Poetry Feed

Epistemology--a good poem

 

Epistemology

Catherine Barnett  

Mostly I’d like to feel a little less, know a little more.
Knots are on the top of my list of what I want to know.
Who was it who taught me to burn the end of the cord
to keep it from fraying?
Not the man who called my life a debacle,
a word whose sound I love.
In a debacle things are unleashed.
Roots of words are like knots I think when I read the dictionary.
I read other books, sure. Recently I learned how trees communicate,
the way they send sugar through their roots to the trees that are ailing.
They don’t use words, but they can be said to love.
They might lean in one direction to leave a little extra light for another tree.
And I admire the way they grow right through fences, nothing
stops them, it’s called inosculation: to unite by openings, to connect
or join so as to become or make continuous, from osculare,
to provide with a mouth, from osculum, little mouth.
Sometimes when I’m alone I go outside with my big little mouth
and speak to the trees as if I were a birch among birches.


After Hours


Staring into the Sun

by Jennifer Grotz

What had been treacherous the first time
had become second nature, releasing
the emergency brake, then rolling backwards
in little bursts, braking the whole way down
the long steep drive. Back then
we lived on the top of a hill.

I was leaving—the thing we both knew
and didn’t speak of all summer. While you
were at work, I built a brown skyline of boxes,
sealed them with a roll of tape
that made an incessant ripping sound.
We were cheerful at dinner and unusually kind.
At night we slept under a single sheet,
our bodies a furnace if curled together.

It was July. I could feel my pupils contract
when I went outside. Back then I thought only about
how you wouldn’t come with me.
Now I consider what it took for you to help me go.
On that last day. When I stood
in a wrinkled dress with aching arms.
When there was only your mouth at my ear
whispering to get in the truck, then wait
until I was calm enough to turn the key.

Only then did we know. How it felt
to have loved to the end, and then past the very end.

What did you do, left up there in the empty house?
I don’t know why. I
don’t know how we keep living
in a world that never explains why.


Thursday

 Thursday

James Longenbach  

Because the most difficult part about making something, also the best,
Is existing in the middle,
Sustaining an act of radical imagination,
I simmered a broth: onion, lemon, a big handful of mint.

The phone rang. So with my left
Hand I answered it,
Sautéing the rice, then adding the broth
Slowly, one ladle at a time, with my right. What’s up?

The miracle of risotto, it’s easy to miss, is the moment when the husks dissolve,
Each grain of rice releasing its tiny explosion of starch.

If you take it off the heat just then, let it sit
While you shave the parmesan into paper-thin curls,
It will be perfectly creamy,
But will still have a bite.

There will be dishes to do,
The moon will rise,
And everyone you love will be safe.


Adonis: Selected Poems

Adonis: Selected PoemsAdonis: Selected Poems by Adonis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a volume of brilliant, beautiful poetry. And I don't usually like modernist poetry all that much.
As you want any poet to do, he creates provocative images and metaphors by artfully using a word or idea in a way that is both familiar and alien. Plus, his poetry is affected by the complex and often violent history of his Syrian homeland. I understand why Adonis is often listed as a potential Nobel prize winner. In fact, I'm surprised he hasn't already won.

View all my reviews

A spring morning

It is a fresh, crisp spring morning with just enough coolness in the air, cool that's been missing the last few days, cool that has refreshingly returned.

I brewed some tea and sat on the back patio and listened to Bob Dylan's Nobel lecture for a second time today:

 

Then, I read some stanzas from Desire Moving Through Maps of Matter by Adonis and encountered this great question:

"How can I convince al-Ghazzali to see his soul with Nietzsche's light?"  

Indeed!

The next line: "I'll remind him: You've been traveling toward the world since its creation but you have not arrived."

The next stanza:

In the cafe
I ignore the noise.
I read Nietzsche and imagine him as a flood--
Yes, I should yield to the flood of meaning
bow like a sunflower, befriend the sun
or surrender to the lilies of desire
that float on the lake of my body
and empty myself to become the child
I had wanted to be in the future.

A worldview of deep history and tradition--a religious, literary, philosophical worldview--frees us from the exigencies of the present moment and all the Trump clap trap.  He is an insignificant nothing, a pathetic little man, in the great sweep of civilization.


The Road Not Taken

Here, on the Poetry Foundation website, is an excellent interpretation of The Road Not Taken, one of the most misunderstood of poems.  An excerpt:

Through its progression, the poem suggests that our power to shape events comes not from choices made in the material world—in an autumn stand of birches—but from the mind’s ability to mold the past into a particular story. The roads were about the same, and the speaker’s decision was based on a vague impulse. The act of assigning meanings—more than the inherent significance of events themselves—defines our experience of the past. 

Also, this:

In a letter, Frost claimed, “My poems … are all set to trip the reader head foremost into the boundless.” The meaning of this poem has certainly tripped up many readers—from Edward Thomas to the iconic English teacher in Dead Poets Society. But the poem does not trip readers simply to tease them—instead it aims to launch them into the boundless, to launch them past spurious distinctions and into a vision of unbounded simultaneity.

There is a level of Sartrean existentialism to the poem.  Of course written decades before Sartre's work. 


Adonis

I'm in the midst of reading the selected poems of the Syrian poet Adonis, and they are marvelous. Now I'm very puzzled why he has never won the Nobel, though he seems every year to be on the shortlist of those writers which the bookmakers imagine might win. Even without having read him, I wondered why he hadn't won during the Syrian civil war, given the Nobel's aim to often respond to something in the moment.

So many good poems, here's one I particularly liked, especially the opening lines.

The Fall

I live between fire and plague
with my language, with these mute worlds.
I live in an apple orchard and a sky,
in the first happiness and the drollness
of life with Eve,
master of those cursed trees,
master of fruit.

I live between clouds and sparks,
in a stone that grows, in a book
that knows secrets, and knows the fall.


Exploring an individual's metaphysical sensitivity

This weekend I began reading a collection of poems by Adonis, who is often mentioned as a contender for a Nobel prize.  And being a Syrian in exile who is in his late 80's, I've been surprised that he hasn't won in recent years.

In the introduction the translator summarizes Adonis' view of poetry.

Poetry, he argued, must remain a realm in which language and ideas are examined, reshaped, and refined, in which the poet refuses to descend to the level of daily expediencies.  Emerging as one of the most eloquent practitioners and defenders of this approach, Adonis wrote that the poet is a "metaphysical being who penetrates to the depths" and , in so doing, "keeps solidarity with others."  Poetry's function is to convey eternal human anxieties.  It is the exploration of an individual's metaphysical sensitivity, not a collective political or socially oriented vision.