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102nd Virtual Poetry Circle

Welcome to the 102nd Virtual Poetry Circle!

Remember, this is just for fun and is not meant to be stressful.

Keep in mind what Molly Peacock’s books suggested. Look at a line, a stanza, sentences, and images; describe what you like or don’t like; and offer an opinion. If you missed my review of her book, check it out here.

Also, sign up for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge because its simple; you only need to read 1 book of poetry.  Please contribute to the growing list of 2011 Indie Lit Award Poetry Suggestions, visit the stops on the National Poetry Month Blog Tour from April.

From Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong, which I reviewed earlier this week.

Because I Would Not Admit (page 67-9)

+++++And his dark secret love
+++++Does thy life destroy. (William Blake)

Because I would not admit
that I had nurtured
an enemy within my breast–

a lover who wanted to gnaw
my secret rose,
a lover who wanted to press me
between the covers of a book,
then burn it,
a lover-usurper who wanted
to take my soul–

I nearly died,
running my car upon rocks
like a badly steered sloop,
crashing into trees
like a hurricane gale,
burning my arms in ovens
(when I thought I was only
baking bread) . . . .

To admit the betrayal
was worse than
the fact of betrayal–
for I loved him
as leaves love sun,
turning my face to him,
turning my hips, my womb
to be filled with a dream
of children, a dream of books
& babies sprouting like leaves
from a spring tree,
a dream of trees that leaked blood
instead of sap . . . .

The dream’s the thing–
the dream we die for,
turning our faces to the sun,
eyes closed, never seeing it has
gone out:
dead star, it blazes coldly
over a dead planet
while we bask in its afterglow,
now remembered in the mind.

He was fond
of stars & telescopes;
fond of machines, fond
of building the most complex
contraptions
to scale the clouds.
But Icarus flies
near the sun with waxen wings,
& does not think of gears
or motors.

Trees rise up at him
as he falls; the earth
rushes to meet him
like a lover
raising her writhing hips;
the wings weep their waxy tears
& fall apart;
the sun is hot
on his face.
But even as he falls
he is in ecstasy;
his sun has not
gone out.

Let me know your thoughts, ideas, feelings, impressions. Let’s have a great discussion…pick a line, pick an image, pick a sentence.

I’ve you missed the other Virtual Poetry Circles. It’s never too late to join the discussion.

Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong

Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong begins with an introduction by the poet herself in which she talks about how poems have become “the stepchild of American letters,” especially since the novel has become so popular.  She further goes on to discuss the duality of being a poet and a novelist and how it is often considered “promiscuous.”  She has thrown those adjectives aside to embrace her duality and to make the most of both genres, with the themes of one informing and flourishing in the other.  “I am always hoping that someone will recognize the poet and novelist as two aspects of the same soul — but alas, the genres are reviewed by two different groups of people, so no one ever seems to notice this in print,” she says.  (page xvi)  It’s funny that she would have this concern in the 1980s, and I wonder what she would think about blogs today that review both novels and poetry.

Erica Jong’s collection is broken into four parts: Fetal Heartbeat; The Breath Inside the Breath; The Heart, The Child, The World; Straw in the Fire.  From these section titles alone, readers can tell that the poems are likely to generate an arc from birth to death.

Jong’s narrator examines what it means to be a mother, the trepidation that comes with, and the joys that are discovered as the child enters the world and grows up questioning the world around them.  More than that, there is a circle of birth-life-death that Jong refers to and wonders about, working back from her advanced years to her childhood.  From “Poem for Molly’s Fortieth Birthday” (page 23-6), “Now,/I begin/unraveling/the sleeves/of care/that have/stitched up/this brow,/unraveling/the threads/that have kept/me scared,/as I pranced/over the world,/seemingly fearless,/working/without a net,/”

The second section tackles the trials of living, embarking on new aspects of our lives and the moment in which we straddle the past and future.  The indecision, the drawing back, the confusion, and the final moment the decision is made.  The narrator is on the precipice of decisions and movements through life.  From “This Element” (page 39), “Looking for a place/where we might turn off/the inner dialogue,/the monologue/of futures & regrets,/of pasts not past enough/& futures that may never come/to pass,/”

In the smallest of the sections — three — presents the grittiness of life — the love and loss and the pain and joy — but much of this is written bitterly or ironically.  Jong uses simple language and images to demonstrate these emotions without clearly carving out each situation that gave way to those emotions.  Her lines are short and clipped, drawing from that additional emotional power.  On page 55 from “Letter to my Lover After Seven Years,” “Now we have died/into the limbo of lost loves,/that wreckage of memories/tarnishing with time,/that litany of losses/which grows longer with the years,/as more of our friends/descend underground/& the list of our loved dead/outstrips the list of the living.//”

In the final part of the book, the anger, bitterness, and frankness are all that is left as the scars have bored into the narrator and the fluttery, flowery ideas of birth have been completely worn away, leaving only a bristly exterior and nearly empty interior.  In this way, the final section is not a closing of the circle, but it could be if the opening of the circle was ill-perceived.

Ordinary Miracles by Erica Jong takes a look at life from a female point of view — a poet who is derailed and tainted by love and childbirth, who thinks she may have been better off remaining untainted as a way to create the best work.  Whether this interpretation is correct is up to each reader, especially given that many of the poems also illustrate the hidden joys of childbirth and life — the hope that comes with each, a hope that things will be different.  However, readers may cringe at some of the word choices and language used in some of the poems to describe the anatomy of men and the act of sex.  The poet may have chosen the words to provide shock value, and make a point about perspective once relationships fail.  The collection examines the ordinary in an attempt to show readers how miraculous those moments are, but the effort falls short on some occasions.  Overall, the collection will have you talking with book clubs and friends for a long time as it raises issues about relationships and motherhood.

About the Poet (from her Website):

Erica Jong—novelist, poet, and essayist—has consistently used her craft to help provide women with a powerful and rational voice in forging a feminist consciousness. She has published 20 books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue and the New York Times Book Review.

Erica Jong lives in New York City and Weston, CT with her husband, attorney Ken Burrows, and standard poodle, Belinda Barkowitz.  Her daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, is also a writer.

 

 

This is my 25th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

This is my 16th book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.