London - my young Jesus freak days. Henry Hankovitch, con guitar. Thought the Stones might be useful for evangelization. (Now there's a new idea! Are you tuned in, Canterbury?) That was when I proclaimed the Fall of Babylon, in all seriousness, one midsummer day, to the hippies & potheads at Glastonbury Tor. Return of "the King".

These days I'm playing with Jim & Colette in a jug band, tentatively the K.C. Moaners. Old-timey, ragtime, blues, & some Canadienne fiddle-stomps. We're live at the No. Smithfield Public Library (I think) on March 22, if anybody's in town.
Strolled down to India Point at lunchtime, & was followed by a small piece of styrofoam for more than a block.

Cute little critter. Hope she finds her way home.
Will my poetry become famous? It's a long shot.
But I did audition for Mick Taylor's old job with the Rolling Stones.
I told Keith Richards he should read Bible; he suggested I read William Blake.

How did I get in? I rang the little bell at the gate to their studio-mansion in Richmond.
When they asked over the intercom, "who is it?" I said "JOHNNY B. GOODE".
There was a poem in the New Yorker not long ago I found completely adequate, & now, dagnab it all, I can't remember her name exactly, can't find it. . . Linda Biehrl? Teaches at Univ of WA Seattle? The poem was called "1934". I read & reacted very strongly : Mandelshtamian.

It worked unlike the CK Williams poem by not over-reaching? I can understand Grenier's "I hate speech" - because it's so dang hard in poetry, at the border between rhetoric & art. The Biehrl[?] poem maintained aesthetic distance - very pronounced reserve - created an inner world, an architecture of sound, self-sufficient. Probably to write a "public poem" [occasional] is more difficult to do successfully.
Inner architecture lost to rhetoric.

"The poem lives through an inner image, that ringing mold of form which anticipates the written poem. There is not yet a single word, but the poem can already be heard. This is the sound of the inner image, this is the poet's ear touching it." [O.M., "Word & Culture", 1921]

Elena Glazov-Corrigan (Mandelshtam's Poetics) repeatedly emphasizes the duality in all Mandelshtam's statements on poetics: material/impulse, inner form/manifestation, etc. But the belief that the poetic Word turns on its own center of gravity, its own architecture, is never in doubt. To believe that such an autonomous activity nevertheless participates meaningfully in the world at large, is to believe that poetry neither denies nor succumbs to Necessity, but engages it on its own terms. This is a statement of faith in poetry's universality, its "categorical" presence.
To conclude that words are not a game is to acknowledge the realm of Necessity. No longer aggression, desire, or interest : awareness.

Something many postmodern philosophers argue we are no longer in a position to acknowledge (reality is fantasmal, a sub-Heraclitean chaos).

But poetry is not necessary. Not a philosophy.

Poetry admits Necessity; then plays with it like a toy. Maybe in this oscillation resides the authentic approach. Also maybe here lies the secret of the emotions, the affect. Free from pain; enslaved to pain. Joking on the scaffold - victory in defeat. The layered emotional effect of music. Both and.

When I sit or stand alone somewhere, in absolute quiet, & imagine speaking. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Poetry at the onset of time & space.
But there must be something more enlightening to be said about games & poetry.
Playing doubles with Joe & Jordan:

Frames are games. Critical games with little round counters & a checkerboard. The yucky feeling of reviews, yes, most of the time; because the reviewer (me) is thinking "this is an easy assignment". The words are anybody's, without much commitment or authenticity.

But let's suppose somebody who can respond with feeling & intelligence & new insight. So criticism might be possible in that case. & if the frames are inadequate, can they be made to work more adequately? In reference to Joe's comments about globalism & war & all : is it legitimate to propose general ideas about how poetry in general responds meaningfully to the world in crises? I really don't know the answer to this.

I sent an email to a list recently complaining about the inadequacy of a CK Williams poem at the back page of this week's New Yorker. Inadequate to me, anyway. So why? I sensed a combination of complacency, vagueness, & cheap tricks ("fire" as a metaphor for general sense of doom & blame the gummint).

I remember with fear & trembling long harangues & debates on Buff List & SubSubpoetics over "general rules" (frames); that puts me in trepidation. But I'm tempted again to look for a way of asking for something of poetry - something between Ron's alternative dialect dialectic, & the typical sleight-of-hand of professional poets represented by the CK Williams poem. Authenticity? Complex engagement? Patience? Unwillingness to rhetorize a reality? What is this called in poetics?

Just blabbing, as usual, ever & anon. Maybe it has something to do with looking for poetry as opposed to the verbalized "positioning" of writers on different spots on the political scale. To focus on the resources of poetry so intensely that it begins to speak to ALL sides, without equivocation. Another idealized frame-up?

More leaven from Henry the blabbing fair-see.

My father, in his mid-70s, still plays poker with his friends from high school. The game-player. A lawyer, it was all about winning games. Now that he's retired, it's games all the time. Up & Down the River with my daughter. I remember the eternal Sunday afternoons, too quiet, us kids at loose ends, Mom & Dad & Aunt Martha & Grandma playing bridge, so quietly. Chuckling now & then. The Mississippi River down in its canyon across the street.


