Oct 21, 2010

Richard Wilbur, Maurice Manning, Interstate-80 across Pennsylvania


As exhilarating as the Dodge Poetry Festival was, it's time for me to wind down about it and its poets.

Besides, no matter how stunning an experience is, cities and crowded events wear me out. Everything is a trial. Worming the car into a claustrophobic parking lot behind the hotel (and a second hotel operating as a homeless shelter), getting presentable and taking a busy elevator down nine floors for a breakfast with interesting, upbeat strangers, hearing good jazz while sitting scrunched among nice people in fairly comfortable seats in an elegant auditorium, and then hearing good poetry about the bad and the sad, performed in an absolutely professional way—that constant mix of the difficult and the inspiring is . . . difficult and inspiring.

So the jubilee for me was, is, and consistently has been the open road. Interstate 80 across Pennsylvania has always astonished me with its beauty, and this time I got to cross it in the most dazzling days of the calendar. Bloomsburg, DuBois, Clearfield, Clarion—who needs Paris?



Good Lord, Clarion, Pennsylvania has an Applebees as well as a dozen other primo eateries, big chains and Mom-n-Pops alike. I just might move to Clarion this weekend.

I know, I know, I’m supposed to shun Applebees, along with the Ruby Tuesdays and the Cracker Barrels, but after about 20 miles, with 700 more to go, glory or not, I look for the comfort of the predictable. Judging by the proliferation of these places, America seems to agree with me; for once my tastes as well as my demographic get to be in the majority. And if the majority palate isn’t aristocratic or arcane, or isn’t up to the adventure of Mable’s Grits or The Stroudsburg Diner, so be it. I always choose those places at home, where I know which ones are good and which ones serve braised shoe soles and deep-fried grackle.

So with my pedestrian tastes, the open road—even if shared with semi trucks and a handful of jackass car drivers—is the real festival. In memory of I-80, I offer Richard Wilbur and Maurice Manning today—two poems that are new to me, thanks again to The Poetry Foundation. They are also two poems that feel something like rural highways, more positive than not, despite some tough-minded features. Or maybe I mean that they feel more life-affirming than most of what I heard at The Dodge. I think Manning’s gets away from him toward the end, especially with "shucks," but how does one resist anything that calls God a yam, yet stops way short of hating Him?

A Barred Owl by Richard Wilbur : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

A Blasphemy by Maurice Manning : Poetry Magazine [poem/magazine] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

13 comments:

Ken Mac said...

that looks mighty enjoybale

Barbaro said...

Did you shoot that owl? Impressive.

I find the meter distracting in the Wilbur, the whole poem a bit too purposeful and constructed. I could overlook these qualms in favor of its quiet grace, but I'm not sure I want to. The final rhyme almost carries the whole poem, yet its drama rings slightly false in that humans are the only creatures who DON'T eat things raw, so why should that cause fear?

Some nice surprises in the Manning, esp mending fences in sleep, but a lot of slack in many of those lines, and I'm sorry, but I AM getting tired of arbitrary stanza break patterns.

You should try Eat N Park in Clarion and throughout western PA. Predictable as Applebees yet uniquely PA.

BANJO52 said...

Ken, yep, it was.

Barbaro, yep, I did. I'd be proud of it, but I didn't even know I'd gotten him. Must've been angle of the sun--I could see him with my eyes, but all I could find in the zoom was the green that people were pointing at. So I just started shooting. Whaddya know.

Don't let me forget Eat N Park, please.

Yeah, I go hot and cold on the odd stanza breaks. I do see the argument for surprise and/or added meaning, but I also see another argument--why have stanzas only to ignore or violate them. Same goes for line breaks. But big names have been doing it at least as far back as Hopkins.

altadenahiker said...

I'm all about the owl.

Jean Spitzer said...

The owl photo is amazing.

I don't like crowds, either, but fried grackle probably isn't bad. (I'm speaking theoretically, of course.)

Back for the poems later.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Your owl shot is a HOOT! I love it - what a photo, what a find.

Manning's poem is childlike... in the sense it reminds me of my prayers when I was child. I knew I couldn't want for anything, so I'd pray that the world's doggies were warm, that horses were never whipped, that the hungry families were fed, and that every child in the world got a mommy's hug at night. I think I thought in stanza breaks. But once you pray that way to God, you get to be good buddies and you can call him Yam or Sweetater, or even Fred. You guys become pretty good pals.

It is kinda sad, like Manning points out.

Now, to go back and look at your owl some more. Is he really green?

BANJO52 said...

Brenda, that's some mighty mature prayin'. I admit I like Manning's speakers' attitude toward the divine, even if there's some contention in it. Holding God accountable probably makes not sense, but it feels honest, withOUT reducing God to just another guy--who would deserve to be accountable.

Now, Brenda, it's the tree that's green. That brown thing in the middle, THAT's the bird.

But maybe if the leaves give him some green tint, that's why I couldn't find him in my zoom at the time (May 2009).

I just love that I'm swooning over the mountain foliage, a lifetime first for me, while everybody else goes ga ga over a goddam owl
I lucked onto 18 months ago.

Maybe if I start calling the Big Guy-Big Thing a sweet potato, people will see things my way.

Jean Spitzer said...

Okay, this time the poems were okay read aloud. But I'm not going to remember them the way I remember Shel Silverstein.

Carlin's seven dirty words (the words you can't say . . . .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_Nrp7cj_tM

altadenahiker said...

I like the poems; they warm me.

...he mended fences in his sleep.
He said to the you above, who, let's be honest, doesn't say too much...

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Being a child and the fear's that accompanied that "rock a bye baby - bye bye" I can see how owls might play into the night terrors. Isn't that why we make them so dam cute? think 70's medallions. Better yet, think me. I'm working on an owl tile right now for the Lake LA project and he/she looks much like the one you photographed.

I'm still working out the god thing. Makes me nervous. I yam what I yam

Road food is often the worst. Only breakfast can be trusted..

Kitty said...

It takes a certain type of soul to appreciate poetry, especially now, as life is so fast paced. I think we humans are becoming more and more detached from our bodies and a sense of time.

I hope you've had an excellent weekend!

BANJO52 said...

"I yam . . ." Love it. PA, re: road food, I'd argue we have to eat the ambience as well as the food.

Remember the Jack Nicolson scene with the tuna sandwich in 5 Easy Pieces? Don't be that guy. Or the waitress.

Kitty, welcome, and I agree. No one's had back at me for my "Speed Kills" nagging, a few posts ago, but I find it hard to persuade people to slow down enough for poetry, which SHOULD need to be wallowed in, over and over, whether it's mud or bubble bath. But now, with what's available, including the online stuff, I find myself getting skimmy and sloppy too.

But zippy. Even me. Zippy.

BANJO52 said...

P.S. Owls aren't zippy, you'll notice. At least not my owl.

Lovers' Lane