Friday, May 15, 2020

Interactive Poetry, May 11

Email text and poems distributed: 
Last week, it was suggested to look at poems which “paint”.  This introduces us to the idea of 
Ekphrastic: it comes from the Greek for the description of a work of art produced as a rhetorical exercise, often used in the adjectival form ekphrastic. It is a vivid, often dramatic, verbal description of a visual work of art, either real or imagined.

In simpler terms, it means using the craft of poetry to paint with visual and aural techniques, 
The poems this week are playful, and yet reach beyond a simple summary.
Many of you might know that E.E. Cummings was both painter as well as poet.  His self-portrait
can be seen at the Memorial Art Museum, as he was good friends with James Sibley Watson.
is on Poets Walk that runs on the sidewalk in front of the MAG from Prince to Goodman on University Avenue.  Here are two examples of his wit and playfulness.  In the words of the French writer Jean Cocteau, A poet unties writing and ties it up again differently.

Forward to an Exhibit: II (1945)  by  E.E. Cummings
mOOn Over tOwns mOOn
The murder of two men by a kid wearing yellow kid gloves by Kenneth Patchen
Nude Descending the Staircase by XJ Kennedy  (after painting by Marcel Duchamp (1912); 
How Ovid Tells the Story of Icarus (excerpt) (trans. Rolfe Humphries)
W.H. Auden’s response to Breughel:  Musée des Beaux-Arts
excerpt of The Old and The New Masters by Randell Jarrell — 

Only Robin and Suzanne appeared.  Unlike the familiarity of O pen and Poetry Oasis, because this is a new program, and "on-line", it feels more like a teach-in than interactive.  However, we all enjoyed the fun of Cummings mocking the conventional idea of "everyone", his fun of capital O's for the full moon, chosen for the appearance of the Super flower moon.
Patchen's two-word poem depends on the title for the dramatic clue of how to deliver the word wait.

We enjoyed XJ Kennedy's deft handling of line, with repeating rhyme and inner rhyme schemes
descending and interlacing in his 3-stanza poem just like the cubist nude of Duchamps' painting.
This is one of my favorite poems to show how words can elaborate with sound and arrangement a response to a painting that truly brings an aliveness to both.

The Breughel painting, the "old master" and 20th century versions to the story of Icarus is also a source of delight.  Everything lies in the way the details are arranged... and the background context.
In the case of Auden, with the title of the museum where you can view the Old Master painting,
the embedded story within the story in the painting, retold in two stanzas is more commentary on
human nature than re-telling of the myth and its moral warnings about hubris.

Consider the perspective:  Would an “old Master” have given the idea that even the heroes need ordinary people to do extraordinary things sometimes? How would this be a message for 1938? 
Auden's choice of adverbs and adjectives reinforce a cryptic almost cynical view of life going on, with no one paying attention to the actual story.  That an "expensive delicate ship" shuns this quite amazing event, sailing calming on certainly mirrors contemporary choices even now.
We did not discuss the entire Jarrell poem, only 4 lines:
full poem here:
Compare with this excerpt from  Randall Jarrell’s poem written in 1963 which  also refuses 
About suffering, about adoration, the old masters
Disagree.  When someone suffers, no one else eats
or walks or opens the window – no one breathes
as the sufferers watch the sufferer.

It confirms not only  the power of the human imagination to apply myth to help us understand our behavior, but our disagreements about it.   A friend forwarded this YouTube which offers insights
into the dual realities humans create:  the ones shared with other animals on Earth, and the abstractions we invent such as nations, Gods, and money, and protect by wars, laws that favor those privileged to have power. Yuval Noah Harari on Why Humans Run the World.

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