Lots of poetry books cross my desk;
Geryon or Cerberus, I route them
over to the vault (the Harris Collection).

This one looks pretty good,
though terribly straitened.
(Pure Descent, by Elizabeth Robinson.)
i.e., "forth of jewel-eye." JWblee bee heebie-jeebies. honeycomb crust crest.
From Mandelstam's essay "The Word & Culture" (1921):

"Cultural values ornament the State, endowing it with color, form and, if you will, even gender. Inscriptions on State buildings, tombs and gateways insure the state against the ravages of time.
Poetry is the plow that turns up time in such a way that the abyssal strata of time, its black earth, appear on the surface."

With that in mind, some curious political-poetical correlations & my Forth of July: "poema" or long poem as a reflection of the "state". "the father of his country". Dubya, & the "W" etched into the East Side hillside, mirroring the eagle-eye "M" of Justitia in Dante's heaven (of Mars?). Inscriptions withstanding the corrosion of time. M & W forming cat's eyes. Pushkin the lost black cat, lost in Petersburg, lost in the Kremlin, lost (in Stubborn Grew) on Halloween & leading into the "catabasis" narrative. & who is the lost Pushkin, the lost black cat, the lost African elephant? The lost "W" in the heavens is Cassiopeia, the daughter of the Ethiopian queen. Ethiopia, "home of the lost ark of the covenant". Black-talk, Delta-talk in Forth of July, redman-talk, rus-talk. Primordial origins. Origin & end in the ark of Jubilee, Eden & Paradise. What is Jubilee? My politics: holiday, equilibrium, liberation, justice, equality, sanctioned by the time-warp ineffable intervening Ethiopian-Hebraic ark-word we don't yet comprehend.

Nutty Nile-notes.
Some comments on Ron Silliman's remarks today (2/27), on Brian Kim Stefan's "Creep" theory.

Ron has a frame for everything, which if I might oversimplify, goes something like this :

There is a community in opposition to mainstream capitalist-controlled society. There is an avant-garde, oppositional poetry & poetics community which stems from & represents this wider community. There is no alternative to membership in this community : anyone who claims otherwise is either a dupe or a sellout. Language Poetry is the classic manifestation of this oppositional community. The younger generations have so far failed to meet its standards, either because they do not recognize the L-Po techniques which they themselves have imitated, or because they are tempted into apostasy by the wider capitalist "serial publication" culture. ["Rugged"] Individualism in this context is false consciousness, a joke.

Maybe an important thing to recognize in this constellation of ideas is that for Ron, thinking about this political community or this alternative culture is a creative activity in itself, and poetry is an outgrowth from this activity rather than something with its own independent center & sphere. & while my first impulse is to try to debunk this whole intellectual constellation as a tautology, a mental prison-house, I have to recognize a strange parallel to the concept of "tradition", or the main line of development in world poetry, which I proposed as the real (though denied) context within which oppositional poetries happen. They are both framing concepts.

I guess the reason I feel more confident in my own concept is that the frame is still poetry per se; also as I have tried to sketch it out, my concept of tradition is fairly open-ended. That is, I don't propose a set of particular works or styles as "the tradition", but the idea of poetry as a global, characteristic, distinct ACTIVITY, which re-arranges the relations between past & present, history and Now.

And the basic error of Ron's concept is that he has imposed one distinct activity (political philosophy) on another distinct activity (poetry), the former providing a kind of control function. Of course, both poetry and philosophy stem from the same source, human creativity, so it's possible to design all kinds of bridging perceptions & vocabularies & judgements - this is the substance of this kind of intellection, Ron's actual creative-critical activity. The problem appears when we recognize that there are a variety of political philosophies, rather than a single one, and a variety of poetries : so that the bridge-making from ONE philosophical community to absorb one acceptable poetry is inherently partisan. In Ron's case it proceeds to a series of polemic oppositions between a capitalist-individualist-market-driven Mainstream on the one hand, and the righteous community of oppositional poets on the other. & his comments on post-lang-po generations exhibit a bemused confusion about why all these youngsters don't fall more solidly & appropriately into his constructed camps.

It seems useful to me to go straight to the perception that for Ron is most taboo : the poet as individual Person. The Person develops distinct notions & attitudes which sometimes get verbalized or crystallized in philosophical beliefs or political opinions; the Person who may also be a poet approaches the distinct activity of making poetry from a similarly unique & individual perspective. Sometimes through the miracle of communication & shared beliefs & common needs, communities form & collaborative work is accomplished; books are edited & published, poems shared, cathedrals are built. We can argue about the status of individuality & consciousness until the sun goes down; but I for one will always tend toward recognizing the inimitable uniqueness, difference, particularity of each thing among species & groups & abstractions. It's how the poem differentiates itself that it comes out of the shadow of its predecessors & the gene-pool of those that have gone before.


