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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Poems for June 7



Famous  by Naomi Shihab Nye
Experience by Carl Sandberg
Doors opening, closing on us   by Marge Piercy
Bad News Good News  by Marjorie Saiser
Watching my Parents Sleeping Beside an Open Window Near the Sea by Rebecca McClanahan
Summer Silence by E. E. Cummings

What is Fame?  How is a river "famous" to a fish?   What do we find out about fame and relationships?  Each pairing makes you think about circumstance, the role and/or effect of one thing on another.  A loud voice breaks silence; a cat is a threat to a bird; a tear is visible on a cheek; an idea matters to the person who cherishes it; Footwear determines where and how we walk--
It is not really "famous" in the sense of being important, recognized for a role, or being the expert at something.  Discussion included reference to Katherine Mansfield, the art of carrying things lightly...
Charles Lamb, do good by self, without expectation... found out by accident...
The final image of the pulley brings the aspect of "useful role" into play -- and aligning oneself
to a sense of purpose, the possibilities that provides.  If a pulley tried to be a boot, to protect a foot as it walked, that would make one useless pulley, wouldn't it!

I woke up this morning looking at the brightness of the moon... and an hour later, all of a sudden,
fog is everywhere, so I can barely see the church tower across the street.  This sentence has nothing poetic about it.  But if I say... The fog is famous to the moon -- imagine the possibilities --
how the moon, hanging in its place, receiving light from the sun, visible to the earth, really doesn't care one way or another if we earthlings can see it.  Fog, as part of the weather, transforms how WE will perceive something.  It is not life-giving, as the river is to the fish;  but changes something
about our feeling about what we see.  I wouldn't say the fog is famous, except as how it has been
talked about... its uncanny way of throwing down a magical veil that transforms what we "normally" see.  Famous works that way-- we are who we are, and then out in the world, someone decides
that what we do deserves attention as it changes the way we are perceived.

Now, how do you think about silence, your cheek as the canvas on which you paint your emotions,
what you want to be remembered for?

The Sandburg poem gives us a chance to consider how Experience shapes us.  Yes, capital E,
experience.  In French, the word means experiment, which is what we do as we proceed, trial and error, through life.  We can hope, predict, look at different possibilities others have chosen... but finally,  our choice of map will influence the "how" of what we experience.

What is your map of the day?  The discussion examined the seeming paradox of these lines:
I am learning a little—never to be sure—
To be positive only with what is past,

and the meaning of "querulous" -- and how that fits with "robust"
And only as one looks robust, lonely, and querulous 

Apparently Sandberg, as communist, was against the status quo and quarreled with everything...
There's a bit of the flavor of "the Road not Taken" in this poem, celebrating choice of each individual. 
Frost equated with Sandberg... and irritated by it... but his poem takes off where "Experience" leaves us.


The title of the Piercy poem brought up the difference between the British and American way of inviting someone in.  British Engl.  Come through to the...  vs. Come in (American) – 
Also the semantics of placement  :  Johnnie come in.  (Greeting)  Come in Johnnie.  (giving a direction) Canadian/welsh. 

Doors are a marvelous subject... Discussion brought up  Cocteau's Orphée filled with doors and mirrors... as well as door as mirror (Alice in Wonderland...)... and the Japanese tradition of covering the mirror... (Japan at all times...)
The title raises question in the reader’s mind...  Final door:  something else we don’t know. Was.
Door has power to exclude or accept us?

  How does Marge Piercy get away with seemingly "telling" statements inspired by doors?  Look at the m's in the first line.
"Maybe there is more of the magical"... the "but" that hangs as the last word in the stanza before
dropping through space to a line about cathedrals, which stretch up to the sky-- which then is not blue
but stormy, which leads to doors to other darker places... filled with "nuclear monsters" 
and then another stanza break to this humorous consideration:
"most just yield a bathroom or a closet.".
The earthy tone is balanced by  the "liminal" : relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.//occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete
Every exit an entrance somewhere else... 

The Marjorie Saiser poem had come up when we discussed Laura Kaschiske's "The Wall" a few weeks ago.  I liked the juxtaposition with Piercy's "doors" -- some lead to good news, others to bad and everything in-between.
What separates one human from another?  Martin suggested we each write a poem about the most important thing about being in a  relationship...
But, O Pen is not a writing group, but rather, a place to appreciate good writing... so this is something for people to do elsewhere.  How do we use imagery.   rhythm... sounds...?

The closing stanza gives me shivers after the hurling words of anger at the Cosmos...
The I love you, we want to stand up to life.  al

"I sent the most necessary syllables
we have, after all this time the ones we want to hear:

I said Home, I said Love, I said Tomorrow.]"

The next poem gave rise to a discussion about taking care of parents and stages of life...and relationships.    "Adult children" doesn't quite capture the role we play as we take care of our parents...  How many of us have had the experience of  a mother or father  say to us, as daughter or son, "is that me"?  


The language is beautifully expressive.
my father’s feet white sails furled

at the edge of blue pajamas.
as are the ideas:  "When did they grow
so small? Grow so small—
as if it were possible to swell
backwards into an earlier self."

I always appreciate a good ending line:
"...I now put my ear to,
the coiled shell of their lives"

The E.E. Cummings poem after that, albeit beautiful crafted and rife with sounds, felt old-fashioned
and didn't mark my heart.

We were reminded to memorize lines... maybe 30-40 a week?
I would certainly take his last sentence:
No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars.

It gives me the shivers.