Catherine Chandler's Poetry Blog

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cuenta atrás 1: María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira

Countdown poem #1:  "La rima vacua" (The Empty Rhyme) by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, the greatest Latin American poet of her generation, and in the history of Uruguay.

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira





La rima vacua by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira

Grito de sapo
llega hasta mí de las nocturnas charcas...
la tierra está borrosa y las estrellas
me han vuelto las espaldas.

Grito de sapo, mueca
de la armonía, sin tono, sin eco,
llega hasta mí de las nocturnas charcas...

La vaciedad de mi profundo hastío
rima con él el dúo de la nada.



La sensación de lo inútil de su existencia llega a la negación de su esencia corporal en "La rima vacua", se ve hundida en las charcas, su canto rima con el de los sapos. La conciencia de su descenso desde lo lúcido e inteligente, hasta identificarse con el más bajo de la sustancia animal, casi nos subleva. ¡Cuánto habrá sufrido la poetisa excelsa para llega a expresar algo que apenas entrevió Doré, o si se quiere Goya! Sólo una persona que capta su disolución propia en una alucinación genial que puede haber concebido esta pesadilla de horror. Desde lo alto de la poetisa -Walkiria hasta la charca de la poetisa- sapo, ha bajado hasta la autohumillación de su divina esencia. -- Hyalmar Blixen





















Listen to a toad croaking.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Cuenta atrás 2: Delmira Agustini

Countdown poem #2: La Ruptura (The Split) by Delmira Agustini. The true side(s) of her story.

Source: dodho.com




La ruptura

Érase una cadena fuerte como un destino,
Sacra como una vida, sensible como un alma;
La corté con un lirio y sigo mi camino
Con la frialdad magnífica de la Muerte... Con calma

Curiosidad mi espíritu se asoma a su laguna
Interior, y el cristal de las aguas dormidas,
Refleja un dios o un monstruo, enmascarado en una
Esfinje tenebrosa suspensa de otras vidas.
















Friday, December 25, 2015

Cuenta atrás 3: Circe Maia

Countdown poem #3: "Escalones" (Steps) by Circe Maia.






Escalones

Cambios pequeños y tenaces.

Bajo el cielo ya un grado
de luminosidad o de tibieza.

Ha caído más polvo sobre el piso o la silla.

Pequeñísima arruga se dibuja o se ahonda.

Hay un nuevo matiz en el sonido
de la voz familiar (¿Lo notarías?)

En un coro confuso de entreveradas voces
faltan algunas, otras
aparecen.

La misma
suma total: no hay cambios.

Millonésima ola golpea
millonésima roca
y el degaste
imperceptíble y cierto
avanza.









Thursday, December 24, 2015

Cuenta atrás 4: Marosa Di Giorgio

Countdown poem #4: "Este melón es una rosa" (This melon is a rose) by Marosa Di Giorgio.





Este melón es una rosa


Este melón es una rosa,
este perfuma como una rosa,
adentro debe tener un ángel
con el corazón y la cintura siempre en llamas.
Este es un santo,
vuelve de oro y de perfume
todo lo que toca;
posee todas las virtudes, ningún defecto,
Yo le rezo,
después lo voy a festejar en un poema.
ahora, sólo digo lo que él es:
un relámpago,
un perfume,
el hijo varón de las rosas.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Cuenta atrás 5: Paula Einöder


Countdown poem #5: "Poema roto" (Broken Poem) by  Paula Einöder.

The punctuation (or lackof it) is somewhat disconcerting.

Market Street Bridge over the Susquehanna River, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania


Poema roto

Le quito páginas al río
y cuando digo río
escucho a los pájaros agolparse en los ramajes viscerales
para por fin desmenuzarse en el cielo disuelto
No. Le arranco páginas al río
Quiero decir –intento lo que no se puede
Detener al río no se puede
No se le pueden quitar todas las hojas al río
Detener lo escrito en el agua
Pero le quito las páginas al río
Me defino por eso. Y lo hago
Atravieso una penumbra. Pero el río es una máquina feliz.
Existe aparte de mí. No me espera ni se inmuta
y yo escribo sola
No digo –ahogada- pero pienso que el río
escribe versiones que luego desleo
sintiendo mi problema de enfoque
Igual, las páginas se escriben solas
y yo estoy sola cuando escribo
e intento quitarle páginas al río







Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cuenta atrás 6: Cristina Peri Rossi

Countdown poem #6: "Oración"  (Prayer) by Cristina Peri Rossi.  After reading the poem (and translating it), I thought of THIS.




Oración

Líbranos, Señor,
de encontrarnos,
años después,
con nuestros grandes amores.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Cuenta atrás 7: Juana de Ibarbourou

Countdown poem #7: "Rebelde" (Rebel) by Juana de Ibarbourou.


