Saturday, January 25, 2014

Second Session Features Seasons

In our second session January 23, poems by Linda Pastan and Billy Collins gave us a platform from which to look at the change of seasons as a very familiar poetic motif. In her carpe diem piece "Autumn," Linda Pastan claims the poet's right to reject a glum and not uncommon metaphor and insist on celebrating color.

In "Spring Cleaning" Billy Collins, in that off-hand style that combines his characteristic wit and much learning, warns us that even the coming of spring has a cost--I suspect we will remember the "thunderous sneeze."

Kathy and Martha offered very telling additional insights into the seasons and Elmer drew upon another powerful family memory.

I think I mentioned hearing Billy Collins do a reading in New Hampshire in October. He read "Table Talk," a poem we had enjoyed last spring, in which a group of erudite professors is having dinner discussing "applying the paradoxes of Zeno in the martyrdom of St. Sebastian." Collins brought down the house with the following line, "I think I''ll have the trout," reminding us again how he juxtaposes the serious and the light and lets the air out of pompousness.

Collins would warn us against this, but if you insisted on turning over the rocks of allusion, you might find a dark side to what we know about the Druids (notice in "Spring Cleaning" he uses lower case) and even in the story of Persephone.

Next week, however, I am certain that Jessica Greenbaum and Robert Pinsky would tell us their poems are not about basketball and baseball.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Winter 2014 Begins with Music

The Winter 2014 term began January 16 in the Disciple Room at Christ United Methodist Church--ample table space for our group of 17. In "To Play Pianissimo" by Lola Haskins and Adam Zagajewski's "Cello" we found that behind the metaphor of music were quiet, deeper thoughts, these two short poems, as is often the case, more subtle than they first appear.

We also read another piece from Haskins' 44 Ambitions for the Piano, "Fortissimo." It appears at the bottom of this posting and contains in its last line a word of advice to us about last lines.

Zagajewski's translator, Clare Cavanagh, is a professor of Slavic Languages at Northwestern University. More information about her at, including audio of her interview with Zagajewski.

Next week we will read Linda Pastan and Billy Collins. There will be time for two and possibly three poems by members of the group. I have poems by Elmer and Kathy and am expecting ones from Martha and Dave. Remember that your poems need not address the morning's topic or theme.

Linda Haskins

To play fortissimo
hold something back.
It is what the father does not say
that turns the son.
The fact that the summit cannot be seen
that drives the climber on.
Consider the graceless ones:
the painter who adds one more brush stroke,
the poet of least resistance
who writes past the end of his poem.