Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Garden of Verse: More Poems Blooming, So Quickly in May



            As the month advances I discover more poetic flowers blooming in the May's Verse-Virtual.com, the online poetry journal:
            The poetry of great truths in J.C. Elkin's moving and formally appealing poem "Keening for Eve" found in lines such as:
"...if progress can ever describe modern deaths as acceptable third world reality.
Caesar, Robespierre, Frankenstein’s Shelley lost moms. Stonewall Jackson, too.
And half a million more this year will die in every locality."
          Mary Shelley's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (just to mention one such death), was probably the first successful professional author in the English language, and certainly one of the first feminists, her early death an incredible loss.  
           Elkin's poem "Almost Fledglings" about two baby birds blown from their nest draws on the truth that we feel the little tragedies that cross our path just as we do the big ones -- and sometimes even more deeply.
. "...one is white as an angel, skim milk shades drawn over eyes. The other, purpling,
inflates – deflates, an avian respirator." Beautiful writing puts a face on an ordinary disaster.

David Chorlton's poem "Lyric Botany" imagining "the namers of flowers" is a thorough pleasure, with its elegant allusions to an imaginary etymology. The poem's language is a joy:
"Their work
is to cross-breed language

so that beavertail lives in earth
as it does in water,
plant alliteration
or roadsides with the brittlebush,
and experiment with consonants
until fleabane and madrone grow
from the alphabet's old loam."

His poem "Nyctophobia" (an "irrational fear of night" a new word for me) gives us the poetry of the horror film. The elegance of the language here has the quality of a guilty pleasure as we sense a shudder of truth in the poem's description of 'the mechanical night':
"even the mechanical night
is a low hum
along the freeways, broken
by emergencies,
spinning lights
and insomnia running out
of control."

The entire beautifully packaged group of DeWitt Clinton's poems illustrates the available range of working on a theme such as flowers, or gardens, or spring. Along with their perfectly chosen illustrations and title allusions to the poems of Su Tung Po the group captures the wonder of an everyday world it's easy to lose sight of.
          The poem titled "In a Waiting Room Overlooking the Lake, I See a Bouquet of May Flowers, and Read Su Tung P’o’s 'Begonias'" seems to me to capture the eternal flicker in the temporal flow as the poet recalls bringing home a yellow hibiscus and leaving in wrapped in a plastic bag to protect against frost.
"Alone on the porch next to the snow
Shovel, rusting table and chairs,
the raccoons pause before the light
surprises them with blooms and eyes."
         The image of the summer-bloomer next to the snow shovel is practically a poem in itself. (And I admit being partial to the mention of this flower since I still have the yellow hibiscus I bought last year, keeping inside all winter and still hesitating over when it will be safe enough to put outdoors again.)
           Clinton's poem" After a Long Run Along the Lakefront,
I Try to Nap with Lu Yu’s “Phoenix Hairpins” speaks to this eternal longing as well.
"Daylilies have opened in our village
Soothing what I can’t do myself.

I’d like to be here
When there’s no more time
To let this ink seep into something
That you might want
As something precious, forever.​"

I love Barbara Crooker's personifications of flowers. Don't we all do this sometimes? See others -- or ourselves? -- in plants and other elements of nature, despite having been taught that anthropomorphizing was some sort of sin against reason. "The Hour of Peonies," a praise song for this showy favorite of gardeners, embraces the sensuality of this flower, comparing them to Renoir's fleshy bathers:
"And so are these flowers,
an exuberance of cream, pink, raspberry, not a shrinking violet among them.
They splurge, they don’t hold back, they spend it all."
          I like the other poems in this group too, as I also like their subjects. The big costume-party iris, a ballet in a flower, rising from a plant that works all year to give us one week of beautiful performance: "and sometimes we awaken [the poem notes]
from the dull green stalk of habit."
          And this inspired description of a dianthus:
"My mother comes back as a dianthus,
only this time, she’s happy, smelling like cloves,
fringed and candy-striped with a ring of deep rose
that bleeds into the outer petals."
            And of the Rosa Multiflora:
"Now they ramble unchecked, grow in waste areas, weeds, pests, nuisances.
In June, thousands and thousands of white blossoms light
my back path."
           I share this experience of the wild rose. I can't get rid of them; and then I don't want to.
           That's spring for you, too.
It's beautiful because it keeps moving,
but why does it have to move so fast?