OPPC met on February 5th to discuss Poetry and Our Parents.

Larry, who has moved to New England, posted Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays” on our blog. We enjoyed it so much we asked Sylvia to read this poem of a father who gets up early to light the fire and shine the shoes. The poem ends, “What did I know, what did I know/of love’s austere and lonely offices?”

Rollene who couldn’t make the evening, sent Stanley Kunitz’s “Haley’s Comet,” which describes a boy asking his father to look for him, “I’m the boy in the white flannel gown/sprawled on this coarse gravel bed/searching the starry sky,/waiting for the world to end.”

Abigail started us off with Eliza Cook’s “The Old Arm Chair,” depicting the chair in which her mother taught her as a child and in which she died: “But I love it, I love it; and cannot tear/My soul from a mother’s old Arm-chair.” Abigail described her attraction to this sentimental, yet appealing poem, as a “guilty pleasure.”

Roger read Lewis Carroll’s parody, “You Are Old, Father William,” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which a young son questions his father about his behavior until the father responds, mocking the traditional wisdom passed down from father to son, “Be off, or I’ll kick you down stairs!”

Phil read Franz Wright’s “Learning to Read,” describing a young boy who taught himself to read, “If I had to look up every fifth or sixth word,/so what. I looked them up./I had nowhere important to be.” This experience was much like Phil’s as a child in a large household.

Regina read Seamus Heaney’s “Clearances Sonnet #3” which portrays the author and his mother peeling potatoes, “Cold comforts set between us, things to share/Gleaming in a bucket of clean water” and later his being near her at her death. Regina enjoyed the poem’s description of intimacy that comes from doing something together without talking.

Hazel brought a poem her grandfather had recited, Thomas Moore’s “Tis the Last Rose of Summer,”  and wondered why her grandfather, a cheerful man, had loved the poem which ends, “O, who would inhabit/This bleak world alone?”

Cate read Martín Espada’s “The Playboy Calendar and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám” in which a young man hides the Rubáiyát inside a pinup calendar, both gifts from his father, “In case anyone opened the door without knocking,/my brother with a baseball mitt or a beery Beast.”

Michael read Edgar Albert Guest’s “A Child of Mine” which tells of the parents’ decision to have a child, “For all the joys Thy child shall bring,/The risk of grief we’ll run.”

AnnaLee completed the circle with W. S. Merwin’s “Yesterday” in which a man visits  his father for the last time and regrets leaving too soon, “though there was nowhere I had to go/and nothing I had to do.” The Franz Wright poem (“Learning to Read”) that Phil brought uses similar words, although with different meaning. Is there a connection?

We hope to see you on March 12th for Poetry and Seduction.

Abigail Burnham Bloom and
AnnaLee Wilson