Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April 29

Discussion: We started with this poem.
On Doubt and Bad Reviews  by Naomi Shihab Nye
“In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love” by Thomas Centolella
The Third Dimension  by Tony Hoagland
We ran out of time to discuss:
The Question Mark  by Gevorg Emin
Wedding Poem by Ross Gay 
Paul Robeson  by Gwendolyn Brooks

Comments:  Indeed, we are each other's harvest, and our reading together of fine poems help us understand how we are each other's business, how to be each other's magnitude, what is involved with being each other's bond, to quote the ending lines of  Gwendolyn Brooks' poem, Paul Robeson.

The question came up of what made "On Doubt and Bad Reviews" poetic... a good question to ask any poem.  David H. came up with the analogy of "Jazz Police" who determine what is "good" or "bad" jazz... if the music or poem moves you, well... does it matter what "poetic" means?
Each of us with our moods and dispositions may be looking for different things.
What is beautiful about 15 people discussing the same poems, is to see the marvelous weaving in
of each person's understanding.

Shihab Nye:  Why did she put doubt and bad reviews in the same poem?  Her note suggests they "both are shadows hovering over us... from a distance they can feel funny."  But does she mean good funny, laughing funny, weird, strange, not quite comfortable?  Just like wondering what reporting was in that newspaper ... and how indeed, do you interpret a whistle?
On second take, it is rather confusing to wonder who the "I" is in the two pieces of information
about Frieda: 1) that she was asked if "I was serious"-- is I Naomi or Frieda?  and 2)  "she whistled."

How do we interpret anything?  What context do we have about Frieda, the whistle?   The ending question asking where she is, increases the mystery.  Indeed, doubt, especially personified, looks
easy by comparison!  We need doubt, but no longer than the length of a dinner or stay of an overnight guest.  It's good advice not to let it carry off your notebook when it leaves.
Here, funny, is just funny.  I found the bad review stanza just as funny, but in a different way. No credence even if you can give a character a name.  How do we know the weight of words thrown in two pieces of anecdotal evidence?  What's important?

We did enjoy discussing the reference to "kid"... the adult dismissal, and yet, the source of innocent truth in the Emperor's New Clothes...

Centolella: The poem comes from Lights and Mysteries.  1995 He quotes St. John of the Cross in the title.  I wish I knew more about why he chose it, what this quote means to him.  For an idea of what complex love can be and how the church guides us through it :

Lovely fun of the metaphor of 20th-21st century testing.  What good is a multiple choice test?
a wandering essay that loses its thread?
Why is fear such an impulse we try to address love?
Who is the we?  a couple? a universal we? each one of us?  It changes slightly depending on your pick.  Here you are, in the evening, and the day has refused to testify.
The examination subject?  Love.  Everyone loved the poem... we all know love is one of the most difficult subjects... difficult to define... and in the end, at the end of our lives... how can we answer
if we have loved sufficiently?

We all have dreams of being in a course we didn't sign up for... or having to teach one, and not knowing where the classroom is...

The hopefulness of this poem, the utter belief that no matter our story, no matter how we loved, we will not have failed, is a wonderful balm.

Hoagland: How to be 3-D -- not just a pictorial presence in 2-D.  What gives us depth?  Is it our hidden dimension?  How do we hide? play act? deceive? make up stories? Invent ourselves?
With his characteristic humor and tongue-in-cheekness, Hoagland explores our desire as humans to be visible -- and also, to protect our vulnerability...
Yes... we are interesting when we make up facts, act like Odysseus with a bottomless bag of tricks... but yes, we doubt it is always a good thing to deceive, to hide, hold back.
In the end aren't we all skating along on our instincts... keeping the most precious things out of reach (in case others don't think they are valuable?  to save it for us, as shopkeepers, because we never want to sell them?) or trying to avoid being seen.  On one hand the merchant... on the other, the thief..
Many found links to the Centolella.  How will we be known by our story?
Bernie pointed out the title of the book from which the poem comes;  'PRIEST TURNED THERAPIST TREATS FEAR OF GOD"...
Although we didn't discuss the Gevorg Emin poem, Jan brought up that he is Armenian.
I mentioned I had found it in a book that was "retired" from the library and about to be discarded.
This Same Sky: A collection of poems from around the World selected by Naomi Shihab Nye.

How wonderful to see the bent shape of question mark as open acceptance, allowing the world in.

Elaine read us the Ross Gay:  wonderful inspiration!  Imagine chronicling joy! from his book, High Fives from Strangers…

It's all up to us.. how we welcome doubt, question both reviews and ourselves on how well we love... how much we pretend and avoid or invent our "third dimensions".
to quote Ross Gay
"... just barely purse my lips
with what I realize now
was being, simply, glad,
which such love,
if we let it,
makes us feel."

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 22 - Discussion

1. One of the Many Days by Norman MacCaig
2. Snowdrops  by Louise Glück
3. On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place by Hyam Plutzik 
4. Characteristics of Life  by Camille T. Dungy   
5. Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]  by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

1.  MacCaig:  both referenced in the introduction and in the book Joy  edited by  Christian Wiman.

Wiman refers to the "kinetic clarity" of this poem, and indeed, the "k" sounds (back, coated, colored, jocular, Loch cantering. crumbs, miracles, clearest, considering, concept) thread the poem.  Delightful repetitions -- the Joseph-coated frogs like colored ideas, ... and repeat of the mountain, folded in with the frogs for us to "tinily consider" as a huge concept.
Many of the poems worked with this idea of small particular with a enormous universal...
The "cantering crumbs" make a lovely echo of what it is like to see a landscape with the far away depicted on a 2-D plane as a small dot... how deer, so large close-up become just a "crumb" of themselves.  Joseph's many colored coat is a novel way to describe leaping peepers!

I love this Spring poem, filled with excitement, not so much the sound frogs make as visual accompaniment of a release of miracles.  One of the many days... not at all humdrum, but to be celebrated, consecrated as the possibility of all
the days!
Paul adds  this note on mention of Ben Dorain. It is a low mountain (1235 ft,) in the Grampians of the West Highlands and near to later mentioned Loch Lyon, in the same Grampian range.
    Ben, in Gaelic, is a peak or a point, There is the Gaelic language lesson for the day. 

2.  You can read a bit of biography about Glück which perhaps echos the physical challenge of snowdrops poking up through the earth's crust at the first moments of Spring.  Marna pointed out the lovely sandwiching of vowel sounds-- the e
of earth, expect (twice) respond, open, remember in the middle longest stanza and the w's in the first and last.
know, what,winter, raw wind, world...   the lovely enjambments which suspend and double the possibilities of meaning.
You know... first line could be the answer to the first question, and continues with an assumption that the "you" is able to comprehend the "I".  Is it the speaker of the poem or the snowdrop?  Both?  Humbling to feel despair and confession of
expectation of death, only to see again, repeated twice,  where life breaths in each separate word
but / among / you / again / //crying/ yes / risk/ joy...  Snowdrop, symbol of rebirth.

3.  Plutzik.  I love that we have a Rochester connection with this wonderful poet who died so young. (1911-1962.)
The title and first line give us a clue that he is able to have fun poking fun at himself.  Similarly, the words in quotation marks look like they could be from his own poems, or words of students analyzing his poems.  Once a poem is
out... who know who will read it, or how it will be understood.  How far away it might travel, or be misunderstood.
David shared the story of a student who concluded after a semester in his course on First Person narrative,
"To write well, I have to strip."  We discussed at the length the repeated question, "Are words clothes or the putting off of clothes?"  Why not both?   How interesting the syntax.  Usually we put off an action... but would take off the clothing.  Are his words in quotes a parody -- putting off the possibility of words coming to explain what they mean?  A poet has no control over how a reader will "take" the words.  We all loved the closing lines:  to fashion a fistful of words out of a life... open the hand and they fly away.  But he didn't say it quite that way.  He chose the verb "fashion", like the clothes... and one thinks again, putting that fist in the air... what will bring the words alive?  the opening allowing them to take off.

