The Wild Iris – Louise Gluck – Analysis

A week or so ago the poet Louise Glück became the first American woman to win the Nobel prize for literature in 27 years, cited for “her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal”.

Glück is the 16th woman to win the Nobel, and the first American woman since Toni Morrison took the prize in 1993. The American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan was a surprise winner in 2016.

One of America’s leading poets, the 77-year-old writer has also won the Pulitzer prize and the National Book Award, tackling themes including childhood and family life, often reworking Greek and Roman myths.

The Wild Iris’ by Louise Glück is the title poem of her 1992 collection. This volume follows a specific sequence, poem to poem, describing the poet’s garden. In this piece, she considers the human soul, immortality associated with rebirth, and the commonalities between all life no matter how that life is manifested. 

Looking at the text …

The Wild Iris
At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure seawater.
Louise Gluck (1943 –

The iris is wild as though it has a natural uncultivated presence.

The door is death and going through the door ends suffering and someone has gone through the door. It is not unreasonable to assume a person has died. But in the second stanza we see that the person wants to talk about ‘death’ – what you call death – after ‘death’ has actually taken place.

The next two stanzas change thoughts from personal death to the death of an iris. The dead iris is buried in the earth. However, the dead iris is not dead but has become a consciousness. This consciousness is ‘terrible’. The question is left for the reader to ponder meaning. Maybe it is terrible because it wants to become. Equally the reader can entertain the thought that all death might become latent consciousness.

Then it is over. That horrible time of the consciousness not being able to speak – not able to become living and have a voice and meaning. And we see the stiff earth bending a little, as though the iris has started to break through the earth.

Then the voice beyond ‘death’ speaks again to tell us that all re-birth seeks a voice.

In the last stanza the voice of the blue iris coming to life is described in dramatic terms. The voice of the iris in all its splendor is a great fountain. The whole purpose of the iris is to flower in glory.

While the speaker is talking about a flower, there are obvious implications for humanity, and the human soul. What are we meant to become? And is life a continual cycle of re-birth? And are we naturally beautiful?

Louise Gluck on Wikipedia

Dead Musicians – Siegfried Sassoon – Analysis

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, was an English poet, writer, and soldier. Decorated for bravery on the Western Front, he became one of the leading poets of the First World War. He is best remembered for his angry and compassionate poems about World War I, which brought him public and critical acclaim.

Dead Musicians.

I

From you, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart,
The substance of my dreams took fire.
You built cathedrals in my heart,
And lit my pinnacled desire.
You were the ardour and the bright
Procession of my thoughts toward prayer.
You were the wrath of storm, the light
On distant citadels aflare.

II

Great names, I cannot find you now
In these loud years of youth that strives
Through doom toward peace: upon my brow
I wear a wreath of banished lives.
You have no part with lads who fought
And laughed and suffered at my side.
Your fugues and symphonies have brought
No memory of my friends who died.

III

For when my brain is on their track,
In slangy speech I call them back.
With fox-trot tunes their ghosts I charm.
‘Another little drink won’t do us any harm.’
I think of rag-time; a bit of rag-time;
And see their faces crowding round
To the sound of the syncopated beat.
They’ve got such jolly things to tell,
Home from hell with a Blighty wound so neat…
. . . .
And so the song breaks off; and I’m alone.
They’re dead … For God’s sake stop that gramophone.

Siegfried Sassoon (1886 – 1967)

This poem is in three distinct parts remembering that Sassoon was very much involved on the battlefield and after returning to England lived into his eighties.

S1 … This stanza is all to do with Sassoon’s appreciation of the great composers Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. And his soul stimulation when a youth is described in terms of fire, cathedrals, and citadels. These dead musicians meant much to him in his formative years. He was a member of the upper class and such music common to his ear.

S2 … These great composers are meaningless to the rank and file soldiers who strived towards peace in their youth in the Great War. And they are equally meaningless to Sassoon when he recalls the dead soldiers he fought with. The metaphorical cathedrals and citadels are in ruins. This is a memory stanza as Sassoon reflects back perhaps after many years.

S3 … The music associated with his soldier compatriots is defined in terms of fox-trot tunes and rag-time jazz. And moreover the together times of jolly mate ship is remembered, especially of those who returned even though they were wounded. A Blighty Wound was serious enough to require recuperation away from the trenches, but not serious enough to kill or maim the victim.

S4 … Time to stop the music, the music playing in his mind. He is alone all his mates long dead. And very appropriate to say – stop that gramophone as though it is outside his control.

