Now I wish I hadn't said anything about religion & poetry.
In a certain sense, it seems irrelevant. Poetry absorbs everything & turns it into itself. Response & criticism have to be aesthetic, not burdened with excess mental baggage. [p.s. if you read Alan Bramhall's blog, you eventually notice brief 1-line responses to poets he's heard or read, which are pretty direct & disinterested, not related to any obvious program or philosophy or allegiance. This is refreshing. Yes, full disclosure, I am giving a reading with AB later this month. But I've never met him, I only just happened upon his blog, because Jim Behrle, in the infinite burly depth of his behrlehood, stepped out of mutual poet-catpiss-contests & surprisingly invited me to read in Beantown.]
This whole issue has been an irresolvable knot for me, for a long long time.
Because one aspect of the experience of making poetry has been a certain impulse toward "purity", which seems quasi-religious in itself. The effort of composition has always felt like a refining-away of dead or unoriginal or inauthentic speech (often unsuccessful). Always threatened by distraction or the temptation to cut corners. But even more prevalent is the time spent not writing, because the concept or inspiration or feeling of access was not there.
Another aspect, for me, is indeed the religious impulse or motivation. One of the recurrent conceptual frames, to which I return again & again in my thinking, is the idea that the mode of poetry is a specific kind of mimesis or picture-making, which models the livingness or the living-order of reality, that is, of a possibly spiritually-sentient or spiritually-meaningful cosmos : Aristotle's "universals" (cf. Poetics). This capability differentiates poetry from other kinds of discourse. & so, thanks to this capability, poetry-making becomes a special mode of witness & interpretation, a special kind of meaning-making.
I realize however that even these momentous capabilities are only one aspect of poetry. Turn the figure around, and you recognize its character as a free, autonomous artistic creation : a product of a play-field, with no necessary mimetic or utilitarian function. (I refer once again to Mandelstam's brilliant resolution of this impasse : where, in one of his essays, he asserts that the freedom of Western art is an outgrowth of the historical event of the Redemption : Christ's world-saving sacrifice allows art to become utterly free of external obligation or constraint; the world is already saved, if you're willing to recognize it : art doesn't need to save it!)
But if you are interested in encountering my particular poetry, then you will want to understand that the general function of mimesis, outlined above, is, in my case, elaborated within a particular orientation : my own set of beliefs, commitments, hunches, experiences & assumptions.
The application of an Orphic framework to Stubborn Grew - by going back to the ur-poet & his descent to the world of the dead - was an attempt at origination or poetic priority : in order to frame the set "poetry" within the field "Henry's worldview". On another level, the Orpheus story just seemed like the most natural narrative embodiment for human (& personal) feelings of love, forlornness, & healing/rebirth. On a third level, it offers possibilities for syncretism (I was interested in the Native American background & presence behind any New World long poem endeavor). "Bluejay", the real bird in my backyard who became a hermetic ghost-guide, is the protagonist of Orpheus-tales from Northwest Coast tribes (as I know I've mentioned oftentimes before.)