Rebelde

Caronte: yo sere un escándalo en tu barca
mientras las otras sombras recen, giman, o lloren
y bajo tus miradas de siniestro patriarca
las timidas y tristes, en bajo acento, oren.


Yo ire como una alondra cantando por el rio
y llevare a tu barca mi perfume salvaje
e irradiare en las ondas del arroyo sombrio
como una azul linterna que alumbrara en el viaje.


Por mas que tu no quieras, por mas guiños siniestros
que me hagan tus dos ojos, en el terror maestros,
Caronte, yo en tu barca sere como un escándalo


y extenuada de sombra, de valor y de frio,
cuando quieras dejarme a la orilla del rio
me bajaran tus brazos cual conquista de vandalo.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cuenta atrás 8: Idea Vilariño

Countdown poem number 8: El mar (The Sea) by Idea Vilariño.

Playa Brava, Punta del Este, Uruguay. Photo by Catherine Chandler
El Mar

Tan arduamente el mar,
tan arduamente,
el lento mar inmenso,
tan largamente en sí, cansadamente,
el hondo mar eterno.

Lento mar, hondo mar,
profundo mar inmenso...

Tan lenta y honda y largamente y tanto
insistente y cansado ser cayendo
como un llanto, sin fin,
pesadamente,
tenazmente muriendo...

Va creciendo sereno desde el fondo,
sabiamente creciendo,
lentamente, hondamente, largamente,
pausadamente,
mar,
arduo, cansado mar,
Padre de mi silencio.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cuenta atrás 9: Ida Vitale



Countdown 9: "Mariposa, poema" (Butterfly, Poem) by Ida Vitale.



Mariposa, poema

En el aire estaba
impreciso, tenue, el poema.
Imprecisa también
llegó la mariposa nocturna,
ni hermosa ni agorera,
a perderse entre biombos de papeles.
La deshilada, débil cinta de palabras
se disipó con ella.
¿Volverán ambas?
Quizás, en un momento de la noche,
cuando ya no quiera escribir
algo más agorero acaso
que esa escondida mariposa
que evita la luz,
                                 como las Dichas.





Friday, December 18, 2015

Cuenta atrás 10: Amanda Berenguer

With ten days left until I leave for Uruguay, I've decided to post ten poems by Uruguayan women poets.

This one, "Tarea doméstica"  (Housework) is by Amanda Berenguer.

"Woman Sweeping" by Albert H. Krehbiel

Tarea Doméstica

Sacudo las telarañas del cielo
desmantelado
con el mismo utensilio
de todos los días,
sacudo el polvo obsecuente
de los objetos regulares, sacudo
el polvo, sacudo el polvo
de astros, cósmico abatimiento
de siempre, siempremuerta caricia
cubriendo el mobiliario terrestre,
sacudo puertas y ventanas, limpio
sus vidrios para ver más claro,
barro el piso tapado de deshechos,
de hojas arrugadas, de ceniza,
de migas, de pisadas,
de huesos relucientes,
barro la tierra, más abajo, la tierra,
y voy haciendo un pozo
a la medida de las circunstancias.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Abacus

Calculating-Table by Gregor Reisch: Margarita Philosophica, 1503.





 Abacus

A monotone of multipartite prose
divides into a calculated text;
its quirky quotient and remainder pose
as ciphers, cybernetic, multiplexed

a linear equation in disguise.
Well, count me out of that, but count me in
the metric system (though this be unwise),
and let me wallow in my cardinal sin:

an aggregate of sonnet, villanelle,
of terza rima and the odd blank verse,
rondeau, pantoum, the triolet as well.
Go on. Black list me. I can think of worse.

And since I reckon that the rate is prime,
despite the sum of others' wasted wrath,
I'll bloody tick them off and tick off time
until the Galilean aftermath.


-- Catherine Chandler



Monday, November 30, 2015

Ballad of the Picton Castle



I'm pleased to report that my poem, Ballad of the Picton Castle, has been chosen as one of The Rotary Dial's best poems of 2015.

It can be found on pages 14 through 17 HERE.

Thanks, Pino and Alexandra!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Jugando a cunas y tumbas: "Único poema" de María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira




María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, one of the greatest Latin American poets of all time, at first did not want this poem to be included in her collection, La isla de los cánticos, because, as she told her brother, "no one would understand it".

Único poema

Mar sin nombre y sin orillas,
soñé con un mar inmenso,
que era infinito y arcano
como el espacio de los tiempos.

Daba máquina a sus olas,
vieja madre de la vida,
la muerte, y ellas cesaban
a la vez que renacían.

