Wednesday, May 11, 2022

May 11

 Loveliest of trees, the cherry now by A. E. Housman

 two more poems Par Lagerkvist —Poems from "Evening Land"

Connecting by Barbara Murphy

No-Hitter, Fifth Inning by Sarah Freligh

Night Game by Thom Ward

Weather Report by Abby Murray

A Friend’s Umbrella by Lawrence Raab

Housman:  Although I played this:  not all appreciated it.  What I liked about the recording for the Housman was the way the dynamics mirrored the shift in tone in the second stanza— and the long drawn out “fifty” one would never say in reading as a poem.

I am a firm component of the sound of sense innate in language — (my thesis for my MFA) — but, there is a certain mysterious “sound of sense” that music might add… note the verb is conditional.   There is no guarantee on anything… and add personal taste, time period, etc, etc….one can get into quite a forest and lose sight of any trees at all!

Jan re-read and mentioned the tenor  Bryn Terfel singing it beautifully.   I found the music embedded in this site: The music:

David mentioned how many poems lose when set to music, although he called to mind how he had transcribed the music of the Trout Quintet for guitar and sang the original lied Schubert set to piano.    His take: Good verse finds “music in the sound of sense.” Sometimes music overrides the verse, appropriating it to express its own emotion.

  We quickly reviewed the "biblical" life time of 70, how when only 20 (a score of years) one (hopefully)  can enjoy 50 more years!   A strange tenderness is woven in this poem ending on the final word "snow" looking at the passage of time and that curious falling white of the spring mix of cherry blossom and snow. Quietly brilliant, one person suggested, where the rhyme does not interfere and indeed  "looking at things in bloom"  no matter impermanence or accidental interruption we all know what is implied with the final word, snow...

Perhaps a larger question to be discussed for any favorite poem:  Why or why not does it deserve the fame?  What universal transcends the particular?

Lagerkvist:    Both poems seem to recreate Pascal's "wager" about the existence of God. The point is not to prove God's existence or not, but  the following simplified version of the wager:                               since "evidence" cannot settle God's existence, should you wager on God, you have much to gain and not much to lose should indeed, He exist,  as opposed to losing all should he not.  As Paul put it, "positive or negative, there is, nevertheless, such mental energy... sometimes released, sometimes kept in orbit, locked in the brain. But, it is energy, the particle physics of the mind! "The poem provides a perfect metaphor for melancholy atheism… and longing for a caring God with the terrible ground between… 

Judith was reminded of Carmen de Lavallade and the Creation:

Marna was reminded of Indigenous native American believe that God is in everything. 

For the first poem, that repeat of "disquiet",  confirms the mystery of the beginnings... the aloneness before loneliness... The  question of how God could remember -- like the sea remembering the seashell it once surged through-- and the plea, please do not forget me... We give to this idea of God our own character tics.  "What is deeper than absences?  unreturned love?"  This cry -- even should no one hear it, exists...

Connecting by Barbara Murphy:  I showed the book Left Behind where she and her nephew Joe collaborated with Poems and Photos. 

This opened quite a conversation about baseball! Here is the picture.

Everyone loved the poem -- how baseball culture blended with ideas.  idioms… the epigram quote from Babe Ruth is perfect…"Never let the fear of striking out prevent you from playing the game."  Even if some do not like baseball..they loved the poem~

The next two poems are on Poets' Walk. The first by Sarah Freligh comes from her book, Sort of Gone. These poems, tough, funny, real,  trace out the life of a baseball player, a pitcher.  The details of playing ball ring true, down to the smell of the grass and the unquiet mind chattering away at you while you just want to concentrate on what that next damn pitch should be.

One of the blurbs has it right: great if you like poetry or baseball. If you like them both, well, this is a must read.

Valerie read it for herself with a pause before the last word so it sounds like this

Too early to hope 

hell, he’s been here before

jinxed himself by thinking too much

hung a curve to some jive rook

who gave it a ride 

high-fived his way around the bases


whole thing centers around title… No-Hitter, Fifth Inning-- the pitcher has a big job delivering the ball... playing the edges of the "safe" zone.  David informed us that now there is a mechanical check to help that difficult role of umpire calling strikes.  

Ward: The title sets the scene... Marna suggested the 2-3 line that maybe the moonlight is like foul territory… out of bounds. Or it could be reference to MoonLight Graham in the movie

field of dreams  Regardless, it sounds like the nickname of a batter.  The "called" third strike is perhaps the hardest to take -- no swing, some umpire's opinion, and the inner reprimand "I should have swung".  Yet, this fellow doesn't mope, blame the stars.  He plays the game, just like Babe Ruth.

Louis Jenkins. We all roared at this wonderful poem which shows a typical problem of "now what was I about to do... or say..." -- especially with the chaos of zoom and in-person and not getting the mic to people right away... and twice, not remembering what they wanted to share...

It could also be a perfect metaphor for a long-term marriage. We all could hear a Billy Collins tone for reading it.  Joyce (Rundel) calls the basement in her home filled with the previous owner's belongings,

"the magic cellar" -- if you need anything, you'll find it there! 

Murray:  We were running out of time to discuss this poem but all agreed on its power.

The grief of disbelief is quite a subject!  Martin, with his psychologist's eye, understood "umbrella" as protection and saw many sexual innuendos throughout the poem. 

Whether or not, (and I love that each participant can find different things) it is a timely and important poem.

Raab: umbrellas... and memory and Ralph Waldo Emerson... a perfect description of alzheimers and sailing on private seas. 

Rundel only: Mary kindly provided the page with three pictures by Barb's nephew, Joe and my attempt to give a flavor of her words which respond to them on one page.  

This gave rise to many stories of what you can see in the Mt. Hope cemetery -- the tons of daffodils planted, the "He and His Husband" which you might not have seen last century, or "Bill now knows something you don't".  It also allowed Mike to share the many similar instances-- his mother's loss of

her father to suicide, the loss of his 18 year old son to cancer, how his other son loves to take photos.

It is touching to share how poems provide a sense of partnership with our own private lives and that we are never alone. 

fine to get a homerunner.The Creation


Friday, May 6, 2022

May 4&5

Cherry Blossom by Abby Murray

Cherry Blossoms by Toi Derricotte

Blue-Butterfly Day by Robert Frost

Prayer Beginning with a Line by Czaykowski by Pablo Piñero Stillmann

A Prayer by Bogdan Czaykowski

Calamity Again by Taras Shevchenko

2 poems from "Evening Land" by Par Lagerkvist

A Short Story of Falling by Alice Oswald

Confessional by Jonathan Everitt

Time... such a familiar trope in poetry, is rare seen as anthropomorphized as a "giver of affection"! How delightful, that with contemplations on Cherry Blossom, and the usual Spring musings on impermanence time is "conspiring to send love notes"!  One perfect cherry blossom as gift... and time begging the speaker to love it day after day... Note, I am paraphrasing the first poem... and the delicious and unusual handling of time.  Usually a "blip of a life" is cause for regret-- but here, time, much as we cannot control it or circumstances, gives its affection, asks to be noticed and used as wanted, with a sense of unhurried happiness!  All of this with a beautiful sound pattern of short vowels (the "i" in gift, brittle, whistle, pick, it, blip, notice) the longer I in time, likes and longer stress words which render vowels into neutral schwa. (begging, wanting, flaunting).  Certainly the sounds reinforce the ideas, and acts as if a paint for the unconscious to be used freely.  

Cherry blossom, as symbol of ephemeral and harkening to the Japanese warrior whose highest honor is to die in battle, in the next poem gives way to the cherry tree as setting for gatherings of people.  An interesting note, from Mike at Rundel, that cherry trees have been developed either to focus on the fruit or the blossom for viewing.

I love serendipity!  Because I had paired the two poems side by side, the Derricotte looked to be a quatrain of the first four lines, followed by a repeated couplet in italics!  We puzzled about the couplets!  One idea was that the blossoms of the tree are whispering  "be patient" -- and all those viewers and people in the park responded to the trees, "you have an ancient beauty".  Other ideas -- the poet is telling the reader to be patient, that we are all one as beautiful as the gnarled old cherry trees.  Or perhaps it is indeed the blossoms giving a reassuring message to the poet, worried about her poems not being as beautiful.  Regardless, we remarked how when people gather and take pictures of themselves together, the smiles for the camera reflect a genuine happiness.  It is not warm... there is a fur-trimmed coat...but such a beautiful mingling because of these trees-- as if they too are enjoying the love caught in friendship.

I explained the hyphenated blue-butterfly day, as one of those first warm days with a cloudless sky and seeing the first butterflies... Indeed... sky-flakes (perhaps cherry blossoms along with the butterflies) and the lovely mix of songbird implied in "flowers that fly".  We spoke of desire, that fundamental procreative power in Spring, the nuanced alternate rhyme. As David remarked, Frost, no matter how beautiful or joyful the description, adds a lace of melancholy... here, the "April mire". 

This of course gave rise to many references to mud and mud season...  Gilbert and Sullivan Mikado, the ""Mud, mud, I love mud" song, and I believe a even a reference to Kevin Gates, "Out of the Mud"

The next pairing of "Prayer" perhaps illustrates Billy Collins' advice for a good poem: starts with clarity and ends with mystery.  For sure, the title announced clearly, a prayer. But who is asking to be thrown into a cloud, and is there something we should understand beyond a slant reference to Noah and a God who does not keep promises?  (Does God do better after the flood?)  It would feel that Stillmann's speaker is desperate and suspects, since he asks this God to be honest enough to laugh at him falling again, that making rain fall harder to remind of our unreliability, (is our confined to just humans, life on earth?) that perhaps God is also unreliable.  The "awkward" hand, rhyming with "aught yet are" make me think of a circular continuity of nothing.  There are no "ands", only delicately-coiled ampersands that join the "slip & fall & slip and & once/again fall & laugh again.

O lord!  We felt the speaker, with a fate rivaling that of Job,  was at a church gathering, standing up to deliver an extemporaneous speech, the repeated punctuation of "O lord" a way to pause, gather his thoughts.  The first prayer makes more sense than the second. 

Here the imprecation is to "throw me into a cloud" -- and other various places (flower, lake, forest, into the shape of a stone) but with specific requests of what not to turn the one implorer into (bee, fish) or with specific conditions (not to be found like a pinecone by a squirrel; not to be thrown onto a London street and what is going on with biting walls in that city?  The ending reminds me of the Salamander symbol adopted by François premier of France:  


"In medieval iconography it represented the man who never lost the peace of his soul (went through the fires of passion) and who was confident in God despite all troubles. So it corresponded to chastity, virginity, loyalty. It was also identified with Christ who would baptize the world with fire flames. The salamander was a powerful symbol because it was associated with both fire and poison and many people were afraid of it. At the time it was believed that salamanders could use any type of fire without harm. Even brilliant minds like Leonardo da Vinci believed this because he wrote about the salamander: “This has no digestive organs, and gets no food but from the fire, in which it constantly renews its scaly skin. The salamander, which renews its scaly skin in the fire,—for virtue"

This brings us to Calamity Again. This seemed a timely poem with the war in Ukraine. 

We commented on the outrage of the exclamation point -- 5th line -- that confirms the announcement on the first line repeating the title-- Calamity again!

When suddenly...! 

Short and to the point.

and two poems by Par Lagerkvist... Although translated by Auden and another, the language felt a bit clumsy.  We had a sense of a choice of gratitude in face of loss, or facing the unknown -- 

Hard to understand the twist at the end of "homeless".  Like the second poem, there is a sense of conviction about peace, although hard to believe when making the best of a bad situation.  Certainly

happiness is a highly subjective element dependent on attitude.  As Richard mentioned, when all is said and done, what will anyone remember?  Is the wishing to look back of the guest referring to death,

leaving earth, and afterlife, or perhaps a dream of death... that reminder to be mindful of what is,

and the nature of looking forward that goes along with it. 

Kathy filled us in on Alice Oswald and her work.  She is definitely a performer and so her poems never "sound" the same way twice.  We all found the poem A Short Story of Falling an incantatory experience.

Her comparison of her poems as "found carvings", balances the evident form you see in this poem-- 

the form more a a guide post, the couplets giving room for pauses.  