Yes, & about that long poem (Stubborn Grew/The Rose - &/or Forth of July). I was looking out the library window this afternoon toward downtown Providence, trying to stay awake, thinking about the motivations which started back in the early 80s. Perhaps very big poems like the Divina Commedia really come from a similar impulse to the very brief poems, epigrams, Emily, Celan. The feeling that a prophet feels with words - Yeats' line, "speech after long silence". Facing the universe & trying to get it right this time, this once. Not so much an intellectual thing as an emotion, as when some serious music begins to take hold.

That was one aspect. Another motivation seems less exalted : a long poem allows you to dawdle, plan, cogitate, live with it - even when you're not ready to SPEAK that way. It's a way of getting old & set in your ways & unpoetic while remaining inside a POEMA (russian name for "long poem").

& the miracle was (at least from my biased experience) I got older & older & the poem(s) got younger. My early poems are older & creakier (I mean my early peoms from my SECOND phase. . . it gets complicated when you take a powder from poetry for almost 10 years).

The genre fascination, another aspect. There is a kind of hierarchy among the buildings. I mean the Bible & Dante are HUGE. . . & the American Long Poem (Pound/Crane/HD/Zuk/WCW/Olson et al.) bears a curious affinity to these ENCYCLOPEDIC works, these WORLD-CREATIONS. & this goes back to what I said above, about the motivation to say the absolute perfect thing, large or small. Pound: "who will lift the great acorn of light?" So it becomes a great game.

& it was a great game! Chess masters manuever within a nexus of thousands of moves. It began to feel that way, after I accepted the procedure I first caught from Mandelstam : the idea of a sequence of DRAFTS or variations on a theme. Many-in-one. It was a very simple idea which grows complexity. & it really worked for me. One thing you can see if you look for it in Forth of July is a progression from the opening chapter made up of very short distinct lyrics, to the next chapter in which the individual poems are linked more closely, to the next chapter in which they are linked less by narrative & more thematically, to the next chapter which pulls all of these together into an uber-narrative (Bluejay/Orpheus). . . to the 2nd half of the book which makes a larger, tighter amalgam in this vein, to the 2nd book (Grassblade Light) which crystallizes & formalizes the balance between whole & part, to the 3rd book (July), which subjects this crystal to SPEED & FLOW. . . There is a distinct progression from specificity & localness & narrative at the start of the poem to music & universality & indirection at the end. The narrative is there but it's part of a very elusive/allusive net toward the end, a sort of cabala of alphabetic characters & significant anniversaries. Under the sign of Orpheus & the shadow of William Blackstone & the light of "J" (Bluejay/Juliet/July/Jubilee/J). Overall the process of thematic variation or many-in-one begins to take on a life of its own as it unifies & draws taut its own materials even as it absorbs & swallows up an increasingly larger range of materials - the BLOB ! It must be this process itself which gives the sense of acceleration. Acceleration toward the past, the springtime, the Jubilee, the Eternal - a time machine. As I've already suggested in this blog somewhere, the notion of a time-warp or ark-machine or J-nave-ship is central to the "historical argument" of this long poem (one more of its motivations being to suggest something slightly different in the way of History than as provided by the other long-poem makers : not COMPLETELY different, but a variation (there are intimations of renovated time or life-renewal in Crane, Zukofsky, Pound, Olson. . . but I place the emphasis in my own way).

It will never be the Divina Commedia, which is the Mozart of poetry, the perfect crystal. But it is a kind of singing HG Sophia!
Responding to Jordan Equanimity's blogdentity crisis: he's such a natural!

I think I'm blogging to find readers and provide a context for my poems at the same time. It's been such a lonesome road. & also to stay near poetry through this new technic of writing, when often I feel very far from the creative state. A giddy person trapped inside the body of a saturnine phlegmatic pre-Alzheimer(?) fiftian. I don't have a poetics, I just have a history which can be thought about as the practice of poetics of some kind. & also I just like these blogs, their variety & characteristicness. All the antennae out there - those blogs with 500 links along the side. Joe Duemer for example as he says was way before Ron Silliman. & also to change the dynamic: ie. I want to TALK SOME MORE ABOUT MY LONG POEM PROJECT !! Because of the odd thing that happened on the Poetry Lists in the 90s : what was that?? Well, the attention I attracted through a new medium (Buff Poetics List) actually militated against finding readers. Here I was, doing what I thought was very much in the swim of "experiment" in American poetry : & I felt very physically the swishing sound of the "innovative" world turn its back on me. Hey, folks, I've written a 900 page American Long Poem !! Hello?? Oh, they don't like me. I was probably putting them down without even realizing it, or maybe I was realizing it.
Something more obscura from Grassblade Light:


Infant crocuses (purple and white,
yellow at the matrix - sweet,
infinitely delicate) emerge
into raw-sprung air, among

skunk cabbages, detritus
uncovered after snow -
as an inverse couch potato
crouches in his plot (his potted

messages). Camera obscura
in the darkened room -
Rome through a pinhole,
upside-down. Air-

cushioned mattress microcosm.
Image of your fiftieth American
home run in the grass coliseum
empty absolute zero field of one.

Too-wit, too-woo. . .
This is a path.
The mark P of Philip.
John Sassamon is a witness.

Flying blind to Brazil or Lebanon
Admiral Gago crashes twice.
3.30.22. A 360-hp Rolls-Royce.
4000 miles. See dar, Noah -

the Sperry-Mag is in his hand,
a wheel within a wheel - the
compressed-air spool goes
gaga - countertop-time and -

A blog with a Caribbean perspective : Nicholas Laughlin.


Spontaneity. . . then again, Nowness (awkword word). Eliot's Tradition after great labor comes to sounding everything Again, Now, Anew. I remember finding some phrase once in Zukofsky for that but I can't remember it! How he felt himself re-doing what is always done in every age. Contemporaneous/perennial.

Behold, I make all things new. "The Bible is muh main book (blog?)."

As it is. . . when the universe comes home to the odd & distant nooks & crannies of a particular unique person's essence (soul expressed in character written in experience). David the sinner-man harper hand in hand with his Maker.

So that you hear the universe through the homey voice of someone who's come home - & that filter changes the nature of the universe.

Stevens probably put it more concisely somewhere.
Dale Smith wins the award for the most conflicted review of Gabriel Gudding's Defense of Poetry. If you're confused, Coast-wise insiders, here's the explanation: this is a Minnesota/Texas thing. Ever since Humphrey/Johnson, North Star/Lone Star. . . Yank/Reb. Pickett's Charge & the 3rd Minnesota.

p.s. go straight from "Quintus Laberius Durus" to David Jones, The Roman Quarry. Do not stop at eode.
I think I am, or should be, entering a quiet phase. HarperCollins may pick up HGpoetics January. Then again they may not.
The Wal-Mart of Put-Downs. Here you can find those little oil-lamps of malice, useful for singeing feelings & corroding your wick.
name for a poetry blog: blabflaneur.
Equivalent today to the Homeric catalogue of ships is the list of poets' names. "Poets such as [blah, blah, blah]. . ." Does this mean poets have become dinghies? Part of a flotilla? Part of one big ship of fools, christened "Fame"?

Reading a book about Joseph Cornell & listening to bloggers talk about childhood books & memories. Would like to consider again the concept of "metaform" I was working on here a few weeks ago. Metaform as the interiorization of experience & its recapitulation in a finished, unique work of art. Originality.

But I guess there is a more impersonal conception of what a poet does. The originality expressed in wit & the ability to combine & assemble & respond to events. Spontaneity.

But the sameness, the grinding chorus of pinwheels, jukeboxes & slot machines. Fetishizing the photomontage. As opposed to the patience of the painter. Time seeps into the canvas through mornings & afternoons & evenings outdoors.

What is an artist? Somebody who has detached him or herself from the wheel somehow. Is standing still & time is seeping out of them, bleeding at the edges.

"Providence. My Providence."


Another old poem, from Way Stations.

Under cover of a whisper
Under wings of snow
I draw forth the star
From the velvet cloak
I draw forth the star
Of your protection
Black Madonna, Black Madonna.

Where life has fallen
And ships gone under
And clouds of November
Take flight in haste
And clouds of November
Shadow your cloak
Black Madonna, Black Madonna.

Who thinks you are gone
Follows their shadow
Far from the sky road
Your green star glimmers
Far from the sky road
And circles the children
Black Madonna, Black Madonna.


Here's a section from chapter 4 ("Ghost Dance") of Grassblade Light.


Air swirls counter-clockwise
through the pinetops. A ghost
of summer waltzing once,
twice. In July. Eyes

focus your line. Meridian
out of cold nowhere. Wide-
open hollow. Prairie
spaces. Grass, clouds, wind -

everyone broken with, and left behind.
The love that didn't work out right.
The long dirge. Prison on your heart,
like an infant Moses-mote wound

around. Life-in-death bit of death-in-life.
Not a matter of temperament only -
seasonal, private (an image of DiMaggio
wholly imaginary, say - an airy, Roman leaf

of Marilyn mirage) - whirls in the dark
backwater - a light beam. Leaves, wrecks
all behind us now (stage-struck).
Spirits were. Have done their work.

I'm a man, the Sioux man said to me
in the Lincoln Nebraska bus terminal
a quarter of a century ago. Soul
shows where spirit and body

leave no shadow - noon, gnomon.
And the grain scrapes like a seed
underfoot. Drifter, water moccasin.
Part with eternity now, my son, my son.

Anastasios listens to me make myself even more of a pariah.
What am I doing here? Making myself pariah, as usual. Among the professional marginalites & criticriticritical oppositionalists. Why? Thankless task. Lowest of the gutterdrones.

My adopted state has a history of pariahdom. RI was always Rogue's Island to puritanical Massachusetts, prim Connecticut. Why am I doing this? Maso-exhibitionism? "Here, have some of my sin." Stubborn Grew is about that - becoming leper in pariah state.

Deeper motives. Who is "J", really?? Or M? Or W? Collecting memories. Joseph Cornell.

What a dreary week, mostly, among my fellow bloggists. But I will hold my tongue - they flee from mee anyhowe.
Spent some time snowed-in reading Gabriel Gudding's Defense of Poetry. For Gudding, parody is deployed almost like a geometry. I bet he studied Latin & Geometry the same year in high school. The geometry creates spaces in which languishing old US threads suddenly glimmer through again - sounds of Whitman, Vachel Lindsay, Stevens (but not the usual Stevens - this is a Stevens-Pandemonium), Plath, Lowell. . . all keyed to comedy. Along with these American threads are waves of arcane ancient vocabulary & burlesque - a vast & goofy weird-hoard.

Why does GG have to twist the presentation to such a high pitch of the ridiculous in order to "defend" poetry? He seems to be clearing a space for himself, most obviously maybe in the poem about the Tippecanoe County Courthouse (I don't have the book in front of me, unfortunately). Something about getting clear of the (poetry?) bureaucrats & flying light. Maybe he's getting ready for take-off.


Another poem re Eyerack by Kent Johnson over at Skanky Possum (posted Feb. 17). Reminiscent of poem by Cesar Vallejo (from "Himno a los Voluntarios de la Republica"):

Pedro Rojas, asi, despues de muerto,
se levanto, beso su catafalco ensangrentado,
lloro por Espana
y volvio a escribir con el dedo en el aire:
"!Viban los companeros! Pedro Rojas."
Su cadaver estaba lleno de mundo.

[Pedro Rojas, thus, after being dead,
got up, kissed his bloodsmeared casket,
cried for Spain
and again wrote with his finger in the air:
"Long live all the combanions! Pedro Rojas."
His corpse was full of world.

- trans. by Clayton Eshleman]
Ron Silliman's give and take with Rodney Koeneke on the question of the unconscious & religion in contemporary poetry. Some thoughts from me on this can be found in the interview with Kent Johnson in Jacket.
Joe Duemer has another response to my recent comments on Iraq. We are all in the midst of one of those dramatic prologues to decision, when everybody's position sounds simplistic because no one can characterize the total complexity of the situation. Joe's comments are similar to some made previously by Anastasios - a suspicion about the imperialist, expansionist motives of the hawks in the Administration.

All I can say at this point is, I hope both of them are mistaken. I understand the logic of resisting the spiral of war & violence for as long as possible. But I also recognize the logic of Colin Powell's argument. In response to the French position - "why war now? Why not let the inspections process continue?" - the argument can be made that, given that Saddam has produced and failed to account for huge amounts of chemical & biological weapons in the last 10 years, and given the context of what happened on 9/11, containment has NOT worked, and will not work, without a willingness to cooperate on Saddam's part. & the record of that willingness or unwillingness over the last 3 months is plain to see. It will grow even plainer in the next 2 weeks.

The complexity of the situation - this is the real work cut out for poets. Poets writing : evoking, describing, understanding, penetrating. The heart of the situation & the mind of the situation & the realities of the situation. For that, see Kent Johnson's poem posted Saturday (2/15) over at Pantaloons.


Today hundreds of thousands of people, including many of the poets I admire & whose work I enjoy, are joining to march against war. While I think it is always right to protest against war in principle, I also think that sometimes, and as they say "as a last resort", we have to fight for what is right. As I read this total situation, Saddam Hussein is in defiance of a UN resolution insisting that he cooperate, reveal & dismantle his weapons of mass destruction. The choice facing the UN is whether to force his compliance, or accept some arrangement which allows him to remain in violation. The French, Germans & Russians are proposing a middle path, which involves increasing the pressure of inspections with the hope of gradually forcing Saddam either to cooperate or leave power. This might possibly work, if the UN is forthright in sticking to this position, rather than assuming that by simply allowing inspections - even more strict inspections - Saddam is complying. That would be a mistaken assumption. Saddam can comply only by revealing what happened to the stockpiles already in existence. Unfortunately the divide betwen the US & these other Security Council members could give Saddam the notion that his strategy of evasion is working. Hopefully in the next couple weeks the UN & the US will achieve some compromise that will allow them to stand firm for full compliance backed up by force.

There are those thousands opposing war under any circumstances. But the counsel for appeasement out of fear of a war against extreme Islam is an argument for the status quo, and the status quo is one in which these same millions of civilians are held hostage by terrorist extremism, abetted by a dictator who has excelled in producing the tools they need & who has shown a readiness to use them. If war comes, because Saddam Hussein has persisted in defying the will of the UN, then Saddam will also bear responsibility for the suffering that war brings.

I think we are reaching a profound turning point in the way in which individual nations & the world deal with militarism, violence, weapons of mass destruction, & terrorism. Clearly the Bush strategy of US military hegemony plus willingness to intervene may have both negative & positive consequences for global maintenance of peace & security, but taken as a whole it is insufficient grounds for global order. The UN remains the only hope for a lasting mechanism for resolving international crises & injustices. Hopefully the intense strain of the give-&-take between the US & the UN over this issue will act as a kind of learning process, rather than a signal of breakdown & beginning of a new round of disorder & tension. Hopefully, if war comes, the US will go to war with the sanction of the UN. If not, we will all witness just how limited in efficacy are military solutions alone. On the other hand, I think that if Saddam will not relent, & the US with the UN goes to disarm him by force, the outcome may give the lie to those who are counseling peace at any price.


NY Times today says Monarch butterflies making a comeback from terrible freeze-out in Mexico a year or so ago.

St. Valentine wrote love letters from the prison where he was eventually martyred. Tomb/chrysalis. La condition humaine. Time flowers.

The year I wrote Stubborn Grew, my father's birthday (4.12) fell on Easter Sunday. This is from the 1st sequel (Grassblade Light), toward the center of the book (a chapter called "Ghost Dance"):


Spring scent in the nostrils, and in the eyes
a fan of tender buds over the branches. Happy
birthday in the ancient garden. A voice searches
me out, whispers reedy Magdalen. She says:

I spotted a jay guarding the door of the sheep
in a meadow where time does not run and
a crow flies with a knife sharper than
a blade of noon sunlight across the deep

prairie grass. The jay doubled over and wheeled
in a circle like a flowering M or tall amaryllis
or bold forsythia - and soaring toward the apex
of the sky, plummeted - a kingfisher, anchored

in a mirrored lake. Rose then - vermillion-
sheep-clothed - spread both wings wide -
and - for an instant - a pied, rainbow-hued,
flared tepee floated - when with a sudden

reversal of his feathery coat, the quetzal - all
coated and colored over now in earthen clays -
spread her wings again: and monarch butterflies
and grey doves stream from that wide coracle while. . .

I listened as the woman in the garden gradually
marrigated her seedgreen purplescaled hypotenuse
(happily numbering) while my soul rode Blackstone's
white bull slowly toward Oxford on my father's birthday.


[p.s. note for advanced bloggertationists: for riding the bull slowly toward Oxford you should see the closing Finn-Wakean section of Stubborn, where "Akhtemydovie" Akhmatova makes sort of a spring procession toward Oxford (where she received an award in her old age) surrounded by Gould-Herefordshire farmfolk - & then recall that the symmetrical close of book 3 ends on March 5th, as explained below. . .]
A response from Anastasios (of Ineluctable fame) to my comments about Iraq made here earlier today:


I completely hear what you are asking in terms of all these questions. The only reason I cannot entertain the thoughts you are allowing yourself to entertain is because I have absolutely no trust in the US government's improving the suffering's plight . The suffering Kurds and Iraqis, in my opinion, mean absolutely nothing to Team Bush. If international pressure increases and if the inspectors were given some teeth along with some intelligence, there might be an opportunity to rid the Iraqis of Saddam while also improving everyone's lot on the Arabian peninsula. However, I don't think a million bombs and an additional loss of lives will improve the situation over there. It could well turn into WWIII. Hell of a lot of good we've done Afghanistan. Karzai is propped up by US henchmen, the Taliban are re-entrenching, and people are just waiting to assassinate him.

Ultimately, I cannot, do not and will not trust Bush and his lot of criminals (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle, Negroponte, Condoleeza, Pointdexter, et al).

I pray things don't get worse.
Valentine's Day & DATES. More about birthdays & dying days. More dissertation fodder for the 900 pp. poem Forth of July follows.

The poem ("Forth. . .") puns on the "birthday" of the USA.

Each of the 3 large books took close to 9 months to write. Gestation.

The poem's form & themes were sprung or triggered by a short elegy written for my maternal uncle James Ravlin which appears in the opening pages of Stubborn Grew. The section immediately following is a short elegy for my cousin Juliet Ravlin who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge on her father's birthday in 1972. Juliet becomes one of the Orphic figures : in a sense the poem is a "coming-forth of Julie".

Stubborn Grew ends on 4.10 - Good Friday. The short central section of the entire poem (#28 in Book 2 - Grassblade Light) was written on 4.10.

Grassblade Light is made up of seven chapters: each chapter (save the central one) containing 28 parts plus a central part; the central chapter is a double chapter with 2 halves of 28 parts each, centered (as noted above) on #28 of the 4th section. The 6th chapter, titled "Giants in the Earth", is kind of a microcosm/"underworld journey" of the entire book 2, and was written on 5.28.

5.28 is the date of the death of both William Blackstone & the knight/monk/ancestor St. Guillem de Gellone (discussed earlier in this blog). 5.29 is my birthday & also "Black Wednesday", the date of the fall of Byzantium. The "Russian theme" in the poem can be read in some ways as revisiting of Byzantium/Orthodoxy via Mandelstam, E. Shvarts, et al.

The entire poem (Forth of July or Stubborn Grew/The Rose) was finished on 5.28.

Book 3 (July) begins on 7.15 (St. Henry's Day; St. Swithin's Day). One of the themes running through this book is death/resurrection, empire/Jubilee. 7.15.1099 the Crusaders after taking Jerusalem visited the Holy Sepulchre for the 1st time. "July" (the month) named for Julius Caesar; the poem moves toward & alludes to both 3.15 and 4.15 - Ides of March (Caesar's death) and the Good Friday on which both Lincoln & Vallejo died. This transformation is thematized as a kind of chrysalis (empire/Jubilee : Julius/Juliet). July was actually completed on 3.5 - date of death of both Stalin & Akhmatova (Julius/Juliet).

The poem as a whole begins with the words "Time flowers". The first stanza runs:

Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay.
A spring breeze flows through the branches on the terrace.
The city below flutters and flaps, roars
and drones like a resurrected bumblebee.

You could say that the birth/death/rebirth themes are encapsulated here. What is the meaning of this 900-pp muttering toward a birthday (5.28 to 5.29), while visiting dozens of other "holidays" along the way? In Stubborn Grew, the 2nd chapter, called "Ancient Light", serves as yet another miniature model of the entire poem (the title & the plot of this chapter revolve around a chance visit I made to a lovely Greek Orthodox church in London, where there was an old paint-chipped sign posted mysteriously high up on its wall : "Ancient Light"). It begins with a Breugel Epiphany scene & African wise man Balthasar (should be Melchior) offering his green-golden nef or toy boat as a birthday present to baby J. It ends with a christmas carol scene in a small London church shaped like a boat.

The poem is about moving from the vessel of the womb to the ark of Jubilee: the nef or star or angelic UFO which re-winds reality & intervenes in historical time (so that "time flowers"). It's a very American poem about timespace flight (July ends with these words: "come fly. . ." The entire poem ends with these words:

the nef rows, rows. . .
palms, heartbeats, light.


(p.s. one theory for the etymology of "Russia" is that "Rus" comes from the name given to the Vikings who founded the Kievan empire: they were sailors, "rowers")

I'm writing my own bloggertation. . .

[p.p.s. click here to see a picture of Julie & my sister Cara (on trike) & me, Gull Lake, MN, ca. 1968 or 69]
A poem from another Valentine's Day (from "My Byzantium", in Way Stations):


On Valentine's Day on my lunch break
I walked down the hill to the School of Design
to see the Crucifixion with Two Thieves
by the Master of the Providence Crucifixion (Dutch, circa 1450).

After 500 years the colors still bright as a dream.
Jerusalem in the background, strange towers of mauve, beige,
violet, the high walls flecked with scrawny trees
(no goldfinch near), the line of horsemen
in blue Martian armor (or Flemish 1400's) appearing
out of a crevice in the pale
green, springlike fields
and surrounding the crosses,
crowding the stage, the gray horses, their necks
like tensile steel with unknowing beast grins,
the fop soldiers and gawking onlookers, the boy
(or dwarf?) reining in the horses for the lords
staring in gratified excitement
at the three hung men, a swordsman
(realistic touch) ready to hack at the calves
of the thief on the left - the three men
of exactly the same build, only
Jesus more deathly pale, calm, as if asleep.

In the foreground Mary faints, weeping
(like the women outside the execution arena
in Afghanistan today, NY Times 2.14.96),
her arms hollowing, ready to become
a bronze Pietà; two of the soldiers
peer sidelong out of the picture frame,
but John and the Magdalen look you in the eye
out of hell, still, out of 1450.

Beside the Crucifixion a little gilded wooden niche-
relic, even older (Italian, 1250 or so, hand
of Lippo Memmi) - a blonde in a red cloak,
sky-blue undergarment, holds a little casket
(myrrh-box? urn?) and gazes with almond eyes
from under her hood at me,
the blush on her cheeks still faintly there,
her look still veiled and distant, yet looking, still


(A little further down the hill below the museum
you in the yellow t-shirt under a black sweatshirt
circle the gargantuan monolithic pile of the Supreme
Courthouse in a banged-up Falcon only
to look through the corner window
behind the iron bars hoping
to catch a glimpse
of a certain Irish cop
- like a goldfinch
tethered to the law.)

Snow is falling today on Providence,
it comes down gradually from cloud to ground;
soon Mardi Gras, then Lent, a drop of ash
on seared forehead; and through the
mirror of a dusky glance I see
one green-eyed almond Magdalen -
a chalice in her hands, she holds
this dying light in pale green fields,
while snow falls slowly over Providence.

More disjointed thoughts about the world crisis.

Consensus coming apart. The US has a strategy of global "peacekeeping" which involves pre-emptive military attacks on other nations. The rest of the world repudiates this more strongly every day, which increasingly isolates the US. Asymmetry of perspectives.

The strange shadow-symmetry between Bush & bin Laden. Oil boys who need each other's aggression to justify their own. Useful to each other. We go to war (against the wrong guy) & get color-coded threat warnings.

Yet still I can hear the weird optimism coming from the hawk planners : bringing down Saddam will make things better, safer. We will liberate Iraq. & strangest of all (to me) - I'm not yet ready to deny they might be at least partially right!!

