Monthly Archives: July 2014

July 28, 2014: Bay Bridge Inauguration Poem

Dear readers,

I’ve given some thought to the matter and I think I’d like to have a searchable blog [that’s this!] published alongside the weekly e-mails. I’ll be in touch with my tech consultant on making that happen this calendar year. As part of the archiving, I may approach some of you long-timers to see if you have old, old, old editions that I do not. If any of you happen to know that you’ve kept them dating back (even to the 90’s?!), go ahead and contact me before I bug you, if you like. My own archives, alas, only go back to about the middle of the last decade.

So, I liked the Whitman Manhattan poem so much that this week, I’m printing a little something special for our friends on the other side of the continent. Juan Felipe Herrera, poet laureate of California, wrote a Whitman-inspired commemoration of the Bay Bridge upon its reopening about a year ago. Take a look at these 2 side by side, and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean by Whitman-inspired! -ed

Bay Bridge Inauguration Poem

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span, September 2, 2013
for all bridge dreamers, bridge builders & bridge crossers

Self anchored self-sustaining a light onto itself
This arc that lifts us this arc that sings us as we pass
Bay Bridge – I see you now your new design risen

Above star-waters a new galaxy appears a new trillion
May we live in your safety in your carriage in your heart
May all your hours and all your lights embrace us once again

May we curl across your shoulders as bird-fish singers
May we be the bridge for a new time of beauty and peace
Let us thank the workers – artists of space and matter

One sound one tree one knitted rebozo shawl for our mother
Aloft she turns she protects renewed waves of children
Today we are born to wind-sky steel and turquoise choirs

We are filled with light-strength height-gratitude and violet
Ocean stillness we open our arms our bridge of many bridges
Everything is different now melodic silver harmonious

Everything is open now spiritual inhalation of the Pacific Rim
Voyages migrations the conversations of generations Viva!
The workers applaud now iron-workers painters welders planners

Architects engineers laborers drivers Viva!
Lifters callers crane operators Viva!
Cement mixers cable threaders Viva!

After the earthquake
We shall live – yes
We shall round dance and honor

Spider buggies comin’ up!
            Light poles hold ‘em steady      steady
                                              Saddle template fit-up
                              North mainspan cable ready           ready
                                        Motion sensors booster pump expansion tank

Spider buggies comin’ up!
           Spider buggies comin’ up!
                       Spider buggies comin’ up!

We shall live in our luminescent loom of lights and cosmos yes
We shall hula dance in expansive unity once again today yes

Hand to hand shoulder to shoulder woven and winged dancer
Bumper to bumper cable rider to cable flyer call it out now
We shall swivel alive golden silver dark sequenced with joy

We shall live crossing into the other from one to the second
From the second to the linked infinity today the chain is cut and we
Are released again Oakland San Francisco earth to all earth

Ocean to sky-wind to star nebulae once again you and me – we
The people the people El Pueblo it is the people Bay Bridge
Hold on to each other move now rise now for the world to see

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July 21, 2014: Mannahatta

Dear readers,

I learned many things in the past couple weeks, and hope to use the ol’ Monday’s Verse machine to catalog some of my discoveries. In 1921, not too too long after Walt Whitman (1819-1892) finalized his complete Leaves of Grass, Charles Sheeler and Paul Strand paid homage to his title “Mannahatta” with their short film, “Manhatta.” I knew Sheeler primarily as a painter, but I guess he was also a photographer. Strand was a photographer (I saw some of his prints in the same museum as the video piece), too, but I don’t know much about either artist. Pretty sure this video piece was up in the Centre Pompidou, and it made for good viewing–look, you can see it here!:

http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/videoDetails?segid=3516

Don’t worry, your speakers are working fine–it’s a silent film. Now what would be best is to view the film with James Garner doing a voice-over of the Whitman poem, which is shorter than many of his praise poems. But in lieu of that, you can read it yourself, below. And look how many diverse people and things make it into his list of credits! His optimism inspires me. -ed.

Mannahatta

 
I was asking for something specific and perfect for my city, 
Whereupon lo! upsprang the aboriginal name.

Now I see what there is in a name, a word, liquid, sane, 
   unruly, musical, self-sufficient,
I see that the word of my city is that word from of old, 
Because I see that word nested in nests of water-bays,
   superb,
Rich, hemm’d thick all around with sailships and 
   steamships, an island sixteen miles long, solid-founded,
Numberless crowded streets, high growths of iron, slender, 
   strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies,
Tides swift and ample, well-loved by me, toward sundown, 
The flowing sea-currents, the little islands, larger adjoining
   islands, the heights, the villas,
The countless masts, the white shore-steamers, the lighters, 
   the ferry-boats, the black sea-steamers well-model’d,
The down-town streets, the jobbers’ houses of business, the 
   houses of business of the ship-merchants and money-
   brokers, the river-streets,
Immigrants arriving, fifteen or twenty thousand in a week, 
The carts hauling goods, the manly race of drivers of horses,
   the brown-faced sailors,
The summer air, the bright sun shining, and the sailing 
   clouds aloft,
The winter snows, the sleigh-bells, the broken ice in the 
   river, passing along up or down with the flood-tide or 
   ebb-tide,
The mechanics of the city, the masters, well-form’d, 
   beautiful-faced, looking you straight in the eyes,
Trottoirs throng’d, vehicles, Broadway, the women, the 
   shops and shows,
A million people--manners free and superb--open voices--
   hospitality--the most courageous and friendly young 
   men,
City of hurried and sparkling waters! city of spires and masts! 
City nested in bays! my city!

Jun 30, 2014 Day’s End

Good morning readers,

out-of-order postscript: RIP stage legend and legendary screen villain Eli Wallach (1915-2014). If you don’t like black-and-white movies, check out his tiny spot in 2010’s “The Ghost Writer,” which happens to be an excellent political thriller in any case.
disordered postscript #2: Monday’s Verse will be on hiatus for a couple weeks while I’m out of the country and away from e-mail.
And now on to the poetry. A friend gave me a book called Best Poems of 1923, edited by Thomas Moult, and it is a curiosity. You have poems in the volume that seem waaay older than 1923, just because the diction is foreign, the rhyme schemes so staid, and the themes so… well, cliched? Maybe cliched is not the right word, but there are way more nature, religious, and love poems than you would ever find in a contemporary anthology, or even in a post-WWII anthology. The great thing, of course, is that the collection is not retrospective; these poems were selected in 1923-4. There are familiar names (Frost, Mansfield, Hardy, H.D.), but many more that I’d call forgotten, although that probably only displays my ignorance.
Take Helen Hoyt (1887-1972), for example. She published several volumes of poetry, worked as an associate editor at Poetry magazine, she was the daughter of a Pennsylvania governor, and she had a niece who was also a poet. Perhaps if we’d been around in the 1920s or 1930s we’d have seen some of her poems or been introduced to other poets through her editing and anthologizing. She has 2 love poems in the 1923 collection, and I dig the mood and genderless point-of-view of this one. -ed.
DAY’S END
Drooping were the violets and the roses you had given me;
I carried them against my coat, their heads drooped over.
So we whom love had held against its breast all night,
Whom the city had held against its beating side all day,
Drooped with colors faded, stems without strength.
But very fragrant still were the violets, still dear;
Fragrant and dear the crumpled petals of the roses;
Your darkened eyes, languid hands, dear as before.
We felt no diminution of love, or nearness;
Beautiful and desirable our tired contentment together
As we lingered from street to street to the street of parting.
Precious as any vivid passion our pale quiet.