¡Cuánto hacer y morir
dentro la muerte inmortal!
Jugando a cunas y tumbas
estaba la Soledad…

De pronto un pájaro errante
cruzó la extensión marina;
“Chojé… Chojé…” repitiendo
su quejosa marcha iba.

Sepultóse en lontananza
goteando “Chojé… Chojé…”;
desperté, y sobre las olas
me eché a volar otra vez.


--- María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"from Leaden Sieves --- "




First snow of the season, Saint-Lazare, Québec. photo by Catherine Chandler
clr gif

It sifts from Leaden Sieves - (311)

Emily Dickinson, 1830 - 1886

 

It sifts from Leaden Sieves -
It powders all the Wood.
It fills with Alabaster Wool
The Wrinkles of the Road -

It makes an Even Face
Of Mountain, and of Plain -
Unbroken Forehead from the East
Unto the East again -

It reaches to the Fence -
It wraps it Rail by Rail
Till it is lost in Fleeces -
It deals Celestial Vail

To Stump, and Stack - and Stem -
A Summer’s empty Room -
Acres of Joints, where Harvests were,
Recordless, but for them -

It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
As Ankles of a Queen -
Then stills its Artisans - like Ghosts -
Denying they have been -


       

































Monday, October 19, 2015

The "mad instead": The motive for metaphor and "uncreation"

A "coursing" mole. Courtesy of TheGuardian.com



Excerpts from an interesting reflection on metaphor (http://hartzog.org) in Richard Wilbur's exquisite Spenserian sonnet, "Praise in Summer":

PRAISE IN SUMMER By Richard Wilbur
 
Obscurely yet most surely called to praise,
As summer sometimes calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air,   I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savor's in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceilings of our day?
 
This is a sonnet specifically about the motive for metaphor, but the motive for metaphor is the motive for all figures of speech, all tropes.

The Speaker in the poem feels called upon to praise the glories of summer. So he offers praise by making three statements that are whimsical and fantastic metaphors.

First, "I said The hills are heavens full of branching ways Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;". Here's a statement that is made up of extended metaphors. The Speaker turns the world upside down and imagines the mole holes and tunnels under the ground as if they are a "series of branching ways in the sky(heavens) and the moles as birds flying in their tunnels. He also adds another metaphor--"star-nosed moles." The moles' noses are compared to the stars in the sky.

The second statement: "I said the trees are mines in air." The speaker continues with the basic reversal of perception: To view the earth and what's under the surface as the heavens and now to view the heavens as the earth, with the trees now viewed as if they were mine shafts burrowing into the heavens.

The third statement: "I said See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!" This statement completes the reversal of heaven and earth. The sparrows are compared to the moles. just as the moles are imagined as birds "flying" overhead the dead beneath the surface of the earth, so the sparrow's flying in the heavens is imagined as a mole burrowing in the sky.

Now comes the great reversal. Wilbur has used the sonnet form with one of its common structures: 6 lines and then 8. Notice the first 6 lines consist of praising the summer by means of his series of metaphors. But now he shifts the focus in the last 8 lines. Just as the speaker's imagination is in full flight, doing figure eights with metaphors, he suddenly stops short and questions what's he's just done. He's questioning the reason for metaphor--this strange bending of the language. He does it by means of two questions:

"And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savor's in this wrenching things awry."
 
The Speaker suddenly wonders what is the motive for metaphor. "Why this mad instead/Perverts our praise to uncreation..." Metaphor is a "mad instead" that "Perverts" praise for the summer--trees and the sky and birds into "uncreation"--metaphorical expressions like "trees are mines in air, "star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead." These images are not part of nature--creation, but the fanciful products of the Speaker's imagination--"uncreation." It is a substitution of one thing for another. A mole for a bird, a mine shaft for a tree trunk. Why not just call a bird a bird and a spade a spade? Notice however, that even in the act of questioning metaphor, the speaker uses one: "Mad" instead is a metaphor comparing the replacement of one thing by another to a crazy person--a personification to boot.

"why Such savor's in this wrenching things awry." The speaker asks another why question. Why is there such pleasure in making metaphor, in "this wrenching things awry." Again, in the act of questioning why there's "such savor's"--such pleasure--in the "mad instead," in turning the world upside down and viewing the heavens as if it were all the tunnels and burrows under the surface of the earth, and the underground as the heavens,--he can't escape using metaphorical language. The pleasure of metaphor is compared to "savor's"--a taste metaphor. The "mad instead" is a savory dish that brings pleasure to the palate. "Wrenching things awry" is also a metaphor, comparing metaphorical language to the act of twisting or bending some object out of shape. So he asks why do we get such pleasure in these language twisting games.

The speaker ends his ruminating on the motives for metaphor by asking two rhetorical questions.

Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceilings of our day?
 
