I'm almost done with the long poem Fontegaia. It's in 5 chapters, roughly 28 poems each. It gets more structured (numerically) starting around chapt. 3.
I see it as the caboose of the ol' Quatrain Line. That is, a sequel to Forth of July. There were some sequel-like things in the book Dove Street (the longer sequences there). But Fontegaia is more clearly a companion poem.
Some things are re-appearing here, toward the end, more or less unexpectedly, which rhyme with the beginning sections of Stubborn Grew (1st bk in Forth of July). It's nice if you think so, as Hemingway said, I think (about something or other).
What am I about? My self-image or ambition as a poet has not been ratified by the Grand Concourse of the Literary World. Not yet, anyway, if ever. Who is my gosh-best reader? Not for me to say. Maybe people will find things in my poems that I don't see, for better & worse.
You may want to know that I think of poetry as a pretty high-falutin' project, & that I think there's some pretty Great Examples out there - since Homer, maybe before. Dante, Shakespeare, them guys. Top of the crop. Not to mention Chaucer, Ariosto, Milton, Whitman, Dickinson... you know, the list goes on.
You might want to know that I think every poet shows, obviously or implicitly, who is or is not important to them, as models & competitors (& the blind spots may be the most telling). & in that regard, the game I think I'm playing is specifically an American game, in poetry in English, specifically - & still rooted back in the rivalry between the expats (Pound, Eliot, etc.) & the Americanists (WCW, Crane, Stevens, etc.).
That is, my writing shows implicitly that I'm not as interested in the poetry of the generations coming after Eliot-Crane-Stevens-Pound, as I am in that crux of the early 20th-cent itself. (Though I have my scattered heros - Berryman, for one.)
Now whether this focus is an unmistakable sign of literary over-reaching on my part... well, it's definitely a gamble. Time will tell. Have I merely chosen anachronism? An inauthentic, bookish, archaizing style?
I would like my gosh-best reader, before making that judgement call, to be sure to read all my books... not just the quatrain-train. I mean the short poems; In RI; the unpublished poems... you have your assignment! - because the short poems in Way Stations & Dove Street & elsewhere can possibly help to ground, contextualize, acclimatize the long poems. (The books are (almost) all here.)
& why the focus on that early modernist group? Well, I'm fascinated both with Eliot's efforts to transplant contemporary (& American) poetry back into a Renaissance/English/medieval culture & context - and with the counter-effort (by Crane, especially) to ground poetic vision and cultural authority in "New World" materials & themes. & I'm too interested in history to stay in a more purely Romantic or personal strain (a la Stevens & many others) - much as I love & admire Stevens.
I see the 20th-cent. long-poem projects as a big game - played around the magnetic force fields of Homer, Milton, Dante especially... by Joyce, Pound, Eliot, Crane, WCW, Olson, David Jones, Zukofsky, Jay Wright, James Merrill, & others. I realize these are all men : but it should be kept in mind that there's another oblique feminine impulse in my work, coming especially from some Russian poets - Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva. & of course, the Bible was written by a woman (Book of J).
Not trying to be facetious : I know my limitations, including all the ones I don't know. There are a zillion contemporaries I haven't read. But I started writing in 1965 or so; &
There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
(Frost, of course, beats them all - but that's another story.) I've been too busy writing my own limericks to pay too much attention to my contemporaries.
Yes, I know this sounds silly. & I have to be going, so may continue this thread later. The game is big because the longing & vision inscribed in human culture by poetry - well, it's one of the building blocks of civilization. Or, I should say, it's an expression of humanity's attempt to ground itself in a visionary or spiritual orientation. The stakes are high.