Monday, April 2, 2012

The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Five (Rich)

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I've chosen to honor Adrienne Rich with my selection of the fifth poem of The Mnemosyne Weekly. In the wake of Rich's death last week, an outpouring of poems, blog posts, articles, and newscasts have graced the cyber-waves with memories of Rich and her powerful words. If you would like to contribute, Jewish Voice for Peace has started a site for reminiscences.

Please keep making comments in the sections under the postings. I enjoy hearing your experiences of the poems as much as I enjoy memorizing them. I'm keeping my own comments about the poems restricted to these sections, as well, so that we can approach the new poems with clean, fresh, beginner's minds each week. One thing I would love to hear from you this week is if or how any of the poems we've memorized have found their way into the poems you've been writing lately. 

Here is last week's posting, if you want to leave comments about Oliver's "How Would You Live Then?": The Mnemosyne Weekly: Poem Four. As well, if you're new to the blog, you might want to look at the first Mnemosyne Post to find out what this project is all about. 

Our poem for the week comes from Rich's collection Dark Fields of the Republic and alludes to several lines from the Bertolt Brecht poem "For Those Born Later": "What kind of times are these/ When it's almost a crime to talk about trees/ Because it means keeping still about so many evil deeds?"  As well, we are fortunate enough to have access to a video recording of Rich reading this poem:

What Kind of Times Are These

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

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