Thursday, August 18, 2016

A little Wordsworth

Sent to "O Pen-ers":
It seems a bit too long for reading aloud, but well worth the read, and will enrich the Aug. 4 discussion of The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott’s Collected Poems . The link below. Derek Walcott, “The Star Apple Kingdom”.

David's picks for Wordsworth:
Some Poems by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
(with some reflections on the nature of poetry)

My Heart Leaps Up
“What is a Poet”?: difficulty of responsiveness...
What is meant by the word “poet”? What is a poet? To whom does he address himself? . . . He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endued with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul,, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings on of the universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them.” –from Preface to Lyrical Ballads

Lines Written in Early Spring

Discussion: How Wordsworth walks a line. In contemporary poetry, (i.e. 20th as well as the first 16 years of the 21st) would this sort of poem survive? 200 years later, we do not have the "heartrending view of the industrial age" and Tennyson's writing about nature as "tooth and claw"... Is the poet’s purpose to offset "what man has made of man"? How does he exercise our sympathies, sense of connections...
Maura brought up this book: Braiding Sweetgrass
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science.

Paraphrase of "The world is too much with us...
little we see in nature that is ours... I’m looking for connection...
Even so, I still lament."

The third poem:
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud (not daffodils)

comparing Dorothy's journal entry with William's poem:
“Apr. 15: . . . . .When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony has so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing and changing.”

Jan brought up reading the poem to her father, and the rhyming musicality touched him in ways other words could not. Summary:
the daffodils allow WW connection to joy – and the added joy of reminiscence.
starts out lonely. ends up lonely – but one can appreciating what is there later.
what kind of self would we be if we did not connect... did not acknowledge shared joy...
sister’s description more like contemporary poet. WW seems to steals her words.

The 4th poem David read aloud, to bring out the musicality of ONE voice.
The Solitary Reaper

The commentary beforehand: From Preface to Lyrical ballades.
“Emotion Recollected in Tranquillity”:
More considerations on poetry:
"be distinguished by at least one mark of difference, that each of them has a worthy purpose. "
and Frost's comments in a letter to Untermeyer in 1916: I read you[r poem] and liked it because it says something, first felt and then unfolded in thought as the poem wrote itself. That’s what makes a good poem.
...A poem positively must not begin thought first.” and The Figure a Poem makes: (1939) a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.

Certainly in the "Solitary Reaper" -- the music affected him even w/o words... Wordsworth is
doing aurally what he did visually w/ the daffodils. but converse subject – of pain...
the moment of being caught...
sound of the metal...
maiden singing with the sound of her tool...
knows she’s singing –
admiration of the feminine.
we are not fully human until we understand death – that compassion that connects us.

The film,"The Wind that Shakes the Barley" came up, as did the 4 temperaments...

We did not get to:

Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood
A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal
We Are Seven
--From Preface to Lyrical Ballads: “ [The purpose of each of these poem will principally be] to follow the fluxes and refluxes of the mind when agitated by the great and simple affections of our nature . . . as in the stanzas entitled We Are Seven, the perplexity and obscurity which in childhood attend our notion of death, or rather our utter inability to admit that notion.”

David comments he is "reminded of the sheer difficulty of Wordsworth, and the need to immerse one's self in his work in order to get to the bottom of his poems, and sometimes even his prose. Also the need to read very closely. As a test, see what you can make of "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal." What does that opening line mean? The answer lies, I think, in the difference betw. stanza 1 and stanza 2. What has changed for the speaker? How has the change in "her" created a new awareness in the speaker--indeed a knowledge that says his former state was a sealing and slumbering of his spirit. How is the new knowledge an awakening and opening of the spirit. (See end of the Intimations Ode for a clue.) I believe that the answers to these questions bear directly on "The Solitary Reaper" and suggests what makes the singer's melancholy song so powerful and "thrilling."

When I asked him if he would contribute to this blog, he answered, "Too much of me wants to talk about what Wordsworth sees and says about suffering and compassion and also about the maturation and integration of the self through time and change. Always connection, between self and other and within the parts of ourselves."

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful and varied group drawing on 130 different people who have attended over the years and currently receive the poems.

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