I feel a big weight off my shoulders having produced the Lulu books. Sending out some review copies here & there. It's kind of amazing to me how it works. When I can afford it, I will improve the distribution channels even more.
This sort of thing is probably a big temptation to younger writers. It might be better to go through the editorial hoops for a while, the disappointments & the reality jolts. But I've been at it so long, & written so much, that I just want to shape it my own way now & put it out there.
Chapel Hill is a strange duck, a sort of semi-fictional memoir, or semi-memoirish fiction. One of the themes running through it is the idea of history as the work of a child's imagination. The contrast, the clash between historical "facts" and the beautiful & naive dreams which children make of them. A "coming-of-age" story, which circles around between history & family history, & fiction & poetry, in the mixed-up way of adolescent perception. Set in the 60s. About, among other things, two boys & their obsession with toy soldiers, & playing "war", while the older brother of one is off in Vietnam.
I started connecting this the other day with my recent reading in Vico. His way of thinking about the power of the human imagination (as it changes & develops) over cultural behavior. For Vico, according to Mazzotta anyway, "poetry is history" (& vice versa, I guess).
The seemingly innate drive people have, starting in childhood, to make sense of their experience, to recapitulate it, to turn it into story & history, to interpret it - to play with it. & the destiny of the poet & poetry : to judge the doings of individuals & nations through the prism of poetic speech. This seems like a source for both poetry's "seriousness" and its power to lighten & console.
This "historical" aspect of the poet's social role is undermined, sometimes, by so much acidic despair & scepticism, which often seems to turn contemporary poetry into intentionally vapid or superficial cadging & jokery. It's rare in poetry to find a fusion of both clear-sighted irony and hope.