Monday, July 31, 2017

O Pen - Poems for August 9

A Prayer to Talk to Animals   by Nickole Brown
To Go to Lvov by Adam Zagajewski; translated by Renata Gorczynski
It can't be "Summer"!  by Emily Dickinson
Instead of Losing by John Ashbery
The New Higher by John Ashbery

The note to the first poem is this:

A Prayer to Talk to Animals’ is an incantation that opens a forthcoming collection with its eye to animal sentience and behavior, and ultimately, it’s my attempt to give voice to what we’re bound to lose in the face of climate change and continued ecological devastation. I’ve been researching for this project for some time—reading every biology text I can but also volunteering at a farm sanctuary and a nature center, trying to get close to animals and observe them. Once finished, this project will result in a kind of a bestiary, I suppose, but it won’t consist of the kind of pastorals that always made me (and most of the working class folks I know) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it—these poems speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature beautiful, but damaged and dangerous.” —Nickole Brown

We enjoyed trying for a "southern-trash-talking kind of way" reading it sentence by sentence.  It really worked!
What struck people's interest:
Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons...

What an inventive way to talk about fingers, and how we use them... digital use vs. crafting?
It goes on, two more question... and a plea:

Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.

To do the poem justice, you really need to read the whole thing.  We noted There is a sorrow on the air-- not IN the air... but ON -- both as on the radio, but felt , sensed.
What have we done with our animal selves as we trade in connection for virtual reality?

The next poem takes the name of a real town, but the conceit of traveling to one that only exists in the mind of the person going there.  I cannot vouch for the original  To Go to Lvov by Adam Zagajewski; or the translation by Renata Gorczynski.

Comments:  "a real gemisch"... small overtures to Chekhov perhaps... cherry Orchard, 3 sisters...
The mystery involved in the the way a place changes… does it exist?  If so, only for yourself or others?  how?   What are boundaries…(thinking of  Polish/Lithuanian empire… pogroms)
What is universal language… In  poetry memory is vertical… present, not needing passage of time... 
The long looping sentences work to create a reality the reader can accept:
....i.e., the reality.
But scissors cut it, along the line and through  
the fiber, tailors, gardeners, censors
cut the body and the wreaths, pruning shears worked  
diligently, as in a child’s cutout
along the dotted line of a roe deer or a swan.  

It doesn't matter what was described as reality... whether the scissors are political or not...
isn't that life also, no matter what... as we draw near our end?
Many people helped out with the geography of Lvov... the autobiographical note about Fredo...
(Aleksander Fredro (20 June 1793 – 15 July 1876) was a Polish poetplaywright and author active during Polish Romanticismin the period of partitions by neighboring empires. His works including plays written in the octosyllabic verse (Zemsta) and in prose (Damy i Huzary) as well as fables, belong to the canon of Polish literature. Fredro was harshly criticized by some of his contemporaries for light-hearted humor or even the alleged immorality (Seweryn Goszczyński, 1835) which led to years of his literary silence. Many of Fredro's dozens of plays were published and popularized only after his death. His best-known works have been translated into English, French, German, Russian, Czech, Romanian, Hungarian and Slovak.[1]). 

Fredo is mentioned in a long list of possibilities including this delightful detail:
"and below, under the canvas  
of a Venetian café, the snails converse
about eternity"...
either a painting of a painting of a cathedral in Venice, where indeed, you will find giant marble snails on Santa Maria de la Salute...or perhaps the canvas is an awning of a café...
How do you understand "too much of Lvov... " repeated twice... and the poem entitled, "Why"--
the this ripe, round peach of Lvov-- indeed, I want to hurry there... 

The Dickinson poem replete with em-dashes, exclamations, had a strange  title-- It can't be "summer"-- what is reality here?  And dying?  twice white is mentioned... as opposed to "rouge"... and the yellow-green-brown olivine of Chrysolite as the sun sets...  If she had called it,
"Meditations on Dying"... or "trickery of the seasons..." we would not have felt the cycle of seasons and a sense of a great round of life.  
And what if Emily lived in 2017 -- imagine -- "Emoticons for Emily" for her to spice her text!
What might she do?

We particularly enjoyed the first Ashbery poem... "Instead of losing" -- what does he mean by "losing" -- and how delightful to wind up with "the whole embrace".  Ashbery's comments About Understanding Poetry… "I don't quite understand about understanding poetry. I experience poems with pleasure: whether I understand them or not I'm not quite sure. I don't want to read something I already know or which is going to slide down easily: there has to be some crunch, a certain amount of resilience."
Certainly this applies to this poem...  Wherever the "eponymous city limits" are located -- and eponymous wth whom?  and how one "perforates them" -- this was a pleasurable use of language to paint a light-hearted mood, more than something to "understand"... Surreal, but wouldn't you like to sail "into an empty drawer"?  A bit like  Alice in Wonderland with St. Ursula thrown in... It helps visualize "bald arbiters" -- really, not to be confused with muskrats!

For "The new higher" we thought of him writing to his muse.... 
You meant more than life to me. I lived through  

you not knowing, not knowing I was living.
great advice:
I put aside the there and now-- 

I far prefer to read Ashbery than Dickinson: -- we are invited to witness...

"Now it was time to stumble anew,
blacking out when time came in the window.
There was not much of it left.

I laughed and put my hands shyly
across your eyes. Can you see now?"

I think it was Judith you mentioned this lovely question, "Do I merely festoon the room with my presence…?"
(Christopher Fry + the Lady's not for Burning) -- allow one to die... even if the muse says go away from the window...

Ashbery's pluck replies:  "I am in love with your window I cannot undermine
it, I said.