Feels like my poetry CAREER has been a matter of painting myself into a corner... frustrating (maybe I'm just impatient)... choices I've made which are perhaps somewhat self-defensive, compensatory...
- the yakky blogging & commenting
- the long, long (endless) poems
- the self-publishing
- the non-involvement with scenes (beyond online gabbing) & magazines
Where have I been published?
Copper Beech Press did a book, 1979
William Slaughter's online MUDLARK did the "Island Road" sequence in 1997
Tod Thilleman's Spuyten Duyvil did a book in 2000
- scattered appearances in Witz, Apex of the M, Fulcrum, Jacket, Lit, The Hat, alea, a few others...
I'm not complaining!!! Maybe it's all for the best.
Where/how do I situate myself as a poet? I started out back in the 60s, with an interest in the New York School anthologies. In the broader scheme, the NY poets might be considered informal formalists. That is, they rejected both the new prosy narrative-lyrical free-verse styles which emerged after (or with) the Confessionals, as well as the conservative formalism of the 50s (Hecht, Wilbur, Merrill, et al.). They practiced poetry as self-consciously formally-informal, and self-consciously minor (at least on the surface). Humor & light verse played a big role; irony, parody.
How you start is important. These early influences maybe inoculated me against an American "faux-naif" approach to poetic self-presentation - in the mainstream journals - which consists in a sort of earnest, prosaic, ingratiating, transparent, socially-thematic (ie. "my poem on animals"; "my poem about my mother"; "my poem on 9/11"), anecdotal stance (I know, this is a very inadequate & unfair abstraction...). Part of me just feels like that's a mode of discourse, a contest I don't want to enter. I'd rather play hockey or chess or knit shawls or something.
The other side of the coin : my failure to break into mainstream print tended to disallow any sort of relaxed, easy congress with the "ordinary" reader - any confident "public" or normative mode of call-&-response. There's no response. You get inured & adapt to being marginal & marginalized.
Anyway... after a long strange trip-hiatus in the 70s, I started back into poetry... even more distantly unconnected with contemporary goings-on. Did a lot of reading... Whitman & Dickinson, Poe & Melville... Pound, Joyce, Crane, Eliot, Stevens, Yeats... & the poets they referred to... Renaissance, Dante, Homer... Olson & Williams... some Russians (Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova)... I know, it sounds like mostly men, & it was... that's one of my limitations...
Read lots of monographs & dissertations... essays & criticism...
Got very focused on how Pound & Williams & Olson brought history & prose particulars into their poems... but believe I am basically a musical/evocative rather than visual/descriptive poet, so the influence of Stevens & Crane was just as strong...
- wanted to incorporate in poetry my own view of world history, as a counter-weight to Pound/Williams/Olson's epic arguments...
- & so went off on long, long private voyages through verseland... got myself entrained into the quatrain train... a personal idiom or compositional process...
& there is no response... in the vast multiplicity of (more-)talented voices I am a pigeon blending in with the sidewalk...
(p.s. : I'm being completely unfair (in my fussy egotistical way) to those intrepid readers who do visit here, & read my scribbles... & those dear people who have responded, helped me along over the eons...)
Still hopeful & doubtful at the same time... I've constructed an odd "Henry" persona-presentation, sort of a Rhode Island embodiment of loco-locality (on top of the dome of the RI State House is a golden statue called "the Independent Man"). (Note : RI Statehood Day & my birthday are the same : 5/29.)
My long poems & sonnet sequence & short poems... I want them to be seen as a recapitulation of modern/contemporary American poetry history, with my own personal "Henry" stamp - In RI does the Olson/Williams train, Forth of July does the Crane/Stevens train, Island Road does the Berryman/Berrigan sonnet strain - that's the idea... I'm here...
head full of gloom
(my own woes muddled
with those of the world) -
noticed (on the sidewalk)
cheerful letters in pink chalk
(rounded, girlish - cursive script,
broken off - author skipped?) -
(signed, in a heart-shape) CLIO
the Muse of History : as if to say
I'm starting over - here, today.