Thursday, April 13, 2017

Poems for April 12-13

Look, Stranger – W.H. Auden
Omar D. Conger, 1922; Black River by Cindy Hunter Morgan
Things to Think by Robert Bly
Ode to the Double “L” by Michelle Brittan Rosado
Objectivity as Blanket by Zoë Hitzig
Within Two Weeks the African American Poet Ross Gay is Mistaken for Both the African American Poet Terrance Hayes and the African American Poet Kyle Dargan, Not One of Whom Looks Anything Like the Others BY ROSS GAY
Visit the Sick -- Rumi (for Pittsford)

The original idea of this grouping of poems was to look at how a poet "hooks a reader".
The first one I mentioned, is one my father-in-law, now 92, recently recited by heart. He
finds it is a good antidote for the type of self-indulgent poems which seem to be addressed
"to whom it may concern", without caring who anonymous might be.
The rich alliteration, abundance of sibilants and liquids create the sound of the sea, as well as providing a lushly sensuous poem. Look,
Where do you go after the comma?
Look, stranger
is it an adjective? a person? the reader?
Are you intrigued?

Where is this island? England? or in the imagination, or as a metaphor? Does it matter?
I love poetry which contains multiple layers...
the light leaps... but the stranger is told to "stand stable here" -- but note how after rhyming with
ear, for the sounds of a wandering river, "here" leaps to return to start the second sentence, on the 8th line.

The syntax is odd, with the verb inverted with "silent be" and the subject at the end of the sentence. Logically, we think"The swaying sound of the sea wanders like a river through the channel of the ear". The diction rich -- pluck and knock of the tide!-- the division of suck-
ing, to rhyme... the echo of sh in shingle, with sheer...
And what of "urgent voluntary errands" -- what could this be -- and what hope is planted by the seeds of ships?

Judith brought up the fact that Auden married Thomas Mann's daughter so she could leave Germany
and be safe in England just before World War 2. Is she the stranger then? And the ships part of the war? I invite you to do however much research you want to do. For me, it is enough to be lost
in the sounds, to note that "now" and "pause" do not rhyme. Errand and mirror, share a shimmer in the double r and ships rhymes with unspoken lips and hips.

The next poem is inspired by a news account. Without it, the title and the appearance of the radiator would be indeed puzzling, There is a pleasing play of radiator (mentioned twice) and "radiant" applied to the God it might have been flung by and the possibility of radiance as one of the choices to explain its appearance. The poem seems to edge on humor -- and yet this is a grim
account. The first part up to BUT... seems to question the nature of God. The poem moves us on
to the word coincidence, and how words guide our thinking as we start to hear and associate
until we are capable of changing"the lexicon". One word, coincidence, turns into another word, coincide, which repeats with its rhyming variations of "cides" which all have to do with murder.
"A word redefined by tragedy". The poem could have ended there, but it goes on to consider the families who were involved... the transfer of one "coincidence" will trigger the memory,
like a "kind of death". Perhaps the universe doesn't care. But that's not the point of the poem.

I am paraphrasing the poem, which does not do justice to it. We do try to make sense of
tragedy, but again, the poem isn't "about" just that, or how language changes. We are invited
as readers to wear the shoes of those involved, imagine what that might be like.

"Things to Think" is a delightful title. There are so many wonderful craft decisions here... the way "message "is followed by a line break to continue on the next line "larger than anything you've ever heard" which gives a sense of "large beyond containment"... Larger then rhymes with "Vaster"
and instead of the 1000 ships that Helen launched, or an echo of Andrew Marvell(My vegetable love should grow vaster than
it's a comical comparison of "vast" with 100 lines of Yeats... Large reappears with another message.
"something large" is to tell you three things:
you're forgiven;
it's not necessary to work all the time;
you can lie down and no one will die.

The middle stanza captures a sense of childlike imagination, both surreal and implausible.
What's the worst thing you can think of? A wounded and deranged bear at your door?
What's the most miraculous? that your child is rescued by a moose, holding it in its antler as it rises from a lake?
Marcie mentioned the delightful blog "exploding Unicorn" which records things that a father's 4 young children say.

The message of "thinking in ways you've never thought before" (opening line) is enacted in the second stanza. What kind of choice do we have here? Think of an animal to symbolize fear?
And one whose largeness is not scary, but helpful? And how does one have "a child of your own you've never seen"? How many ways can you think through that? That the child you sent off to school in
the morning is not the kid who comes home with or without a freshly skinned knee?
Indeed life goes on. The point is not to get caught up in exterior things, which we as adults are so good at doing... You only get a small hyphen between the year you were born and the year you will die. Think how you'll use it.

Ode to the Double L is filled with L sounds and doublings. We listened to the poet read her poem and did not detect a foreign accent. This does not mean she is not from some other country. Marion confirmed by mentioning that she has been in this country since she was 8, but most people do not guess she is from Africa. l l : they can look like lines -- or l's (ones) parallel lives.
Perhaps the same person in different countries, but also how two people remain parallel.
Discussion ensued about immigration; about where "Here" is.
At first some felt it was a "contrived" poem, but as we kept parsing it these comments came up:
What happens when you stop writing in your own language? Doubles, things in twos; half of times,
both grief and wonder doubled...

Something about the final sentence feels like a plea from someone emprisoned between bars of lines...

The next poem, uses anaphor so that each fragment starts with Nor. We don't know what came before.
It was neither XYZ, nor... Objectivity? I think of the French word for camera lens: l'objectif...
How do you look at something? record it? By using blanket in the title and in the last line of
the poem, there is both the physical evidence of something and the metaphor for "cover up".
Animals... of course an elephant -- the largeness people don't want to admit is in the room--
but with a fresh use of tusk as verb -- "tusked by the state". The stork is mentioned twice with the adjective "common sense", and the third time, perhaps asking "is she breathing"? Or is it the stork itself, no longer able to bring something new? Bending/unbending however you phrase it.
Who is "he" why his "fitful approach"... is he the same as the widower? He, now the puma in pull-focus -- perhaps a pun on "full focus" or the camera term to describe changing focus mid-shot.
(Now I look again at "Nor the shots" -- guns or camera shoot? or both). The final line with the rhyme of "blue" and "two" gives us two details that don't clarify anything.
This poet works on poems on wrongful conviction of people... and at first
sounded like computer generated but highly private language ...
Spending time with this poem was like watching one of those magic pellets one puts in water.
At first it looks like a dry capsule with no possibilities... and then, it starts to morph and blossom.

We ended at Rundel on the Ross Gay poem with the incredibly long title... "History as the blacksmith of our tongues..."
I think only that when a man
is a concept he will tell you about the smell
of smoke...
The abstract and visceral... the stereotyping and racism that comes from not paying attention...
What is the smell of smoke? We can describe it... the feel of suffocating, but the smell is what is being burned. And then, think of associations -- campfires and roasting marshmallows is one kind of smoke... smoke from a fire caused by a bomb quite another.

At Pittsford, we read also "Visit the Sick" -- biblical in tone. Kindness, the great of all balms...
Paul read the poem "Down" -- and clued us into the real Irishman who wrote it.
Read down the page, it looks like a digger.

Each poem we read today, provided us with seeds, our discussion watching them transform--
in the light of shared understanding.

No comments: