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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, October 14
Time: 5:30 - 6:30 pm
Place: St. Agnes Branch Library, 444 Amsterdam Avenue (near 81st Street), 3rd Floor
Theme: Poetry and the Ode (pdf)

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

We're back for the seventh season of the One Page Poetry Circle where people gather to examine the 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. We're keeping count! Since the circle started, OPPC participants have selected and discussed 762 poems and have read countless others in their pursuit of poetry that speaks to them.

Join the circle on October 14 to discuss Poetry and the Ode.

What is an ode? Basically it is a poem that expresses personal emotions while reflecting on a being or thing of significance to the poet. The ode is one of the oldest forms of poetry, and was originally a poem with a complex stanza form accompanied by music. Odes of the ancient Greeks contained a strophe, antistrophe, and epode which refer to the rhythmical patterns of the text. The strophe and the antistrophe were sung by the chorus on opposites sides of the stage, and the antistrophe provided a conclusion somewhere in the middle. The Pindaric ode consists of three sections with irregular line lengths and rhyme patterns and celebrated gods or events such as the Olympics. The Romans wrote odes as lyrical poems of a more personal nature. The Horatian ode is calmer and less formal than the Greek and not written for a stage performance. The more modern English or Irregular ode, written in a freer style, makes no attempt to follow the traditional form although it sometimes retains the three-part structure.

The ode was popular among British Romantic poets, who looked at the world and saw themselves. William Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" contrasts his state of mind as a child with his current depression. Where once the world appeared to him with "the glory and the freshness of a dream," he finds that those visions have fled and concludes:

  • Though nothing can bring back the hour
  • Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
  • We will grieve not, rather find Strength in what remains behind

Although Wordsworth's subject matter is modern in that he examines his own beliefs, he keeps the traditional structure of a contrast of two viewpoints and a resolution. More recent odes are often a celebration of an object, such as Max Mendelsohn's "Ode to Marbles":

  • I love the sound of marbles
  • scattered on the worn wooden floor,
  • like children running away in a game of hide-and-seek.
  • I love the sight of white marbles,
  • blue marbles,
  • green marbles, black,
  • new marbles, old marbles,
  • iridescent marbles,
  • with glass-ribboned swirls,
  • dancing round and round.
  • I love the feel of marbles,
  • cool, smooth,
  • rolling freely in my palm,
  • like smooth-sided stars
  • that light up the worn world.

In Mendelsohn's ode the three-part structure celebrates the sound, sight, and feel of marbles.

To read more about odes, check out our blog on all things having to do with poetry, (http://onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com/).

On September 9 we met to discuss Poetry and Cats and Dogs. We had a nice turnout after our hiatus over the summer.

Stan couldn't join us but emailed to say that if he could have come he would have brought "The Song of Quoodle" by G.K. Chesterton. This fun poem is written from the point of view of the dog who laments man's inability to smell, "And goodness only knowses/The Noselessness of Man."

Abigail began with "The Duel" by Eugene Field. She remembered this poem from her childhood and enjoyed that the cat and the dog were equals. Although the rumor is that burglars had stolen the gingham dog and the calico cat from the table, "the truth about the cat and pup/Is this: they ate each other up!" As one member remarked, it's an anti-war message.

Roger read E.B. White's "Fashions in Dogs" humorously describing different breeds of dogs and ending, "Lots of people have a rug./Very few have a pug."

Phil brought William Blake's "The Tiger," which he had memorized in grammar school, "Tiger, tiger, burning bright/In the forests of the night,/What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" This led to a delightful conversation on the advantages of students memorizing poetry, which we fear they no longer do.

Ellen brought Tony Hoagland's "The Best Moment of the Night" in which the narrator attends a party where he has an encounter with a dog and wonders why no one notices that he, like the dog, is "still panting, and alive, and seeking love."

Terry read "A Cat, A Kid, and A Mom" by Shel Silverstein which questions why we want anyone to change: "'Why can't you see I'm a cat,' said the cat,/'And that's all I ever will be?'" We laughed at this lovely evocation of how a cat, a kid and a mom can all misbehave.

Gail read "A Dog's Life" by Daniel Groves consisting of beautiful couplets and puns that tell of the day the dog was put down, "the very dog who, once would fight to keep/from putting down, despite our shouts, a shoe." A discussion of how we have turned our dogs into slaves who are dependent on us followed. The expression "it's a dog's life" originally referred to how difficult a dog's life was since the dog worked hard, ate scraps, and died young -- unlike our dogs today.

Mady brought Pablo Neruda's "Ode to the Dog" in which a man and dog roaming the countryside until they are fused "in a single beast/that pads along on/six feet,/wagging/its dew-wet tail." She could bring this poem next month as well!

Hazel read "Little Puppy" from a Navajo American Indian relating the life of the Navajo woman and the little dog who shares her life of tending a flock and seeing, "The tall cliffs, the straight cliffs,/The fluted cliffs,/ Where the eagles live." We all enjoyed this surprising and poem that in its simplicity painted such an evocative picture of the region.

Karen read Bruce Dawe's "Dogs in the Morning Light" relating to us the process of waiting for the bus each morning and seeing the same dogs, "They swirl about in bright-eyed bortices,/Whirl-pools of snap and sniff and pink-tongued grin."

Merrie read a poem AnnaLee had brought, "Myself with Cats" by Henri Cole, which describes both a relationship between humans and one between cats, "withholding his affection, he made me stronger. " We were delighted to have more attention paid to cats who seemed to get short shrift during the evening.

AnnaLee closed the Circle with Cathryn Essinger's "My Dog Practices Geometry" which examines the personification of animals by poets, "Nor do I like the mathematicians who tell me/I cannot say, 'The zinnias are counting on their/fingers,' or 'The dog is practicing her geometry.'" We discussed our tendency to personify animals and whether it is wrong.

We look forward to reading and discussing your selects for our next program, Poetry and the Ode.

Here's the remaining fall lineup:

October 14: Poetry and the Ode
November 4: Poetry and Politics
December 9: Poetry and Drink

Bring a friend and widen the circle! And remember to blog with us at onepagepoetrycircle.wordpress.com. Don't be shy.

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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