* moody mooning with stafford & gilbert

If you were a scientist, if you were an explorer who had been to the moon. . . What you said would have the force of that accumulated background of information; and any mumbles, mistakes, dithering, could be forgiven . . . But a poet – whatever you are saying, and however you are saying it, the only authority you have builds from the immediate performance, or it does not build. The moon you are describing is the one you are creating.  From the very beginning of your utterance you are creating your own authority.
(William Stafford)

trojanLast Friday, I had the pleasure of talking at Foy H. Moody High School (Go Trojans!), the high school I graduated from in Corpus Christi, Texas. My talk was structured around the above quote from William Stafford and the idea of writing as performance. Along with reading poems about the moon, I provided students with index cards where they could try their hand at describing/creating the moon. Here’s one that a student, Ashley, was kind enough to allow me to share here:

It makes me want to swallow
my tears, it makes me believe
I can forget my fears.
It gives me hope.

One of the things that moves me about this young poet’s lyric is how it reaches out to a similar sentiment as the Izumi Shikibu tanka I shared last week. Both lyrics set the solitary figure of the moon against the solitude of the self and work out of that tension a feeling of hope. Truly inspiring!

As part of my visit, I donated copies of Corpus Christi OctavesReasons (not) to Dance, and Everything We Think We Hear to the library. As I made my way through readings from Reasons and Everything, I found the moon popping up over and over again in the poems, serendipitously chiming along with the framework of my talk. It was one of those happy accidents that happen while teaching that, in a way, show your intuition paying off.

When a student asked why I thought the moon came up in the poems so much, I surprised myself again by sharing that it might have something to do with having shared a room as a child with my mother. She would work late nights, and often I would stay awake in bed staring out the window. And most nights the moon was there; when not, then the stars.

Looking back on this moment, I can’t help thinking about the following poem by Jack Gilbert, where he gives his own moon-reasoning:

Secrets of Poetry – Jack Gilbert

People complain about too many moons in my poetry.
Even my friends ask why I keep putting in the moon.
And I wish I had an answer like when Archie Moore
was asked by a reporter in the dressing room
after the fight, “Why did you keep looking in
his eyes, Archie? The whole fight you were
looking in his eyes.” And old Archie Moore said,
“Because the eyes are the windows to the soul, man.”

738px-Galileo's_sketches_of_the_moon
* mirrors to the sol *

Another “wish I could back and share” thought: It completely slipped my  mind that in the Octaves I have the following poem where I riff and hold conversation with the Stafford quote. I share it here in the spirit of belatedness:

The moon you are describing is the one you are creating
– William Stafford

How many moons between us, friend?
I meet you under circumstances
bad and good: bad, because you’re not here,
good, because I get to listen

and hear the moon you’d have me see.
Moon of my own efforts: where to start?
My questions? What are questions? Tonight,
the moon is in the shape of one.

*

Special thanks to Simon Rios and Melissa Yanez of Moody for helping set up the talks! Thanks also to Ashley, Marcos, and all the other students who participated in the talk about the moon!

Happy lunaring!

José

 

* moon tidings via kathleen jamie

First, a bit of news: the new issue of RHINO Poetry is available for purchase! Check out my poem “Joe” – selected for the 2015 Editor’s Prize – here as well as selections of other fine work in issue here. Thank you to everyone at RHINO for their support!

***

This weekend brings with it a total lunar eclipse which is being reported to be the shortest lunar eclipse of this century. In honor of its brevity, here’s the shortest poem I have about the moon:

Moon – Jose Angel Araguz

A widow turning over in her sleep.

 

* blushing moon *
* blushing moon *

Working on a recent manuscript recently, I got called out about the moon: It’s always the moon! And it’s true, I do try to hang too much on it. It’s hard not to. From Li Po getting drunk underneath it and Sir Philip Sidney’s “sad steps” to Philip Larkin’s “lozenge of love” and this week’s poem, the moon keeps being sought after with interest and fascination.

…like a coin we spend, only to find again (sorry couldn’t help it 🙂 ).

This week’s poem – “Moon” by Kathleen Jamie – put the moon on my mind again when I read it earlier this week. It does what I work hard to do when talking about the moon, which is bring it into conversation with the personal in a new way.

Jamie’s poem was featured in The Best American Poetry Blog series “Introducing Scottish poets” curated by Robyn Marsack – find out more about her work and others here.

Moon – Kathleen Jamie

Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic-room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.

It was August. She travelled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,

and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects

stirred, as in a rockpool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;

the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harboured some intention,

I waited; watched for an age
her cool glaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall

then glide to recline
along the pinewood floor
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, we’re both scarred now.

Are they quite beyond you,
the simple words of love? Say them.
You are not my mother;
with my mother, I waited unto death.

 from The Overhaul  (Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2015)

***

Happy mooning!

Jose

* beyond mockery with philip larkin

Shared some of Philip Larkin’s work with students this week. I see him as a good example of playing content rebelliously while within formal structures.

In the poem below, one can see what I mean in these lines about the moon:

Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements!

There’s something beyond mockery going on here. He starts with an exaggerated phrase very much in the style of Renaissance poets (the title refers to a sonnet by Sir Philip Sidney), but by the time one reads “wolves of memory,” there’s a self-deprecating edge apparent to the pronouncements, which is also in keeping with the overall meditation of aging in the poem.

* lozenge of what now? *
* lozenge of what now? *

Sad Steps – Philip Larkin

Groping back to bed after a piss
I part thick curtains, and am startled by
The rapid clouds, the moon’s cleanliness.

Four o’clock: wedge-shadowed gardens lie
Under a cavernous, a wind-picked sky.
There’s something laughable about this,

The way the moon dashes through clouds that blow
Loosely as cannon-smoke to stand apart
(Stone-coloured light sharpening the roofs below)

High and preposterous and separate—
Lozenge of love! Medallion of art!
O wolves of memory! Immensements! No,

One shivers slightly, looking up there.
The hardness and the brightness and the plain
Far-reaching singleness of that wide stare

Is a reminder of the strength and pain
Of being young; that it can’t come again,
But is for others undiminished somewhere.

***

Happy undiminishing!

Jose

* prose poem buzz & Max Jacob

Poem of the Moon

There are upon the night three mushrooms that are the moon. As brusquely as the cuckoo sings from a clock, they rearrange themselves at midnight each month. There are in the garden rare flowers that are small sleeping men, one-hundred of them. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my dark room a luminous censer that swings, then two… phosphorescent aerostats. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my head a bumblebee speaking.

*buzzoverkill*
*whatcha thinkin’?*

And because I like working in threes, here is one more foray into the prose poem – this time with the renown French poet Max Jacob.

In talking about prose poetry, one must always acknowledge the fact that the tradition began in French literature.  Here’s the quote from Charles Baudelaire that, if you haven’t run into it yet, will possibly make you a believer:

Which one of us has not dreamed, on ambitious days, of the miracle of a poetic prose: musical, without rhythm or rhyme; adaptable enough and discordant enough to conform to the lyrical movements of the soul, the waves of revery, the jolts of consciousness?

Since these famous words were given to the world, many have laid open their dreams and given back their versions of poetic prose.

The poem below is one of the first prose poems I read that really had me nodding my head saying: yes, that’s it, that’s what you do in a poem.  I love the way it captures that moment of jolt when you look closer at your surroundings and see something you’ve neglected to notice.

***

The beggar woman of naples

When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, I saw that what I had taken for a beggar woman was a wooden case painted green which contained some red earth and a few half-rotten bananas …

***

Happy bananas!

Jose

* pic found here.