Now we're getting to the point. It's a lovely ironic statement. Here is the motive for metaphor. The answer to the first rhetorical question is yes. Exactly. Sense is so stale that "it must needs derange the world to know it." In other words, ordinary perception is dull.

And the speaker shows us how dull by asking, "To a praiseful eye/ Should it not be enough of fresh and strange/ That trees grow green... " The irony should be clear. There is nothing fresh and strange about saying "trees grow green." It's a dead, cliched statement without insight or excitement--hardly any kind of "Praise."

An now the final irony. Even in the act of suggesting that we don't need the "mad instead" of metaphor--that it should be enough to talk straight and plain--to say a tree is green, he can't finish his thought without resorting to that same mad instead of metaphors: "and moles can course in clay, And sparrows sweep the ceilings of our day?

Moles "coursing in clay" is a metaphor comparing moles moving in their tunnels to boats or cars navigating a course. The act of sparrows flying in the sky is compared to the act of sweeping a floor with a broom. But a further metaphor--the floor becomes the ceiling.

So this poem, which attacks metaphor in favor of plain speech turns out to be a defense of metaphor. If we want to praise the summer or bring fresh insight into any aspect of human life, we do indeed need the "mad instead." Sense is so stale (another metaphor) that it must needs derange (metaphor) the world to know it. The mad instead of metaphor deranges the world, wrenches it awry out of its conventional patterns in order that we can see it again as "fresh and strange."



This blog post was inspired by a posting today by a Facebook friend who wonders whether she will "even get a dead-small-critter poem out of this?" (a squirrel had fallen down her chimney and was frantically trying to get out).

I'm almost certain she will. Go for it, Maryann!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Oink! Oink!



Pig Wrestling by Carrie Jerrell

Well-greased and terrified, it screeches its way
into the pen where we four high-school girls,
last year’s division champs, anticipate
its first evasive move. It barrels left,
zig-zagging right between us while we slog
barefoot, our jeans rolled to the knees, through the muck
three inches deep. The crowd shouts strategies
as we close in, the pig prepares to dodge
us like a cornered memory that’s stuck
somewhere between forbidden and forgotten.
We spring together, struggle to subdue
it, stop its squealing, feel its slimy skin
beneath us — muscles twitching. When the bell calls time,
it twists off in escape, just like those thoughts
that bolt away after their capture, more
alive than when you pinned them for the count.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Poem in Measure


My sonnet, "Afterwords", has been published in Measure, Volume X Issue I. Actually, it is the 5th and final poem in my long poem, "Almost", which will appear in my next book.

Friday, October 2, 2015

¡ Feliz aniversario !

El casamiento de Cathy y Hugo

Amor

Lo soñé impetuoso,  formidable y ardiente;
hablaba el impreciso lenguaje del torrente;
era un mar desbordado de locura y de fuego,
rodando por la vida como un eterno riego.
 
Luego soñélo triste, como un gran sol poniente
que dobla ante la noche la cabeza de fuego;
después rió, y en su boca tan tierna como un ruego,
soñaba sus cristales el alma de la fuente.

Y hoy sueño que es vibrante y suave y riente y triste,
que todas las tinieblas y todo el iris viste,
que, frágil como un ídolo y eterno como Dios,

sobre la vida toda su majestad levanta:
y el beso cae ardiendo a perfumar su planta
en una flor de fuego deshojada por dos....


-- Delmira Agustini, El libro blanco (Frágil), 1907






Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Beautiful Changes

Photo: garlandcannon (flickr)




The Beautiful Changes

On this first day of autumn, I am reminded of one of Richard Wilbur's most beautiful poems, "The Beautiful Changes", which begins . . .

One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides   
The Queen Anne’s Lace lying like lilies
On water

You may read the poem in its entirety HERE.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sinful Sunday



My audio recording of my poem, "Seven Deadly Sonnets".

Previously published as follows:

Superbia -- sunday@six mag, March 2012
Acedia -- Raintown Review, Volume 10, Issue 2, February 2012
Luxuria -- Fox Chase Review, Winter/Spring 2011
Invidia --  Raintown Review, Volume 10, Issue 2, February 2012
Gula -- Blue Unicorn, Volume XXIX, Number 1, October 2005
Ira -- Raintown Review, Volume 10, Issue 2, February 2012
Avaritia -- Raintown Review, Volume 10, Issue 2, February 2012

Published together in my second collection, Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis, 2014)

Ahmed's Clock


Recently published in The New Verse News HERE.



