An Agave, Ocotillos And A Poem

Agave in the West
Donald Davie

…I think of Agave,
Queen of the maenads…

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hiking CDRI
photo by John Mark Jennings ©

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Poetry at the Post, Day 20: Back Home for Last “Poetry at the Post” This Cycle

“Sophomores” by Meghan O’Rourke
From Halflife,
W.W. Norton & Company, 2007

It’s America, 1993, and the malls
are cool and clean. Don’t you know,
like me, no one gets out alive.

Morning Walk  Photo courtesy of John Jennings
Morning Walk
Photo courtesy of John Jennings

For my last “Poetry at the Post” this cycle, I decided—after 18 worldwide poets— to return home with a writer who has ties to this part of Texas.

I read O’Rourke’s Halftime several years ago and several of the poems touched me deeply. Yesterday afternoon, while dusting (so much endless dusting in the desert…) and rearranging books, I rediscovered Halflife. I flipped through it at random and settled on “Sophomores.”

As we know, a poet’s poem becomes something else in the hands of each reader. Shaped by personal experiences, we see things in them that perhaps were never meant to be.

Last fall, I spent a few months living in Medellin,Colombia in a high rise apartment within walking distance of an upscale mall. It was super: swank pool, tropical landscape and two large patios with views of the Andes and the city below. However, if I just wanted to step out for a walk and grab a bite to eat, pick up some milk, etc. I had to go to the mall.

The little I knew before hand about Medellin did not prepare me for the locals’ love of Malls. Everything is in the malls, including the supermarkets.

“Weren’t you scared in Colombia?” I’m often asked. Not necessarily but I was careful. However, I did have a fear that I would never “get out of the malls.”

Medellin My walk to the Mall
Medellin
My walk to the Mall

Of course, O’Rourke’s poetry is so much more than malls and my musings on my past.

My favorite line from “Sophomores” is “I’m the princess with a hole in my heart.” I’ve felt like that before. Perhaps not a princess, but a woman with a “hole in her heart.”

I look forward to reading O’Rourke’s newest book The Long Goodbye, A Memoir.

Poetry at the Post, Day 19: Chuvash Poet, Gennady Aygi

“Five Matryoskas”by Gennady Aygi, as translated by Sarah Valentine

Russian-Matroshka Dolls  CC BY-SA 3.0
Russian-Matroshka Dolls
CC BY-SA 3.0

3
with an idea
You surround us
as with silk

When I was a child I had a set of Russian Matryoshka Dolls. I’m not sure who gave them to me, or whatever happened to them but I used to love playing with these wooden dolls, nesting and un-nesting them. Who knows? Perhaps these little dolls were the spark that guided me to major in Russian.

“Gennady Aygi (1934-2006) is widely considered to be one of the great avant-garde poets from the former Soviet Union.” The starkness of his poetry attracts me. In “Five Matryoshkas, a poem inspired by the birth of Aygi’s son, we begin in the center of the nest and move outward—in a series of five fragmentary moments. Each section is like each doll in itself—complete.

Here’s a video of Sarah Valentine reading a selection of Aygi’s poems:

Into The Snow, Selected Poems of Gennady Aygi, Translated by Sarah Valentine, Wave Books, 2011

And, an interview with Sarah Valentine by Tim Johnson on Marfa Public Radio:
http://marfapublicradio.org/blog/talk-at-ten/a-conversation-with-poet-and-translator-sarah-valentine/

Some great photos of the people of the Chuvash Republic:

Poetry at the Post, Day 17: Gone to Ghana with Kwesi Brewe

“The Search” by Kwesi Brewe

The past
Is but the cinders
Of the present;

The future

The smoke

That escaped

Into the cloud-bound sky.

2010 Opening Ceremony - Ghana entering CC BY 2.0v Jude Freeman
2010 Opening Ceremony – Ghana entering
CC BY 2.0v
Jude Freeman

Ghanaian poet, Kwesi Brewe (1928 – 2007), was a poet-diplomat in the tradition of a long line of poets from Chaucer to Octavio Paz.

“The Search” suggests for me life’s journey on the pathway for truth and wisdom. I find interest in this intersection of philosophy and religion, the East and the West:

When wise men become silent,
It is because they have read
The palms of Christ
In the face of Buddha.