I love his take on poetry which for him started as beautiful language.  "Then a way of communicating the nuances of the world.  More recently, poetry, as the great synthesizer... the humanizer of knowledge."

4.   Characteristics of Life.  A perfect Earth Day poem... start with the ocean... its creatures, one of whom can be considered a living fossil... Rich mentioned the underneath connections of roots, fungi...the whole poem feels like
a painting of the interconnectedness of life.   He recommends the  film Fabulous Fungi.  As reader, I feel like the jellyfish, moving with the current, filtering what
to make of the world... We remarked the   line about the changeability of being -- this today, that tomorrow -- "as consistent as anything alive on earth".
 Is you the citizens of the world?  If in a cubicle is "you" the person working only in an office, or a narrow-minded, straight-backed, follow the rules sort of person?  The final you is the one longing for another, desiring (with impossible hope).

When was spinelessness first frowned upon?  Bernie brought up the scientist who researched the success rate of publishing papers about invertebrates...** and discovered a bias most of us might not be aware of.  Spineless -- does not
assert, take position, reflect the fine values of our species!  Rhymes with mindless... the beautiful useless--
we did not discuss, but could have gone on about "I will be silent.... beautiful, useless ... if that's all you know to ask of me.".  Is this not to warn us of limiting ourselves to prescribed questions?  It echoes in the last line about judging...
"to say it is mindless is missing the point."

The final poem by Ferlinghetti is only part of an entire book called "Poetry as Insurgent Art" which Barbara brought .
This one section is "I am signaling you through the flames".
Indeed... things will burn in the revolution... like the end of the world.    David brought up the problem of words -- so often they contain lies.  Example:  Manifest Destiny.  The concept so labeled is anything but true or fair to the indigenous people in the Americas.
Marna brought up a beautiful Children's book:  Can poetry save the Earth by John Felsteiner.
Bernie brought up the lines from William Carlos Williams (Asphodel... that greeny flower)

"Look at
                      what passes for the new.
You will not find it there but in
               despised poems.
                                   It is difficult
to get the news from poems
               yet men die miserably every day
                                   for lack
of what is found there.

David concluded the session, reminding us that what is unique about poetry is how it expressed an individual voice.  You need not agree with it, and even if you do, it is only one voice.  Truth is more complicated than words can demonstrate.
And yet words are what we have and must use -- for they are indeed capable of changing the world.


** more from Bernie on the invertebrates.  Not sure I found the original article I'd seen about a researcher miffed at being placed lower on the Researchers Hall of Fame d/t his invertebrate research focus, but I found a few interesting titles.
This one is a focused research paper that prompted some responses: "Scientific research on animal biodiversity is systematically biased towards vertebrates and temperate regions", Mark A. Titley et al, 
This one, a more popular science version of the same topic: "No Respect for the Spineless: A Dramatic Bias Against Invertebrate Species in Conservation Science:
A last reference:  Marna showed a beautiful children's book Michael Photographs a Snowflake, created to share the beauty and science of snowflakes. Michael has been photographing through a microscope for over four decades. He is obsessed with photographing snowflakes and has been featured in Time magazine and on CNN and the Weather Channel. This one-of-a-kind book was written specifically for young, eager elementary school learners.
It turns out Michael Perez is a colleague of John Retallack who was also present at the session! 

April 22-- sending out of the poems

Earth Day!  And so many poems we just didn't get to.  We will start with
One of the Many Days
Snowdrops  by Louise Glück
On Hearing That My Poems Were Being Studied in a Distant Place by Hyam Plutzik 
Characteristics of Life  by Camille T. Dungy   
Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]  by Lawrence Ferlinghetti 

I don’t think there is time for:  I do not include in the packet — but if you have time, enjoy as well!

Landing Under Water, I See Roots by Annie Finch:
Micro-minutes on Your Way to Work  by Brenda Hillman:

email: I’m delighted to see widespread possibilities for Earth Day activities next week. In a way, “Coronation” can been putting crowns on priorities… our Earth being one.
I promise… I will not smother you with links… however… should you wish, let me know.

