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"Cyniquian" Level Poster
Username: Chrishayden

Post Number: 7704
Registered: 03-2004

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Posted on Saturday, January 24, 2009 - 10:51 am:   

This received from a brilliant agnostic lawyer/literati. (They do exist.) I hope it will be of interest, and others of you may respond and circulate. There are numerous comments today in LA Times, Chicago Tribune and Daily News, probably others where an article on the inaugural poem appeared.

My italics. I'm pumped!!!


Ahhhhhhdidn't think it was read very well A common problem for poets (Lord help me), although I think Elizabeth read extraordinarily well. I’ll tr y to figure out why, other than that I was able to follow her technique. Not all audiences have read a good deal of poetry, therefore do not have an “ear” trained to recognize devices/elements. Poets have “voice”; you can tell Coltrane from Dolphy, Handel from Bach, if you have listened to them enough. Readers of poetry are not numerous, a persistent dilemma. However, it is a devoted coterie, and to join, one might read at least the poets cited in my original email (Whitman, Yeats, etc. Throw in Langston Hughes, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan and early Baraka. It is easy to miss a lot when you read them, if you haven’t read earlier 20th century poets in English, and you wouldn’t want to do that.) To really update, see Harryette Mullen, Yusuf Komunyaaka, Cornelius Eady and Lucille Clifton (who recommended Elizabeth for inaugural reading). Will think of others. American poetry has arguably been post-racial for some time now. I fully realize the danger of this assertion, but only make it in recognition of my own synthesis -- and ya'll know I'm down. not sure as written here a poetic structure No such thing, necessarily. Free verse requires neither rhyme nor metric scheme. Blank verse requires only metric scheme. Denise Levertov (British/Russian/Jewish 1923-1947) discussed “organic form” which suggests the optimal form for a poem occurs spontaneously as it is written, preferably in one setting. I have found her theory useful, though I do count syllables. The initial thought lost itself -- the commonality, ending reference to song "walking" </strong>Note preposition: praise song for walking forward in that light.

A praise song, according to Britannia online is: one of the most widely used poetic forms in Africa; a series of laudatory epithets applied to gods by professional bards, men, animals, plants, and towns that capture the essence of the object being praised. Quite appropriate to the occasion, so it seems, and indeed commonly utilized. I don't know
Reading poetry not a rational process? One of those altered states things, perhaps. Do we actually know during meditation, or do we just experience? I didn't get it as spoken
Multiple readings/hearings are necessary to experience most poems. It reads better, but I think it lost connectivity from beginning to end -- not tied together, nor a flowing thought
The GENIUS of the poem is in its oppositions, posed thusly: All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din/each one of our ancestors on our tongues. We need to find a place where we are safe /we walk into that which we cannot yet see. The poet is relating unrelated ideas/images. In other words, one line is restated in terms of another. THIS IS METAPHOR, as in 1) Green tree agendin/Poor sinner stands atremblin (Sing Low, Sweet Chariot, Af Am Spiritual)
Literally, the tree is bending, the si nner is bending as the storm rages; a visual comparison between UNRELATED THINGS – AN ABSTRACT SYMBOLIC RELATIONSHIP, SUCH AS E=MC2OR a+b=c. THIS IS THE HIGHEST FUNCTION OF HUMAN COGNITION, AND OCCURS IN MODERN POETRY AND IN LYRICS CREATED BY AMERICAN SLAVES. THIS IS A VERY BIG DEAL. THIS IS PHYSICS. OUR ANCESTORS DID THIS WHILE WORKING 14 HOURS A DAY WITH NO LUNCH BREAK. 2) The last line (we walk into that which we cannot see) is reminiscent of II Corinthians 5:7: (For we walk by faith, not by sight). The poet has, by including this, grounded her work in African American spirituality. (The Obama’s appears to me to be highly spiritual.) but somber definitelyAu contraire; there are specific references in the poem that are quite joyous in their inference. 1) To resurrection (Obama as Malcolm): Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Here the poet does two things; firstly, ‘Make It Plain’ is the title of the PBS/American Experience documentary on Malcolm X by Orlando Bagwell. The phrases, “Say it plain” or “Make it plain” are customary call and response refrains in the black church. Resurrection is innately a good thing, even if only (for agnostics) as a concept. (Makes me quite happy, actually, but then my risk of burning for infinity is much higher than your own.) Again, African American spirituality is heightened. I’m sure Rick Warren could relate. 2) &nbs p; The first line of the last couplet asserts the infinite potential of humans and the infinite possibilities of human existence: In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun. I love that the poet meshes this idea of infinite possibility with language. But then, I have a vested interest. I have loved reviewing your ideas and will circulate anonymously blog style. rmg
--- On Wed, 1/21/09, ruthm712@aol.com <ruthm712@aol.com> wrote:From: ruthm712@aol.com <ruthm712@aol.com>
Subject: each one of our ancestors on our tongues -- Whew!!!!
Date: Wednesday, January 21, 2009, 1:45 PMDear Elizabeth,

Indisputably canonical: Wallace Stevens conceptual, Walt Whitman colloquial, WB Yeats visionary, Malcolm X courageous (say it plain -- YES!!!), Gwen Brooks metaphoric elegiac cadence.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

Sublime language enthrallment. (Your very own.) Can't wait to teach this, further inhabit. Immensely moved and proud. Please be in touch.



Praise song for the day. Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others' eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky. A teacher says, "Take out your pencils. Begin."

We encounter each other in words, words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, "I need to see what's on the other side; I know there's something better down the road."

We need to find a place where we are safe; we walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

=0 APraise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, the figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self." Others by "First do no harm," or "Take no more than you need."

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp -- praise song for walking forward in that light.

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