Author Topic: Poems  (Read 24003 times)

kalowski

  • the Zone of Zero Funkativity
Re: Poems
« Reply #120 on: August 13, 2020, 08:59:53 PM »
A personal favourite:
AN OLD MAN'S THOUGHT OF SCHOOL.
———

[The following poem was recited personally by the author Saturday afternoon, October 31, at the inauguration of the fine new Cooper Public School, Camden, New Jersey]

An old man's thought of School;
An old man, gathering youthful memories and blooms, that youth itself cannot.

Now only do I know you!
O fair auroral skies! O morning dew upon the grass!

And these I see--these sparkling eyes,
These stores of mystic meaning--these young lives,
Building, equipping, like a fleet of ships--immortal ships!
Soon to sail out over the measureless seas,
On the Soul's voyage.

Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a Public School?

Ah more--infinitely more;
(As George Fox rais'd his warning cry, "Is it this pile of brick and
mortar--these dead floors, windows, rails--you call the church?
Why this is not the church at all--the Church is living, ever living Souls.")

And you, America,
Cast you the real reckoning for your present?
The lights and shadows of your future--good or evil?
To girlhood, boyhood look--the Teacher and the School.hood look—the teacher and the
school.

Walt Whitman

Re: Poems
« Reply #121 on: August 14, 2020, 09:50:10 AM »
I have some thoughts about Death At Leavenworth. I'm going to put them into this pixel box and hope I don't look stupid afterwards. If you have some thoughts about my thoughts I would be interested to hear them.

'a friend not made to die till the chrysalis
of sense peeled from him and his sixth sense learned
it had been born to supra-sensual moths.'



I've heard death described as the 'end of illusion'. I've heard the same about 'enlightenment' too. It seems some people find enlightenment during their everyday life, while others get there around the time of death. This part of the poem seems to be talking about the moment of death.

'the chrysalis of sense peeled from him' - The mind/psyche/everything we think we are dissolves around the time of death.

'and his sixth sense learned' - The deeper self/spirit recognises it is returning to where it came from/not going anywhere at all.

'it had been born to supra-sensual moths.' - Moths can represent death; they seem to here. So - 'born to die'? I don't think an enlightened person is afraid of death, so this person who was 'not made to die' is now prepared.

The 'supra-sensual' part is the hardest to understand. Supra (above) sensual (pleasure); what is that? ecstasy? joy? Peace? It doesn't seem like these 'supra-sensual moths' should be feared.


I fear I haven't articulated this well enough. I guess it doesn't matter that much.

Re: Poems
« Reply #122 on: August 14, 2020, 01:14:38 PM »
I was also drawn in by the poem. You've helped me see some of the deathly moth imagery better and ways of taking meanings from the lines in isolation.

I took it that the sixth sense (suggesting something like a human soul) learned after the chrysalis peeled that it had been born to (i.e. it learns that its parents are) supra-sensual moths. Presumably it learns that it too is a supra-sensual moth. One example of this way of thinking about human life beside the life-cycle of a moth - here specifically the silk-worm - occurs in Thomas Browne's Religio Medici. The pupa corresponds to the 'secondine' or the 'slough of flesh' cast off by the human before the ineffable 'last World'. The margin notes the stages 1. in the womb. 2. in the world. 3. in the next. After finishing with the silk-worm, this part goes on to discuss not being afraid of death as you were writing about.



Religio Medici

Some other thoughts that I had and didn't resolve while reading the poem:

    Is it important that a moth pupa is not called a chrysalis, while a butterfly pupa is? The transmigration seems to have an extra level of separation because of this, not only passing from a sensual chrysalis to a supra-sensual butterfly - or from a sensual pupa and cocoon to a supra-sensual moth - but to a different insect group in the transformation.

    Is it important that the moths are supra rather than super-sensual or are the words interchangable? My first thought is to read the parental moths as being simply transcendent in relation to the sensual world but supra leaves some room to read them as intensely or uniquely sensual.

    Do you read - in terms of the emphasised meaning - 'his sixth sense learned/ it had been born to supra-sensual moths' or his sixth sense learned/ it had been born to supra-sensual moths'. What is the main thing being learned at that moment?

    I like the stanza break as pupal stage. The poem seems to be an adapted sonnet (with two extra lines) so there is some expectation that a turn might come here. There is an extra turn in the last two lines but here it seems to go from the mental world of metaphysical poetry to something different with fragmented thoughts when turning to scenes of Ned in Leavenworth and addressing him.
 
    Out there at Leavenworth [,the place] that bored you/ Out there at Leavenworth[.] That bored you[!]
   
    How do you read 'shy at you shoulder strap'?

