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Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:33 am
by David
Perry has suggested to Mac that he (Mac) should start a personal thread of his favourite poems. A good suggestion, I thought, so here's one of mine. A rhyming one, to start with, to please everybody. It is the magnificent Norman MaCaig, whose Collected Poems I am currently shimmying through. This one is from 1955.

Summer Farm

Straws like tame lightnings lie about the grass
And hang zigzag on hedges. Green as glass
The water in the horse-trough shines.
Nine ducks go wobbling by in two straight lines.

A hen stares at nothing with one eye,
Then picks it up. Out of an empty sky
A swallow falls and, flickering through
The barn, dives up again into the dizzy blue.

I lie, not thinking, in the cool, soft grass,
Afraid of where a thought might take me – as
This grasshopper with plated face
Unfolds his legs and finds himself in space.

Self under self, a pile of selves I stand
Threaded on time, and with metaphysic hand
Lift the farm like a lid and see
Farm within farm, and in the centre, me.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:12 pm
by Perry
Now, just a couple questions.

This is your thread, so do you want to hear other people's reactions to the poems? (I'm guessing yes.)

Do you want other people to post their own favorites here? (I'm guessing no.)

What do we do with the "Poems That You Love" thread, which was started by someone named Caleb Murdock (who doesn't seem to be participating any more)? Can we get Caleb Murdock back? I love his taste in poetry. All of his favorites are my favorites.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:39 pm
by David
Perry,

Yes, comments welcome.

And you're right, other folk should post their own favourites in a thread of their own (on which I will gladly comment).

And, in a dramatic courtroom moment, I put it to you that you are, in fact, Caleb Murdock. If you are, let's just rename that thread. Or, if you're not, why not start a new one of your own?

Cheers

David

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:08 pm
by barrett
Love that poem, David, a new one for me. I don't think I've read much MacCaig before. That final verse is remarkable.

I like the idea of everyone having their own place to post their favourite poems, but how can one beat naming it Dave's Faves?

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:38 pm
by David
There are at least two MacCaig crackers in The Rattle Bag, barrett. I've just started browsing my way, at random, through the Collected Poems. I think I'd be happier with a good Selected, but the "remarkable" hit rate has been remarkably high so far. I think he's much better than I'd realised.

Barrett's Favarretts?

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:44 pm
by barrett
Yes! Just checked The Rattlebag (always the first port of call). I see that Interruption to a Journey is one of his. I think I'm going to have to read some more of his now.

Barrett's Garret?

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:04 pm
by David
barrett wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:44 pm
Barrett's Garret?
A much better suggestion!

I don't offhand remember Interruption to a Journey. I'll go and have a look. (I was thinking of Aunt Julia and the collie poem, both of them great.)

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:47 pm
by Perry
I was kind of lost with this poem right at the first line. Referring to stalks (shoots?) of straw as "tame lightnings" just strikes me as so odd and divorced from reality. Beside, "lighting" isn't usually made plural. If you want to refer to a bolt of lightning, then call it a bolt. And then "green as glass" -- what do the two have to do with each other?

I need the terminology in a poem to be more conventional, easier to relate to.

However, the poem improves after the first stanza.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:12 pm
by barrett
Perry wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:47 pm
And then "green as glass" -- what do the two have to do with each other?
I'm confused, are you asking what green and glass have to do with each other? Apart from some old bottles being obviously green, which is what I imagine this poem is referencing, all glass is green. The glass in your windows is green, if you look at the edge of a pain of glass it will be green. Older windows, being made of thicker glass, probably like the windows in the farmhouse in the poem, had a green tinge to them.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 2:07 pm
by David
I grew up on a farm, and I think "Straws like tame lightnings" is brilliant.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:23 pm
by Leaf
Yo Dave :lol:

I like this at first read; I need to read it a few more times, I think, and perhaps do a little research so I can get to grips with the deep stuff I'm sensing yet can’t quite grasp yet.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying the ducks, hen, swallow, and especially the grasshopper with ‘plated face’. I think the expression ‘finds himself in space’ might be serving to launch the N’s move to ‘metaphysic’, but I need to give this more thought (obvs).

Best wishes,
Leaf

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 7:12 pm
by David
I think that's a pretty good reading of it, Leaf. Enjoy the delving. I should say that S4 takes off in a wild metaphysical way that I can't wholly follow or fathom. I just get a sensation of the world expanding beyond my wildest dreams.

Does anybody else think he must be thinking - a bit, at least - of Bede's sparrow in S2?

Cheers

David

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:21 pm
by Perry
barrett wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 1:12 pm
Perry wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:47 pm
And then "green as glass" -- what do the two have to do with each other?
I'm confused, are you asking what green and glass have to do with each other? Apart from some old bottles being obviously green, which is what I imagine this poem is referencing, all glass is green. The glass in your windows is green, if you look at the edge of a pain of glass it will be green. Older windows, being made of thicker glass, probably like the windows in the farmhouse in the poem, had a green tinge to them.
Now that I think of it, I remember looking at a pane of glass from the side and noticing that it was green. That was about 40 years ago. If all glass is green, I had forgotten that.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2019 6:15 pm
by Leaf
I have been delving :shock:

There's a thorough analysis of the poem on the website of The Society of Classical Poets (https://classicalpoets.org/2018/08/27/analysis-of-norman-maccaigs-summer-farm/); I read this with interest, and I also enjoyed a slightly different perspective via a comment by a Charlie Southerland, in the comments section below.

I also had a quick look at the Wikipedia piece on Norman MacCaig (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_MacCaig), discovering that he described his religious beliefs as 'Zen Calvinism', in 'a comment typical of his half-humorous, half-serious approach to life'. I find this interesting too.

I had to refresh my memory regarding Bede's sparrow (https://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/bede/hist049.htm, 2nd para.). Yes, MacCaig might have the sparrow in mind with his description of the swallow's quick flicker through the barn. That might tie in with the grasshopper's entry into space. Is it possible MacCaig sees in the grasshopper's crossed-leg position some form of Zen meditation? I think he (MacCaig) turns to metaphysics to avoid contemplating the void, i.e. death. He finds comfort in the 'metaphysic hand', as it grants him not only presence rather than absence within the universe, but also centrality. I don't really know what 'Zen Calvinism' means, though. I'll have to research this too :lol:

Best wishes,
Leaf

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 5:51 am
by Elphin
One of my all time favourites.

Easy to imagine the odd pieces of straw as lightnings.

You may recall my own take on Summer Farm

Zen Calvinism in the Farmyard

(after Summer Farm by Norman Maccaig)

I am not just a one eyed hen, pecking
at nothing at all. I am a worker,
searching among these scratchings for something
bigger than metaphysical. A seed,
a roof, some feed, some space in this coop
to brood, free from the craw of the rooster.
While the old cock a-doodle-doos his floozies
I will warm the eggs to grace your table.

But all the time, with my other eye
I will watch the pile of selves that stands
in farm within farm, lest one should forsake
such idle contemplation and return
to this world, to make soup, to plunge
me cluck and claw into the boiling-pot.

Re: Dave's faves

Posted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:18 am
by David
I don't remember that one, Elph. (I assume you still prefer "Elph" here.) But I think it's great.

Perhaps we should all write NM tribute poems.

David