Ahmed’s Clock
A clock stopped -- not the mantel's (Emily Dickinson)


the main board
links

the seven-segment display 
the transformer
 
the 9-volt interface
for power-outage battery backup     

in a circuit-stuffed
pencil box

clocks
don’t look

like
that

Ahmed makes
the connection




© Catherine Chandler, September 20, 2015





Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Road Taken


Wyoming Valley Sunset (Flickr.com)

 

 

The Sirens

by Richard Wilbur


I never knew the road
From which the whole earth didn't call away,
With wild birds rounding the hill crowns,
Haling out of the heart an old dismay,
Or the shore somewhere pounding its slow code,
Or low-lighted towns
Seeming to tell me, stay.

Lands I have never seen
And shall not see, loves I will not forget,
All I have missed, or slighted, or foregone
Call to me now. And weaken me. And yet
I would not walk a road without a scene.
I listen going on,
The richer for regret.



"The Sirens" by Richard Wilbur from Ceremony and Other Poems. © Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1950. Reprinted with permission.(The Writer's Almanac, February 9, 2014)



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wise-ass






"Another Art", my wise-ass parody of Elizabeth Bishop's poem, has been accepted for publication in THIS ANTHOLOGY.

Thanks, Jerry and Ulf!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

" . . . to unearth all we need to know."



My light/dark sonnet, "For Pluto" has now been published on the light verse site, Lighten Up Online.

You may read it HERE.

Thank you, editor Jerome Betts!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Emily Brontë: ". . . in evening's quiet hour . . ."

Emily Jane Brontë, portrait by her brother, Branwell


My favorite novel of all time is Wuthering Heights. I can't remember how many times I've read it over the years.

However, I also love the poetry of Emily Brontë.  Her most anthologized poems being "No Coward Soul is Mine", "Remembrance" and "I Am the Only Being Whose Doom".


In her book The Brontës (London: Thames and Hudson, 1969), Phyllis Bentley has this to say:
 
Emily Brontë was a 'space-sweeping soul', to use her own phrase about a philosopher; her thought on life, death, immortality, imagination, liberty, deity, had a depth and a breadth of vision comparable to that of Wordsworth or Shakespeare.

It has been the fashion to speak of her as a metaphysical poet, but I prefer to call her a pantheist; she saw the universe as a whole, and her vision comprehended the lark, the woolly sheep, the snowy glen, the nature of being and God Himself as all part of one great harmony. Nor can her thought be called speculative; she writes with a majestic, almost casual, certainty. These tremendous themes, these minute observations, are both conveyed with an absolute simplicity of language; no purple patches of metaphor or simile, no elaboration of construction, no experiments with metre -- one feels Emily would have thought any such artifices contemptibly vulgar. She merely says what she means in the clearest, hardest hitting terms she can find. But if her metres are conventional and her words austere, her rhythms have a poetry so intense as to be deeply thrilling, in the most literal sense of that expression.


TO IMAGINATION
by Emily Brontë

When weary with the long day’s care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!

So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.

What matters it, that all around
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom’s bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?

Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature’s sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:

But thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o’er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death.
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.

I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening’s quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!



As one who has just completed a new collection of poetry, I can attest to the exhaustion writers often feel at having poured out their heart's essence. The Muse has been an infrequent visitor these past few months, and I sometimes wonder whether she will ever return on a regular basis. Emily Brontë's "To Imagination" gives me hope.

 



********************************************




Wednesday, August 12, 2015

REVIEW: Canadian Literature: "Something new and beautiful"



Philip Miletic's review of Glad and Sorry Seasons appeared in Canadian Literature some time ago. I only learned of it today.

I love this part: Yet, the strength of Chandler’s return to these forms is more than homage, it is revision, revising the patriarchal discourse and “ownership” of older poetic forms and highlighting the constraints and criticisms of women poets who are consistently left out of the “canon”.

Finally, someone who "got" my poem, "Beach Dogs"!

You can read it HERE in its entirety.

Blurb HERE.

He concludes his review of the three books as follows:

Each of the poets looks towards old forms, whether these forms be language itself, poetic forms, or the forms of work. They see in the old a reflection, and, as Winger writes, “the reflection there / might tell me something new.” The old hat, the old cliché, the old form carries the potential to reflect on the present, and through that process of reflection something new and beautiful is created.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

REVIEW: Richard Wakefield on Lines of Flight


Lines of Flight by Catherine Chandler






Lines of Flight
by Catherine Chandler
Able Muse Press 2011
ISBN:  978-0-9865338-3-9
Pages: 98
Reviewed by: Richard Wakefield



Whatever else our brains do – or our hearts, if you prefer a more figurative view – they seem as ineluctably dedicated to reading meaning into the world as our lungs are evolved to separate oxygen from air. It’s as natural as breathing, this process of seeing things in the fourth dimension of significance. Call it the confluence of the outer and inner worlds.

