Valentine's Day & DATES. More about birthdays & dying days. More dissertation fodder for the 900 pp. poem Forth of July follows.
The poem ("Forth. . .") puns on the "birthday" of the USA.
Each of the 3 large books took close to 9 months to write. Gestation.
The poem's form & themes were sprung or triggered by a short elegy written for my maternal uncle James Ravlin which appears in the opening pages of Stubborn Grew. The section immediately following is a short elegy for my cousin Juliet Ravlin who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge on her father's birthday in 1972. Juliet becomes one of the Orphic figures : in a sense the poem is a "coming-forth of Julie".
Stubborn Grew ends on 4.10 - Good Friday. The short central section of the entire poem (#28 in Book 2 - Grassblade Light) was written on 4.10.
Grassblade Light is made up of seven chapters: each chapter (save the central one) containing 28 parts plus a central part; the central chapter is a double chapter with 2 halves of 28 parts each, centered (as noted above) on #28 of the 4th section. The 6th chapter, titled "Giants in the Earth", is kind of a microcosm/"underworld journey" of the entire book 2, and was written on 5.28.
5.28 is the date of the death of both William Blackstone & the knight/monk/ancestor St. Guillem de Gellone (discussed earlier in this blog). 5.29 is my birthday & also "Black Wednesday", the date of the fall of Byzantium. The "Russian theme" in the poem can be read in some ways as revisiting of Byzantium/Orthodoxy via Mandelstam, E. Shvarts, et al.
The entire poem (Forth of July or Stubborn Grew/The Rose) was finished on 5.28.
Book 3 (July) begins on 7.15 (St. Henry's Day; St. Swithin's Day). One of the themes running through this book is death/resurrection, empire/Jubilee. 7.15.1099 the Crusaders after taking Jerusalem visited the Holy Sepulchre for the 1st time. "July" (the month) named for Julius Caesar; the poem moves toward & alludes to both 3.15 and 4.15 - Ides of March (Caesar's death) and the Good Friday on which both Lincoln & Vallejo died. This transformation is thematized as a kind of chrysalis (empire/Jubilee : Julius/Juliet). July was actually completed on 3.5 - date of death of both Stalin & Akhmatova (Julius/Juliet).
The poem as a whole begins with the words "Time flowers". The first stanza runs:
Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay.
A spring breeze flows through the branches on the terrace.
The city below flutters and flaps, roars
and drones like a resurrected bumblebee.
You could say that the birth/death/rebirth themes are encapsulated here. What is the meaning of this 900-pp muttering toward a birthday (5.28 to 5.29), while visiting dozens of other "holidays" along the way? In Stubborn Grew, the 2nd chapter, called "Ancient Light", serves as yet another miniature model of the entire poem (the title & the plot of this chapter revolve around a chance visit I made to a lovely Greek Orthodox church in London, where there was an old paint-chipped sign posted mysteriously high up on its wall : "Ancient Light"). It begins with a Breugel Epiphany scene & African wise man Balthasar (should be Melchior) offering his green-golden nef or toy boat as a birthday present to baby J. It ends with a christmas carol scene in a small London church shaped like a boat.
The poem is about moving from the vessel of the womb to the ark of Jubilee: the nef or star or angelic UFO which re-winds reality & intervenes in historical time (so that "time flowers"). It's a very American poem about timespace flight (July ends with these words: "come fly. . ." The entire poem ends with these words:
the nef rows, rows. . .
palms, heartbeats, light.
(p.s. one theory for the etymology of "Russia" is that "Rus" comes from the name given to the Vikings who founded the Kievan empire: they were sailors, "rowers")
I'm writing my own bloggertation. . .
[p.p.s. click here to see a picture of Julie & my sister Cara (on trike) & me, Gull Lake, MN, ca. 1968 or 69]