It was an intimate group, just five of us, for the workshop this week. No time limit to discuss the poems.
Janet Kolstein’s “When You Fall” (not included in the attachment) had a title that could have led anywhere – from a work-related accident to a moral comeuppance—but the first line told us exactly what kind of fall we were in for:
“Who among us could lift the frail elderly”
and yet the second line told us we were not in the desolated kitchen of some Life Alert victim who has “fallen and I can’t get up”, because Janet’s “frail elderly” were
“bronzing on the private beaches of late life?”
and just as suddenly, the third line acted out the tourism of those “private beaches,” with a voice telling us or the elderly
“Watch! Over your shoulder! There goes an African Parrot.”
And as if those first three lines were not enough of an immersion into the COMPLICATED world of aging, the next line, ending the first quatrain of the poem, is a direct address to the reader that poses a question about the persistence of memory and establishes the speaker as the true, and trustworthy guide to her ambiguous underworld:
“We can’t unsee the past, or can we?”
I just loved this poem, which continued on more and more deeply into its world of aging with a combination of surefooted lyricism and intellectual strength. Hopefully, the rest of you will get to see it, perhaps in this year’s RWB Journal #15.
Tom Benediktsson brought a poem called “Iowa Sunset” that was an experiment in taking the advice of another poet, the poet Cynthia Cruz, whose advice is paraphrased in the first two lines of the poem to the effect that “Involuntary memory is the wellspring. . . but we must find the right state of mind.” Tom’s riff punned on “state of mind” by referring to the “state of Iowa,” and the poem continued with more wordplay in its exciting and delightful second stanza about Belarus, balaklavas and the Mediterranean dessert, baklava. Following the stream of its “wellspring” the poem then moved on to consider the color of pig’s blood on a fence and the memory of riding the subway “when a woman next to me falls asleep/ and slumps with her head on my shoulder/ and way past my stop wakes up, all embarrassed.” It’s an exciting draft, and it may also be a warning about following the advice of other poets.
Brenden McEntee’s poem “Highland Paddy” is a tremendously ambitious poem that considers ghosts while the speaker walks across The Walkway over the Hudson, a steel cantilever bridge spanning the Hudson River between Poughkeepsie, New York, on the east bank and Highland, New York, on the west bank. It calls the wind over the bridge “everyone’s poltergeist” and touches on Irish folksong or ballad concerning the death of one “Fenian.” Then, passing two dogs on the bridge, the poet turns to remembering his own dog who died a few weeks, seeking the solitude and privacy of a space behind the sofa to die. In its last movement, the poem returns to the think of the bridge and how it endures, how the towns on either side wither, and how he finds comfort in his Irish ballad. But the poem ends on a disturbing image of the other walkers on the bridge behind “sun-shaded eyes.”
Yaka Kane’s brought a poem named after the nesting Russian dolls called “Matryoshka Dolls” in which the nesting dolls become a metaphor for intimacy in relationships, and the passing days are represented as nesting dolls, and the faults, evasions, silences and so forth of the relationship are embedded or embodied in the inner dolls as each new day buries them deeper and, one might suppose, less available to revision, in the body of the relationship. It’s a terribly ambitious poem about a frightening development.
Hopefully, we await the return of our co-leader Frank Rubino.
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