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Posts Tagged ‘poem’

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Photo: Erin Clark for the Boston Globe
Lucy Wisson hugged her son, Giani DiTrapani, in their Port Huron home. Giani, a junior at Michigan State University, had always shared his mom’s political beliefs. Then in fall 2017, he went to college.

A recent Boston Globe story by Liz Goodwin (here) about how politics is both dividing — and not dividing — families spoke to a growing preoccupation of mine. Even the Dalai Lama tweets about it: how do we find common ground and things to love about people who think very differently from us? Next to climate change and inequality, that may be the biggest challenge of our time.

What struck me most in reading about the religious, politically conservative young man who went off to college and began to think differently from his mother was the mother’s tolerance and ability to change enough to stay close to him. I thought, Wow, I really don’t agree with all her views, but I do see that there are things about which she has an open mind.

We can always learn.

The Lothlorien elf Haldir in the Fellowship of the Ring says, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but there is still much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps greater.” Now there’s a thought to ponder! That love in times of darkness grows more powerful.

So here’s a poem to help us all remember that we really do know how to appreciate things about people who are not like us.

Small Kindnesses
~ a poem by Danusha Lameris ~

“I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
“down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
“to let you by. Or how strangers still say ‘bless you’
“when someone sneezes, a leftover
“from the Bubonic plague. ‘Don’t die,’ we are saying.
“And sometimes, when you spill lemons
“from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
“pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
“We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
“and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
“at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
“to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
“and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
“We have so little of each other, now. So far
“from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
“What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
“fleeting temples we make together when we say, ‘Here,
“have my seat,’ ‘Go ahead — you first,’ ‘I like your hat.’ ”

Oh, my, oh, my! Bless all poets!

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Photo: Amherst College
Amherst College holds the original of the only currently authenticated photograph of poet Emily Dickinson, a daguerreotype.

A follower of this blog is Romanian and has a blog with a feature I hadn’t seen before. When you click on an individual post, you get a drop-down menu on the right for choosing any language you want the post translated into. I have used English, of course, but I’ve also tried French and Esperanto.

This got me thinking about Google Translate, a terrific service but imperfect. And I thought, What if we played a game of Telephone with Google Translate? You remember Telephone, I’m sure. A group of people sit in a circle, and the first person whispers a phrase in the ear of the second, the second whispers it in the ear of the third, and so on. When you get to the end, the phrase is usually mangled in an interesting way. and everybody laughs about what they thought they heard. (I had fun playing Telephone with an ESL class last year. You can just imagine!)

For my experiment, I decided to use a bit of poetry by Emily Dickinson and translate it into different languages and back into English between languages. I stopped when I got a translation that was kooky enough for my taste.

Let me know if you can think of other ways to play the Google Translate game.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all

“Esperanza” es la cosa con plumas –
Que se posa en el alma
Y canta la melodía sin las palabras –
Y nunca se detiene – en absoluto (Spanish)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul
And sing the melody without the words –
And it never stops – at all

“Hope” est la chose avec des plumes –
Qui se perche dans l’âme
Et chante la mélodie sans les mots –
Et ça ne s’arrête jamais – du tout (French)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
Who perches in the soul
And sing the melody without the words –
And it never stops – at all

“Hopp” är saken med fjädrar –
Vem perches i själen
Och sjunga melodin utan orden –
Och det slutar aldrig – alls (Swedish)

“Jump” is the case with feathers –
Who perches in the soul
And sing the melody without words –
And it never ends – at all

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Today’s bonus is a wonderful poem by Alexa Selph that appeared on the Poetry Foundation website. Asakiyume sent it to me.

Market Forecast
By Alexa Selph

“Adjectives continue
“their downward spiral,
“with adverbs likely to follow.

“Wisdom, grace, and beauty
“can be had three for a dollar,
“as they head for a recession.

“Diaphanous, filigree,
pearlescent, and love
“are now available
“at wholesale prices.

“Verbs are still blue-chip investments,
“but not many are willing to sell. …”

Please read the whole, delicious thing here.