Judith was reminded of the myth of Typhonus

Richard kindly offered The Waters of Antonio Carlos Jobim

It is a song about the arrival (promise) of Spring in Brazil, preceded by the floods of March


He also mentioned GOLD...lyrics by Nan Knighton saying “Whenever I hear this song on my player (sung by Linda Eder), I freeze and must listen to it all.It might bring out some discussion.”

He also mentioned To a lesser extent there is "If I Had My Way"...lyrics by Jack Murphy

Finally, we arrive at Confessional by local poet Jonathan Everitt. 

Skill use, of noun transformed to verb, hinging on the word "return" only to

review in reverse what is already said.  Much more could be said about this love poem which intimates

at the complexity of relationship between two people. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Poems for April 27

Desert Places  by Robert Frost

Dead Stars by Ada Limón 

The Year of the Goldfinches by Ada Limón

Oral History by Elisa Gabbert

Troubling Myself with Things Too Great for Me by James Silas Rogers

The Leash by Ada Limon

Rundel Group will have the Sokol award poems which will be presented by video at 1 pm on Thursday in the Kate Gleason Auditorium at Central Library followed by a tour of the reading garden with Tom Pacer.

Mary Fraser has organized a drawing from participants to give out a book of poems about trees and field guide. The poems hanging on trees

Desert Places:  When we think of desert, we think of arid land, devoid of water, but have you ever thought of snow-covered landscape as wasteland?  Here, with the sonic moans of O (snow, Oh, repeated lonely, loneliness), Frost confesses a third kind of desert of inner darkness.   We discussed the difference between deserted (abandoned) and empty. 

Written at a time that Frost was dealing with depression, he said about this poem that he wrote it "without fumbling a sentence."  Indeed, both a personal and observational poem. 

We discussed the "absent-spirited", the layered meaning of "count" and "benighted".  The "they" in 

the 4th line before the end allows us to think on what  scares us with empty spaces, take a look at our own.

For contrast, see "Old Man's Winter Night".  

Dead Stars: In the first line, the word "bowing" could be a bow like a curtsey,  a bough bending, or a bow for an arrow, or an instrument.  She starts from the personal to move to the larger environment, and the multiple alliterations and repetitions crescendo, change tone --- ask that we act.  To "survive more" asks not just for words,  to represent "the mute mouths of sea, land"  (take the dust out of our mouths) put our bodies, our full weight into bargaining for a better planet for  "the safety of others".  Yes, we should learn some new "constellations" and stop forgetting... stop being terrified... be as big as stars... 

Hard to recap the many puzzling pieces and the ending,  "after all of this is over".  

The year of Goldfinches: The sounds are masterful,  and as Judith put it, "now there's a poem!" after

saying the other is "frosting on the political cupcake".  Almost a sonnet, and she continued, "the quality of vowels take care of protruding bones... no lumps in the dough".  It is the season of "gold" --  willows, feathers of finches, forsythia...  but also the  "low-watt/female"... A beautiful window into joy and the unconscious at work -- a painting of sounds  with a sense of Easter paradox, "feasting on thorns and liking it."

Oral History:  Interesting title -- as if at a teen-age poetry reading,  although not clear... We all could make a catalogue of things read -- and many readers did fact-checking, surprised to see some of the "news" recited is true.  Many commented on the adolescent feel, the contrast of fact with the bored life, and the Billy Collins-esque "boredom as luxurious misery", "Marooned in time" with nothing interesting happening for eternity, as far as we're concerned on either side.  The strange ending reminded Valerie of a teenager wondering if s/he were adopted... also the teen preoccupation with  "how one is supposed to look" and vanity of one's self...  We brought up the idea of the "super senior" which stretches out the length of adolescent... Dante, "at 30 I knew where to stand" is perhaps no longer... 

Troubling myself... Love the title and Galileo's description of wine as "sunlight held together by water" and the almost surprising ending on "love" as what calls the world into being. 

From miracle to chemistry to transformation... a hint of Euclid who alone could look on beauty, or

Galileo "yet it does move"... and symbolic resurrection of Christ's blood.  As for St. Augustine, he was no "prig" in his libertine days... 

The Leash: There are many ways of thinking of leashes and what is being leashed and how.

What makes this poem worth reading for you?  We imagined Ada's physical limitations, politics, 

and after the first part which sounded like a ritual of politically correct observations about our human propensity to poison, to hate (note, a crepitating crater of hatred)... 

