Saturday, June 03, 2006

Daily Poem Project, Weeks 7 and 8

Since class did not take place on Tuesday, May 23 (as I was on paternity leave after Sara's birth), the votes for week 7 (Tuesday, May 16, to Monday, May 22) and week 8 (Tuesday, May 23, and Monday, May 29) both took place in class on Tuesday morning, May 30.

The vote for week 7 had a clear winner: Ingeborg Bachmann's poem "I Step Outside Myself," as translated by Peter Filkins, received six votes. Three poems received three votes each: Robert Creeley's "Talking," Luciano Erba's "Without a Compass (as translated by Ann Snodgrass), and Davis McCombs's "The Elgin Marbles." As for me, I voted (along with only one other person) for Henry Taylor's "A Crosstown Breeze," the only poem which made me go "wow" when I finished reading it. I enjoyed Taylor's smooth transitions between present experience and past memory (and, as usual this term, the poem's rhyming).

Creeley's poem was very memorable, too, so I did consider it carefully before deciding to vote for the Taylor. I even exchanged some email with my friend Angie Harris about it: Creeley's sharp observations about how conversation sometimes works came back to me when Angie made a comment about her own "special conversational backwardness," that of the philosophy student who often sees everyday discussions as examples of philosophical debates (something that I love to experience).

The vote for week 8 was closer: 6-5 for the first two poems. The winner was "The Nosebleed," by Rachel Hadas, with Robert Pinsky's "Pliers" in second place. Hadas's beautiful description and interpretation of an everyday scene is impressive and memorable: the speaker observes a woman and her daughter on the street, having thought (correctly) that the daughter was having a nosebleed. She concludes:

love as rocking cradle that two can rest in,
bodies nested, cupped in one curve of shelter;
question, answer; need met as it arises.
Trouble breeds comfort.

I wonder if it was the well-earned power of that final line that caught people's attention.

For the first time ever, the poem I voted for received no other votes: J. Allyn Rosser's "Gym Dance with the Doors Wide Open." Again, I surely fell for the poem's lovely rhyming, but I was probably also inclined to vote for Rosser because she is an acquaintance of mine from days in Philadelphia, one whose work I have been enjoying for several years now. Hadas's poem came close for me, but I decided to vote for Rosser instead.

Of special mention here is Yves Bonnefoy's spectacular "Let This World Endure," as translated by Hoyt Rogers. This long poem reads like a beautiful prayer, and Rogers's translation is wholly convincing.

Week 6
Week 5
Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1 (with explanation of project)

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