The dead musicians that are significant to Sassoon are not Beethoven, Bach or Mozart.

Gramophone

life a recording
expanding from the center 
playing its music
lost notes of the departed
needle the mind of the living

Siegfried Sassoon on Wikipedia

Elevation – a poem on the virus

The virus has at times forced a closer relationship with the one you love. And this greater togetherness has had its positives.

elevation

I must thank the virus and a certain person
for this would never have happened otherwise
a positive personal high
and I might suggest no higher possible

you see such an expletive
may have been used in the past
infrequently that is
but the confines of isolation
and a more integrated home life
created the circumstances
and I am thus duly elevated

often there is a rising of voice –
Richard!
for example, blocking the fridge
when access is needed
or forgetting to put out the garbage
after making promises
but for failings of far greater significance
(I will not elaborate)
a certain naming is obviously needed

I must emphasise that the following
had nothing to do with me personally
(not this time)
just a bystander

actually, I was sitting nearby
the computer was in communication
a case of wanting to load images
from phone to desktop
a simple operation, and the thing was
partner had done this before successfully

why isn’t it working
(a little frustration evident)
then strong expletives
at this stage I thought it prudent
to stay my distance and be calm,
after all, too much help
creates dependency

and then, yes it had reached that high point
God!

well I thought
I am here if you really need me!

Richard Scutter May 2020

Football – Kate Llewellyn – Comments

Football

I found myself wishing this persona… to be brave and strong and to tell me
about anything else;
art, football, ice hockey, plasma physics, philosophy… anything but love…

It's a game
I saw it once or twice
when I was twelve
standing by a fence in a coat and scarf
with my best friend
local farmers leapt and ran
thuds and clouts and kicks
made the noise of drums and blood
in the dark part of the heart
goals were signalled
with a cheer
and a man waved two white flags
as if he wanted peace
men ran out with oranges
the players sucked them
and began again
it got cold
and we went home
I forget who won
my Mother's pinafore was green
it had red berries on it
we made toast on a fork
in the kitchen stove
it tasted of smoke and butter
my Father didn't play football
I don't think he knew how
the ball seemed an odd shape
perverse

Kate Llewellyn (1936 –

The story of going to a football game with a friend at the age of twelve, so it must have been just after the war in 1948. It looks like winter weather as a coat and scarf is involved. And it looks like a local event where the farming community come in to town to play. And it seeds as though Kate is a little sensitive to all the supporting uproar – made the noise of drums and blood / in the dark part of the heart.

Why the waving of white flags? An understanding of the game seems to be in question later in the poem. But the next thing of note was the half-time break and the distributing of cut oranges to the players. But then it got cold so you had the feeling it was not really very pleasant to be standing around.

The main memory then is the after game warmth of being home again and having toast and being with her mother to the extend of remembering colours in her mother’s pinafore.

Her father did not play football. If he had been involved she may have been educated in the game at a much earlier age. This gives force that she just went along with another girl for an introduction. One thing that obviously struck her was the strange perverse shape of the ball – balls should be round, so why this shape!

You must remember at that time sport was more male than female. And that this girl had little understanding and involvement with the game. And maybe her girl friend had more knowledge of ‘football’ and had asked her if she would like to come along for company. This poem is a statement of a view of the game from this perspective.

Our appreciation and involvement of sport is highly influenced by family and friends. Parents often get their children involved when very young. This can be a positive or negative. I am still interested to see how Southampton Football Club in the UK are going; at a great distance of course. This is purely because of going to see games with my father when I was about the same age as Kate in the above poem.

My father finished work at mid-day on a Saturday. And if ‘The Saints’ were playing at home I would sit with my brother in the back seat of the Morris Isis for the drive to Southampton. We did not go straight to the ground, there was always a stop at ‘The Sun’ pub where we waited in the back of the car with a soft drink and ‘Smiths’ crisps. It was dark and cold at the end of the day when we got back home so I can relate to Kate’s warm home words in her poem. Such pleasant memories wrap around me when I think of those times. And of course the ball was round!

Kate Llewellyn is is an award-winning Australian poet, author, diarist and travel writer. A link to Wikipedia.

