Monday, February 27, 2017

poems for Feb. 23-24

The Second Going by Philip Levine
Even-Keeled and At-Eased by Alberto Ríos
What We Need by David Budbill
Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change by Naomi Shihab Nye
I look at the world by Langston Hughes
Making Peace by Denise Levertov
Short Speech to My Friends – Amiri Baraka

The first two came from the February issue of "Poetry". The titles are intriguing--
Why "the second going" -- what was the first? What relationship to the second coming?
The staggered lines feel like an unfolding staircase... There's a sense of nordic darkness,
where the sun will not appear for months,and conversely, the absence of dark in summer.
Light as the oxymoron of blinding clarity. The unspoken conceit -- "why are we here";
the consolation of small -- a pinch (of salt), a drop (of schnapps, short (life of long nights/absent dawns) little... salt, which removes bitterness... the strong alcohol for the tears...
the enigmatic ticket to the life to come does not have an adjective...
I love how A sticks out on the fifth line. How the poem starts in media res... Again...
without knowing what happened before.

People shared a bit about Alberto Rios, poet laureate of Arizona, a Mexican-American who probably learned to wear a mask of "even-keeled". The title sounds almost like made-up words --
I'm "at-eased" -- someone has given you a command to relax... which in my mind does not seem a situation to be genuinely relaxed. I love the pattern of end lines:
I / I have / I have contracted
I / I have

but no repeat of "contracted.
The sense of humor is delightful. Both groups commented how the poem sounds as if it was written backwards. On Monday, to you... But the truth is... I am Thursday.

The Budbill poem has a pleasing architecture. The first 5 lines look like a billboard or poster -- with a tyrannical tone.
heavy, threatening. The clatter of couplets is broken by the one solo line "we need" which responds to the title: 3 things:
a little (poem), small (song) brief (moment)
kindness, peace, joy. Paul called it DBT model.

Trying to Name What Doesn't Change-- another terrific title!
What doesn't change? The only thing that doesn't change, is change is the old saw --But this poem is not about change, but how we hang on or not to train tracks, soup, the way things die. The last stanza is haunting
What train whistle "still wails" ... and why "ancient" sound as the simple things... how the coming and going
are more than delivering and picking up... what is it that "it takes something different with it every time."

Comments included: now that there are fewer trains... perhaps one day the sound will disappear... how will we understand trains then...
how many ways to feel close to the world... rails have become trails – so that is good...
Luis Alberto Reyes... clickity clack stitching America together...
Jackson Brown: Roads that are leaving, roads that are gone...
cling to our memories... Don’t count on the things you are counting on.

The Langston Hughes was one of the "lost" poems written in 1930. It has a tight rhyme scheme, a sense of hopefulness.. Yes, about being Black, but also about comrades in arms to fight oppression whether it be
capitalism, favoritism of democracies, oligarchies... How do you look at the world? Whose eyes do you use?
What would you see if you were not you...

Making Peace looks at a variety of ways of understanding peace, but also poetic process.
Comments : everything from crystals and the water composition in humans, e.g. fetus is 90%; newborn 70%...
Levertov would agree with Frost: if the idea comes first a poem, it will rely on success as a trick poem...
but not be successful. It is image that dictates mood...
Looking at the indentations... a drop down of a line, space... but it is the 4th time where words, feeling, lines
become "cadence" with the possibility of balance, pulse,
inner peace... outer disaster...
I'm not sure if she is addressing inner peace vs. outer disaster, but certainly, her poem is intriguingly complex.

The Baraka seems disjointed, jumping around too fast. One has to remember Leroi Jones, is the author
layering the voices, clashing emotions... Back to the Newark riots in 1967... We discussed at length the last sentence of the first part.
"Let the combination of morality /and inhumanity // begin.
In part 2, is our daily lie, also our daily "life".

Pittsford O Pen discussion: David mentioned his advice to students reading TS Eliot: "Find the islands" --
the places where you can anchor some sense...
for the Baraka poem, we have to imagine the time period, the voice... which is not 2017 and far from the 1967 Newark riots, experienced in a black person's skin. John brought up a remark made by Camus who as a boy thought that anyone not speaking French, was not speaking a language. The same with jazz... this is not the language of classical music... but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its own logic...

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