Friday, September 9, 2016

Poems for August 31

Alexander James

The August Preoccupations by Catherine Barnett
August Morning, Upper Broadway by Alicia Ostriker, 1937
The Order In Which Things Are Broken by Desirée Alvarez
A Virginian Anniversary by Lianne Kamp
Impossible Friendships by Adam Zagajewski; translated by Clare Cavanagh
Cake by Noah Eli Gordon
Sea Lily by H. D.

Poems sent with this email:
Lucille Clifton:

January Gill O’Neil
Don recommended this — filled with poetic references: ... A tale of love and darkness by Amos Oz.
poetic descriptions...

Judith thought of Carl Sandburg -- 4 preludes on playthings of the wind

and also Stephen Vincent Benet “By the Waters of Babylon.”
what eats us up...

The first two poems, one an ekphrastic response to a colorful painting, the other, a stream-of-consciousness survival kit of sorts, share responses that avoid anger. What is the usual first response to a broken axle?
Not to write a poem that has lines with a break in the middle... a confusion of green and a rusty part.
The second is an elegy for someone who is no longer, without mentioning the name, rather like following
a Jackson Pollack painting with a strange list of unconnected "obsessions" where "waiting" appears twice, as
does "Lincoln" on the $5 bill. Indeed, we did check our wallets to find the $5 bills to look for the stars...
they are there.

But that aside, the first poem was selected in Rattle's ekphrastic challenge because it went beyond simple
description and association to a narrative. An abstract blotch of white becomes a cairn, and something
about the wide brushstrokes patching the canvas allowed the poet to create the scene of a car breakdown in Wales.

The list of "obsessions" are attached to August -- the last month of summer -- we know nothing about the "you"
who is on this list, along with despots, telescopes, beauty, anonymity, comedy-- but those words point to a flavor of the lover or partner or maybe even father... Why Lincoln-- is it the only bill that has stars on it?
Now, the reader too enters into an obsessive inspection...

what makes a poem hang together...?

In the selection, we start with a breakdown, move into summer, where perhaps “august” could mean not just end of summer, but and the third poem announces a holiday – not a “vacation” but the old-fashioned idea
of a Holy-Day which casts an antique tone, for the metals. Many were reminded of Shelley’s sonnet, Ozymandias. Nothing remains.. not even
mention of anything but loud sun and crowds.

How different from the Ostriker poem which reminded many of us of Gregory Orr’s “Concerning the body of the beloved” where he discovers the Beloved in everything, everywhere, and reconnects us—in the tradition of Rumi and Hafiz—to our emotional lives The formula, “.As...X is a window” exhorts us to imagine. It allows the comparison of “the body of the beloved” to the vastness of universe ;or comparesr a listless man selling as window, his fruits creating a window not unlike that of a cathedral. Finally, the whole scene is a window... the ordinariness of a summer day surpassed, if the reader can imagine how a paradise might be... and suddenly, we are thrown back in time.

The next poem provides more reference to the old breaking in the next poem, sounding a bit like
a grave robbery, finding what shards are left, the intimacy of two people
recovering what thrown away...

The elegy of a young black man’s life, how his life was “packaged”
is a strong poem reminding me of the book, “The Enchanted” by Rene Denfeld. Was Mitchell mad before he was put into prison? And is prison the right response for a little shoplifting?

“Impossible friendships” makes me think of relationships – and how a little tongue in cheek humor allows for anything from teacups, to the more grandiose with “this world” – “ever more perfect” contradicted by the parentheses (if not for the salty smell of blood). How at the root of impossible friendships one arrives, not to stay at a ball or a beheading
the stanza before, but the impossibility of friendship with yourself.

The next poem was fun and worth reporting in its entirety:

Cake by Noah Eli Gordon

Look, you
want it
you devour it
and then, then
good as it was
you realize
it wasn’t
what you
what you
exactly was

awareness... beware of what you wish for...

We ended with Sea Lily, understanding more about this crinoid,
a graceful and unusual animal which has been around for 450 million years... The name comes from the Greek word krinon, "a lily", and eidos, "form".

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