You don't need to answer these thoughts written as questions.

Re: Poems
« Reply #123 on: August 15, 2020, 08:46:38 AM »
Ok my interpretation has changed now.

I think you're right that 'supra-sensual' refers to a transcendence of the sensual world, and that - 'it had been born to supra-sensual moths' - is the same as saying we (or him in the poem) are 'supra-sensual moths', i.e. there is something in us that is transcendent (spirit), yet, like the moth, we have physical bodies that will perish soon enough.

I think this is where the death/moth association is important. 'Supra-sensual' connotes the 'spirit' that cannot die, and 'moth' connotes 'death' or the 'body' that does die.

Your observation about the disjunction between 'moth' and 'chrysalis' is very interesting with this in mind. Were it 'supra-sensual butterflies', the whole death association is lost. What does that leave? Immortality?

So that might explain why it's 'moth' rather than 'butterfly', but it doesn't explain why it's 'chrysalis' rather than 'cocoon'. If we are interpreting this section along the lines of 'enlightenment' (as I have so babblingly done), then this gives a jarring sense of something unachievable - an impossible transformation - which is maybe how it feels until it actually happens.

As to the question of what 'his sixth sense learned' - I now see 'sixth sense' as literally meaning sixth sense or 'intuition'. We can intuit that a deeper place (within us) exists - spirit/peace/enlightenment - without actually 'knowing' it for sure. At the moment of death he 'learns' that it is real and that he is it; while his body dies like a 'moth', his 'supra-sensual' spirit is revealed and 'known'.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    I like the stanza break as pupal stage. The poem seems to be an adapted sonnet (with two extra lines) so there is some expectation that a turn might come here. There is an extra turn in the last two lines but here it seems to go from the mental world of metaphysical poetry to something different with fragmented thoughts when turning to scenes of Ned in Leavenworth and addressing him.

Yes I think there is a 'transformation' between the first and last eight lines.

The first eight can be split into two parts: the first five lines which are straightforward and relatable, and the next three which are cryptic.

The last eight lines are sort of a hybrid of the two: both simple and cryptic - like how you mention the oddness of 'shy at you shoulder-strap', and the ambiguousness of 'bored', plus the speaker's own sense of mystery with the question at the end.


As for 'shy at you...' - I have no idea. The only thought that came to mind was - 'could it be a typo?' I can't seem to think of a reason why he would write that instead of 'your'.

Re: Poems
« Reply #124 on: August 15, 2020, 10:02:26 AM »
And why is 'Across' capitalised? Then Across where? I was also wondering if he was imagined - or known - back among old friends or back among friends generally by making new friends in Leavenworth. And how much the friends were a part of the boredom.

There's a strange reciprocity between the description of the unpeeled spirit and the boredom, misery and uncertainty of how this "dying to the world" manifests in the life as overdose or suicide, while the speaker seems to feel the attraction of the realisation of the spirit and the pain of the loss of the friend.

Re: Poems
« Reply #125 on: August 15, 2020, 01:49:21 PM »
I see 'Across' in opposition to 'Up' (Heaven) or 'Down' (Tesco). The soul/spirit/whatever the fuck it is that animates us (and everything else in the universe) has nowhere to go upon death; there is no 'up' or 'down', the energy just 'remains' in the world.

So - 'back among friends; and then Across' - is the same as - 'back among friends; and then dead'. Except 'Across' has all that extra meaning.

I think it is capitalised in the same way you would capitalise 'Heaven'. Without that it is harder to see the allusion.

.

You could also take it more literally, similar to the Sylvia Plath poem I Am Vertical, with its opening line - 'But I would rather be horizontal.' He is no longer 'upright', he is 'across' or 'horizontal' - 'in the ground'.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2020, 03:11:45 PM by Scarlet Intangible »

Re: Poems
« Reply #126 on: August 15, 2020, 10:14:23 PM »
Thanks. And it seems to gather together suggestions of the crucifixion with a pun and being supine in the hospital before being in the ground. The plain directional language of 'back among'... 'and then Across' in this confused temporal and spiritual description again made me think of a John Donne poem - To His Mistress Going to Bed - where prepositions make up one whole line ('Licence my roving hands, and let them go,/ Before, behind, between, above, below.') there in a different kind of conversation of the soul becoming unbodied ('Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,/ As souls unbodied, bodies uncloth’d must be,/ To taste whole joys.')

I found some writing about "Death at Leavenworth" and the sequence that it belongs to here. Go to page 126 in the chapter called "The Flagon and The Cat". It answers a lot of our questions without making us seem like total numpties. 'You' was a typo.

I think I'll get the Collected Works which AO linked to.

