Thursday, October 24, 2019

poems for October 23-4

Special session with Sarah Freligh

Wondrous by Sarah Freligh 
Starting With an Old Photo of My Mother and Ending on a Hill
We Smoke  (prose poem)
 Blissfield, Michigan (loose sonnet/terza rima)
(from an exercise that eschews the “I” and is limited only to what you can see from your window)
A Letter to You About Myself (epistolary form)
December (extended metaphor that gains additional subtext from its placement in the book)
Last Letter to You Wherever You Are
My Friend

Comments from Rundel:
Wondrous:  Beautiful reflective poem.  Did she come up with form right away?  (answer, probably not-- after many drafts, sometimes a form suggests itself.) Where lines break, makes it feel more conversational.  Like arranging flowers… silences in music, it contributes to the whole of the tone.
How title is repeated twice at the end -- once for EB White, how the words made him cry, and once for the mother... hearing her voice say those words 10 years after her death.
How the  enjambment of  grief tumbles past the line break, through the space of a stanza brief, to fall multiplied on the verb

multiplies the one preceding it,

Starting With an Old Photo of My Mother and Ending on a Hill: I showed the picture -- read aloud the Raymond Carver, Afterglow,  spoke about the importance of going beyond description when writing an ekphrastic response.  Mike: "Every sentence is really, really good. There's no sense of a set up.  It pegs the moment, the feelings in down-to-earth language.  Shares what we go through as humans. Reminds us that when we think everything’s going according to plan, life will surprise us.   
Spoke about the sound of deciduous windows; the "shell" image Judith brought up in O Pen: in the remains of the factory... the shell of the womb of the whale, the shell of talk of the boys, blank eyes of cows as empty as parking lot.

We Smoke:  metaphore.  What smokes in us... what is muffled in our inner fire.   
Their very lives “smoke”… smoking as diversion… first stanza: smoking like a ritual… second stanza, projections of what the children they will not keep will be like; the bang up of the moth
returning them to repeat, smoke some more.  

 Blissfield, Michigan.  What a name of a town!  Showed the picture:,_Michigan#/media/File:Blissfield_township_business_district.JPG
everyone appreciated setting of the first moonwalk, and description with first sex-- those astronauts watching...

Pilgrims:  everyone felt the details were perfect... and how cool it was that each person had a different version of the story -- for instance the ash falling down: could be from the lit cigarette, that small act of kindness to another;  or maybe snow, the "pilgrims" not going into that bar for a drink.
Richness of sound and image:  afternoon trudges; the silver choir of bottles...  mouth feel of words (Pinsky).

A Letter to You About Myself: enjoyed the shift from present to projected future.  "I" imagines herself older.  how to construe I and you.  portrait of failing from rip in stocking to old age home.  natural flow. You could be a son or daughter of an old person, anyone at the moment or the readers of the poem.  Jim said, Required reading for all nursing staff and people in old people's homes. 
December: Loved the feisty petunia -- how stupid is often a word to describe how it feels when things aren't going the way you expect them.  A sense of unjust abandonment.    
The unexpected longevity-- and how if the Petunia didn’t give up.. maybe stupid is me… the petunia puts me to shame. 
vs. the discussion about people giving, giving, giving, but neglecting themselves from Wed. group.

Geography: only had time to briefly touch on this one.  Loved the title, the changeable nature of geography on maps; loved the leaps...  the images, how the mother slips in, her death, back to JFK in Dallas.

The Beginning of Something Is Always the End of Another
The Writer’s Almanac for July 2, 2016

only Rundel 10/17

I cannot say I did not — Sharon Olds
The Interconnectedness of all Things by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Declaration by Tracy K. Smith
Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100  by Martin Espada
Special Problems in Vocabulary by Tony Hoagland  

What words feel humanizing to us?  The first poem captures the struggle of finding what words might answer why we are born... why we exist... and all the unsaid things that wonder if our parents wanted us,
if we are wanted by others as we go through life.  
I cannot say... is the perfect response, as it builds to the double negative:  I cannot say I did not...
and then the first line adds the verb to the  title -- but the complement of the sentence falls on the
second line.   14 of the 27 lines have the verb "ask" repeated in them.  Two of the "asks" are
interrogative.  Only two of the "asks" are not followed by "with"-- 
the opening:  I cannot say I did not ask/to be born
and then on the 21st line:  I asked, with everything I did not/have, to be born.

It is humanizing to hear another person's want:  I want to say that love/is the meaning...
and then the reflection, turning meaning into the means.  No hallmark note or easy task to 
delve into the depth of this poem!

The Emerson was to follow-up with the transcendental thought that came the century before Olds.
There is comfort in the rhyming.

The haiku is yet another version of the interconnectedness of things with all the delight of syllables
providing sounds and surprise as what is perceived as flower becomes a butterfly!

