I feel like I took a small conceptual leap of my own yesterday, with the remarks on Harriet, responding to Reginald Shepherd. The idea that the poem is only fully actualized in the "big outside" of the public stage (not necessarily a literal stage, but a performance nonetheless), in the "gray area" between art & politics.
Of course a poem can have a perennial life as a text, and be reborn every time it's read, and appear re-shaped again & again... Mandelstam's idea of the "letter in the bottle" to an unknown reader. But maybe the normative aim or trajectory of the poem is directly into the social Now of its time and place. It might be a combination of these two aspects, ie. a renovation or rebirth of a former crystallization; but I think this idea of poetic actualization on the "stage" of the present is important, as it relates to to another idea which I 've followed at various times on this blog, ie. to emphasize a distinction between prose literature, and poetry's embodiment, the human performance of language in the Now of the present, time's "pleroma". The poem's (Aristotelian) form achieves its ontological telos - it flowers - in this shared "gray area", the common verbal/social/political space of its time.
"Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay." Opening line of Forth of July.
& with what kind of "Now" might my own writing have to do? I'm thinking of the "gray area" of the great Jasper Johns show at the Met in NY, which I saw last weekend. Johns often gestures toward poets, especially Hart Crane. There are the images of the hand-print on a kind of pendulum or radius, as if reaching up from deep under water. I've thought of my own long poems as partly an attempt to perform a kind of ghost dance or resurrection ceremony, for Crane in particular - to play Hart Crane redivivus. (& did something parallel with the "Henry" of John Berryman, in the Island Road sonnets.) An illustration to one of the chapters of Grassblade Light, "Palm Sunday" (which is set in the New Orleans/Gulf area), unwittingly echoes Johns's image in this respect.