Catherine Chandler is one of the skilled and discerning few who help us navigate the resulting stream. In place of the fragments of meaning glimpsed by most of us most of the time, Chandler gives us a coherent view of the course along which we speed. The view sometimes enlarges us, makes us more at home in the world, and at others forces us to look a little more soberly at the vast and frightening void toward which we are hurled.

In “66” she contemplates a coincidence of toponymy: “Along Route 66, connected by / a six-mile stretch of road, two towns align; / one bears his family name, the other mine.” A charming bit of chance, it seems, a bit of geography that reflects an emotional connection, the kind of thing we might notice and recall as an anecdote. But Chandler traces its meaning far beyond the trivial. “The decommissioned highway’s gone to hell,” she continues, and the fading connection between the two towns becomes a metaphor for the complex ambivalence of human relationships. The road connects; the road separates. We find that we and those we love inhabit “universes spinning parallel.” That may not be the meaning we wanted, but it’s more true to experience than the facile sentimentality we might have preferred.

Someone noted once that poetry gives us tools for living. A poem like “66” does exactly that, nudging us out of complacency and into an awareness that will better serve us. The poem acknowledges the separateness that we work so hard to ignore, and yet, paradoxically, it makes us a little less alone by assuring us that we are not alone in our loneliness.

What better occasion for sentimentality than Mother’s Day? And what can be more oppressive than the narrow, mass-produced emotions that holidays can impose on us? In “Mother’s Day” Chandler opens a woman’s heart to reveal wounds that the woman herself cannot express; in fact, as she weeps, the tyranny of expectations makes others blind to the real meaning of her tears. There must be no more profound loneliness than that. We understand the woman better than those closest to her, and perhaps we understand ourselves and our own loved ones a little better for it.

“Supernova” begins by asking why we should “dull” the beauty of nature with “a lapse to metaphor / or scientific fact, or myth.” A telling word, that “lapse.” Our need to analyze, to probe beneath the surface of beauty, can feel like a fall from grace (perhaps it was that very need that drove Eve to eat the forbidden fruit which, after all, was from the tree of knowledge). At the conclusion of three stanzas that seem to celebrate the “burnished afternoon” in preference to what she will later call “logic, reason, purpose, cause,” the poet asks, “Why resort to words / when hush will do?” The answer comes in the second half of the poem, where we learn that the speaker has come to scatter a loved-one’s ashes: “…I find / it’s easier to release you, as I must, / less harrowing by far, / knowing that all human dust / was once a star.” How do we live through loss? The Book of Common Prayer, with its “dust to dust,” assures us that our senses get it wrong when we see mortal remains as mere elemental dust; science, teaching us that all elements had their origins in the fires of supernovas, assures us that there is nothing “mere” about dust. Either way, our consolation – dare we say our salvation? — comes in our ability to see more than motes.

A big part of a writer’s inner life is, of course, literature. It is no surprise to find that the meaning Chandler finds in the world is informed in part by her wide reading, just as there’s no doubt that her own poetry will become part of many readers’ inner lives. The epigraph to “Journey” comes from Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook,” a poem about how memory conditions our view of what we care deeply about: “We love the things we love for what they are.” What they are, inevitably, is a palimpsest, one impression written over another and over yet another – the sum of our experience of them.

“New Hampshire Interval” pays explicit homage to Frost. At the farm to which Frost returned after his desperate (and successful) quest for recognition in England, Chandler sees the tangible objects, “his Morris chair,” “the woodstove,” “the frosted trees” he tapped for maple sugar (delightful trope, that “frosted"), and she sees them all transformed by her knowledge of Frost’s life and work, hears him “speaking to God about the world’s despair.” Just as Frost himself wrote meaning into the landscape, Chandler writes another page of her own, and for us.

“Vermont Passage” also transforms a landscape, describing the profuse flowers of summer that linger in memory after summer gives way to cold: “I breathe in honeyed memories of clover, / and winter, for a while at least, is over.” We live in two worlds, or many worlds: the literal “bitter night” of winter, along with our memory of what was, which is also our expectation of what will be. Chandler gives texture to the flat world. If there’s any truth to the cliché that poetry reminds us to stop and smell the roses, Chandler’s poetry reminds us that we can also revel in the smells and sights that linger in our recollection. It is the remembered roses we smell most poignantly.

“Lines of Flight” ranges far and deeply. The poems display a craft that is all the more impressive for the way it never distracts us from the scene but, rather, adds a dimension of music and, yes, memorable texture.


Catherine Chandler, an American poet born in New York City and raised in Pennsylvania, completed her graduate studies at McGill University in Montreal, where she has lectured in the Department of Languages and Translation for many years. She is the winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Her poems, interviews, essays and English translations from French and Spanish have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia.





Friday, July 24, 2015

By Special Request for a Facebook Friend






This poem is on page 56 of my book, Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011).


