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poetry circle

One Page Poetry Circle Archive


Welcome to the One Page Poetry Circle at St. Agnes Branch Library!
Date: Tuesday, March 11
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and Hunger and Thirst (pdf)

Find a poem! Read a poem! Discuss a poem!

Please come for an hour of authentic conversation about poetry through the examination of works of established poets. While there is no instructor and this is not a workshop for personal writing, once a month OPPC gives everyone a place to become teachers and learners to explore the form, content, language and meaning of poetry.

Join the circle on March to discuss Poetry and Hunger and Thirst. Mankind is never satisfied. As Eve yearned for the forbidden fruit, and Tantalus for the water he could not drink, we all hunger or thirst for something more than we have whether it’s food or love or adventure or poetry.

One of the most horrific accounts of hunger occurs in Canto 33 of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Count Ugolino has been imprisoned with his sons, in what came to be called the Hunger Tower in Pisa, and left to starve:

  • . . . And I
  • Already going blind, groped over my brood
  • Calling to them, though I had watched them die,
  • For two long days. And then the hunger had more
  • Power than even sorrow over me

Sometimes the slaking of our desire transports us to poetic heights as in William Carlos Williams’s “This is Just to Say”:

  • I have eaten
  • the plums
  • that were in
  • the icebox
  • and which
  • you were probably
  • saving
  • for breakfast
  • Forgive me
  • they were delicious
  • so sweet
  • and so cold

EVERYONE’S WELCOME to bring a single page of poetry by a known author related to the subject of Poetry and Hunger and Thirst—with copies for others, if you can. To get started on your search, try poetryfoundation.org or poets.org.

And in between meetings please visit our blog to discuss these poems or anything about poetry: onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com

Larry, a friend of OPPC who no longer lives in the area, posted the following Haiku by Basho, translated by Makoto Ueda, on our blog:

  • whitefish
  • opening their black eyes in the net of the law

Robert Aitken wrote in his book, A Zen Wave, “Law is not a very popular subject in poetry, but Basho uses it with its Buddhist implications of Dharma . . . ‘the net of the law’ . . . captures prawns, whitebait, and us all.” We found many different thoughts about the law when we met to discuss Poetry and the Law on February 11th.

Abigail began with the Epitaph of Simonides (Greek lyric poet 556-468 BC) written after the battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). We discussed several translations, but one reads

  • Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by, That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

The 300 Spartans, who died at this battle wanted their countrymen to know they had done so honorably. Their “laws” indicates their custom and their style of life and death.

Roger read Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “The Lawyers’ Ways.” An ordinary man questions, in his dialect, how opposing lawyers can paint a man as complete opposites: “So, will some one please inform me,/An’ this mystery unroll—/How an angel an’ a devil/Can persess the self-same soul?” Dunbar goes beyond the question of guilt or innocence to portray all men as a combination of good and evil.

Hazel read Langston Hughes’s “Ballad of the Landlord” in which a renter attempts to get his home repaired and ends up in jail after the landlord turns the tables on him, “Police! Police!/ Come and get this man!/He’s trying to ruin the government/And overturn the land!” In this poem not everyone is equal under the law.

Ellen read Linda Pastan’s “Prosody 101.” Although learning the laws of poetry, “When they taught me that what mattered most/was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping/over the page but the variations/in that line and the tension produced,” the narrator only comes to understand poetry when life imitates art.

Joe read “Watching the Reapers” by Bai Juyi (772-846) in which the narrator grows ashamed after watching a poor woman with an infant and a broken basket as “she gleans the fallen grain”: “And I today … by virtue of what right/Have I never once tended field or tree?”

AnnaLee completed the circle by reading “The Cause Won” by William Cowper, who influenced eighteenth-century poetry by writing about everyday life. His poem, written in the rare Welsh sonnet form Cyhydedd Fer, describes two neighbors in dispute over a trivial field. The only profit accrues to the lawyers, “The pleadings swell. Words still suffice:/No single word but has its price.”

Written by ancient Greek, Chinese, African-American, British, and modern American poets, these poems deal with the attempt to understand society and the law by the common man. We are a variety of ordinary people who gather together to begin to understand poems and to learn more about poetry. We enjoy hearing from each other, and wish you would join us and learn with us.

We look forward to seeing old friends and new on March 11 to discuss Poetry and Hunger and Thirst. Mark your calendars for spring 2014:

March 11: Poetry and Hunger and Thirst
April 8: Poetry and Journeys
May 6: Poetry and Birds

Bring a friend and widen the circle!
Meanwhile, blog with us at http://onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com/

Abigail Burnham Bloom and
AnnaLee Wilson

The One Page Poetry Circle is sponsored by the New York Public Library and is open to all. St. Agnes Branch Library is handicap accessible.


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