For write up of the discussion 4/15:
We did not read One of the Many Days by Norman MacCaig or First Song by Galway Kinnell, nor, the MacLeish poem.
However, I would like to start our Wednesday session with the MacCaig. Again, it is  from Joy 100 poems edited by Christian Wiman. You can read the entire the introduction (which spotlights the MacCaig), here:

I find that our discussions go very well, with not too many poems… and yet, this is a time when poetry seems to be spilling out of the gunwales of the internet.  You might enjoy seeing the zoom technology at work of this choral reading: (There’s A Poem in this Place by Amanda Gorman, Youth Poet Laureate; poem read for the inaugural reading  by Tracey K. Smith, appointed US National poet laureate in 2017.
Bernie and Elaine would be happy to help people become comfortable with zoom.  If you want to find out more and want some coaching by phone.

Take good care of yourselves… practice social distancing… (for a poet’s take on that see:
but counteract the physical distancing with thoughtful sharing of your heart and voice.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

April 16

excerpt from "The Passing Strange"— John Masefield
The poems below come  in Christian Wiman’s book, Joy.  
Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold
One of the Many Days  by Norman MacCaig
First Song  by Galway Kinnell

Blackbird Etude by. A. E. Stallings 

You might also enjoy Stallings Villanelle published in Poetry 2012  The Greek proverb:  “Nothing is more permanent than the temporary”.  In one interview she mentions that the ancients show that technique is not the enermy of urgency, but rather the instrument. 
Poems to Take Shelter In 

Here is a selection of poems that were chosen from by our readers for you to take shelter in: 

The Days to Come” by Medora C. Addison
Alone” by Maya Angelou
The 19th Amendment & My Mama” by Mahogany L. Browne
Hope is the thing with feathers (254)” by Emily Dickinson
Invictus” by William Ernest Henley
The Bronze Legacy” by Effie Lee Newsome
Gate A-4” by Naomi Shihab Nye 
Patience” by Kay Ryan
Everyone Sang” by Siegfried Sassoon

April 15, 2020-- discussion
We did not discuss the Norman MacCaig or Kinnell -- both wonderful poems...

As I write this, I am reminded of Wordsworth's last stanza of "I Wander'd Lonely as a Cloud"  looking out at the Spring sunshine, daffodils nodding bravely in the breeze--before the sudden shift to snow.   There is a certain "bliss of solitude" no matter the weather, circumstance, but I hasten to add,  the welcome connection of ZOOM where, we can, in quarantine, "on our couches lie, in vacant or in pensive mood" receive a welcome "flash" of familiar faces, served like petit-fours.

We were 14 in the zoom chat... and I started with "Why Poetry in a Time of Uncertainty" --  with its reminding lines
of  poetry's "power to rally our thoughts, feelings into ink and voice/sift through the silt that buries or leads us astray..."

but more importantly, I believe in the power of SHARING poetry-- each voice sounding out the words of others,
so that, in the case of our gathering, we were joined not only by the poets of the weekly poems selected by John Masefield, Craig Arnold, A.E. Stallings, Richard Wilbur-- but Christian Wiman, Keats.  What a round table of uplifting reflections about joy--!
We ended the round of conversations through the centuries, with the Greek Proverb, "Nothing is more permanent than the temporary" (A.E. Stallings referenced in link above) and Wilbur's Hamlen Brook
Joy’s trick is to supply 
Dry lips with what can cool and slake, 
Leaving them dumbstruck also with an ache 
Nothing can satisfy

One recognizes echoes of  Keats' Ode to Melancholy--  and we discussed at length the interrelationship of fleeting, ephemeral joy, which "slakes our thirst" -- but, leaves us as in the Kinnell poem, "into the sadness of joy"..   

