Friday, December 15, 2017

poems for December 6-7

Merry Autumn by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Deep Cover Costumes  by Mark Wallace
American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
Boundary Issues by John Ashbery
Just Delicate Needles ---by Rolf Jacobsen-- translated by Robert Haden

Judy brought in this photo.. it is a joyful boy, with the crumpled man holding a bereft Christmas tree--
reminded her of "My Father's Kites" -- on the docket, but we discussed it Dec. 19.

Given as supplement:  Amid Mounting Evidence by John Ashbery 

 I couldn't copy the 2+ pages of this poem published in 1987.  Click link below  It seems appropriate for the times, and a way to say "adieu" to Garrison Keilor's writer's almanac.

We usually reserve the adjective "Merry" for Christmas... but Dunbar captures a festive spark
for Autumn, which indeed provides a fireworks of color.  Unlike the usual "end of the year, the moan before dying" attributed to the season, he trounces the idea of "solemn" -- nature is not inherently
this or that... and ends on a sense of mirth and laughter you can hear if out in the woods.  
The rhyming is typical of the time, but escapes a "Hallmark" quality... which would never have a line such as this:
The ripples wimple on the rills

A very different poem than "We wear the mask".  Perhaps he is playing with an American version of Keats' "Ode to Autumn"...  I would love to know more about the context of this poem, why he wrote it...  That he is the son of ex-slaves perhaps puts a different onus on the word "Thanksgiving" -- 
But that aside, it is an invigorating and fun poem which makes you appreciate the season and feel grateful.  

The comment by Paul about next poem: Deep Cover Costumes:  "Methinks he doth bloviate too much" seemed to be the consensus.  Without the note, that this poem is part of a multipart long poem, "The End of America", one senses a falling apart.   The opening lines play with the body politic... becomes  a body made of politics...  but then,  it took work to try to make sense of  four different parts...   We listened to him read it...his flat voice, following the indentations and pause did not endear me to it.

The next poem,  American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
is indeed 14 lines.  Knowing Hayes likes playing with form, for instance, creating the Golden Shovel,  
I am pleased with his description:  "This sonnet is one lanky sentence and several clanging fragments. It’s both dream and memory; ode to high-tops, criminal elegy, testimony, fantasy. It’s crystal clear to me and totally hazy."”
The last sentence helps elucidate the title...  past and future can be the same assassin, or conversely, different.  I love poems that can hold such paradox.  Comments included:
Playing with stereotypes of burglar who would be black…
it reminds me of black music… Amiri Baraka  (LeRoi Jones)
Dream… stream of consciousness…  memory…
only human beings attribute punctuation…
butting up against racism…  not depressing.


Boundary Issues by John Ashbery.  Who is "they"?  Who is "we"?  I love how "it" could be 
understood as time personified as well as part of a colloquial expression:
"Now it was time, and there was nothing for it."    
"It" continues to be laden with possible understandings... as he gives us suggestions...
I particularly like "Banish truth-telling." as 1) truth cannot exist so don't pretend; 2) remove
any expectation of truth. 

That’s the whole point, as I understand it.                              
Each new investigation rebuilds the urgency,  
like a sand rampart. And further reflection undermines it,  

The conclusion feels somewhat hopeful...
It was camaraderie, or something like it, that did,  
poring over us like we were papyri, hoping to find one  
correct attitude sketched on the gaslit air, night’s friendly takeover.

The question of the group:  "Why is he writing this"?  What was happening in 2009, when it was
published?  It feels very accurate for the times we live in.

The next poem takes us to Norway in winter.  It is beautifully translated -- but I left off the translator's name.  There are three translators involved with the book from which it came: from The Roads Have Come to an End, Transl. by Robert Bly, Roger Greenwald, Robert Haden.

"It" returns -- but it is clearly established that it refers to "light". The translation of the Norwegian here as "We Hope"is also rendered as "Shall we believe.  Let us believe."
I love the gentleness of the wording... needles are not brittle but "delicate"... how our job is to be 
gentle.   Although it is not stated, I sense a suggest that we be gentle in our attitude -- towards
the needles, towards the light... towards the darkness of winter... and this allows us to feel so ourselves.  

If I did a “found poem” technique I would steal  words from Jacobson’s poem for the title… perhaps his conceit as well.

The Light in an Endless Night

Not the streetlamps, not the red and green
stripes on buildings, the Christmas Tree
outlined on the windows of the Five Star Bank

nor the light in the church belfry,
as the first light of a new day breaks
in the ice of the sky

but that light, like a spirit lamp
whispering, the dark will pass.


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