Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!

We met on November 1 to discuss Prose Poems. We loved discussing the difference between poetry and prose and found it to be a thin line indeed.

Abigail opened the circle by reading the first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita which begins, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.” Nabokov incorporates the images, meter, alliteration, and density of poetry into his prose.

Roger read the words of two great presidents: Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Pearl Harbor Speech” telling the nation about “a date which will live in infamy” and Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” We found Lincoln’s words to be more like poetry, more evocative with more rhythms and figures of speech as he contrasts the living with “these honored dead.”

Hazel read Antony’s famous funeral oration from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, “My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,/And I must pause till it come back to me.” Clearly written in poetic lines with an iambic pentameter rhythm the words have the sentence structure of a prose speech.

Phil read the beautiful conclusion of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy in James Joyce’s Ulysses: “then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.” Like Nabokov, Joyce was also a poet whose prose is as rich and beautiful as his poetry.

Gail read “Allegory of the Cave” by Stephen Dunn based on Plato’s vision. A man attempts to tell his fellow prisoners what he has learned in the twentieth century but finds himself unable to communicate effectively and eventually, “He just stood here,/confused, a man who had moved/to larger errors, without a prayer.”

Elizabeth read a review from Poetry Magazine by Frederick Seidel of a book of poems by Jonathan Galassi that approached poetry itself, “In the middle of Galassi’s life’s journey, in the middle of the dark woods, the road forked. Galassi had no choice —and chose—and wrote these poems. You have here the music of civilized decency superintending a heart raving and roaring like a lion.”

Eileen read Grace Paley’s “Here” which states with lovely simplicity what life is like for her, “Here I am in the garden laughing/an old woman with heavy breasts/and a nicely mapped face.”

AnnaLee closed the circle by singing a ballad, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” a true story of racial injustice, written in the Civil Rights era by Bob Dylan, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. In the final twist of the refrain, “Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears/Bury the rag deep in your face/For now’s the time for your tears,” Dylan gives America permission to cry.

Between prose that reads like poetry and poetry that reads like prose, we found the two delightfully intertwined and inseparable. As Peter Johnson explains, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.”

We look forward to seeing the works you select for Poetry and Endings and to discussing them with you on December 13. Bring a poem of a known poet. Bring a friend. Show up! And widen the circle! Without your support the library may find other uses for the spacious room they’ve given us.

Blog with us here at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com.

Fall Schedule:
December 13, Poetry and Endings

Abigail Burnham Bloom and
AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible.