Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Poems for January 25-6

Mentioned in Article about Elizabeth Alexander and her Inauguration poem for President Obama's first inauguration.
are the first two poems.
kitchenette building by Gwendolyn Brooks (1961)
Harlem by Langston Hughes

Music by Anne Porter
Trick of the Light by Michelle Y. Burke
Inviting a Friend for Supper by Ben Jonson
Difference by Stephen Vincent Bent

I listed for fun "Your state's name here"...

Background of Chicago "Kitchenettes" -- after ww 2, small apartments with shared bathrooms.
Even without knowing that, the poem is tremendous in the craft that "shows doesn't tell".

Sandwich rhyme (aba; c de c; f g f; h i h) and in 3 tercets and one quatrain...
the foiling of "dream" in quotes, contrasting with dream, uncorseted by quotes in the
grit of onion fumes (tears). Gray "dream" -- not black and white,

The sounds and sensory details paint a powerful picture. How indeed, could a dream "flutter" like Madame Butterfly when "garbage ripens in the hallways"-- even if... past the tsking "t" in white and violet, potatoes, exasperated "f" in fight and fried in the second stanza to the "even if" where "it" (as dream rhyming let it in/begin). The change of tone in the final stanza brings us down into the reality,
where dream and maybe lukewarm water share the final "hope to get in it.

The opening line reduces people to "dry hours, involuntary plan, grayed in...
This is not dream deferred as in the next poem, or rhetorical "I have a dream" -- this is
life -- the 5-syllable "involuntary" a reminder that plan is not something to "warm", "keep clean"
or even anticipate but a noose that the unpronounced word hope can loosen.

Everyone enjoyed discussing this poem -- much to say about this "almost Sonnet"
... Happy 100th birthday this year Gwendolyn Brooks!

Langston Hughes, the "O Henry of Harlem" does not use the title "Dream Deferred". This powerful poem provides the unforgettable image "dry up like a raisin in the sun" -- a double reduction of a grape filled with vital juice-

The end rhyme, sun?/run?... meat?/sweet?, load/explode? does not clang but propels the rhythm -- does it? / or...? Does it? / or... Maybe... and a heavy couplet drags the heavy load... or
the wind up for the final, italicized "explode"?.
The preponderance of "d" -- dream/deferred/ does/dry/load/explode
contrasts with the sibilance : raisin, sun, fester, for, stink, crust, syrupy sweet, sags...
Powerful poem especially remembering how Martin Luther King's "dream" turned into a "dream" in 2017 half a century later still should be interrogated.
And what is the "American Dream" now? Over Hughes grave, an inscription from "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" says, "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."--

This is a perfect segue to the next poem... long and narrow on the page with no help of punctuation or stanza break.
The tone creates the feeling of "saudade" -- the word in Portuguese for yearning, or German "Sehnsucht" -- a sort of homesickness... for childhood, for ancient legends. Konrad brought up
"Wind in the Willows" , where Ratty and Mole travel down the river..( )
Paul brought up the lyric feel of Yeats. Others were reminded of Basho.. and the medieval wandering minstrels,(Trouveres) who sang of "sad pleasure, painful joy" triste plaisir... douleureuse joie.

We did discuss the word "wound" -- the opening that pierces the heart-- but also allows a certain "healing"... the tear that allows tears...
Anne Porter apparently didn't start publishing her work until age 83...
There is a quiet wisdom-- a reassurance that in our wanderings like music, we are not alone.

to quote Galway Kinyell: "To me, poetry is somebody standing up, so to speak, and saying, with as little concealment as possible, what it is for him or her to be on earth at this moment."

Trick of the Light is a curious title, for a rather surreal poem filled with delightful details.
People shared stories of pickpockets... noted the incongruency of a thief executing a personal, hidden response to survival with an overt petition against injustice. Light -- as in touch.. as in sleight of hand, as well as sharing light on a vignette, replete with the woman in checkered spandex, twirling the hull-hoop... while standing on her head in the busy subway junction.
Perhaps we are "Involuntary plan"... and it is fitting to hear the echo in "dear unobservant God"...
a plea not to snuff us out. The last line is not a justification or explanation of why or why not.
Rather a celebratory confirmation. We ARE beautiful and strange!

The Ben Jonson is filled with old vocabulary -- a rather blustery, pompous delivery that points
to a time of intense political discourse... Please come over... I promise, I won't rock the boat...
it's not the food, but the liberal display may remind us of liberty...
I think we do need to invite more friends to dinner!

The last poem seems more an exercise -- tight end-rhymed couplets contrasting two minds: One, a map, the other
an uncharted sea... The first stanza seems to have gathered phrases one has seen elsewhere:
Here there be tygers... "dark side of the moon"...
Judith brought up that Wylie was his sister-in-law and thus heavily influenced him.
We were stuck on Wednesday on the image of "moth"
Sewing bright coins upon the tragic cloth
Of heavy Fate, and Mockery, like a moth,

It goes back to the problem of using a word like "soul" in a poem... or in this case, "mind",
albeit the colors are like Brooks' purple onion, "white, lavender".
I far prefer her style.

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