Selections for April 4, 2012 Boulder Great Books Discussion Group meeting:
The Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, in Great Conversations 3 is an excerpt. The full essay (not that many more pages) can be found at http://www.bartleby.com/27/23.html and also through Prospector (search http://www.coalliance.org/prospector/ for shelley defence poetry).
For Linda Hogan we will discuss the following six poems –
From SEEING THROUGH THE SUN,
There are few moments of silence
but it comes
through little pores in the skin.
Between traffic and voices
and I begin to understand those city poems,
where we place our palms together
and feel the heart
beating in a handful of nothing.
about yellow hard hats
and brotherly beggars.
Wasn't Lazarus one of these?
And now Saint Pigeon of the Railroad Tracks
paces across a child's small handprint,
human acids etching themselves into metal.
We are all the least of these,
listening hard to the underground language
of the wrist.
Through the old leather of our feet
city earth with fossils and roots
breathes the heart of soil upward,
the voice of our gods beneath concrete.
Advice from the Shoulder
Put down the dust rag,
unplug that coffee,
forget those black beans for supper!
Woman, you are nearly threadbare
and your sister, the wolf,
has been packed in your skin too long.
She's beginning to show through.
Leave well enough alone; serve her
notice of eviction and get back
to the miracle of putting your feet in brown boots
and stretching everything,
dollars, time, black beans,
even the moth-eaten skin you wore as a child.
Don't cock your ear that way.
There are no north country songs here,
so pretend you don't hear them.
Sharpen your fingernails, you
are nearly worn out
and animals have lasting souls,
even those goats
out on the rusting Fords.
And their hearts are stronger than men's
so don't let that animal pacing your skin
begin her song.
Don't let her sing
of long nights
of the human surrounding her.
For Eavan Boland –
(A brooch carved on volcanic rock)
I like this story -
My grandfather was a sea captain.
My grandmother always met him when his ship docked.
She feared the women at the ports -
except that it is not a true story,
more a rumour or a folk memory,
something thrown out once in a random conversation,
a hint merely.
If I say wool and lace for her skirt and
crepe for her blouse
in the neck of which is pinned a cameo,
carved out of black, volcanic rock;
if I make her pace the Cork docks, stopping
to take down her parasol as a gust catches
the silk tassels of it -
then consider this:
there is a way of making free with the past,
a pastiche of what is
real and what is
not, which can only be
justified if you think of it
not as sculpture or syntax:
a structure extrinsic to meaning which uncovers
the inner secret of it.
She will die at thirty-one in a fever ward.
He will drown nine years later in the Bay of Biscay.
They will never even be
sepia, and so I put down
the gangplank now between the ship and the ground.
In the story, late afternoon has become evening.
They kiss once, their hands touching briefly.
Look at me, I want to say to her: show me
the obduracy of an art which can
arrest a profile in the flux of hell.
The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.