Wednesday, November 9, 2016

poems for November 9-10

United by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
A Supermarket in California by Allen Ginsberg
Kites by Stephen Burt
Learning to Float -- by J.R. Tappenden
maggie and milly and molly and may -- E.E. Cummings
Mr. Pratt by Myla Cohn Livingston

For the day after elections, it is great to read a poem called "United" where each state's motto points to how disunited we are as a country.
NY New York's official state motto is simply Excelsior (Ever Upward)
Let's hope we can keep in that direction!

I love the tone of the poem -- the puzzlement... and the conclusion: "How wrong we are about one another." I love that Naomi asks "Idaho's motto (“Let It Be Perpetual” ) what the "it" is?

"Who chose these lines?
How many contenders?"
could be asked of each state.
New Mexico, “It Grows As It Goes”—now this is scary.
Two dangling its.

A little humor, for something quite serious seems to be the tenor of most of the poems.
(Especially the Cummings and Livingston at the end.) Ginsberg too, in spite of the thread
of loneliness.

It might be trite to ask: Which poet would you invite to go shopping at Wegman’s with you?
But the key in my mind lies in the final verse: "what America did you have" -- perhaps we don't have an image as did the Greeks of Charon and the River of Forgetfulness that runs in the underworld... but just before we die, what America did we have?

I love how Ginsberg's lack of punctuation heightens the ambiguity of phrases like
"lost America of love past blue automobiles". America of love + love past blue + automobiles
and America's love of automobiles.
The poem starts out with Whitmanian sense of world teeming with abundance...
followed by reference to disconnectedness of being homosexual... but even there in this part:
"I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?" this could be 3 separate questions Walt poses to 3 different grocery boys, as well as the "you" being us asking such questions.

What did you have Walt Whitman... what do we have here...

It is a haunting poem, literally with a ghost of the Great Democratic Bigness of our poet who Sings America..

For the next poem, if you look up Stephen Burt, you will find he is a cross-dresser, but totally comfortable about it, without jeopardizing his relationship with his wife. Nationally known, he has given TED talks about poetry well worth a listen.
The Kite is a delightful poem -- a feel of swooping here and there gathered. The two shortest lines:
"you try"
"to keep us"
Of course, the strings attached are the contexts:
The beginning:
Complete in ourselves,
we look like scraps of paper anyway:
left alone, we could tell

our mothers and one another our owners’
flimsiest secrets and play together all day

until we became intertwined, which is why
you try
to keep us permanently apart.

last stanza:
"It seems to be up to you
to keep us
up in the air, and to make sure our paths never cross."

A small reference to Longfellow,
My Lost Youth -- which starts by the sea and in the beginning quotes an anonymous 'lapland song' :"A boy's will is the wind's will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts."

It's the sort of poem filled with luscious sounds, pleasant to say, follow, feeling one almost
understands something, but without need to peg it further, even though knowing there is something more for sure, to understand.

Learning to Float -- by J.R. Tappenden (Jennifer) is also a "mouth feel" of a poem.. with reference to the Aesop's fable of the great Oak and the bending reed...
The wide open spaces... silences and suspensions... create a journey -- perhaps a bit like Joseph Campbell's man with a thousand faces... Bernie brought up Haroun and the sea of stories--
not one phrase seems awkward... familiar is turned, the way times change... and we need to rethink
and unlearn our roots, stop clinging to what was to better choose how to stay afloat.

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