Three elements of Hebrew Poetry – Poetry Creation

Looking at Old Testament poetry. It doesn’t use rhyme and meter but uses other poetic devices. There are three main types of ancient Hebrew poetry. These are discussed below –

Synonymous Poetry – two lines that say nearly the same thing but want to stress what is being said. For example this is common in the Psalms as in

Psalm 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Antithetical poetry is the opposite – it uses successive lines to say two different things, each relative to the same theme. You’ll not only find this in Psalms, but all over the Book of Proverbs, such as –

Proverbs 17:22 –
A cheerful heart is good like medicine
But a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Synthetic Poetry uses successive lines to build to a point, systematically showing or convincing the reader. Here is an example from Psalm 139 verses 1-6 …

O Lord, you have searched me and know me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

You can use these techniques in your own personal poetry creation. And of course you can include rhyme and meter too.

Reference – more details can be found on this site … https://mysonginthenight.com/songwriting/how-to-write-a-personal-psalm/

Suzanne – Leonard Cohen – Lyrics – Analysis

Suzanne

Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there
And she feeds you tea and oranges
That come all the way from China
And just when you mean to tell her
That you have no love to give her
Then she gets you on her wavelength
And she lets the river answer
That you’ve always been her lover
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that she will trust you
For you’ve touched her perfect body with your mind.

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

Now Suzanne takes your hand
And she leads you to the river
She is wearing rags and feathers
From Salvation Army counters
And the sun pours down like honey
On our lady of the harbour
And she shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror
And you want to travel with her
And you want to travel blind
And you know that you can trust her
For she’s touched your perfect body with her mind.

Leonard Cohen (1933 – 2016)

This song was written by Leonard Cohen and recorded by quite a few artists including Judy Collins. He relinquished all rights when he inadvertently signed a contract without reading the detail, so he never made any money from his creation. He said that this was fitting in that he did not want to make money out of this personal love text.

This is all to do with poetry and lyrics and the way they intertwine. The music adds the dimension to the words. I have broken the lyrics up into three sections to consider the words. It is up to the reader of any lyrics to consider the poetic merit.

Well it is all to do with Cohen’s relationship with Suzanne Verdal while he lived in Montreal. He used to walk by Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours, where sailors were blessed before heading out to sea.

In general, the poem is all about personal idealization of both his friend Suzanne or any woman and later a reference to Jesus. The Suzanne personal interaction involves tea and oranges and we have the feeling that she is quite unusual and bohemian and a much-male-loved character in the city.

Section 1 … well the key point is the meeting of wavelengths … the strength of love that joins in such a communion is clearly metaphorically  evident in the words –  she lets the river answer / That you’ve always been her lover. And the joy of that unison gives trust and blind adherence. In his mind she is perfect. The emphasis is on mind.

Section 2 … I find this a remarkably interesting side step for we have an idealization of Jesus with reference to sailors. This is appropriate considering the Montreal context. And Jesus was of course broken up in many ways including the sin-problem of humanity and the cross. But Jesus is often regarded as a savior and a repair of imperfection so he may see Cohen as perfect – for he’s touched your perfect body with his mind. And this union may be like the idealization of Suzanne and he may likewise give blind adherence.

Section 3 Suzanne takes Cohen on a journey of places not so nice perhaps, but he still wants to travel with her – And she shows you where to look / Among the garbage and the flowers. Children, the future, are looking for love and Suzanne says that that future is in the mirror – while Suzanne holds the mirror facing Cohen – in other words it is up to Cohen. And she like Jesus – has touched his perfect body with her mind.

What a nice thought to have a perfect body!

Here is a link to Leonard Cohen singing this on You Tube

‘Ulladulla Fun Run’ – Fun Run History – Prostate Cancer

Ulladulla Fun Run
Easter Sunday 2006 – Blessing of the Fleet

bright autumn sun warms
harbour parking spaces
trestle-table procured
runners like cars collecting
at early morning traffic lights
stretch out the minutes
idle a conversation
change down for action

red shirted Ulladulla rats
bodies honed by discipline
sinewy and tough more weathered
than the decorated fishing boats
pit against fresh young limbs
eagerly chattering but not so seasoned
their smooth clean cut lines
unknown measure to the task

green light – and away
fast movers quick to tackle
the filter at the gate
while the cautious well heeled
slow to make the grade
watch the front line disappear
in headland track and bush
make the turn before the marshal

challenged by a female back
‘If you can read this you are losing’
sends the body to overdrive
the corner rounded to a sighting
of stolid rat in steady stride
sufficient time to out-manoeuvre
show no mercy, hold the pace
down the pavement to the park

then everyone glad to be home
bodies dripping and talking fast
over-run or not, the run now over
fun remains for those with fuel
a red red-rat shakes hands
polite enquiry as to age
seniority justifying position
to next rat assembly invited

and the fleet bobbing in the background
unduly clean in their church best
bottoms slapping wet
still waiting for their blessing

Richard Scutter

Dear My Word In Your Ear Reader,

This poem was written several years ago and of course the current virus climate has negated community Fun Run and the like activities. Being caught up at home with more hours inside provided the opportunity to reflect on earlier days. Quite a few years ago I went in the Ulladulla Fun Run. The local Ulladulla Rats running group were out in force, all appropriately uniformed in red. Also, It was the day of the annual Blessing of The Fleet.

