Archives for category: poetry and disaster

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

The Circle met on September 11 to discuss Poetry and Disaster. We had a lively turnout despite the confluence of 9/11 and Rosh Hashanah.

Abigail opened the Circle with “Inauguration Poem” by Lynn Melnick which invites us to share a personal disaster, “Do you know what it’s like when a body twice yours/holds you down in the room where you make your life/until you wouldn’t know how to move even if he wasn’t holding you down and then he splits you further open.”

Roger read Paula Bardell’s reaction to 9/11, “Silence (over Manhattan)”: “A black September shadow cloaks the dawn,/The City’s once white teeth now rotting stumps.”

Hazel read “Once by the Pacific” by Robert Frost, a poet we don’t often associate with the Pacific or disasters, “The clouds were low and hairy in the skies,/Like locks blown forward in the gleam of eyes.”

Michelle read “The Children’s Moon” by Marilyn Nelson in which a black teacher meets her white students on their first day of class, “In my navy shirtwaist dress and three-inch heels,/my pearl clip-ons and newly red-rinsed curls,/I smoothed on lipstick, lipstick-marked my girls.”

Gail read Jane Kenyon’s “After an Illness, Walking the Dog,” in which connections are seen between the narrator and the dog, “I wait/until we’re nearly out to the main road/to put him back on the leash, and he/—the designated optimist—/imagines to the end that he is free.”

Cate read Ada Limón’s “Dream of Destruction” with its beautiful and strange imagery, “We somehow knew the electric orange volcanic ooze of hot lava was bound to bury us all, little spurts of ash popping early like precum and not innocuous at all.”

Terry read “The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy, “Yes; quaint and curious war is!/You shoot a fellow down/You’d treat if met where any bar is,/Or help to half-a-crown,” a sad reflection on killing.

Susan read Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Dirge Without Music,” which repeats its first statement several times, “I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground. So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been time out of mind.”

Rollene read Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle, “One Art,” with its almost-humorous escalation of losses, “The art of losing isn’t hard to master;/so many things seem filled with the intent/to be lost that their loss is no disaster.”

AnnaLee closed the Circle with Muriel Rukeyser’s “George Robinson Blues” from her Book of the Dead about the 1929 Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, which shows how in a disaster, we are all the same, “As dark as I am, when I came out at morning after the tunnel at night,/with a white man, nobody could have told which man was white./The dust had covered us both, and the dust was white.”

Dominick couldn’t come to the meeting, but remembered “The Wreck of the Deutschland” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Make mercy in all of us, out of us all/Mastery, but be adored, but be adored King.” If Kai had been able to attend, she would have brought “Songs to Survive the Summer” by Robert Hass, “Should I whisper in her ear,/death is the mother/of beauty?” June was reminded of “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin: “with nobody listening we are saying thank you/we are saying thank you and waving/dark though it is,” registering a grateful note despite disasters

Fall 2018 Schedule

Tuesday, October 9, Cowboy Poetry
Tuesday, November 13, Poetry and Simplicity
Tuesday, December 11, Poetry and Wine

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.

Advertisements

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.