Thursday, September 18, 2014

"A Small Number" by Olena Kalytiak Davis

So far, have managed, Not 
Much. So far, a few fractures, a few factions, a Few
Friends. So far, a husband, a husbandry, Nothing
Too complex, so far, followed the Simple 
Instructions. Read them twice. So far, memorized three Moments, 
Buried a couple deaths, those turning faces. So far, two or Three 
Sonnets. So far, some berrigan and Some 
Keats. So far, a scanty list. So far, a dark wood. So far, Anti-
Thesis and then, maybe, a little thesis. So far, a small Number 
Of emily’s letters. So far, tim not dead. So far, Matt 
Not dead. So far, jim. So far, Love
And love, not so far. Not so love. So far, no-Hope. 
So far, all face. So far, scrapped and scraped, but Not 
With grace. So far, not Very.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"A Hemisphere in Your Hair" by Charles Baudelaire

Long, long let me breathe the fragrance of your hair.

Let me plunge my face into it like a thirsty man into the water of a spring, and let me wave it like a scented handkerchief to stir memories in the air.

If you only knew all that I see! All that I feel! All that I hear in your hair! My soul voyages on its perfume as other men’s souls on music.

Your hair holds a whole dream of masts and sails; it holds seas whose monsoons waft me toward lovely climes where space is bluer and more profound, where fruits and leaves and human skin perfume the air.

In the ocean of your air I see a harbor teeming with melancholic songs, with lusty men of every nation, and ships of every shape, whose elegant and intricate structures stand out against the enormous sky, home of eternal heat.

In the caresses of your hair I know again the languors of long hours lying on a couch in a fair ship’s cabin, cradled by the harbor’s imperceptible swell, between pots of flowers and cooling water jars.

On the burning hearth of your hair I breathe in the fragrance of tobacco tinged with opium and sugar; in the night of your hair I see the sheen of the tropic’s blue infinity; on the shores of your hair I get drunk with the smell of musk and tar and the oil of cocoanuts.

Long, long, let me bite your black and heavy tresses. When I gnaw your elastic and rebellious hair I seem to be eating memories.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Emily Dickinson – Why such short poems?

What surprised (and still tends to surprise) readers was that Dickinson's mature poems were all so brief. Many of the writers admired by Dickinson had embarked ambitiously on epics, dramas, long narratives, sonnet sequences, and dramatic monologues, yet Dickinson never attempted such genres. Her tenacity in keeping to a miniature form caused some readers, even in the twentieth century, to patronize her work. She seems to have asked herself that fundamental question of the choice of size – why such short poems? – and answered it in a remarkable lyric, “Ashes denote that Fire was –“. Her poems, she says – defending their reduced form – are the Ashes of a previous conflagration that destroyed “the Departed Creature” now dead (although that Creature, at death, had briefly “hovered” over the Ashes of her former self). To understand the vanished Creature of whom the Ashes are the residue, one must become a Chemist, and deduce from the remaining Carbonates the nature of the person consumed by the Fire:

Ashes denote that Fire was 
Revere the Grayest Pile           
For the Departed Creature’s sake        
That hovered there awhile 

Fire exists the first in light
And then consolidates
Only the chemist can disclose 
Into what Carbonates 

The original Creature was first illuminated by the “light” of some revelation; the revelation then kindled into a fiery conflagration, and the conflagration ended in a consuming. What is left does not resemble the past earthly being of the Creature: the Fire has done its work, leaving only the Ashes, the cremated “Carbonates” that we find in the poet’s pages. (Dickinson may have borrowed her Ashes and her deathbed from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, recalling the fire “That on the ashes of his youth doeth lie.”) Dickinson calls on us, as the forensic Chemists of verse, to reconstruct from a small heap of Ashes – her poem – the self originally nourished and then consumed by the light of insight and the Fire of emotion.  Helen Vendler