Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Disappearances and Reappearances in Week #5

We found in David Harsent's "Ghosts" a challenging and fascinating poem with the shades of the departed returning with "tokens of themselves," to find a Peaceable Kingdom turned upside down ("horizons gone askew"), with "long-lost hopes," personal and societal goals abandoned, a "matchless sorrow, as would, for sure/stop the heart of whoever it is they take you for." The dead hope we would recognize them, and they us. The "dew of death" reminded us of Franz Wright's visit to Zanesville, Ohio.

Charles Simic's "The One Who Disappeared" is more straightforward, but with the tantalizing riddle and the end--"as if she already carried a secret,/Or was heartbroken that she didn't have one."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ohio with James and Franz Wright

In week five we visited Ohio with James and Franz Wright, father and son and both Pulitzer winners. "Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, " a frequently anthologized poem written in 1963, shows us how in a depleted social environment, violence--in the form of football--becomes acceptable, even hopeful. Part of the sadness of this poem lies in the fathers, beaten down by the world, failing to move up a ladder of success, failing even as husbands; the other sadness lies in the sons, the "suicidally beautiful" sons who in 1963 had only a life in the mill to look forward to. In 2015 the mill is closed and those jobs are no longer there.

Kathy provided us with further insight into Martin's Ferry with memories that were happier but nonetheless poignant.

Franz Wright's prose poem pictures the writer returning to the house he'd lived in as a teenager. Dust permeates the poem. The final third of the poem admitted of different interpretations: some saw the narrator going to his father's grave at a cemetery; others saw the son sitting down with the father in death. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but no one is home in Zanesville, Ohio.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Air Travel in Week #3

Our consideration of the subject of "Flying" centered on Norman Dubie's "Sky Harbor," which we felt could also have been called "Traveling to a Funeral." Who is meant by the person "I" in the fifth stanza? Several thought it refers to the mother; but there is the possibility it might refer to another relative, another narrator on the plane, other than the brunette. The other interesting person is the man at the end who "has recognized her," knows why she is flying. The tension between grief and triviality is perhaps what he means when he says "nothing happens."

One small point we did not explore: why does he use ellipsis in the sixth stanza (the three dots). What has been left out for us to understand.

The most striking image in the poem by my New Hampshire friend Andrew Periale's is the luggage carousel at the end, joining the company of other metaphors such as the River Styx and the Pearly Gates.

Our travels this week take us to the Midwest, to the work of James and Franz Wright, father and son who both won Pulitzer Prizes. We will have additional insight on Martin's Ferry, Ohio from Kathy Coe.