Individual poems:
Masefield:  This is only the second stanza of his long poem.  It is hard to resist bringing up the incantatory power of rhyme in English poetry, which as David pointed out, can draw on the rich array of meanings yet using similar sounds of root words.  Thus, "foam", "blown" and "Rome" is much more than a variation of inflected form.  In addition to the pleasing sounds, the enjambments, the repeated chime of "change"  (twice in 1st and 3rd stanza), and inner rhymes, Rosemarie emphasized the beauty of the images.

Craig Arnold: We appreciated the mastery of this poem-- lip-smackingly evocative of the joy of
preparing and mindfully consuming a perfect pale pink grapefruit (can't you smell that cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores, sharp as pepper?). To wake... to come... to tear... to ease... to slide...
and only then, to eat.  A reminder to slow down and enjoy the taste, texture, smell, image involved--
like a Buddhist meditation.  Discussion about "precisely pointless" which captures the contradiction of what seems to matter with what doesn't, which is precisely the key to letting go!  The discipline, and also the embracing of the emptiness... each year harder to live within... without...

Sandwiching this poem in the 100 poems edited by Christian Wiman: before it, a quotation from
Simone Veil's "Gravity and Grace": Distance is the soul of beauty."  which provides another layer of meditation.  After it,  a citation from Dag Hammarskjöld, Markings: How can you expect to keep your powers of hearing when you never want to listen?  That God should have time for you, you
seem to take as much for granted as that you cannot have time for him."

A.E. Stallings: She dedicates her poem to Craig Arnold.  We launched into a sharing from birdwatchers, which corroborated the truth of the reality of sounds.  Borders abound, but also,
the poem leads to consideration of frames of habit like the visual of the branch, 
the break to  stanza 2, we find out "marks the brink of doubt"... and outpost, (edge from which to rout encroachers)-- as the music trills through the first three stanzas.  Twice, "it sounds like"... and the verb "signs", (with invisible staves), in a visual language...
We discussed the length of "We are glad" visually sticking out of the 4th stanza which opened up considerations about survival, the necessity of music, and joy,  how art pushes back against nature.

Back to Joy's trick... back to mysteries... to how we punctuate and sing our words, give space to 
them as we arrange and explore, balancing the contradictions.

As ever, it is such a joy to hear each person's voice.  Please feel free to amend, or add to this attempt to summarize our delightful hour and a half of conversation.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020

In The Car Ahead by Michael Mark (published in April issue of The Sun)
The Simple Truth  by Philip Levine (Levine reading, background of jazz here: The Simple Truth 
Thanks by W. S. Merwin  (discussed previously
Sempre Forte  by Alicia Hoffman (published in Spring issue of "The Shore"
Interesting Times by Mark Jarman (From Tracey K. Smith's site, "The Slow Down)
How to Survive This by Barbara Kingsolver

There is vibrancy now, in Spring and reminders that each moment we live is a treasure, an invitation to ask each other,
How do you see how we are part of all of this?  19 of us gathered via zoom to read aloud the above poems and discuss responses.

In The Car Ahead by Michael Mark
Discussion included how we adapt to new technology, like a man in a new car adapting-- and many other associations with driving such as "how did I end up here".  The title elicits a sense of sentimental cooperation "on the road" -- as opposed to a sense of impatience once you think the point of view is from a driver making judgements/suppositions about the car ahead.  There, but for the grace of God, go I...
clever last sentence which capitalizes on line break offering three discrete sentences, and yes, there is no period to separate them.
He needs more time to remember.
 he's driving and not dreaming.
he's driving.
He needs more time... repeated 6 times.  The first, fifth and final mention, those words are together; the second, third, fourth mention, a line break happens between  he needs/ and more/time with
the fourth mention not followed by anything else.
Small poem, long discussion.

