Archives for posts with tag: Billy Collins

We had a great turnout for the first of our fall 2017 season on September 12, where we examined poetry and Commemoration. 

Abigail began the circle with Jacqueline Woodson’s “Occasional Poem,” in which a student responds to a teacher’s assignment, “I guess them arguing/on a Tuesday in January’s an occasion/So I guess this is an occasional poem.” Although an occasional poem is another word for a commemorative poem, this one was not written for a traditional public event.

Roger read Marc Antony’s famous speech, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a work that starts as a commemorative oration but ends as an incitement to riot: “Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—/For Brutus is an honourable man;/So are they all, all honourable men—/Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.”

Hazel read William Wordsworth’s “Composed upon Westminster Bridge,” a poem that commemorates or remembers London before sunrise, “The river glideth at his own sweet will:/Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;/And all that mighty heart is lying still!”

Gail read a shortened version of Yevgeni’s Yevtushenko’s “Babi Yar,” a poem that became a monument commemorating an horrific event, “No monument stands over Babi Yar./A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone./I am afraid./Today, I am as old/As the entire Jewish race itself.”

Christiana read “Grand Central” by Billy Collins, which reads in its entirety:

The city orbits around eight million
centers of the universe
and turns around the golden clock
at the still point of this place.

Lift up your eyes from the moving hive
and you will see time circling
under a vault of stars and know
just when and where you are.

Linda read “Villanelle for an Anniversary” by Seamus Heaney, composed about the founder of Harvard University, “Begin again where frosts and tests were hard./Find yourself or founder. Here, imagine/A spirit moves, John Harvard walks the yard,/The books stand open and the gates unbarred.”

Eileen read Primo Levi’s “Shema” in which he substitutes knowledge of the holocaust for the well-known Jewish prayer, “Consider that this has been:/I commend these words to you./Engrave them on your hearts.”

Terry read “The Dogwood Tree” by Curtis Moorman, a poem she announced was not very good but that intrigued her because the author wrote prolifically from jail, “Legend says of the Dogwood tree/That on it, Christ was crucified/His blood was shed for you and me/When the soldier pierced His side.”

Vincent read “Normandy, the Impossible Made Possible,” a poem he had written and published describing the landing of the Allies, “Into the face of death, they forged our destiny,/Changing the course of history.”

Maria read William Wordsworth’s “Daffodils,” which examines how a scene can be remembered, “For oft, when on my couch I lie/In vacant or in pensive mood,/They flash upon that inward eye/Which is the bliss of solitude;/And then my heart with pleasure fills,/And dances with the daffodils.”

AnnaLee completed the circle with Mary Jo Bang’s “The Role of Elegy,” which describes a type of commemorative poem, and explores the poet’s difficulty memorializing her son’s death: “The role of elegy is/To put a death mask on tragedy,/A drape on the mirror.”

Scott couldn’t make the meeting but found a poem celebrating an event in the Boer War, which included the lines:

They went across the veldt,
As hard as they could pelt.

Like much of commemorative poetry, these lines are awful. Unfortunately great poetry cannot usually be composed on command.

We look forward to the poems you bring for Poetry and Punctuation. As a reminder, OPPC is not for reading poems you have written, but an opportunity to appreciate well-established poets. 

Find a poem! Show up! Read a poem! Discuss a poem!

Fall 2017 Schedule

October 17: Poetry and Punctuation
November 14: Poetry and Power
December 12: Poetry and Windows

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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Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!
On December 13 OPPC met to discuss Poetry and Endings. At one point in the evening we wondered if everyone had brought in a depressing poem in what should be a time of hope and rebirth.

Abigail began by reading Edith Nesbit’s “On Dit” describing the flowers beneath the snow, the sun after the night and some say, “New life, divine beyond belief,/Somehow, somewhere, some day.” Yet Nesbit does not sound hopeful about the possibility of life after death.

Roger brought in the anonymous tune, “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave.” Although there was an end of slavery, and the end of the abolitionist John Brown himself, there has been no end to this song, which became “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in its most famous manifestation.

Hazel read “January 22nd, Missolonghi” that encompassed Lord Byron’s thoughts on the day he completed his thirty-sixth year and seemed to foreshadow his death in his attempt to free Greece, “The land of honorable death/Is here,—up to the field, and give/Away they breath!”

Phil thought of our President-elect and read T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men,” with its famous final lines, “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Gail read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 30” which begins, “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought/I summon up remembrance of things past” and ends with the upbeat, “But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,/All losses are restored and sorrows end.”

Eileen read “O Captain! My Captain!,” Walt Whitman’s evocation of President Lincoln’s assassination just as the Civil War ended, “From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;/ Exult O shores, and ring O bells!/But I with mournful tread,/Walk the deck my Captain lies,/Fallen cold and dead.”

Terry read “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson which describes a man admired and even envied by all, “And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/Went home and put a bullet through his head.”

Elizabeth read W.S. Merwin’s “Old Man at Home Alone in the Morning,” which ends, “I was old but this morning/is not old and I am the morning/in which the autumn leaves have no question/as the breeze passes through them and is gone.” Written without punctuation, the poem suggests the fluidity of existence and our multi-levels of reflection as we get older.

AnnaLee completed our circle with “Aristotle,” in which the poet Billy Collins shows us the structure of life’s stories through a string of beginnings, middles, and ends. “This is the end, according to Aristotle,/what we have all been waiting for,/what everything comes down to,/the destination we cannot help imagining,/a streak of light in the sky,/a hat on a peg, and outside the cabin, falling leaves.”

Come blog with us at https://onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com .

Mark your calendars with our Spring 2017 Schedule:
February 7—Poetry and Snakes
March 7—Poetry and Anaphora
April 18—Poetry and Silence
May 9—Poetry and Theft

Enjoy the holidays! We look forward to seeing you in 2017.

~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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We’re back for the eighth season of the One Page Poetry Circle 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.

We chose the theme of Poetry and Endings not just because December 13 is our last meeting of the year, but also because the last lines of poems have special significance. As 2016 marches toward its end, we give you a stanza from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” describing the sound of church bells at the end of the year and the hope for what lies ahead after the poet has experienced a particularly difficult year:

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true. 

When we come to the last words of a fine poem we complete a journey. Ex-Poet Laureate Billy Collins relates his satisfaction when finding an ending to a poem, describing the silence that follows a poem’s last word as something new created between the reader and writer. In her poem “Endings” Mona Van Duyn writes that an end “lights up the meaning of the whole work.” Archibald MacLeish’s famous ending to “Ars Poetica” (here in its entirety) has lit up many a literary discussion:

 A Poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

Dumb
As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown—

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind—

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.

A poem should be equal to:
Not true.

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea—

A poem should not mean
But be.

Is there an ending of a poem that you have particularly enjoyed? Do you know a poem where the ending surprises because it takes a turn you didn’t expect? Let us know here at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com.