21st Century Literature discussion

Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems
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2012 Book Discussions > Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems - Featured Poems (November 2012)

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message 1: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Science

What little we have ever understood
is like an offering we make beside the sea.
It is pure worship when pursued
as its own end, to find out. Mystery,
the undiminishable silent flood,
stretches on out from where we pray
round the clear altar flame. The god
accepts the sacrifice and turns away.

Ursula K. Le Guinn


message 2: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I thought we'd kick off with one of the new ones. Rich with meaning? Deceptively simple? What are your thoughts?


message 3: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Here is another earlier one. It first appeared in Going Out with Peacocks (1988 - 1994)

Song for a Daughter

Mother of my granddaughter,
listen to my song:
A mother can't do right,
a daughter can't be wrong.

I have no claim whatever
on amnesty from you;
nor will she forgive you
for anything you do.

So are we knit together
by force of opposites,
the daughter that unravels
the skein the mother knits.

One must be divided
so that one be whole,
and this is the duplicity
alleged of woman's soul.

To be that heavy mother
who weighs in every thing
is to be the daughter
whose footstep is the Spring.

Granddaughter of my mother,
listen to my song:
Nothing you do will ever be right,
nothing you do is wrong.

Ursula K. Le Guin


message 4: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I was struck by several things, but particularly by the poet’s subtlety and restraint. Every grandmother knows that she and her grandchild have a sparring partner, in common (!)


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Baldwin-Stephens | 131 comments Having only been exposed to Le Guin through some of her more popular novels like The Left Hand of Darkness, the thing that makes the hairs stand up on the back on my neck when I read these (especially "Song for a Daughter") is that she appears to be an even greater poet than a novelist.

When comparing both pieces it is the subtlety that attracts me to them.


message 6: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I much preferred the later poem, because of her extensive use of imagery and metaphor, which a lot of her later work - to my mind - doesn't seem to have, as strongly.

I, too, was surprised that she was poet and that she'd written so much. It's interesting that a lot of writers who are well known for their novels started out as poets. In the case of Thomas Hardy (Selected Poems) I think he was better poet than he was a novelist. Not so in the case of Margaret Atwood (Eating Fire: Selected Poetry 1965-1995). IMHO!


message 7: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Another new one.


Every Land

     The holy land is everywhere. —Black Elk

Watch where the branches of the willows bend
See where the waters of the rivers tend
Graves in the rock, cradles in the sand
Every land is the holy land.

Here was the battle to the bitter end
Here's where the enemy killed the friend
Blood on the rock, tears on the sand
Every land is the holy land.

Willow by the water bending in the wind
Bent till it's broken and it cannot stand
Listen to the word the messengers send
Life from the living rock, death in the sand
Every land is the holy land.

Ursula K. Le Guin


message 8: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
I don't think this is very good, The rhyming scheme doesn't do the subject matter any favours, and "to the bitter end" is a cliché. Tsk, tsk, tsk (!) But then I've been reading a lot of Native American poetry recently and Jo Harjo's work is masterful - to say the least. I can highly recommend 'How We Become Human'.

How We Became Human New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 by Joy Harjo


message 9: by Douglas (new)

Douglas (DouglasGPerry) Sophia wrote: "I don't think this is very good, The rhyming scheme doesn't do the subject matter any favours, and "to the bitter end" is a cliché. Tsk, tsk, tsk (!) But then I've been reading a lot of Native Am..."
I agree. "Science" is a delightfully concise metaphor, and "Song for a Daughter" rises above its conventional formalism through its message, but "Every Land" just comes across as juvenelia.


message 10: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1672 comments Mod
I like the first verse of Every Land, but I don't think the other verses work very well.

I love "Song for a Daughter," particularly the last two lines: "Nothing you do will ever be right,
nothing you do is wrong." This seems to me to sum up a lot of mother-daughter interactions.


message 11: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
from Incredible Good Fortune (2000 2006)

A Request

Should my tongue be tied by stroke
listen to me as if I spoke

and said to you, "My dear, my friend,
stay here a while and take my hand;

my voice is hindered by this clot,
but silence says what I cannot,

and you can answer as you please
such undemanding words as these.

Or let our conversation be
a mute and patient amity,

sitting, all the words bygone,
like a stone beside a stone.

It takes a while to learn to talk
the long language of the rock."

Ursula K. Le Guin


message 12: by Casceil (new)

Casceil | 1672 comments Mod
Ursula Le Guin wrote a wonderful children's book called Fire & Stone. It was about a dragon that a town was terrified of, until the children realized the dragon was trying to say "rocks." The children started throwing rocks at the dragon, who happily snapped them up, and when he had eaten enough rocks he settled down to be a hill. The last lines of this poem remind me of that book.


message 13: by Sophia, Honorary Moderator (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophia Roberts | 1324 comments Mod
Gosh, I wonder where she got that image from - something she'd witnessed, perhaps...


Thing Two (thingtwo) I prefer the last two poems. The rhyming on the second one irritated me.


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