“Alexa Selph, a freelance editor in Atlanta,” says the Poetry Foundation website, “teaches a class called ‘The Pleasure of Reading Poetry’ as part of the adult education program at Emory University. She has contributed poems to Georgia State University Review, Habersham Review, and Blue Mesa.”

alexa-selph

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Photo: eGuide Travel
The highlands of Papua, New Guinea, are among the isolated places that linguists search for speakers of dying languages.

I’ve blogged before about linguists and others who are trying to preserve languages spoken by only a few people. The belief is that there is intrinsic value in such endangered languages and that they are key to understanding cultures. Recently I saw that one group is focusing on a particular manifestation of rare languages — their poems.

Fiona Macdonald writes at the BBC about the Endangered Poetry Project.

” ‘They fly to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and there they take a bus for three days and then they hike over a mountain and then they take a canoe and then they get to this little bay with 300 people,’ ” she reports, quoting Mandana Seyfeddinipur, head of the Endangered Languages Archive at London’s SOAS [School of Oriental and African Studies]. …

” They are ‘PhD students of 25 with a digital camera, a digital audio recorder and solar panels.’ …

“ ‘They live with the communities for months at a time, and develop social relationships, and talk to them and record them, and then they come back and they give me this SD card. … ‘The only record that we have of this language is in this tiny SD card.’ …

“The newly launched Endangered Poetry Project aims to tackle [language] loss at another level. ‘Languages are dying out at an astonishing rate: a language is being lost every two weeks,’ says the National Poetry Librarian Chris McCabe. ‘And each of those languages has a poetic tradition of some sort.’ …

“The project has issued a call-out to members of the public, asking for poems written in an endangered or vulnerable language. ‘In the first week, we’ve had over a dozen submissions in about 10 languages,’ says McCabe. ‘That includes poems in Breton, and poems in a dialect of Breton called Vannes. We’ve had a poem in Alsatian, and the Sardinian dialect Logudorese. We’re interested in these variations in language in different places as well, which can often be markedly different from the established language. …

” ‘You get a focus on place – in poems we’ve received from Sardinia, for example, there’s a focus on the mountain range there,’ says McCabe. ‘It shows you where people felt drawn to for inspiration in the landscape. Also, the style of a lot of Gaelic poems is very lyrical, and often uses repetition, a lot like a song. In that poetic tradition, you see how the division between poetry and music is quite slight – they often cross over between one and the other. The poetry tells us a lot about what kind of artistic experience people like, as well as what’s important in their geography.’ ”

Lots more here. Very interesting stuff.

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mariannemooresplash-1Ellen’s friend and colleague Heather Cass White has come out with a new edition of poetry by Marianne Moore, the quirky inventor of “turtle top” for a car design, among other, more significant literary adventures.

I once had the pleasure of hearing Marianne Moore read at Bryn Mawr College. She looked so much like my grandmother. My parents encouraged me to read her books, providing O, To Be a Dragon! for example. Random lines stuck with me, like this statement on poetry: “I, too, dislike it.”

On the website “FSGWork in Progress,” White writes thoughtfully about the challenges presented by her subject.

“In trying to sum up the experience of having spent the last ten years editing the poetry of Marianne Moore, most recently in the New Collected Poems, I think of a recent classroom interaction I had. Toward the end of a course on twentieth-century poetry, one of my students, clearly at the end of her patience with me, demanded to know why I kept asking them, ‘But what is a poem?’ It’s probably a measure of how deeply I feel that question that I hadn’t noticed I’d asked it even once before she pointed it out.

“I do know why I am stuck on it, however. Editing Moore’s work will deprive anyone of their certainty about what a poem actually is. All poetry editing raises a fundamental issue: Is a poem a specific ordering of words on a page? And if so, which page? The one the poet originally wrote, whether by hand or type; or the one that was first published; or the one that was last published?