View Mazeroski's home run HERE



Bottom of the Ninth

Mid-afternoon, church over, Dad and I
settled in the living room to read
the Sunday paper with its stout supply
of inserts. He supposed (and I agreed)
there’d be no war— advisers would advise,
Nixon would trounce Kennedy, of course
Luthuli’d never win the Nobel Prize.

With Mazeroski’s brilliant tour de force
undreamed of, weeks away, Dad coolly aced
the crossword, as I scanned the comic strips,
the fashion pages and the book reviews.
In time, this confidence would prove misplaced,
as often happens with apprenticeships.
We were so sure our Yankees couldn’t lose.











And yes, the Yanks lost in 1960. And in 1975.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Meeting on the level of the metrical phrase: A new review of Glad and Sorry Seasons

A new review of Glad and Sorry Seasons by Siham Karami







Glad and Sorry Seasons
By Catherine Chandler
Biblioasis
$18.95

Before reading Catherine Chandler’s latest poetry collection, Glad and Sorry Seasons, I was already familiar with several of the poems in it, and felt I knew, to some extent, what to expect: fine, smooth, well-crafted “formalist” poems. And here we find a wide range of forms, in particular the sonnet, her home turf. But what I discovered in this book transcends this sort of categorization. Or maybe redefines it.

The title (from Shakespeare’s sonnet 19) tells us this is about seasons: the seasons of emotion and the passage of time. She explores this subject from the inside, the places of raw emotion, tamed by the sonics of formal poetry. Although metrical and rhyming poetry in English seems like a far cry from haiku, this interview in Rattle with Richard Gilbert on the subject of haiku gave me a number of interesting parallels showing the universality of form in poetry. I would assert that form is part of the essence of poetry, and the author’s mastery of the forms she uses is essential to how well they work.

Seasons, as Gilbert describes, have their own language in Japanese haiku, with whole dictionaries devoted to “season words” or kigo that “go back for centuries, which is really the vertical depth that makes kigo powerful.” In this sense, kigo may be analogous to literary allusions, a language connecting poetry to its own history.

Another dimension to kigo is that each one refers to a whole set of associations, an “environment.” “Moon” isn’t just the moon, for example.
In Japanese, when we say “moon” in haiku, it’s always the moon-viewing moon… there’s also a sense of impermanent beauty…in the early autumn…a quietly festive time sharing a sense of heart—that’s all included in the kigo.
This sense of a word representing many things is analogous to idiomatic expressions and even clichés, in the sense of common, frequently-used expressions. Chandler uses these types of words, in the tradition of Frost, to evoke a larger feeling with a few words.

For example, in her poem “November,” common expressions are used in unusual combinations to create a confluence of associations.
November is a season all its own—
a month of saints and souls and soldiers. Snow
will soon white out a fallacy of brown.
It is a month of waiting, lying low.
November is a season all its own—
a time for turning back the clock as though
it’s useless to pretend. A dressing-down.
Thin ice entices me to touch and go.
November’s neither here nor there, but here
in dazzling dawns that dissipate to grey;
here in the tilting asymmetric branch
and sharp note of a towering white pine where
the pik and churlee of a purple finch
can either break a heart or make a day.
She’s painted a strongly familiar picture of November: “a season all its own” works like a picture frame. Familiar expressions such as “lying low,” “turning back the clock,” “a dressing-down,” “touch and go,” and “neither here nor there” combine their associative power in unusual ways, to create a striking cadence of emotion. None of these words are the way we think of November. Yet the effect is strangely apt for how we feel about it. The poem takes on layers of new meaning, tinged with foreboding, cut to the possibility of uplift at the end, as if to say “at this point it’s in your hands.” We’re left with the image of the lovely birdsong, which will be what we make of it.

Of course, the dynamic of haiku is entirely different, image-focused, but this quote proposes a greater similarity than we’d think:
Linguistically, these languages, English and Japanese, do not meet at all on the level of the syllable; they meet on the level of the metrical phrase.
(Italics mine.)
So there is a universal element between such disparate forms as, say, the sonnet and haiku. Chandler writes with an uncanny ear for that “metrical phrase,” in its rhythm and rhyme.

One more major and relevant haiku concept is kire or “cutting,” referring to how “the haiku has to be cut in space and time in some way, [which]… has an emotional charge.” This “creates these two broken parts that don’t go together.” And that is like the “turn” of the sonnet, or indeed any good poem, transforming one situation or thing into an entirely different one, “cutting” us out of time and place and seeing something unexpected in a new way. Chandler works in rhyme and meter, almost exclusively. But she “cuts” with exceptional subtlety.

