24 December 2012

countdown to new year's: round 3, day 1

Yesterday, as I started to think about the next few days and the engagement I wanted to have with the poems that remain in this challenge (Can you believe we started with 24 poets and are now down to just six?!), I had a change of heart. Not about this challenge ... But originally I wanted to do a "deeper analysis" of the poems remaining through close readings. (If you don't know what a close reading of a poem is, or have never done one, I recommend you check out this article from U Penn describing how to do a close reading, and this sample close reading of an Emily Dickinson poem from Poets.org.)

But then I decided ... I wanted to feel the poems, not dissect them.

Don't get me wrong, I know the value of tearing a poem apart to get at its heart. One of the things I try to emphasize when teaching poetry (or creative nonfiction, or any writing really) is the importance of spending time with a piece you are trying to understand, looking at it bit by bit, inch by inch, to figure out what's going on below the surface. But you know what ... I've spent two weeks with these poems now. I've looked them over. I've let them speak to me on a heart and mind level. Now I want something more. I want to let them speak through me. So that's what I've decided to do. Rather than a dissection, I've opted to do written responses to the poems, to see which poets and poems "speak to me," and how they play with my own poetic. I think it's a little more fun ... and leaves a little more room for fun for anyone who's been following this challenge (hopefully you'll see what I mean in the "Your Turn" section).

With that said ... On to Day 1!

W.B. Yeats vs Leopold Senghor

When We Were Young
After W.B. Yeats' "When You Are Old"

When we were young and dressed in sable days,
And all the world born fresh, before your eyes
The world was but a lover in disguise
And mystery was written in your ways.

So many loved to gaze upon you then,
When there upon your brow beauty was scribed;
But I loved, not your living, but your life,
And all the shadows scribbled in your skin;

And I would raise you up against the stars,
To sing a sable song and name you mine
And leave this sundried sordid world behind
To hide us in a place where time was ours.

Nights Inside
After Leopold Senghor's "Night in Sine"

Man, with pressing fingers on my spine,
Press me softer than snow.
Beyond these walls the pines, gently whispering
Against twilight. Call this our night song.
Me cradled in your arms. You cradled.
Feel the breeze between us. Blood pulsing against,
Within, that river Nile course laid by of our veins.

Hear the moonbeams call your name against the hills
The pearls of secrets hushed in shadowed silence, and how ancestors
Wilt into quilted sleep, moldered, the fine grains
Souled, their souls, pushing in against like babies in the womb
Too heavy now to hold back any longer.

Hear the river wandering the territories of dreams,
Cradling a bed of clay, drenched in its own sweet kiss.
Our roof a star field – How many of our wishes
Cling and cleave that plaster? And here, we burn
Each pining for the bones we know and cannot touch.

Man, remember the rhythm of Ancestor
Love, conversing with rose colored hips, hushed locked doors.
Do the dance of the Euphrates , inching further inland, crushing the shore
With each exiled breath. Do not let them die, not their voices,
Not their dreams. Let me feel their song in you, a shimmering trace—
Soul lingered in your mouth. Let me lean my head
Into your bones, your cavities, as warm as fire embers pressed into dust,
Let me gather myself in you, gather the remnants of the dead,
Speak in tongues. Here where I learn and relearn and relearn
To live, to die, to soak you into my skin
As though you were always mine.

Your Turn: I encourage you to write a response to a poem that really "speaks to you"-- one that touches you, inspires you, or just always manages to "get you." What, in poems that you consider particularly memorable, is it that draws you in and keeps you there? Feel free to share your comments, thoughts, interpretations, and poems in the comments below!

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Check out the original poems that inspired the poems above

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