Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Under Our Igloo Skies the Frozen Mind Holds to One Truth

  • Serendipity: it happened yesterday, but I can't name names. 
  • Person A visited Poet B this past weekend, Poet B being Person A's godfather, so Poet B had been discussed just this past Monday between me and Person A's sister. Poet B taught Poet C in college. Poet C is a friend, he wrote Bridges to Build below. Yesterday on the new journal cart was the Jan/Feb 18 American Poetry Review, I grabbed it. Inside, a long article by Poet B reminiscing about poets in his life, including Poet C. I didn't know Poet B had taught Poet C until I read the article. I emailed Poet C, Have you seen this? and then scanned and emailed him the article when he said he hadn't. Poet B and Poet C have two different recollections of the past.
  • Gotta stop here, right when it gets good. Serendipity is always Blessed, sometimes it is Cursed.
  • UPDATE! I have the PDF btw, if you want to see the article in question ask.
  • Poetics of the ungovernable.
  • The seeds of revolt are present.
  • Studies in power.
  • Patty Chang's wandering lake.
  • post-truth / new year's song.
  • Bridges to Build.
  • In praise of the unruly.
  • Five minutes earlier the cart wouldn't have got there, five minutes later the cart would have been gone.


Anthony Hecht

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
Where there are twenty-seven words for “snow,”
Not all of them polite, the wayward mind
Basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
Some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
Alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

And O that we were there. But here the natives
Of this grey, sunless city of Rochester
Have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(Bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
Comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

An ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
Bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
Blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
Roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
With sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

Was blessed heaven once, more than an island,
The grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
Was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
Unable to conceive of Rochester,
Made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
Do than some wistful reverie of an island,
Especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn’t mind
Such profitable weather, while the natives
Sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
The single verity of heaven’s making,
Deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
And the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
Where to the natives destiny is snow
That is neither to our mind nor of our making.

1 comment:

  1. hecht's poem speaks of a city winter and the wistful reverie of a tropical island - similarly the following, by james tate, speaks of cold, wind, sleeves, pockets - and also of coconuts and pythons

    I Can't Speak for the Wind
    by James Tate

    I don't know about the cold.
    I am sad without hands.
    I can't speak for the wind
    which chips away at me.
    When pulling a potato, I see only the blue haze.
    When riding an escalator, I expect something orthopedic to happen.
    Sinking in quicksand, I'm a wild appaloosa.
    I fly into a rage at the sight of a double-decker bus.
    I'm a double-agent who tortures himself
    and still will not speak.
    I don't know about the cold,
    But I know what I like I like a tropical madness,
    I like to shake the coconuts
    and fingerprint the pythons, --
    fevers which make the children dance.
    I am sad without hands,
    I'm very sad without sleeves or pockets.
    Winter is coming to this city,
    I can't speak for the wind
    which chips away at me.

    [from Viper Jazz (1976)]


    1)this poem was in the first book of james tate poems our host purchased

    2)this poem is one of three by james tate which were set to music by david leisner

    3)and speaking of songs, hecht speaks of an ark - the title of a song by gerry rafferty

    a)it can be heard as the soundtrack for photos of scottish island scenes from 2011

    b) or you can see the lyrics displayed with a backdrop of ship paintings