Friday, April 19, 2013

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Mr. Heaney

It was Seamus Heaney's birthday on April 13th, and I'm going to copy and paste here a blog post that I put up last year for Poetry Friday. Heaney is one of my favorite poets - his work manages to be both personal and political. How does he balance those two impulses, those two very different (maybe not so different - time to rethink that) purposes? Here's my Happy Birthday post from last year:

Happy Birthday, Seamus Heaney!

Seamus Heaney...

It's Seamus Heaney's birthday today. I once got to share a ham sandwich and a pint with this wonderful poet. He joined half dozen students (me among them) at the College Inn Pub when he was in Seattle for a reading at the University  of Washington. It was quite a long time ago, but I remember everything about it. The man was absolutely beautiful - relaxed, funny, generous-hearted, talented beyond belief - and that shock of white hair! And that Irish lilt! He didn't disappoint, that's for sure. 

Here's a poem of his that I love:


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

                              - Seamus Heaney
                                 from The Spirit Level

And click here to hear the man himself, reading it.  
You'll see what I mean about that Irish lilt.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Heaney!

Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday today - head over to her blog to see what other people have posted. And don't forget to keep track of her Progressive Poem 2013 - 30 different poets adding a line a day through National Poetry Month. Here's the list - click on the most recent date and you'll see how it's grown.

...and Seamus Heaney.

Friday, April 12, 2013

James Merrill

James Merrill....

I have nothing to say about this poem except *sigh.*I wish I could write like this.

Cloud Country

by James Merrill

How like a marriage is the season of clouds.
The winds at night are festive and constellations
Like stars in a kaleidoscope dissolve
And meet in astounding images of order.
How like a wedding and how like travelers
Through alchemies of a healing atmosphere
We whirl with hounds on leashes and lean birds.
As though the air, being magician, pulled
Birds from a sleeve of cloud, birds drop
To warm grass dented by a smile asleep.
Long odysseys of sunlight at this hour
Salute the gaze that of all weariness
Remains unwearied, and the air turns young
Like reddening light in a corridor of pines.
The landscape where we lie is creased with light
As a painting one might have folded and put away
And never wished to study until now.
How like a marriage, how like voyagers
We come upon this season of right clouds,
Valors of altitude, white harbors, hills
Supple and green, these actions of the sun.

[First published in The Kenyon Review, Summer 1947, Vol. IX, No. 3 ]

...and James Merrill

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted today by Diane Mayr over at Random Noodling. Head there to see what other people have posted.And don't forget to follow Irene Latham's Progressive Poem over the entire month of April. Here's a link to the list of poets, day by day - click on the most recent to see the progress.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Turn! The 2013 Progressive Poem

It's April 8th! 
My turn to add a line to Irene Latham's Progressive Poem 2013
[Click on the poet name below to see how the poem grows day-by-day through April]

So far, seven  Kidlitosphere poets have posted their contributions to the growing poem.You can find my first post about this on Friday, March 29th.

Here is my thought-process as a contributor:

I've watched as the poem opened with a possibility (when you listen to your footsteps) and moved quickly into dreamier metaphorical territory (words become music), then got rhythmic with a clever line by Matt (rapping and tapping feet/fingers.)

In Line 4, what feels almost like a new stanza equates the pen to a dancer, with the fifth line adding types of dances, and the exuberant sixth line picking up on and continuing the rhythm Matt introduced in Line 3. I'm not quite sure where the dancers have gone, though.That word "love" worries me - love is always a loaded cannon, it makes a lot of noise if named, and I get a little weird with big emotions in a poem.

My line is coming soon, and I can feel the urge which comes over me (when things get dreamy) to put the brakes on and bring the poem back to the real world.Wind whispering, maybe, but to what? To water? I will try to resist the urge to darken it up because, after all, it's spring, why not save the dark lines for winter and go for something cheerful? a little voice inside says, "Love is quite nice in the springtime, Julie." But I don't know if I can do dreamy.

My line is coming soon. What will Line 7 do?

Line 7, it turns out, begins a new stanza. It's sweet and floaty, too - dreams and whispers. So now I have to choose -  push the poem back into the real world (can we get those dancers back, can we take the poem outside for some fresh air, forget words on paper and forget about metaphors that are self-referential to what we do when we write?) or should I try stay with the idea of words whispering?  I can feel the normal panic and pressure of trying to find the poem's proper direction, only I can't go back and revise as I do constantly (as I compose) to make everything line up with my own choices! That's what the roller coaster ride is all about - letting go. Right?

I'm still hoping the rhythms of Lines 3 and 6 can be maintained at the proper intervals. But letting go, letting go.  Hmmmm. A shortish line is needed now, no rhyme at this point (though could there be an internal rhyme? I do love rhyme....) What to do?? Well, since I'm not the Lone Poet here and here are a lot of lines to come, lots of poets to add twists and turns, I'm going to relax. Forget wind whispering. Forget  about taking the poem outside. Just bring back the "dancers" - the words -  and leave it as wide open as I can for the imagination of tomorrow's poet.

Okay, here's my contribution.  I'm diving in to the dance:

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and            
the rhythm that you're rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page 
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you're beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying

 Take it away, Carrie, for Line 9! Here is the line-up of contributors and dates:

30  April Halprin Wayland