache of the sorrow of blues, no wild blue yonder.

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