I love that someone substituted "garbage" in image of the wound closing like a rusted over "garage" door.

We spoke of enthusiasm in dogs, and how we too are "hurtling our body towards what will obliterate us"...

what we think to control with a allow that peaceful walk... until the next truck comes.

I gave two references to Bill Heyen's book, Crazy Horse and the Custers...  and did read Bayonets and Grapeshot to give contest to "meretricious musings"...

As ever, the delight was in the sharing, the puzzling together as we took time to peruse.   

Friday, April 22, 2022

APRIL!!!!! Pittsford: April 6; Rundel: April 7

 Happy Poetry Month!  National Poetry Month poster:  There's a Poem in This Place

(Amanda Gorman's poem, In This Place)

We are  celebrating several things!  
National Poetry Month;  (The month of April) 
 Earth Day 2022; This year, it falls on April 22 with the  theme 'Invest In Our Planet’;
National Arbor Day:  April 29, 2022. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the tree planter's holiday.

Poet-tree — Poetry Hanging at Central Library in the Reading Garden:  April 7-30, 2022


Nature and poetry combine in the Dorris Carlson Reading Garden with a celebration of National Poetry Month and the 150th anniversary of National Arbor Day.  We invite you to stroll around the garden whenever the library is open and enjoy poetry “leaves”.  We invite original poems from all.

From April 7 until April 30, poems will decorate trees on Broad St. next to the Bausch and Lomb Public Library, and throughout the library garden, next to the Foodlink Community Café

*To submit a poem to be hung in the garden, see guidelines on back of this flyer

Thursday April 28: Noon-1 pm – All are welcome to join Poetry Oasis  in the Kate Gleason Auditorium where submitted poems and passages from Walt Whitman and poems about trees on Poets Walk will be read. It will be followed by a tour of the reading garden by Master gardener Robert Pacer, rain or shine. Boxed lunches welcome. 

The idea of hanging poems"  came from having seen the announcement for Fairport's “Poet-Tree” 

April 20-21

A Brave and Startling Truth  by Maya Angelou

Mercy by José Antonio Rodriguez

Those of Us Who Think We Know  by Stephen Dunn

The Smile by May Sarton

The Work of Happiness by May Sarton 

Martin brought in words he wrote about the importance of poetry to allow each reader to see things in a fresh way.  This April, celebrating poetry month, we also are celebrating the amazing power of this family of poetry readers to help each other by sharing our insights garnered from such insights.  

I loved that Kathy quoted Martin -- when we come to a difficult poem, one with which we struggle, a good question is, "What is it I am missing, not understanding"?  Several of the poems today required that kind of intense concentration and focus.   I remain so grateful that we go about the work of understanding

in so many positive and varied ways, sometimes humorous, sometimes serious!

Maya Angelou:  This amazingly crafted and powerful poem deserved to go up into space!  Angelou composed the poem for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations in 1995.

It flew into space on the Orion spacecraft in Dec. 2014. She passed away just a few months before the flight. I quote from this article :

 “It is fitting that Maya Angelou’s prophetic words be flown not only outside the bounds of our Earth, but on the maiden voyage of a spacecraft that represents humanity’s aspirations to move beyond our planet, to reach higher, and become more than we have ever been,” ...  “Through art, and the unique perspective of people like Maya Angelou, our discoveries, and the new facts and expanded understanding brought to us by exploration, are transformed into meaning.” 

 Her brilliant insertion of latinate eloquence surprises the ordinary (along with SO MANY other juxtapositions… ex. casual space).  Seeing the adjective "rapacious" next to "storming of churches", or "religious ritual ... followed by what should never happen-- "perfumed/by incense of burning flesh" ... accentuates the power of this repeated insistence of "when"... this repeated "it" of a brave and startling truth.

What associations do you have with a "brave" truth?  I start with a suggestion that  this  truth" must be pitted in a war against all that keeps us from allowing ourselves to achieve the miraculous.   Our positive aspects, we, all of us, people, "on this mote of matter" are juxtaposed with our negative...  We are among the "wonders of the world" which she lists so well-- but the startling truth is this: we must "come to it"-- realize the complexity of our contradictions.  We are not either "devil" OR "divine" but both.

