Monday, August 24, 2009

More Shadows

Here are a few more entries in my examination of shadows. These pictures were taken in the least used park in the city where I live. The peacefulness here may be changing because the city has come up with plans to change the park in some way. These plans won't be made public until later on this week or next.

I'm in that point in the semester where I'm able to live the life of a normal person. That will change when the grading starts right after Labor Day.

Clicking on any one of the pictures here will enlarge it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Paul Zimmer and "Bach and My Father"

One poet I have been reading lately is Paul Zimmer, whose Crossing to Sunlight Revisited: New and Selected Poems was released two years ago. This collection contains twenty-five new poems in addition to fifty early poems. Personally, I would have preferred a more substantial collection of his poems, but I can console myself with the earlier and heftier version of Crossing to Sunlight, which appeared in 1996, and Family Reunion: Selected and New Poems, which appeared in 1983.

Instead of waiting for a subject, some poets have explored the same subjects, like ghosts or cats or drunkenness, in their poems. This approach allows one to write regularly.

Paul Zimmer in his poems has often used those characters he has created, such as Wanda, Cecil, Lester, and Zimmer, a mask for himself but still not the person who wrote the poem. These characters allow him to explore feelings and situations without simply recalling what he has known or observed. That woman who frustrates her suitors, Wanda is desired but resistant to the cravings of men. She appears in one poem as a stripper, often drinks to excess, and appears bored by the speaker’s interests but remains appealing, nonetheless.

Although not totally absent in Zimmer’s new poems, these characters appear less often. Zimmer now appears more confident in writing about where he lives and in recalling memories, sensations, and feelings while using first person.

Many of Zimmer’s poems contain references to music. Sometimes he places the character Zimmer among the jazz greats of the 1940’s and 1950’s in poems like “The Duke Ellington Dream” and “Diz’s Dream.” One of his new poems from Crossing to Sunlight Revisited: New and Selected Poems appears below:

Bach and My Father

Six days a week my father sold shoes
To support our family through depression and war,
Nursed his wife through years of Parkinson’s,
Loved nominal cigars, manhattans, long jokes,
Never kissed me, but always shook my hand.

Once he came to visit me when a Brandenburg
Was on the stereo. He listened with care—
Brisk melodies, symmetry, civility, and passion.
When it finished, he asked to hear it again,
Moving his right hand in time. He would have
Risen to dance if he had known how.

“Beautiful,” he said when it was done,
My father, who’d never heard a Brandenburg.
Eighty years old, bent, and scuffed all over,
Just in time he said, “That’s beautiful.”