The Simple Truth  by Philip Levine
Here, a longer poem and a long discussion!  The metaphors of potatoes, salt, work in the truth, which is not at all simple, but simply told about a complex situation.
What is it we do? don't do?  how does the woman who sells potatoes have the authority to say (but to whom? to strangers buying from her stand?  Or is it more personal?) "even if you don't eat I'll say you did."  "Can you taste/ what I'm saying?"  That is the one question in the poem.
He lays out details, like the mysterious "absence of light gathering/in the shadows of picture frames"-- whatever "this" his friend Henri and he arrived at.  What prevents us from saying the truth?  Is it only the timing?  Or that it needs to be stripped to only the picture "naked and alone"?  So much cannot be uttered, spoken as Levine offers us pieces of memory, spoken in haunting cadences.
It "lights a fuse to speak the unspoken" to quote Jan.

Thanks by W. S. Merwin  (discussed in previous years.)
We noted the escalation of thanks with the increase of gravity of disaster, from an ordinary table,
to illness and grief, to life in the city and damage to our planet.  Perhaps a sense of being on one's death bed, reconciling the richness of life, this opportunity to be alive, with the gravity of all that makes life so difficulty;  both reassuring and disquieting, where one could embrace either a sense of
desperation, a waving to signal help, or a signal of greeting.  Kathy reminded us of the poem by Stevie Smith, "Drowning not Waving"

Sempre Forte  by Alicia Hoffman 
The title, "always loud" means always loud... and the poem seems to etch a quest for coherence in a time of things falling apart.   John quoted  Stravinsky, "Where were you when the page was blank"--
We discussed some of the contradictions, the references to the epigram, "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible", the one note, one snowflake, what gathered one by one before
Vesuvius erupted.  We were curious about how to understand the three repeated "As if".
David criticized the lack of coherence and felt it was overwrought.

Interesting Times by Mark Jarman (From Tracey K. Smith's site, "The Slow Down)
The title hints at a condemning Chinese proverb.  We were grateful for a strain of reassuring humor as a sense of sliding towards an unavoidable catastrophe unfolded.  Serious, yet funny at the same time, the discussion focussed on the sweep of history, the way things seem to appear one way, but leave us with uncertainty as to what is really going on.  Jim reminded us, indeed, the universe is expanding, and referenced the book Until the end of Time by Brian Green.
How does the crow fly?  Straight, directly, no matter what it holds in its beak, or whether it hangs on to it, including the possibility of its own nest.

How to Survive This by Barbara Kingsolver
This final poem with such a promising title, does not provide solutions to the times in which we find ourselves.  Her poem echoes her fine scientific writing as she holds inquiry about our journey.
John provided reference to a young French surfer, Aurelien Bouche-Pillon, who lives for the chance to surf under the hardest
In this clip, he reminds us, if we do not ask "why", we are not truly living, expanding our horizons.
John also provided his take on not avoiding adversity as it avoids embracing the "whole catastrophe" of life.  "Tears are the river of redemption and survival".  

Sonnia asked what people thought of the following:  Does our society, or can any society prepare for adversity?

I cannot do justice to the rich flow of commentary, however, without a doubt, everyone concurs that poetry is one of our essential tools to help us live with our questions and wonderings and a source of solace. 

Thursday, April 2, 2020

the recovered discussion points

Sign by Rob’s Trail, near Hemlock Lake.

we did not have time to discuss the 3 other poems related to Covid 19, however, I opened with Judith's contribution she sent to everyone called Rebbitzen bat Ezra Or:  Some Thoughts On Our Present Condition.

Pileated Woodpecker Barbara Loots
The End of Science Fiction — Lisel Mueller
Proximity  by Karen Head
Let Me Begin Again Philip Levine

Now that we are “zooming” discussions, I am delighted that 18 participants showed up,
but I also am mindful that many more might wish to participate.  Herewith a brief summary
of the April 1 poems.  

Basho:  Spring does its thing!  This lovely haiku reminds us to pause and notice.  One email poem I received form Belgian friends used the anaphor, It was March 2020 with a list of all
we are going through with social distancing… and the rejoinder but Spring didn’t know
It is heartening that we are still able to walk, respecting distance.  Bernie shared the variety of what he observes in people’s faces — some smiling, some grim, some with masks… and responses. 

