It seems clear to me that I have wavered through my writing life between these two poles, between Whitman and Poe. It's why my favorite American "bard" has always been, not Ezra Pound, but Hart Crane. Crane's Bridge is a national paean to American culture : yet the poem is so dense and "overdetermined" with pure poetic resonance that it is always more than whatever abstract or paraphrase is applied to it. The Bridge is multidimensional and recursive, self-referential : you could say the poem radiates the free-standing beauty of an achieved work of art, an "end-in-itself".
Also the serene formulae of the early-modern poetic movement of Russian Acmeism gave me examples of possible integrations of these two poles (call them the aesthetic and the political, or the communal and the individual...). Gumilev and Mandelstam found a mediation between revolutionary Futurism and reactionary or detached Symbolism : by making poetic works of integral, pure and free art, by following, revising and fulfilling artistic traditions they had inherited, the Acmeists produced an art of and for the people. "The Word is flesh and bread. It shares the fate of flesh and bread : suffering" (Mandelstam, from the essay "Word and Culture").
Yin & yang, systole, diastole... the poet goes out singing, and comes back again - to work late, & in secret, at the smithy of the integral poem.
This may be another partial explanation for my marginal presence on the contemporary scene. I've been too busy working at the forge. My massive unread poems are an effort, in part, to bring the American long-poem enterprise to some kind of artistic, integral fulfillment, on the model of Crane's Bridge and Osip Mandelstam's life-work. Island Road, Stubborn Grew, Forth of July, Lanthanum, Ravenna Diagram... It would be somewhat ironic if someday critical reception picks up on the idea that the American national epic has been fulfilled by a contribution from Soviet Russia. But don't call Putin or Trump : Mandelstam and Gumilev speak from a completely other Russia, the Russia of Pushkin, Chaadev, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova. The spiritually-free Russian psyche, so radiant with balletic grace and deep chords of solemn harmony.
Gateway Arch Monument, St. Louis