The One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library will be back on September 11, 2018, for its eleventh season, where people gather to examine the works of established poets. While there’s no instructor and this is not a workshop for personal writing, once a month OPPC gives everyone a place to become teachers and learners to explore the form, content, language and meaning of poetry. Since the circle began, participants have selected and discussed 1081 poems and have read countless others in pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

For September’s theme, Poetry and Disaster, we recognize the anniversary of one of the worst disasters of our lives. Maurice Blanchot wrote that “Disaster shuts down language. Disaster cannot be fathomed. Disaster stops all speech because the suffering it causes is so total and complete.” Theodor Adorno stated that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” Yet the poet finds a way to respond to disaster with language, bearing witness to disaster. Psalm 137 begins with the lament after the destruction of Jerusalem, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept/when we remembered Zion” and ends with a desire for revenge, a response difficult to check. When disaster strikes, we look to poetry for comfort and support, seeking to understand how others felt in similar situations or how we can get past our despair.

According to William Blake in “Infant Sorrow,” man begins in a hostile environment and finds what comfort he can:

My mother groand! My father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt:
Helpless, naked, piping loud;
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my fathers hands:
Striving against my swaddling bands:
Bound and weary I thought best
To sulk upon my mothers breast.

After 9/11, the New Yorker published Adam Zagajewski’s “Try to Praise the Mutilated World.” Actually written in 2000, the poem seemed prescient then, and continues to echo our times. Its words provide a point of view for living with recurring disaster.

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
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.
(trans. Clare Cavanagh)

We’re looking forward to the poems you bring and read aloud on the subject of a disaster, response to a disaster, or that can provide comfort after a disaster. Bring one that has meaning for you, along with copies for the others, if you can. Looking for a poem to bring? Browse the poetry section at the library or check out Poetry Foundation or poets.org.

In the meantime, please blog with us here about poetry at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com.

Fall 2018 Schedule
Tuesday, September 11, Poetry and Disaster
Tuesday, October 9, Cowboy Poetry
Tuesday, November 13, Poetry and Simplicity
Tuesday, December 11, Poetry and Wine

Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave., 3rd Fl.
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm

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.

 

 

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