Yes, & about that long poem (Stubborn Grew/The Rose - &/or Forth of July). I was looking out the library window this afternoon toward downtown Providence, trying to stay awake, thinking about the motivations which started back in the early 80s. Perhaps very big poems like the Divina Commedia really come from a similar impulse to the very brief poems, epigrams, Emily, Celan. The feeling that a prophet feels with words - Yeats' line, "speech after long silence". Facing the universe & trying to get it right this time, this once. Not so much an intellectual thing as an emotion, as when some serious music begins to take hold.
That was one aspect. Another motivation seems less exalted : a long poem allows you to dawdle, plan, cogitate, live with it - even when you're not ready to SPEAK that way. It's a way of getting old & set in your ways & unpoetic while remaining inside a POEMA (russian name for "long poem").
& the miracle was (at least from my biased experience) I got older & older & the poem(s) got younger. My early poems are older & creakier (I mean my early peoms from my SECOND phase. . . it gets complicated when you take a powder from poetry for almost 10 years).
The genre fascination, another aspect. There is a kind of hierarchy among the buildings. I mean the Bible & Dante are HUGE. . . & the American Long Poem (Pound/Crane/HD/Zuk/WCW/Olson et al.) bears a curious affinity to these ENCYCLOPEDIC works, these WORLD-CREATIONS. & this goes back to what I said above, about the motivation to say the absolute perfect thing, large or small. Pound: "who will lift the great acorn of light?" So it becomes a great game.
& it was a great game! Chess masters manuever within a nexus of thousands of moves. It began to feel that way, after I accepted the procedure I first caught from Mandelstam : the idea of a sequence of DRAFTS or variations on a theme. Many-in-one. It was a very simple idea which grows complexity. & it really worked for me. One thing you can see if you look for it in Forth of July is a progression from the opening chapter made up of very short distinct lyrics, to the next chapter in which the individual poems are linked more closely, to the next chapter in which they are linked less by narrative & more thematically, to the next chapter which pulls all of these together into an uber-narrative (Bluejay/Orpheus). . . to the 2nd half of the book which makes a larger, tighter amalgam in this vein, to the 2nd book (Grassblade Light) which crystallizes & formalizes the balance between whole & part, to the 3rd book (July), which subjects this crystal to SPEED & FLOW. . . There is a distinct progression from specificity & localness & narrative at the start of the poem to music & universality & indirection at the end. The narrative is there but it's part of a very elusive/allusive net toward the end, a sort of cabala of alphabetic characters & significant anniversaries. Under the sign of Orpheus & the shadow of William Blackstone & the light of "J" (Bluejay/Juliet/July/Jubilee/J). Overall the process of thematic variation or many-in-one begins to take on a life of its own as it unifies & draws taut its own materials even as it absorbs & swallows up an increasingly larger range of materials - the BLOB ! It must be this process itself which gives the sense of acceleration. Acceleration toward the past, the springtime, the Jubilee, the Eternal - a time machine. As I've already suggested in this blog somewhere, the notion of a time-warp or ark-machine or J-nave-ship is central to the "historical argument" of this long poem (one more of its motivations being to suggest something slightly different in the way of History than as provided by the other long-poem makers : not COMPLETELY different, but a variation (there are intimations of renovated time or life-renewal in Crane, Zukofsky, Pound, Olson. . . but I place the emphasis in my own way).
It will never be the Divina Commedia, which is the Mozart of poetry, the perfect crystal. But it is a kind of singing HG Sophia!