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery
Re: Poems
« Reply #127 on: August 16, 2020, 10:05:26 AM »
I do like his stuff. This one is rather special:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=19869

Re: Poems
« Reply #128 on: August 16, 2020, 09:34:41 PM »
My preview only goes up to page 64. Are you looking at a preview as well?

Re: Poems
« Reply #129 on: August 17, 2020, 01:45:35 AM »
Yes. I'll send you what I can see.

Re: Poems
« Reply #130 on: September 11, 2020, 12:04:45 AM »
Before he lapsed into fascist delusions, and before he began the endless, pompous, grave and self-consciously monumental Cantos, Ezra Pound often had a dandyish and charming lightness of touch. 
One of the high points of his early work was his 1915 book Cathay a book of translations of Chinese poetry- though given his poems were based on another American's rough translation of a Japanese translation of the Chinese originals, it's probably fair to say they're not super-accurate and are should be thought of as Pound originals.
Here are two poems from that book.

The River Song by Li Po/ Rihaku, 8th Century AD, Translated Ezra Pound.

This boat is of shato-wood, and its gunwales are cut magnolia,
Musicians with jewelled flutes and with pipes of gold
Fill full the sides in rows, and our wine
Is rich for a thousand cups.
We carry singing girls, drift with the drifting water,
Yet Sennin needs
A yellow stork for a charger, and all our seamen
Would follow the white gulls or ride them.
Kutsu's prose song
Hangs with the sun and moon.

King So's terraced palace is now but barren hill,
But I draw pen on this barge
Causing the five peaks to tremble,
And I have joy in these words
like the joy of blue islands.
(If glory could last forever
Then the waters of Han would flow northward.)

And I have moped in the Emperor's garden, awaiting an order-to-write !
I looked at the dragon-pond, with its willow-coloured water
Just reflecting the sky's tinge,
And heard the five-score nightingales aimlessly singing.

The eastern wind brings the green colour into the island grasses at Yei-shu,
The purple house and the crimson are full of Spring softness.
South of the pond the willow-tips are half-blue and bluer,
Their cords tangle in mist, against the brocade-like palace.
Vine-strings a hundred feet long hang down from carved railings,
And high over the willows, the fine birds sing to each other, and listen,
Crying—‘Kwan, Kuan,' for the early wind, and the feel of it.
The wind bundles itself into a bluish cloud and wanders off.
Over a thousand gates, over a thousand doors are the sounds of spring singing,
And the Emperor is at Ko.
Five clouds hang aloft, bright on the purple sky,
The imperial guards come forth from the golden house
with their armour a-gleaming.
The Emperor in his jewelled car goes out to inspect his flowers,
He goes out to Hori, to look at the wing-flapping storks,
He returns by way of Sei rock, to hear the new nightingales,
For the gardens at Jo-run are full of new nightingales,
Their sound is mixed in this flute,
Their voice is in the twelve pipes here.

The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter
By Li Po/ Rihaku, Trans. Ezra Pound.

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse;
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look-out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-Yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.
You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the west garden—
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

My preview only goes up to page 64. Are you looking at a preview as well?
Thanks very much for a very interesting discussion last month on "Death at Leavensworth", I was sorry not to join in at the time.
What were some of the salient points in that book?




Re: Poems
« Reply #131 on: September 11, 2020, 12:54:19 AM »
A personal favourite:
AN OLD MAN'S THOUGHT OF SCHOOL.
.....

Only a lot of boys and girls?
Only the tiresome spelling, writing, ciphering classes?
Only a Public School?

Thanks for that. It made me feel sad because at the moment I get the impression my kid's schooldays are basically just like the above quote and lacking the kind of visionary thing Whitman was aiming at.

Re: Poems
« Reply #132 on: September 11, 2020, 12:58:33 AM »
I do like his stuff. This one is rather special:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=19869
Cheers. It seems like a key part of Wheelwright's working method was to give his poems a confusing sense of narrative, where the various 'plot' elements can't really be resolved or flatly contradict each other.

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery

Re: Poems
« Reply #134 on: September 29, 2020, 11:23:14 PM »
Quote
I’ve been taught bloodstones can cure a snakebite,

Can stop the bleeding – most people forgot this

when the war ended.

Gosh, I wonder why?

Twit 2

  • Thank God for the hatchery
Re: Poems
« Reply #135 on: October 12, 2020, 06:37:14 PM »
Been massively enjoying Don Paterson’s Zonal, where the informal yet precise style combined with a long line is clearly influenced by CK Williams. This one by the latter is great, I think. “Describe what you see out of a window” is standard writing workshop fare, but like anything, if done well, why not?

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/57036/from-my-window

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