Saturday, September 24, 2016
poems for September 7
September 1913 by William Butler Yeats
Crows by Marilyn Nelson
Last August Hours Before the Year 2000 by Naomi Shihab Nye
The Secret in the Mirror by Alberto Ríos
I Am Merely Posing for a Photograph by Juan Felipe Herrera
VII by Mark Strand
The poems this week did not peel their layers easily, but rather required a prerequisite tolerance for opacity. What makes a poem accessible? What do we each want to see in a poem – and does every poem have to have it?
Starting with the Yeats, this is perhaps not one of his lyric masterpieces, with the repeating lament, in the “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.” which changes to a mournful resignation:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.
Considerations on the end of one way of life continue with Marilyn Nelson’s poem which starts out reminding us to notice each “is” (as opposed to emptiness...) the crow’s scavanging has a neologism, “food’s here”- where the “is” is contracted to food... man-made contrasts with the with the larger idea of the earth’s awareness – which perhaps is like Rios’ poem about the mirror. Naomi’s poem considers the roots of old as a new millenium arrives. Rios notices more than his own reflection, but a sense of decoding a secret in “daily detritus” and smears in the mirror. Who is this small self, living in this man-made world where the perceptions of codes, like the self, are like codes to be understood.
Perhaps we are used to such poems with good sounds, a little enigma, but not too much.
The Herrera took more work, perhaps like many Latin American poems laced with surrealism, a sense of a narrative, then leaving a narrative about an illegal immigrant.
Back to identity... and being in a place by accident... like you – how are any of us “native” to land? Eyes. Colors. Listen closely. How does he mean “amber” as in thighs and serum... which comes after the blinding “white gray rubble “
how many ways can you understand, “wait, I just thought—what if this is not visible”
We ended with the Mark Strand... A good poem cannot be paraphrased... but he does earn the final lines:
“To feel yourself wake into change, as if your change
Were immense and figured into the heavens’ longing.”