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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 8
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and Science (pdf)

Find a poem! Read a poem! Show up! Discuss a poem!

We’re back for the eighth season of the One Page Poetry Circle where people gather to examine the works of established poets. While there’s 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. Since the circle started, participants have selected and discussed 866 poems and have read countless others in pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

Come to St. Agnes on Tuesday, March 8 to discuss Poetry and Science a subject that’s sure to provoke lively discussions.

On the surface poets and scientists seem like oil and water. “Perhaps the arts and the sciences have never slept together without one eye kept warily open,” says poet Albert Goldbarth. This may be true, but there are many intimate connections.

A Victorian engineer, William J.M. Rankine, wrote about the limits of science in “The Mathematician in Love”:

  • Said he-“If the wandering course of the moon
  • “By Algebra can be predicted,
  • “The female affections must yield to it soon”-
  • -But the lady ran off with a dashing dragoon,
  • And left him amazed and afflicted.

At the start of “Being Accomplished” the poet Pattiann Rogers shows how science and poets watch, observe, record, and even admit to influencing what they observe. In this way an observation may become a poem:

  • Balancing on her haunches, the mouse can accomplish
  • Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
  • From a barley seed in paperlike pieces the size of threads.
  • She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
  • The size of her mouth. She can burrow in sand and grasp
  • One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
  • A quarter of a dried pea can fill her palm.

In these opening lines of “My Proteins” from the New Yorker, September 16, 2013, the poet Jane Hirshfield uses the language of science to explore the boundaries of the self. The poem opens with an itch—perhaps the itch to know:

  • They have discovered, they say,
  • The protein of itch—
  • Natriuretic polypeptide b—
  • And that it travels its own distinct pathway
  • Inside my spine.
  • As do pain, pleasure, and heat.
  • A body it seems is a highway,
  • A cloverleaf crossing
  • Well built, well traversed.

On February 9 we met to discuss Poetry from Afar, an attempt to look at poetry outside the usual tradition. With such an interesting subject, we were disappointed at the turnout. We wondered if the snow alert issued for New York City, kept everyone close to home!

Abigail began the evening by discussing her own reservations about translations from a different language into English. Many poets, like Edward Fitzgerald, work with a literal translation of a poem from another culture and then “translate” that into their own poetry, fitting the ideas to their own philosophy and era. This was the course taken by Fitzgerald with the poetry of Omar Khayyám. Edward Said complained that such efforts flatten out the significant differences among diverse peoples and cultures, while they project a vision of their own attributes onto another culture. On the other hand, Salman Rushdie believes that although something is lost in translation, something is also gained as with Fitzgerald’s Rubáiyát. Fitzgerald’s familiar seventh stanza reads:

  • Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
  • The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
  • The Bird of Time has but a little way
  • To fly--and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.

Roger read a translation of Boris Pasternak’s “Definition of Poetry.” Pasternak finds poetry everywhere in the universe:

  • It’s a whistle that howls in the veins,
  • It’s the crackle of ice under pressure,
  • It’s the leaf-chilling night in the rain,
  • It’s two nightingales dueling together.

Hazel read “Eating Alone” by Li-Young Lee, a Chinese-American poet who writes in English but with a Chinese flavor:

  • It was my father I saw this morning
  • waving to me from the trees. I almost
  • called to him, until I came close enough
  • to see the shovel, leaning where I had
  • left it, in the flickering, deep green shade.

Phil read a translated poem by the Polish author Wislawa Szymborska, “The End and the Beginning,” which describes the process through which memory disappears. In an area where once corpses lay, the scene shifts:

  • In the grass that has overgrown
  • causes and effects,
  • someone must be stretched out
  • blade of grass in his mouth
  • gazing at the clouds.

AnnaLee read a poem by Kawame Dawes, who was born in Ghana, raised in Jamaica, and who writes in English about everyday life. “Coffee Break” tells of two men filling up balloons when one leaves to get coffee and what happens when he forgets to ask the other how he wants it:

  • … when I came out
  • to ask him, he was gone,
  • just like that, in the time
  • it took me to think,
  • cow’s milk or condensed;
  • the balloons sat lightly
  • on his still lap.

We look forward to seeing what connection between Poetry and Science you discover and to discussing them with you on March 8.

Bring a poem of a known poet. Bring a friend. Show up! And widen the circle! Without your support the library may find other uses for the spacious room they’ve given us. We hope you will blog with us at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com.

Spring Schedule:
March 8: Poetry and Science
April 12: Poetry and Identity
May 10: Poetry and Failure and Success

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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