Each line and stanza exercises a powerful eloquence akin to a great sermon.  An example of technique: the length between “rake” and “up”, in the 3rd stanza,  the diminishment of “unique” to “identical” (buried in the bloody grass); the racism inherent in the "minstrel show of hate", images of blackface comedy  and a screech of invective in the sounds of "faces sooted with scorn scrubbed clean".

Martin called on the generosity of the world response to Ukraine; David reminded us of our alloyed nature as there are plenty of people and nations who confirm the opposite.  

Everyone agreed this is a timely poem, an exact description of right now, exposing the depths of our fears, envy, insecurity. Dr. Angelou demonstrates the power of vocabulary and how to weave it. 

José Antonio Rodriguez:  When we listen to him say his same, the Spanish flows so easily off his tongue, and yet, the poem is in perfect English, pronounced as if a native American.  What is "mercy"?  The etymology will lead us to "reward", and "pity". It is a complex poem which seems to be practicing a Socratic maiuetics.  His questions lead us to ponder, and many were puzzled... Eureka does not come quickly in such a case!  If we could ask the stars... he tells us, they will not claim responsibility.  He lays out for us our imperfections... that "living mirror we named love"... denied... We are hungry for answers... and  stories, --and yes,  riddles, ( I think of Zen koans, the Greek Sphinx) as if we know this is what helps us think more deeply -- like gazing up at the "beguiling beauty and metaphorical power of  (stars)these distant, unreachable sources of light". 

The prophet/fool is another trope... We picked up on his confession, "I'm not saying I'm better than you".  Kathy suggested it would be strengthened by saying "any better than you: " and placing a colon or even semi-colon after "you".  Our meager tools: words--   how we use them to construct meanings, delve into understanding.  This speaks to the trope of the poet as creator, like a god.

Stephen Dunn:  How can you not fall in love with the title?  He plays with the line breaks from the beginning:  "Those of us who think we know" (and who hasn't thought that!!!!! )addressing our human capacity for assumptions, presumptions and the pitfalls into which this leads us... and then rescues the "average bear" by the enjambed "the same secrets" -- tempering the universal with a particular...

What gathering is this able to come together "in a quiet ceremony of tongues" ?  The analogy implies some righteously religious sect... and I can see "tongues of spirit" illustrated by flames above the apostles in one of the Sunday school books I grew up with.

David brought up Frost's "Desert Places" which we'll discuss next week.  Auden's words also came up: "The stars I know so well... for all they care, I can go to hell" --  (Perhaps this was about the poem "Mercy" above... I felt that Rodriguez and Dunn would have a great conversation about life, our energies, emotions... ). Kathy brought up the shock value of the ending...  Not everyone would agree that "words we find/are always insufficient, like love...." Words can change our lives... as can the compassion of love to reach and heal others.  Some poems, pieces of music, art have life-changing effects.  

This article about the Tower of Babel and how we are growing stupider came up.

 Who knows what?  Who trusts that someone else, for instance  scientists or religious leaders have "all the answers" and no longer engages curiosity, desire to find out more?   

May Sarton: 

We came close to these comments on the back of my copy of her Selected Poems, 1930-1973.

"The intense experience which underlies and unifies her poems has engendered an uncompromising determination to forge and refine the tool for its expression... deep-searching to the point of ruthlessness and very delicate".  Basil de Selincourt, The London Observer 

"A civilized and intricate way to see"... Robert Hazel, Poetry

"... mature power of recognizing the heart of the matter and expressing it in memorable terms." - Louise Bogan, The New Yorker

Carolyn showed her two copies -- both with a feminine pink touch which does disservice to Sarton's feminist activism.  She also described hearing her in person-- 

The Smile: to see a detail of this angel:

The unobtrusive rhyme, the slant rhymes... the pleasure of unusually fine cadence, traditional use of poetic craft as opposed to the "non-structured drivel" of so much of what poses as poetry these days... She recreates the angel and her realm suggested by the painting... trope of creation...the angel as the artist...  I love that last line-- the surprise of  marvelously human anger and despair blown to bits! Judith recalled an Elizabeth Browning sonnet.  The "seized by the hair" and association w/ rootedness

The work of Happiness:  Do you associate "happiness" with "work"?  Perhaps a substitute word might be "path".  Like life, like marriage, love, most relationships, we receive back what we give to it.  This sense of growth is something I relate to-- the optimism involved with "not finished, more to discover"... an invitation to curiosity.