“If all of those arrangements of words are identical, one may duck the question, but they rarely are. Typesetters and proofreaders make mistakes, and they also make corrections which poets find agreeable. Poets change their minds. Conventions of spelling and punctuation vary from house to house, and change over time. There are competing theories about how to handle such issues, and consensus views to guide practitioners, but the questions must always be confronted.

“At the risk of seeming to brag, I will claim that confronting these questions in Moore’s work is unusually torturous. Someone had to, though, because the final record Moore left of her own work — and the standard Moore edition for several decades — has been her mendaciously titled Complete Poems (1967). …

“Creating one, however, is tricky. Her lifelong practices of revising, reordering, and redacting her poems make a special kind of hash out of any attempt to be definitive. Certainly her revisions are the most spectacular problem. Moore didn’t just write poems, she rewrote them, often completely, often more than once. …

“Moore deserves careful editorial attention because she is, by any measure, a major poet. She was and is revered by her poet peers for her inventiveness, her fierce intelligence, her wit, and her moral vision. Her work is original, with an original’s perennial newness. In editing the New Complete Poems, I have done what editors do: devised a working set of procedures to present the poet I know and value. I have not, because I cannot, settled any questions about what her poetry is or may become. Original things always exceed definitive presentation and containment. Long may her poems confound us.” More here.

In one of the ESL classes where I volunteer, we have been reading Emily Dickinson. Time to suggest Moore to the teacher, I think. Women poets don’t get nearly the respect they deserve: it pains me to recall that as much as my father wanted me to know the work of these women, he told me there were no great female poets.

Update 8/5/17: Moore editor Heather Cass White made an appearance at the Island Bound Bookstore tonight. Her talk was super. The book sounded very accessible as well as more authoritative than previous editions. Reader, I bought it.

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It is not really spring yet although a weird February tried to fool us with several warm days before handing us back to single-digit temperatures.

There is a period in New England when the weather teeters back and forth between winter and spring — and inevitably brings to mind the e.e. cummings poem “[In Just-].” It’s a happy poem reminding one that as long as there are springs, there will always be excited children running outdoors to play, hollering back at someone in the house, “I don’t need a coat — it’s hot!”

Here is the poem:

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and

the

goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

 2017-sunrise
021217-tree-in-snow-Providence
021217-tree-in-snow-Providence
021817-snow-melting-at-stream
022517-fungus-rock-lichen-woods
022117-thru-the-looking-glass
030217-vinca-rises-from-decay

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Every once in a while I feel the need to go back to this poem. This is how it ends:

Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

—Adam Zagajewski (Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh.)
Published in the New Yorker, September 24, 2011

In 2011, Newsweek had an interesting piece on the author’s perspective.

“A week after the collapse of the Twin Towers,” wrote Matthew Kaminski, “The New Yorker ran Polish poet Adam Zagajewski’s ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’ on the final page of its special 9/11 issue. Written a year and a half before the attacks, the poem nevertheless quickly became the most memorable verse statement on the tragedy, and arguably the best-known poem of the last 10 years. …

“Now 66, Zagajewski is the leading poet of the Polish generation that followed Zbigniew Herbert, Czeslaw Milosz, and Wislawa Szymborska. Milosz called his cohorts ‘the poets of ruin,’ forced to grapple with Poland’s bloody 20th century. Zagajewski fits this description as well. He was an infant when his family was loaded onto cattle cars and deported from their home in Lwów [Lviv], to be relocated by Stalin to the Soviet Union. …

“Polish poets have long thought of themselves as national bards, called to engage with the harsh world around them. ‘Polish poetry is one of the marvels of 20th-century literature,’ wrote former U.S. poet laureate Charles Simic. …

“In Zagajewski’s poetry, cruelty mingles with humor, optimism, and a keen appreciation of nature. ‘Well, why not,’ he says. ‘You write a poem. You are alive. You don’t want to be a humorless person. I think that when you write poems you aspire to something whole that’s bigger than simply lament. In poetry I think you try to reconstruct what’s humanity. Humanity is always a mix of crying and laughing.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Wikimedia
Astronomical twilight as seen from a plane window.

dusk-a330

 

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