Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Aunt Madelyn At The White Sale" by Alice Fulton

Again on the hunt for poems for my class and I re-read Alice Fulton's "Aunt Madelyn At The White Sale." Feels like a very fitting poem today since it was the funeral for my grandmother. I've never attended a funeral in the winter before. I've always wondered how they manage. How do they dig out the ground? With machines, I know. Still. Winter resists burial. But then, in the spring it's too wet. In the summer, too hot. There's no good time to die, I guess.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop liked ladies, man

For the record, Elizabeth Bishop was a lesbian. Not sure why William Logan got all cagey about it in a review of a book of Bishop's letters in the New York Times. Also, didn't they just publish a book of Bishop letters? Is every napkin she ever scrawled on eventually going to be published? I'm just saying, people are kind of obsessed with her. She was a fine poet, yes, but I have a hard enough time keeping up with my email let alone sitting down to pour over Bishop's missives.

Oh, and about the lesbian omission thing in the Times. John Aravosis tells us why it matters:
"We're not even able to marry in most of this country, and the few marriages we do have aren't recognized by the federal government, and thus are not granted any of the 1,100 or so federal rights that accrue to married couples. The fact that one of the most famous American poets was lesbian is a big deal."
I guess Logan didn't have a little voice in his head imploring him to "Write it."

Via America Blog Gay.

"Heaven for Helen" by Mark Doty

My Grandma Helen passed away yesterday. Today I was combing through poetry looking for poems for my class to read and came across Mary Doty's "Heaven for Helen." I'd read this before but -- I don't want to say I'd forgotten it, because that's not accurate, exactly. But it seems like a serendipitous reunion to read it today.

Heaven for Helen

Helen says heaven, for her,
would be complete immersion
in physical process,
without self-consciousness—

to be the respiration of the grass,
or ionized agitation
just above the break of a wave,
traffic in a sunflower's thousand golden rooms.

Images of exchange,
and of untrammeled nature.
But if we're to become part of it all,
won't our paradise also involve

participation in being, say,
diesel fuel, the impatience of trucks
on August pavement,
weird glow of service areas

along the interstate at night?
We'll be shiny pink egg cartons,
and the thick treads of burst tires
along the highways in Pennsylvania:

a hell we've made to accompany
the given: we will join
our tiresome productions,
things that want to be useless forever.

But that's me talking. Helen
would take the greatest pleasure
in being a scrap of paper,
if that's what there were to experience.

Perhaps that's why she's a painter,
finally: to practice disappearing
into her scrupulous attention,
an exacting rehearsal for the larger

world of things it won't be easy to love.
Helen I think will master it, though I may not.
She has practiced a long time learning to see
I have devoted myself to affirmation,

when I should have kept my eyes on the ground.

(Mark Doty, from School of the Arts, 2005 HarperCollins.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Dream of Ink Brush Calligraphy" by Karen An-hwei Lee

I'm thinking this might be a good poem to get my students talking about form and its relationship to meaning.

"Dream of Ink Brush Calligraphy" by Karen An-hwei Lee from the Nov. 2010 issue of Poetry Magazine.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Poetry doth not protest too much

From the New York Times:
"Egypt’s revolution is a contest of ultimatums — chaos and revolution, freedom and submission — but its arena of Tahrir Square becomes quieter at night, the cacophony of rebellion giving way to a stage of poetry, performance and politics."
A good argument, I think, for poetry's continuing relevance.