We might not all have the sense of rootedness from an old house, furniture, but there is a timeless quality to acceptance, and a special peace to quietude, and honoring memories.  "The root continues to grow deep in the dark" -- and that amazing growth upwards of the tree... the inner work... essential for our well-being beyond the outward appearances.  Such blessing.

Valerie mentioned the Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and the story of the man unfairly condemned to prison.  When asked if he was angry for this, when he was released after 30 years, his response:   If I were angry, that would take my remaining years as well.  

Thursday, April 14, 2022

April 13

4 spring poems by E.E. Cummings

  O sweet spontaneous

  Spring is like a perhaps hand

  Who knows if the moon's a balloon

   sweet spring is your 

Terror of the Ripening Mango by Amit Dahiyabadshah

2 failed haiku

Beware: Do not read this poem by Ishmael Reed

The Thing Is by Ellen Bass

High, Higher, Highest by Samuel Hazo

Nutshell discussion:

Cummings: oh the fun!  The visual play of words and punctuation adds a depth to each poem and an invitation to  explore multiple ways to read.  

-- O sweet spontaneous:  In case you have forgotten the definition of "prurient", (having of encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters) it is hard to escape in Spring, as Paul advised, this is not the season to take young children to the zoo!  The little comma that starts the 10th line as a small poke, or pinch of

"prurient philosophers" adds to the humor of  their fingers being compared to the naughty thumb of science prodding Spring's beauty...  The mock religious genuflection on scraggy knees and formal biblical address of thee, thou, answers contrasts with the primal feel of Spring and the older Gods.  Thou, in this case, is Earth... and the "couch of death" on which to conceive gods, provides a mighty rebirth.

Couch is a many layered noun, including an association with "lair of wild beast." 

So... if we ask for guidance... we receive a season synonymous with the verb "spring". 

We discussed the use of the parentheses: they do ask the reader to pause, think... they add interest; they are not "subsidiary" but could provide a parallel universe of sorts... 

It is interesting that Cummings use of punctuation, spacing and arrangement of text on the white space of a page remains quite original.  I encourage the listening to the two different readings -- there is never one set way to read a Cummings poem!

--III  Spring continues its unpredictable manner here, with "perhaps" falling in different, unexpected places, juxtaposed with "carefully" which also pops up (changing and rearranging while people stare).

-- who knows if the moon's a balloon: fantastic fantasy which reminds me of a Chagall painting (or April Brooks a local artist who has a similar style).  

-- Sweet Spring... so different a rhythm than Alec Guiness reading

The refrains, repeats and lilt of the words seduce us with that receptive "yes" of spring returning.

Amit:  I spoke about the "Terror" in the entry about Amit's poetry.  We enjoyed imagining the quality of the pool of water, the reflection of the mango, where the water acts as magnifying mirror.  

Now what would happen had it been the fish who grew bigger??? 

 "failed haiku". highly successful!!!

Ishmael Reed:  This poem was a big hit!  Reminded some of Johnnie Cash, "24 hours before your going to be hanged"; horror stories... hall of mirrors, and Shel Silverstein, "I'm being swallowed by a boa constrictor"! (Yes, Johnnie Cash acts this one and many others on YouTube!)

There is a serious part to this poem as well as parable of process -- the poem is the reader/reader the poem... what surfaces, disappears... the mirror as symbol of solipsism... the poem as mirror...

We thought of selfies-- to leave trace in the lives of friends...  

Ellen Bass: an old favorite... this poem is loaded with real images... we discussed how survival is instinct-triggered... how being in love more with one's grief than the child grieved... the obesity of grief... with an echo of Shakespeare, "A plague of sighing and grief! It blows a man up like a bladder."

The tenderness of holding  a face, but  an unadorned face, where nothing will change the hard blows life gives, and yet, something so precious.  

