Sunday, April 2, 2017

poems for March 29/30

The Makers by Howard Nemerov (provided by Judith)
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World by Richard Wilbur (Kathy -- also discussed in 2014!)
The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz (thank you Kathy)
Supplement : Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address (John)

Cowbell by W.S. Merwin (provided by Jan)
Seamus Heaney : from Clearances (3rd Sonnet-- thank you Joyce)
Picnic Lightning by Billy Collins (thank you Rich)

In addition, I enclosed Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address suggested by a member of the Pittsford group. He says this: "WH Auden defined poetry as "memorable speech." Although I couldn't recite Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address from memory, every reading of it gives me chills. One could cut the first stanza (paragraph) without injuring the work, but then...hold on!” In the attachment I copied the line breaks . The actual text can be found here. speech/

For those who don't know the names, Judith, Kathy, John, Jan, Joyce, Rich, from the Pittsford group provided suggestions of poems. What are some of your "Favorites"? There are so many -- and for different reasons.

Nemerov brings us back to the creation of language... the "makers" being the first poets to think
of how to bridge the visible to the invisible. Who indeed remembers...
"Or now considers, among the artifacts,
And bones and cantilevered inference
The past is made of, those first and greatest poets,
So lofty and disdainful of renown..."

How indeed, do we still "word the world"?
At Rundel, Paul was reminded by the word "idiot"-- that speechless world -- (idiot, as in dumb, or mute) of Bob Dylan, "idiot wind".

I love the idea of a tower of Babel -- the building in one universal language -- and the personnification of the heavens as "astonished"... and I love that a requirement of a "maker"is also to be a great listener. It is by noticing connections that we find (and invent) words... find the resonance ("attuned/To interval, relationship, and scale,) to help them sing in their "cantilevered" way
Why do we have creation myths? We all want to explain the greatest question we have: Why are we here? One person posited that idea that myths have the goal of speaking to a God -- asking for proof that we are loved-- I am important enough to have words -- ."

The poem takes us to a time before any poets... or fragments in ancient times, Hebrew scripture...
yet borrows on contemporaries such as Wallace Stevens...

From astonished sky to "astounded soul" we join Wilbur in Italy, where laundry billows in the wind
as if the air is "awash with angels". The images, the effortless ease of using the word "soul"
in a convincing and pleasing way -- especially when it "shrinks", (as does the line)

From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."
just read it
He plays with dark and light...the idea of purification in the washing, the final stanza hinting Christ's crucifixion where the thieves too are deserving of being wrapped in clean linen. The ending contrasts the angels with the heaviest nuns "in a pure floating of dark habits" -- truly, to talk about this poem, I am tempted to quote every line--
repeat it stanza by stanza to admire the flawless architecture, the integrity of sounds.

Kunitz seems to draw on the Viking burial tradition of the longboat as coffin and yet, it is a narrative metaphor of the surprise at finding oneself snapped from mooring... and a feeling of drifting to a final sleep. We imagined it must feel this way in hospice.
There is a definite feel of Walt Whitman -- "Out of the cradle rocking" and the peace of the infinite. The final stanza with its negative, "as if it didn't matter, as if he didn't know..."
provides a brilliant separation of what life should be like, alive, and a reminder that it is all too brief. I tried a "Golden Shovel" with the last three lines... it loses the power of the parallelism
of "matter" and "know" -- what matters and how do we know? I envy the man in this boat -- that we would love the earth so much -- not that he loved life so much -- but the earth, and what that means for connection.

As if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if he didn't know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

The next poem had a real sense of communal memory reading it line by line.
Merwin's style gives a sense of "measured weight", and timelessness of unpunctuated lines...
A cowbell and the calling it had been made for puts forth a thought about what a calling is, what we are made for.

The Heaney sonnet, #3 from "Clearances" provided much discussion about who the characters were in the narrative... There is an intimacy... mother and child... or perhaps Grandmother and grandchild, or two lovers while the rest are at Mass... So, the Octave is the memory; the Sestet, it feels
Someone is now dead, and people dropping by... and the memory of spending special time together... whoever it was -- "fluent" and "dipping".

We did not have time to discuss Billy Collins -- but it seemed to echo the arbitrariness of the Kunitz...

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