Thursday, January 12, 2017

poems for January 11-12

Southern Exposure by Joseph Millar
This Did Not Happen by Thylias Moss
Still Life with Defeats by Tatiana Oroño
When I Buy Pictures by Marianne Moore
Or by Thomas Sayers Ellis
New Year Poem by May Sarton

The first three poems came from Jan-Feb. 2017 issue of American Poetry Review; the Marianne Moore,
from an article by Jennifer Grotz regarding poetic authority. Part II refers to Harold Bloom and his meditations on literary originality, and Part III, cites a poem by Sylvia Plath and the one discussed by Moore. "Anxiety of Influence" is hardly friendly to female poets. Moore imagines herself as the imaginary possessor of a work. This is not about achieving authority but as Grotz confirms,
"poetic authority ought to authorize the poet to see and say as much as possible."

In all the poems this week, I felt each one declared an existence that felt necessary, worthwhile.
Each one felt authentic, with a distinct style.

Southern Exposure: the title allows several ideas: the more clement side of a house exposed to the elements; a view, which quickly is established with traditional details of the South-- grits, pine-tar, pounds measured by cotton, tendon & bone. the civil war.

We were reminded of Emma Lazarus, "Bring me your tired, your poor huddled masses" with the repeat "Bring me..." as well as Blake's "Jerusalem"
"Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

Silent lake unfurls to / November rain and sounds... then the "troublesome blurry stars".
Suddenly it is not about "bring me" but a sense of flash back, up to Lincoln's ghost in
a clatter of /k/ with the unusual verb, "squat".
The last four lines lace the occlusive "curse" and "scar" with sibilance... blues, moans, sometimes,
and you, is not the you of "your mouth" but includes all of us.

In the Thylias Moss poem, we paid careful attention to the very long wide spaces, allowing the measure of silence for all that is not told of what happened... Some awful thing... white space does not tell... and the title reflects the common psychology of denial as response to trauma. For some, the separate spaces felt like sobs, or gasping.
I liked the "double duty" of the enjambments that fall after a space. "I couldn't dance // anymore.

but tried to hurt no one //else.

The line, "I was in, pink,/sequined -- with the repeated "in" in "been" as well pressurizes the details...

People thought of these two references: "The Fits": film about Afro-Am. girl training with boxers and joined dance group. and "Beast of the Southern Wild".
link with last line of first poem.

For the third poem, Tatiana Oroño (Uruguay) is a professor of literature and well-known art and literary critic. Translations of her poems by Jesse Lee Kercheval has appeared in "Ploughshares" and "Guernica".

Still Life is a loaded term. Whether as art term, or "life" deadened/stilled/ended, or life still pulsing. The opening line as well calls on the richness of the verb "to know" (understand) vs. to know how (have a certain savoir-faire) -- a beautifully balanced sense of touch... which can bring danger/death or sensual pleasure ... the beauty of the Medusa, and whatever "floral taciturn measure of the defeat" multiples into bread and defeats. Perhaps it is too far-fetched to see "pain" as both pain
and bread... how do you touch the "curve of the pain"? Responses were uniform: Here is an intense... tactile... sentient poem which captures the irony of being.

The Marianne Moore, for me, is a winner with her wry humor.
"When I buy pictures/or what is closer to the truth..." I love that the process of imagining being the owner of something -- with 12 long lines citing possibilities of what that might be. We learn much
about people by what they desire... I love the idea of something that gives pleasure in the "average moments" -- and how, without pounding us on the head, we learn the pleasure is indeed that whatever the picture, it is "lit with piercing glaces into the life of things". I'm not sure from whom she stole that line -- but she certainly claims it with the final acknowledgement of spiritual forces involved to make it. Art is never merely a reproduction of something seen. It touches us when it goes beyond
the recognizable into a different light.

I fell in love with "Or". In line with the idea of poems rife with repetition -- what "or" (ore/oar)
is NOT in the poem? How do you organize the "or" -- the one indented OR split in O-the-R. Even without going into politics, aesthetics, the poem romps on how OR is not just a sandwich cookie
of black and white o-(re)-o -- there's a dark underpinning under the playful quality.
Both groups picked up on Zora, as in Zora Neal Hurston who wrote, “Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”

Barton's poem repeats the opening line 3 times, each a little differently.
"Let us step outside for a moment... and breathe the new air..."
Puts us in context of nature -- how clouds, ocean, islands have always been there, unlike us.
The final "Let us step outside for a moment." Is self-contained. How satisfying to read, "It is all there..." and the authoritative warning...
How else can we help people to be gentle unless we have them step outside for a moment -- away from whatever we are burying ourselves into.

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