Arctic cold here. Just returned from a beautiful concert of medieval choral music by the Rose Ensemble, at the Basilica of St. Mary (over by Loring Park). Incredible freedom in the rhythm & harmonies - you sense the hardship of life in those days (nasty, brutish & short), stamped with this otherworldly exaltation.
Makes you think anything is possible. Also reading a translation of brief, lucid biography of Osip Mandelstam (Mandelstam, by Oleg Lekmanov). My hero & imaginary friend. Makes you think anything is possible.
What if it were possible to transmute contemporary American poetry (poetry in American English) into some completely revised, unrecognizable system of relations & values?
The relations between poet / poetry / language / nation-state (or people) are a knotty spider's web. Think of Shakespeare, setting his seal on English poetry, while advancing the historical legend of Tudor supremacy (there were other poets in English). Or Dante, basically establishing the Italian language, and the Italian nation, by way of mutually-reinforcing rhyme-schemes. Or Whitman, the loafing disreputable hobo-bard, inventing a template for the American dream?
Poetry per se - individual poems - subsists as a subtext of these larger narratives. The unresolved suspense of Hamlet (the play) is a dramatic effect - the plunging of quasi-historical characters into a tragic allegory of their own (semi-suicidal) demise. Actual England, actual Elizabethan London provides the tacit atmosphere, maintaining these translucent symphonies of lyric speech.
Anything is possible. What if we initiated something like an American "charismatic (bardic) poetry"? What if HG Poetics replaced AWP, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation, and the Library of Congress? What if the charisma of the flinty bard - the stubborn, indomitable shaman/patriarch/prophet/holy fool - what if the drama of poet vs. official anthill - became the most interesting thing happening?
For some reason, I've always found Osip Mandelstam more interesting than any poets or poetry surfacing in the United States. He emanates this uncanny/contradictory rightness - this resolution in the face of autocratic, totalitarian social control - so as to present the inimitable profile of the free, loving, creative human being. The person. I, Walt Whitman, speaking to you, whoever you are - my equal, my soul mate, my camerado.
We need more national drama in poetry today. Down with the protocols, away with the moneychangers !
Take me into the night, where the Yenisey
flows, where pines reach the starlight,
because there's no wolf's blood in me,
and only an equal shall take my life.
(trans. by A.S. Kline)