To see how Chandler incorporates both concepts into her poetry, read this poem in an unusual form:
Rush Hour Sonondilla
I celebrate the great sardine,
and count the ways I love it: dried,
in cans, smoked, salted, deep-fat fried,
filleted in soup and fish terrine.
I love it’s pre-cooked beauties, too—
its sleek and shiny silver skin,
its single tiny dorsal fin—
before it hits the barbecue.
Young herring, swimming in the sea,
awash in your Omega-3,
soon you shall pay a hefty price
and end up on a bed of rice.
For now, take heart in that you’re free,
not packed inside this train, like me.
We are told that it’s rush hour by the title. Then swiftly taken into an ode to the sardine with subtle humor. “I celebrate the great…” implies a grand speech, then “cuts” into the unexpected image of a sardine. Like a master illusionist, she draw us into “I count the ways” from a Shakespearean sonnet everyone knows, then into a list of methods of food preparation. The final stanza is so comic and improbable that we forget the title until the last line suddenly “cuts” us back. To what? A cliché! Nice. This shows the use of words with strong common associations to take us out of a place and then plop us back in with everything changed, like a punchline. Oh, and another name for the form “Sonondilla” is “The Sardine.” Another little cutaway for the lucky nerd who reads footnotes, like me.

In a sonnet, I believe the prelude to the turn is of equal importance. Skillful placement of words and the creation of sonics and rhythm is what “floats” the reader in one environment before suddenly being “cut” into another.

The first part establishes a normalcy of action in which there’s an element of expectation but also of convention—hence the “convention” of forms, the sonnet in particular. This idea dovetails perfectly into Chandler’s sonnet to the Sonnet, “Sonnet Love.”
I love the way its rhythms and its rhymes
provide us with a promise, a belief
familiar voices at specific times
may modulate unmanageable grief.
I love the way we’re called to referee
the mind-heart matchup in its scanty ring;
how through it all our only guarantee
is that for fourteen rounds the ropes will sing.
I love the way it makes us feel at home,
the way it welcomes fugitives and fools
who have forgotten all roads lead to Rome
from shared beginnings in the tidal pools.
Life’s unpredictability defies
clean dénouement. I love the way it tries.
After a smooth, lilting progress through the poem, suddenly the final sentence cuts into the middle of the last line, ending on the verb “tries,” the only action we or the Sonnet can take to achieve resolution. “It” has been set up in the poem to refer to the sonnet. Yet despite the pronoun, we are led to feel it is us. We are the ones who try to create “clean dénouement.” And the verb “tries” hangs there, as if searching for the verb “resolve” to make this a clean reply to the “defies.” The “emotional charge” comes not from the repeated word “love,” but from “tries.” It hangs, as we do, never actually finished trying…

Her oft-quoted sonnet that shows how to “modulate” the “unmanageable grief” of the loss of an unborn child, Nemerov prize-winning “Coming to Terms,” takes the reader through the “after” scene in all its emptiness and attempts at resolution to “the artful look of ordinary days,” a powerful phrase that captures how we try, through the art of what must ultimately be a sort of deception, to create continuity in a life that cuts us to the heart, a life that must end. Her poems cut to her own heart to give us the art of resolution in ours.

Her subject matter traverses the emotional “glad and sorry seasons” of aging, loss, illness, both on an individual or mass scale, suicide, the need for love or companionship, the “seven deadly sins” (with modern applications) and, subtly included, the need for God. These days God is discreetly left out of all public discourse, replaced by “nature.” Chandler bucks the trend, her faith and doubts honestly expressed. The poem “When” uses a list poem to gently remind us, in a few strongly associative words, of something higher.

A review of this book wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the translations of French Canadian and Latin American poets, one of whose moving poems, “The Wonderful Boat,” is the title of her blog. These are languages Chandler has lived in; she is Canadian and spends much of her time in South America. Even so, I can hardly imagine how she managed to create such elegant, perfectly rhymed metrical poems in translation. Translation has been described by J.G. McClure as a kind of ekphrasis: “to celebrate the new artistic possibilities of the conversation between two writers.” It helps that her love of these writers shows through in the work. And judging by the final poem (her own) of the book, “Edward Hopper’s Automat,” which has a Hitchcock or Rod Serling cinematic quality and conclusion (think “cut!”), ekphrasis is one of Chandler’s strong suits.

In fact, “formalist” may be a redundant moniker: all poetry is by definition “formal,” but in different ways. “Free verse” employs line breaks. Even prose poetry, as well as free verse, uses the haiku characteristics of specialized associative language, cutting, and a sonic relationship with the language. In short, one can judge all poetry by these criteria, and the rest is a matter of style and taste.
In this larger sense, Chandler succeeds not merely as a writer of poetry in traditional forms and metrics, but of poetry that works to create an “emotional charge” in the reader. Poetry satisfies in ways prose can’t. Done here by one of the best.