Given my personal history fighting prostate cancer I thought it appropriate to post this poem as exercise certainly helps in dealing with this male nasty.

I have entered ‘The Long Run’ event organised by the Australian Prostate Foundation to promote awareness where I am recording my jog/walk exercise over September.

For more information here is a link to my Page on ‘The Long Run Site’ where I will be entering exercise detail over the month.

Stay fit and healthy whatever!

All the best, Richard

 

False Prophet – Bob Dylan – Analysis

False Prophet

Another day without end – another ship going out
Another day of anger – bitterness and doubt
I know how it happened – I saw it begin
I opened my heart to the world and the world came in

Hello Mary Lou – Hello Miss Pearl
My fleet footed guides from the underworld
No stars in the sky shine brighter than you
You girls mean business and I do too

I’m the enemy of treason – the enemy of strife
I’m the enemy of the unlived meaningless life
I ain’t no false prophet – I just know what I know
I go where only the lonely can go

I’m first among equals – second to none
I’m last of the best – you can bury the rest
Bury ‘’em naked with their silver and gold
Put ’em six feet under and pray for their souls

What are you lookin’ at – there’s nothing to see
Just a cool breeze encircling me
Let’s walk in the garden – so far and so wide
We can sit in the shade by the fountain side

I’ve searched the world over for the Holy Grail
I sing songs of love – I sing songs of betrayal
Don’t care what I drink – don’t care what I eat
I climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet

You don’t know me darlin’ – you never would guess
I’m nothing like my ghostly appearance would suggest
I ain’t no false prophet – I just said what I said
I’m here to bring vengeance on somebody’s head

Put out your hand – there’s nothin’ to hold
Open your mouth – I’ll stuff it with gold
Oh you poor Devil – look up if you will
The City of God is there on the hill

Hello stranger – Hello and goodbye
You rule the land but so do I
You lusty old mule – you got poisoned brain
I’m gonna marry you to ball and chain

You know darlin’ the kind of life that I live
When your smile meets my smile – something’s got to give
I ain’t no false prophet – I’m nobody’s bride
Can’t remember when I was born and I forgot when I died

Bob Dylan (1941 –

This is a recent poem/song written by Bob Dylan from his album ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’. It was released this year … see this link

Each of the ten four-line stanzas comprise rhyming couplets.

Looking at each stanza, my immediate response …

S1 – If we open ourselves to the world without reservation pain can be the travelling companion. And this of course can course emotional turmoil. How big a backpack is another matter.

S2 – ‘Hello Mary Lou’ was the name of a song first recorded by Ricky Nelson. And Miss Pearl is another song … girls that influence the heart … girls that mean business and this is reciprocated.

S3 – Great to seek good. Great to know yourself and know where you’re going in life. Great not to be false to yourself. Great expectations!

S4 – To be inclusive and equal but not seeking gold … gold and silver are false things to hold.

S5 – There’s nothing special, special about Dylan … come to myside in the garden … then you will see, you will see and will feel … all that is special – special and real together

S6 – I’ve (Dylan) done a lot of searching … love and betray … I’ve struggled up mountains so hard not to fail … climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet … it doesn’t matter any more about food and drink … I’m beyond that old searching game

S7 – Don’t go on appearances I’m not what you see … you don’t know me … I’ll get my own back on life … but who is to blame … vengeance on somebody’s head

S8 – I can’t give you anything … don’t look to me …you will be led astray … the swallow of gold … gold will choke you, it’s not a food … look up to the hill to God behold

S9 – Hello and good by … false prophet – true prophet, both rule the land … but to prison I send the false holding of hand

S10 … You know me and I know you … in confrontation something must give … I’m no false prophet … when was love born and when did it die!

Here is the official audio on You Tube 

Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 and all his lyrics have been thought provoking. He is remembered by most for his early days of coming to fame with songs such as ‘It Ain’t me Babe’ here is a YouTube link … and his involvement in the Counterculture of the sixties.