I used the erasure poem by Tracy K. Smith in the workshop on poetry for peace.
The discussion brought up many words of wisdom about our Declaration of Independence.
"nothing's changed except the numbers" --  referring to who is in power and who oppressed....
The poem leaves space to complete the unspoken... plundered our, ravaged our, destroyed the lives of our,
taking away out, abolishing our most valuable, altering the Forms of our...
We discussed industrialized slavery, the necessity of admitting flaws... the difference in attitude between
MLK and Malcolm X, / WE duBois and Brooker T Washington... 

Why is "integration a dirty word?  When we ask people to assimilate, to what are we asking them to identify?

The next poem, Alabanza, meaning Praise, is filled with the contradictions of praising all details in daily life, and all those details which destroy our well-being.  The desperation of saying alabanza, Praise-
to a  God with no face... 
and then... at the end, the exchange.  Afghan request: teach me to dance; we have no music here.
Spanish reply.  I will teach you.  Music is all we have.

We ran out of time to discuss the Hoagland... but appreciated the brilliance--
as he gives situational rope to words like "friendship", "marriage', "loss" first for small things, like a book,
then attrition of one's body, the ability to speak, 
and ending on the fact there is no word for what keeps us going...

Monday, October 14, 2019

poems for Oct. 9-10

The Rider, by Naomi Shihab Nye
Small Kindnesses by Danusha Laméris
 The Sound I Listened Foby Robert Francis

Lemon Jam by Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz translated by Steven Ford Brown 
Buffalograss. by Jake Skeets

We started the class with listening to her poem, Kindness, and the story behind it.

Married for one week, she and her husband  were spending their honeymoon in Colombia, South America — and a gang came on the bus  they were riding… and took  everything — luggage, passport, money… and murdered an Indian man.  They realized that hadn’t lost everything.  They were still alive.   Later, once located in a town, a man noticed their distress and  asked them what was wrong, with such kindness in his face as he listened to their story.  She felt she only just understood this word at that moment.   That night, the poem announced itself  in her head and she found a pencil and scrap of paper to record the words.
The 13 line poem, The Rider, elicited a good 25 minutes of discussion-- and could have continued indeed! What makes the poem work?  That it had a poignant effect, perhaps is in the power of the   narrative, the personnification of loneliness, the idea of outrunning something which makes us feel disconnected (idea to which we all can relate... )
We noted the complexity of the set-up, a boy... speaking about outrunning loneliness; the speaker of the poem, wondering if outrunning could be done on bicycle... and then the final nature image,
where we are reminded, nature  is not self-reflexive, doesn't grapple with feelings... and the slowness of the falling of petals.  Every had a story, an association.
 George mentioned when he listens to the blues, he feels he can outrun any loneliness...
John brought up the danger of sentimentality and pity parties which was immediately countered by
defense of the poem which is neither sentimental, nor self-indulgent.  David brought up Robert Frost,
the wish (poem title?) and the dealing with what there is.
Martin brought up that we are never alone -- we always have our shadow.

Danusha Laméris's first name means “morning star” in Slavic and “bow” (as in “bow and arrow”) in Sanskrit.  Dutch father and a mother from the island of Barbados,  her family lived, briefly, in Beirut, Lebanon ... Her book was chosen by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Indeed, a similar sense to her poems.
The ends of lines feel like a breath;  We discussed small act of kindness as antidote to loneliness. gestures of connection… and Kathy brought up 
I see you.  I am here. S. Africa. Greetings in South Africa, and translation “I see you.”  response.  “I am here”  (perhaps after the session 10/16 we can discuss the words of connection.
Thank you Kathy B. for the quote from Martin Espada about  Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz in the poem Lemon Jam translated by Steven Ford Brown
"any poet  who can look at  ground cinnamon and see the rusted armor of the conquistator has found the crossroads between imagination and history.
And as always, thank you’s to everyone’s observations, sharing of background.  It is definitely the spirit of Ubuntu (see above) — I close with sharing Archbishop Desmond Tutu's definition in a 1999.

"A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

The Sound I Listened For by Robert Francis, a student encouraged by Frost, indeed has overtones of the "sound of sense" which governs the sonnet.   Francis takes us to a moment of partnership between man and horse with the sound of the mower,  like a musical score moving through time.  The line about patience running through the strength as voice and horses haul intrigued both groups.