Hazo: We heard the poet read his measured tones.  Ken said it could be a terrific opinion piece in the NYT, about world as property to divvy up, section with boundaries and especially with the note, about what "height" implies in our culture about recognition of  achievement, merit. As poem, with rhythms, rhymes, and unusual spaces it flows well.  Indeed, from outer space we don't see people... however, many questioned the line about "we kept the original names unchanged for everything we saw". 

So is a photograph of the Earth from outer space a selfie? 

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Rundel : poems discussed 4/7


Poems from Poets Walk--to celebrate "Poet Tree" now hanging on trees in the reading garden

When I am a Tree by Susan Deer Cloud

City Trees  by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The Emancipation Proclamation by William Heyen

Going North  by Anthony Piccone

Winter Landscape  by Judith Kitchen

Flip Book  by Tony Leuzzi

2 more Poems from local poets for "Poet Tree"  

Look at the Trees  by Kitty Jospé

October by Jim Jordan 

Two poems discussed 4/6 (see that posting...) Beannacht by John O'Donohue; Maternal Dusk, the Paternal Light by Amit Dahiyabadshah


Susan Deer-Cloud:  You might guess from her name, she is Indigenous American, but is mixed lineage Catskill Indian who first and foremost thinks of herself as a human being and child of the universe.  The title repeated five times carries the reader from the celebratory birth in October, (with lovely alliterative "blaze in branches", "garnet and gold"), to attributes as perch for eagles (not just any bird), a living being rooted, filled with sap--as eager to be hugged as any human being.  We enjoyed the almost humorous coyness in the "trembling"... and "all leaves".  A beautiful example of how everything is connected... how the tree is thus, all those things around it. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay:; If you read her biography, you might be surprised that this poem was selected for Poets Walk, given her range and prowess.  We enjoyed the contrast between the "city" and "country" trees... skillful play between silence and the "shrieking city air"... The end rhyme is like the wind, almost imperceptible, yet creating a flow to the music, like the the sound of leaves.  We agreed-- trees are so restorative!  

William Heyen:  We tried to remember the actual words of the Emancipation Proclamation  The anaphor "Whereas" followed by three lines introduced by ampersands seems to mimic the style of the speech which indeed has the repeated anaphor of "And..."   We discussed "heartwood grave" -- grave as both adjective, and noun... the idea of the heart of a tree lifting up, perhaps a stump of a tree, as a marker of a grave?  I love that the words are next to the Haudenesaunee Prayer of Thanksgiving, and two trees were planted by them.  It is not for us to "use" the tree for our profit (lumber, paper, etc.) but to let it be itself.

Joyce mentioned how she tends graves in the Mt. Hope Cemetery...  It is so interesting how connections and associations allow us to share our own personal experiences.  Another comment came up about people  asking for money on the streets, offering a poem or a song for $1.  

Tony Piccione:  I can't say we understood the poem -- but that image of lying down, looking up at a solitary tree seeming to come out of the forehead of a rock face on a mountain is striking! The verb howling reminded us of coyotes... but what is "the voice forgiving everything"?  Going North... metaphorically, if a slave, is to head for freedom -- perhaps like this last renegade tree... I love the "freedom from ownership" -- birds nest in the tree, "although it's not theirs either" !

Judith Kitchen:  The tree connection in this poem is the metaphor of a tree being what welds the whiteness of a winter sky, to the snow on the ground.  The imagery is well painted... we can imagine the horses, the whirl of snow... and the surprising "acceptance of the vagaries of wind" by the car.  We would have wanted to know more about "believing the impossible"... what are the two griefs we slides between? The numbing cold, the blank slate of the whiteness, makes no demands.  

Tony Leuzzi: Flip book poem is fun - from front to back... back to front... and the surprising ending.

Kitty Jospé: Inspired by Li-Young Lee, "One Heart" (slated for discussion 4/14):  Mike liked the way the poem started in media res-- as if something had been described, but we don't see it... maybe something happened.  It's good to consider the paradoxical nature of leaves, fastening, falling... and that extended metaphor.

Jim Jordan: local poet. Inspired by W.S. Merwin, the word "unrepeatable" is associated with watching clouds, where as here, it is the glorious gold of black walnut falling.  There is something rendered precious when you think, this will never happen again.