Friday, August 26, 2016

August 24

A Quiet Poem by Frank O'Hara
by Jim Harrison
won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton
Checks and Balances at the Grocery Store by Lianne Kamp
Good Hair by Sherman Alexie

On Being Told I Look Like
FLOTUS, New Year’s Eve
Party 2014 by January Gill O’Neil

We discussed the impact of knowing something about the time period and biography of the poet – how often it can enhance our understanding. In "A Quiet Poem" – eye and ear work to establish quiet... the coin of sound of a motor dropping to the sea vs. the coin of “loud” sun nicks the air... how when we close our eyes, we invite a quiet stillness... more in tune with our hearts. "Now" enjambed to the final stanza, where two things happen: The heart breathes to music, and the two singular coins lie together in the wet yellow sand.

A bridge is a great image for exploring connections. Perhaps we start out on one shore, and start building... thinking we will arrive “somewhere”... The living of life happens on the bridge – not the houses we would build upon it. We had fun with a few jokes, like the one of the Zen coroner. What was the cause of death? Birth, life. Just like the quiet poem, music enters, along with Machado.
What beauty in this the darkest music
 over which you can hear the lightest music of human

behavior, the tender connection between men and galaxies.

Oh to be able to say, “This is my job, to study the universe

from my bridge.”
Just wag your feet as you sit on the bridge...

We listened to Lucille recite “won’t you celebrate with me” with her vibrant and strong voice.
Another bridge to sit on... between starshine and clay

It is not a requirement to celebrate with her – but an invitation, as she models how she came to celebrate her struggle to be herself. Celebrating struggle might seem an unusual
and surprising response especially as the poem ends on "everyday, something is trying to kill her—"
line break -- and the aha moment, "but fails". Comments: it is better to celebrate than to be celebrated...
Be yourself – everyone else is taken. Judith brought up Alicia Alonzo... now in 90’s danced with grandson... she was blind by 19 years.

The next poem describes a scene with Mark the bagger, a cashier, told from the point of view of the customer. Delightful, because of the language, how an every day comment is juxtaposed with a product sold at the grocery store. We came up with one:
“Oh that’s a wonderful new hairdo... steel wool...”
Is Mark an old man? a handicapped youth? No matter, he repeats the same stories and platitudes but the twist in the story is how his predictable moments remind us all, “what keeps/us all rooted together.”

Sherman Alexie braids questions “Hey, Indian boy, why (why!) did you slice off your braids?”
with an overpowering sense of repetition of “braids” each question laden with increasingly insulting adjectives. One person commented that the questions act like a tortured litany of condemnations.
If vanity equals vice, then does vice equal braids?
The neologisms, “cut-hair-mourned” and “ceremony-dumb” as in mute, and no longer connected to rituals make the cut of the questions even sharper.
Has your tribe and clan cut-hair-mourned since their creation?
Did you, ceremony-dumb, improvise with your braids?
What is “good” hair – for whom? How do we fit in?

We ended with “January-Gill O’Neil’s 14 line poem. After hearing her recite the poem,
the tone reflects a tiredness of not being accepted for who she is. More formal than Lucille’s poem, without the rage, and a clever play of “complement” and “compliment” .

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