Sunday, April 18, 2010
Sunday Morning Coffee: The Poetical Round (Dawes, Rich, Muldoon)
[Stanley Clarke and Steve Gadd conversing via bass and drum, c. 1980, riffing off "Lopsy Loo" from Clarke's first album, or maybe something from his School Days album.]
Lots of chocolate in the coffee this morning, to stave off the cold outside...
Lobster and canary have been riffing all week about poetry, partly in honor of National Poetry Month.
We've been feeling out how poems emerge, their genesis in memory, as scattered home-words that live in the heart, words that coalesce when separation through time and space suddenly or slowly reveal their value.
Maybe something along the lines of what Kwame Dawes relates in his memoir of immigration, A Far Cry from Plymouth Rock:
"We recited these tales of remembrance as people trying to ensure that the memory of our origins was not lost. It was part of who we were and we had no good reason to battle that nostalgia for it sustained us. So the names of our relatives, our cousins, our friends had the sound of a litany--a strange cadence that remained locked in the mind like a song. Nostalgia was rich: the fufu, the banku, the kenke, the kelewele, the okra soup, the palm nut soup, the groundnut soup, the yoyi tree, the akra, the garri done a million ways..." (pp. 70-71).
From the arterial clay of memory comes the rough cast; the poet shapes and sorts, molds and discards. Adrienne Rich says:
"What poetry is made of is so old, so familiar, that it's easy to forget that it's not just the words, but polyrhythmic sounds, speech in its first endeavors (every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome), prismatic meanings lit by each others' light, stained by each others' shadows. In the wash of poetry the old, beaten, worn stones of language take on colors that disappear when you sieve them up out of the streambed and try to sort them out."
---(from Rich, "Someone is Writing a Poem," in her What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, pg. 85).
Origins and drafting are hard enough to discern, let alone practice...what about the poet's search for a poem's ending? (Why do Clarke and Gadd end when they do, not earlier or later?) Paul Muldoon has spent great imagination on this question, and offers some provocative suggestions about "a poem that resists coming to a close, or drawing its own conclusion":
"My theory is that, as it comes into being, the poem is marking and measuring itself against a combination of what it might now be and what it might yet become. [...] My conclusion, insofar as I have a sense of it at this juncture, will be that the idea of anything 'designed and instituted' by a poet will almost certainly run counter to what I believe to be the 'object for which' poetry exists."
----(Muldoon, "Poem of the End; Marina Tsvetayeva," in his The End of the Poem, pg. 299).
Canary is very quiet as he assimilates this idea, that his song may have a purpose of its own. The poet is the vessel of the poem, the memories live in words that have no ending...
Lobster pauses in his search for sand-fleas and other cephalopods, trying to perceive the wave as distinct from the water.