Yes, there is “rain” in this poem. It’s as if my subconscious is witching for water. It is hot and dry in the West Texas desert. We await the rain.

http://www.poetryfoundationghana.org/index.php/en/miscellanous-poems/item/265-the-search

Here’s some Sunday inspiration: “Fefeefe” by Gifty Osei

Today’s post is dedicated to my friends who will be teaching in Ghana next year.

Poetry at the Post, Day 16: ISTANBUL & “Thus Bare Shoulder’d”

“Thus Bare Shoulder’d” by Gülseli İnal, as translated by Sebnem Susam


Pale and forgetful I was
returning from the lands of rain on my wings raindrops…

which had fought with Zephyr

Yes, I am dreaming about rain in the hot desert and in this poem I found myself in the middle of a myth, a dream, the fairies. I could sense the wind—from the west, the raindrops. I felt the magic, the story.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Flora And Zephyr (1875)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) – Flora And Zephyr (1875)

…be it yours
these crystal fingers thus bare shoulder’d be it yours this this rose-
leaved temple.

You can read the poem here: http://www.turkishpoetry.net/gulseliinal.htm

cc-by-sa-2.5 gittim gezdim muazzam yapmışlar böyle bir güzellik hiç görmemiştik
cc-by-sa-2.5 gittim gezdim muazzam yapmışlar böyle bir güzellik hiç görmemiştik

#instanbul2014thiswillbegrand

Poetry at the Post, Day 15: Onward to Greece! —and a poem by Katerina Iliopouolou

On weakened legs I walked around the town the whole day. I took photographs” by Katerina Iliopoulou, as translated by John O’Kane

Ia Santorini-2009- Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0
Ia Santorini-2009-
Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0
#onwardtogreece2014


The Hungarian photographer André Kertész with his walking (during thirty years) wore out the network of streets of at least three cities. Eighty-five now, confined (by grief) to his apartment…

Katerina Iliopoulou is a poet, artist and translator, who lives and works in Athens.

What I like this poem is the convergence of so many places that have personal meaning. The stream of images leading to an unexpected ending is quite wonderful too.

In Paris he photographed himself double closing his eyes and a crumpled half-opened white door reflecting in the mirror.

You can read more about Iliopoulou and the entire poem here: http://iliopoulou.wordpress.com/bio/

Andre Kertesz (1894 - 1985)  Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920 Denver Art Museum #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014
Andre Kertesz (1894 – 1985)
Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920
Denver Art Museum
#lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014

Poetry at the Post, Day 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

Poetry at the Post, Day 14: Bulgaria Anyone? да, Bulgaria!

“Noah, The Carrier” by Kristin Dimitrova, as translated by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

The Season of Delicate Hunger Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing
The Season of Delicate Hunger
Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry, Accents Publishing

To Gilgamesh*, however, he’d spoken like this:

I freed a pigeon, but it returned.
I freed a swallow—same thing.

I was going to head next to Greece at The Post but decided to stop in Bulgaria along the way. Today’s poem is by Kristin Dimitrova, a Bulgarian poet whose work appears in the 2014 Anthology of Contemporary Bulgarian Poetry The Season of Delicate Hunger, edited by Katerina Stoykova-Klemer .

Lake Pancharevo in southern Sofia

I like this poem because thematically it explores myth & legend and truth. We all have those friends who only tell you what you want to hear and then again, many times folks only hear what they want to hear. How much of religion or history is truth? As, we know, history is always written from the viewpoint of the victor, or dominant culture.

There is no way
Truth does not make a good legend
Yet legend is truth’s only carrier.

In an interview Dimitrova says, “I’d like American readers to know that Bulgarian poetry exists.” I must admit I know little about Bulgaria, well, okay, almost nothing.

You can read more about Dimitrova as well as the entire poem “Noah, the Carrier” here. There’s a fun twist at the end.

http://accents-publishing.com/blog/2013/12/10/meet-a-bulgarian-poet-kristin-dimitrova

#spaldingmfa

*The Gilgamesh is one of my favorite epics and we’ll be reading it in the Global Reading Group, a virtual literary salon.