Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Poems for May 25-26

What do you find exciting about American poetry at the moment?(asked to the Board of Chancellors,  Academy of American Poets
Ellen Bass: “More readers turning to poetry for solace and inspiration.  Any excellent
poem asks us to stop, to pay attention.  A poem has the capacity to change us.  I find it hopeful that people are seeking this transformation through poetry.”
Forrest Gander:  “...Wide variety of approaches...”
Terrance Hayes: “ Much of my excitement is stoked by optimism.  New poems get made every year.  A lot of them are bad, some of them good enough to do no harm, and every now and then you find a truly amazing poem or two.”

David St. John :  “...the explosive diversity both culturally and stylistically.” 

In this week's collection, it is the final session until September for Poetry Oasis... How do the above comments fit with the poems below?  

Glass with Soma and Salt by Amy Small-Mckinley
 Beauty  by William Heyen

Elegy  by William Heyen (p. 152: originally published in Shoah Train)
Wooden Heart  by Primo Levi (translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann)

Catbird  by William Heyen (p. 166)

Kimono  by William Heyen

Poetry  by William Heyen

The Shipfitter's Wife  by Dorianne Laux

Last Session for Rundel, so this was a hefty selection!

What would you write in 14 lines entitled “Instructions on Not Giving up”?
Lessons we learn from nature are filled with such instruction, and yet in this poem,
Ada Limón flavors the tone of Spring with alliterative  f’s, c’s, sl/sk,sh—
p/pl... almost “over-the-top” with sweet and strong anthropomorphic language of
 “almost obscene” display of “cherry limbs” shoving... confetti of aftermath (messy birth)...  where the instruction is given in the guise of observation of “continuous living”.

I love the tree at the end who seems to say, “I’ll take it...” – all of it, no matter what it is.

Many of us had to look up "Soma" -- finding variations on "body" but what seems apt in this particular poem .   an intoxicating juice from a plant of disputed identity that was used in ancient India as an offering to the gods and as a drink of immortality by worshippers in Vedic ritual and worshipped in personified form as a Vedic god.  (Also muscle-relaxant...)

What kind of "glass" -- a looking glass, or a glass to hold something magical and "salt" -- perhaps consciousness?  The discussion included many associations, including archeological time,  (Colville River takes us to Alaska and remains of duck-billed dinosaurs...)the idea of a survivor, perhaps in a dream, hinting life as uncertain, ... (blue/ocean?  green/land?)  What window is this?  A metaphorical "way to look"?  Sense of speaker of the poem wishing for something she couldn't get... or lost...  One person summed it up as an "enlightenment experiment"... 

I will ask Bill Heyen about his poems.  Does "Beauty" have a "Moses" theme, perhaps a trial period ?
Why no punctuation -- and what is the correct hyphenation of world-to-be
or was this simply a mistake: "world-to-be-we" 
which opened a lot of conjecture.   
Comments included: considerations about a red-winged blackbird... how the male distracts, protects... how "stigmatic" brings something sacrificial...  how the mysterious force of beauty veers to help us navigate (in our loneliness) "the porous skin" between ourselves and the world.  

We compared the Primo Levi which is mentioned in Heyen's poem "Elegy", which seems to be more an explanation of Levi's poem with a question for his tree.   Is there a covenant, or can we stay with Levi and simply say the tree savors the seasons turns and returns?

Judith's comment:  "This is not a necessary poem".
After we read Heyen's poem "Catbird" she recited by heart the one she penned about Goebbels and the murder of his 6 children.    (
On a lighter note, John shared a “pyramidal” poem, which he recited out   loud so we could “feel” its structure.
 “Their Names were” and “Just"

Their names were:

And Holdine.

Helga came first,
and Heidrun last
All the others
In between.

What could their lives had been?

One boy
In uniform
Or lederhosen
Special and chosen
The girls
 Had curls
Or plaits
Skinned knees perhaps

Six little chaps

What could their lives have been
Without the morphine?

We will never know
Six at one blow
As they lay dormant in a row
Cyanide after morphine

Their ashes thrown in water
After the slaughter

With those of their mother
And their father
Who wanted guns not butter
And with the ashes of that man
Whose initial they bore,
As an honor

And Heidrun.
-- Judith Judson

This goes to the "heartwood" of horror in a different way than reading about Rabbi Solomon H,
remembering his son.  How the imitator catbird sings, "losing track of its beginning, never the melodies of final meanings" and the final 4 lines laden with negatives.
... going on as though nothing

within its own singing
could ever not remember

For the Hiroshima poems, we discussed the problem of memory... but also the problem of being
a bomber pilot, removed from the impact of killing unknown, but very real people.  Who are Mrs. Aoyama and Mr. Tanimoto, or are they just representatives of those annihilated, reminders like
the stones of the Dresden cathedral, blackened by time, but still standing?

The final sentence of "Poetry"  addresses Heyen's obsession with the Holocaust indirectly and answers the question about who this Japanese man and woman could be.  However Heyen found
out about them, book, newspaper story, writing a poem about their chance meeting as atomic presences allows the haunting last sentence which awakens guilt we all share, knowing horrors
happen to other human beings, committed in the name of the country in which we are born.
"Was/is there anything I could/can do for you?"
Past, and conditional... present, present -- how to be in the present...

The final poem is a great example of sound and sensual description of the outward elements that define the ship fitter and how we, reading also are  invited to join the wife, by witnessing the intimacy she experiences opening his clothes to "take/the whole day inside".

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