Loot:  We had discussed another poem by this “Hallmark lady”.  This one we enjoyed, as the AA-BB rhyme in the 3 quatrains did not interfere with her creation of a place of quiet, which,
she points out, is not silent at all.  Although the subject is seemingly a Woodpecker, it winds into a meditation on sound. Twice-repeated, silence does not exist!  The syntax in the last stanza amid the onomatopoetic “whir of wind and wings” is troublesome, perhaps on purpose. What is the subject of the verb “fill” on the third line?  Is it morning that fills with the hum and whir and woodpeckers?  Is it the speaker, who sits, attempts, and disbelieves, who is being filled up with the sound and presence of the moment?  Could it possibly be the idea of the mornings when the speaker sits, but the attempts only happen at this time of day?  Maybe it is the speaker  and the disbelieved silence that fill …. However it is, the reader fills with this sound. The idea seems to be that the Earth is made of sound, of dance veiled in vibration.  I like the thought that sound,   this constancy we might think transitory,  is made by all that doesn’t stay.  Certainly a wonderful invitation to contemplate 
complexity!  Bernie reminded us of Da Vinci’s fascination with woodpeckers.   You may enjoy this article.

To start with the title, how do we understand each word in it: “The End”, “Science” and “Fiction” ?  It brings up Ursula Leguin, ideas of Science Fiction, or science as fiction, or what we think is fiction becoming scientific fact.  David brought up Gulliver’s Travels as a good example of science fiction, as the goal of the genre is “to set human motives in unfamiliar settings to help us look afresh.”  Invention, coupled with rather grim verbs,  like invade, stop, and the idea that we cannot stop what we have started,  is unsettling indeed.  Invention as imagination at work gives hope.  I love how Mueller teases us with references to Greek myths, stories from the Bible.  Is it only the old narratives that will give us the clarity we need to live wisely?
The two lines that struck many of us were the two last sentences of the second stanza.
How do we speak? Communicate? How do we hear, both physically and also emotionally, understanding each other?

In this coronavirus pandemic, we are cast in an unfamiliar setting, to ponder our motives, our
way of living.  How were we living a month ago?  How will we be after this crisis is over?

Head:  This short poem of two sentences is quite pithy, with a surprising twist in the enjambment of “opening the window”… Whether literally or metaphorically, how does that change the world?  We discussed the divide of a pane of glass between inner and outer world,
how the speaker of the poem can be close to the possum because of the barrier, but also, 
protected from it.  

Szybist:  A thank you to Kathy who brought up Szybist’s book Incarnedine which explores the annunciation with novel forms and ideas.  This triptych of picture puzzle, as a broken mosaic of
colors and shapes to be put together, two girls conversing, where the image on the puzzle, intersects with their casual talk about bikinis, and questioning the mystery of such a story
as the announcement to Mary that she will birth the son of God…  I love their question,“Who thought this stuff/up?”  It is easy to feel like a fly on the wall observing — and joining the girls,
piecing together a bigger mystery than a simple puzzle, exploring different aspects.  We all found it a fun poem.  For more about Szybist this is a fine article.
I love how the poem ends without the reader knowing to whom the girls would say “a zillion yeses to”— and what the “that” is to which they are saying yes!  
So much more to say about the weaving in of details — colors in the puzzle like the veins in the grandmother’s hand; the idea of “speaking Angel”… an x-ray to float on?  What would it show?

Levine:  Levine reads his poems to a background of jazz.  For “Let Me Begin Again” see the first poem.  
Poetry of Jazz, vol 2  
Let Me Begin Again   the poem which we discussed today,              text
The Simple Truth  title poem of his Pulitzer Prize winning book       text

Poetry of Jazz Vol 1
What Work Is                  text           

We discussed the intensely beautiful language, and how Levine explained that he wrote the poem thinking about how he wished he had known Whitman’s passages from Leaves of Grass
earlier.  Consult here to compare Whitman to Levine.
A poem perhaps about adult regret… wondering how he might have better contributed earlier… and if later was enough… 

In response to the sense of darkness, Jan quoted Thoreau, The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”— Thoreau.