Lemon Jam:  Kathy B. commented on Martin Espada saying this about the poet:
Nicomedes Suárez-Araúz:  "Any poet  who can look at  ground cinnamon and see the rusted armor of  conquistadors has found the crossroads between imagination and history/". 
How can you not love a poet who says
"Scrape away the peel of day" -- to squeeze the juice of it, make a syrup with it... and thus, with a sunrise, it is indeed, "sweet,/with no bitterness at all," and the contrast with the huts in the Amazon,
the invasion of the Spaniards which destroyed their life, is a crazy jam of paradox and highly effective.

to find out more about the yanomami:

a lot of free association.  It helps to read the note first:   
About This Poem
 “This poem began as a conversation between the Navajo words anáá' and anaa'. Anáá' can be translated to ‘eye’ and anaa' can be translated into ‘war.’ The act of desire can become violent, especially between Native men. I imagined a man seeing another man naked in front of him for the first time; these men become engaged in wants of the eye, desires of the body, but also in an act of war. The couplet, a form that wants harmony between two lines, seemed to be the most perfect fit to speak toward this tension, this desire, this war.”
Jake Skeets

The poem is perhaps meant to be unintelligible… secret. private.  We loved the reference of the cottonwood trees --
"the letter t vibrating in cottonwoods" which prepares the ear for the line 
His tongue a mosquito whispering
its name a hymn on mesquite"

Nature Aria: exactly what it is and how what should be free of anxiety, is not, with a sense of menacing at the end.

Rundel will discuss more in depth : I cannot say I did not 
Pittsford : discussions of mother/daughter; eternal life, etc.

October 2-3

Mexican American Sonnet by Iliana Rocha
American Sonnet for the New Year  — Terrance Hayes
Sonnet by Billy Collins
American Sonnet — by Billy Collins
For Example  by Adrienne Rich
You Say You Said  by Marianne Moore
We Are Saying Yes, But Who Are We to Say  BY KHALED MATTAWA

Cleverness!  Bruce Bennett''s playfulness takes alternating rhyme, includes a volta, and off we go,
abab Donne... aha!  we go Shakespearian... make another choice at line 8, open or closed?

As for the term "American Sonnet" , much can be found about the liberties (perhaps a sonnet's pursuit of happiness?) by the adjective.
"The American Sonnet was the creation of James Gates Percival (1795-1856)
His sonnets are beautiful productions. Illegitimate in form, they yet show a true conception of what the sonnet ought to be, in tone, general structure, and character of melody. In several cases the poet invented a form of his own, by a novel and a not ineffective disposition of rhymes"

  For a Mexican-American  sonnet,  the rhyming words paint a picture of the Mexico of the speaker : "tenedors" with cathedral floors; want with "Verdad"; asks/pasts; hurricane/migraine; inwardness/sadness.  The note "about the poem" mentions that the "ultimate rebellion of Chicansas is through sexuality" but neither group noted it.  "To disrupt a hurricane's path with our own inwardness" coupled with the rhyming words, "migraine and sadness" points to what the poet calls "internalized self-hatred... the irony being "while individuals with racist and discriminatory views are erroneous in their worry about the negative effects of immigrants on the external world, it is the world of the Mexican speaker of the poem, that her internal world is under duress.  

We loved the Terrance Hayes poem -- the use of adverbs, the pile up of repetitions. 
Things do get terribly ugly incredibly quickly.  3 end rhymes of quickly... and one reads it quickly...
the word "ugly" repeated each line except the penultimate... "regularly, truly quickly things got really incredibly and hopefully ends it up.

The Billy Collins sonnet is a playful , demonstration of unrhymed 14-liners.  The American Sonnet, adopts the same playful spirit, written in tercets -- playing on "stanza" by calling the space "little room" like a postcard poem on vacation  and ending with "Back in the typed line/was room for everything."
It's in quotes...  Perhaps he is referring to the Adrienne Rich poem... perhaps graffiti?  
Lots of lovely sensory details... but also poking fun at human nature... the "postcard-sized" trivialities we express to each other.

The Adrienne Rich poem is intriguing and alluring… and also refers to "sounds too // that live in a typed line"...   The title starts in media res... 
For Example...  
What is the context?  By the end of the first tercet, you know it's about poetry... 

The Marianne Moore, also makes a commentary on the treachery of language. Her title, "You Say You Said" is intriguing...and needs the first line "Few words are best" in quotes to be understood.   Her line breaks, indentations, repeat of Disgust .. first, in a short sentence, for its discretion, (like  the equinox/ all things  in /One.  The rest of the poem in 13 lines gives voice and is the voice of disgust.  One participant summed it up this way: disgust helps me against dishonesty… It certainly intimates the 20’s aggressive isolationism/. immigration laws… 

A twist on the title,  We Are Saying Yes, But Who Are We to Say  BY KHALED MATTAWA.  We listened to him read his poem: it is read with intense anger. emphasis and power, changes tone at the end. The  Arab Spring 32 years ago… comes out in  "do I go back?" in this  narrative of wrestling… Oh dear lord... and it
feels there is answer to his prayer, where the  real baby does indeed ensure a new beginning