I hear what Jordan & Anastasios & so many everywhere are saying - about the consequences, the pure immorality of aggressive war, the ordinary people who will suffer & die for the sake of these "plans". But then I also think of the Marsh Arabs, the Kurds, the people in Iraqi prisons & torture cells - the people who have been suffering from Saddam's killer regime since he installed it (via murder of his associates) decades ago. & of the nature of the Saddam regime : its sick focus on torture, repression, experimentation with WMDs. . .

So I am still not the one with the firm voice to say NO to Bush; not the one with the clear vision of a post-militarist world in balance. Have I lost my own morality? Am I become a "good German"? These are the thoughts that oppress me.


my brother Bill's birthday today. the roll-call:

Bill - Lincoln
me - JFK
Cara - Constitution Day
Grandma - 4 July 1900

from my own Cornell box (July):


With fog in rearview mirror end
of the span ahead lost in blast
of X-ray light (darkness visible? M.
Purrly's frwcks greenhorde lunge-dragn

tales?) Mississippian suppositories are
homing devices I will triangulate
some December with a Florentine
grandmother and a Negus-ancestral

mother of millenniums MOM grand
on the far side of blindness at the head
of the dinner table in the ancient
apartment off River Rd (or Niger?)

swirl of communal clay chert
deciphered only dimly and a little
at the table with Lafayette
in the painting in the country

of his father looking on after a late war
D.A.R. Florence Ainsworth 7.4.1900
cardinal pts of a maternal Negus
feeder reddening unraveling on

the other other side (these variable
sublimitations mean I need a M.A.P.
(relief if possible) or Nazca poem
(excellent, Ray!) visible over the Iowa barn)

raison d'état and Inca terraces (mirth-
impervious) in foiled embossments of
rain-porous Thursday's stunned pain's
cup of sorrow (vale JVL you're through)

and it's Marian Anderson Peru out of your
flaming dream from Indiana to the tall
Andes from musical tomahawk to capitol
steps up to the microphone and I am a poor. . .

Looking at a book about Joseph Cornell at lunchtime.

"Those who live by the sword. . ."

"Do not return evil for evil but overcome evil with good. . ."

Listening to the poets on NPR last night in the supermarket parking lot. Whitman poem: "Are these what they call statesmen? Is this a President?" (or something like that.) Even if they happened to be wrong in this case, it's good to hear poems against war in principle.

I return to the idea that unless the hatred & bitterness & misunderstanding & alienation are overcome, "jihad" will remain after Saddam, after bin Laden. So something must be done on an entirely different level. Something to encourage the re-thinking of religion. Perhaps a shattering of mythological thinking rooted in all three of the Peoples of the Book. A historical re-interpretation & revaluation of events, beginning with Abraham in Ur. Not necessarily a secularization - but perhaps a kind of enlightenment (?). A re-reading : for the good & the evil, the wisdom & the folly, the knowing & the unknowing in "scripture" & all that followed.
There will be calls to action now, and people will be encouraged to get in line or shut up. Like a weak mirror of Bush policy.

I learned to play devil's advocate on the Buffalo Poetics List. Now it's no longer a game, but I'm still playing.

Ron's measured & sensible rationale (but see Joe's) against war:
the parallels - Vietnam, Nazi Germany;
the warnings - roiling Middle East, Fortress America;
the dismissals - UN resolutions, evidence of terrorist collaboration;
the evaluation - "spreading democracy" through US invasion is foolhardy. . .

the Bush admin. viewpoint:
we are already at war (viz. 9/11);
the goal is to isolate & defang global terrorism;
the strategy is to confront states that sponsor terrorism, to liberate Iraq & thereby isolate Iran, Syria & al Qaeda.

contra Ron, this MIGHT actually work. But too bad it's a war strategy rather than a peace strategy (if the Prez were Jimmy Carter we would be defanging al Qaeda by making peace between Israel & Palestinians).
Excerpts from an article in this week's Science section, NY Times:

For Astronomers, Big Bang Confirmation

February 12, 2003

The most detailed and precise map yet produced of the
universe just after its birth confirms the Big Bang theory
in triumphant detail and opens new chapters in the early
history of the cosmos, astronomers said yesterday.

It reveals the emergence of the first stars in the cosmos,
only 200 million years after the Big Bang, some half a
billion years earlier than theorists had thought, and gives
a first tantalizing hint at the physics of the "dynamite"
behind the Big Bang.

Astronomers said the map results lent impressive support to
the strange picture that has emerged recently: the universe
is expanding at an ever-faster rate, pushed apart by a
mysterious "dark energy."
. . .

In a nutshell, the universe is 13.7 billion years old, plus
or minus one percent; a recent previous estimate had a
margin of error three times as much. By weight it is 4
percent atoms, 23 percent dark matter - presumably
undiscovered elementary particles left over from the Big
Bang - and 73 percent dark energy. And it is geometrically
"flat," meaning that parallel lines will not meet over
cosmic scales.
. . .

The map, compiled by a satellite called the Wilkinson
Microwave Anisotropy Probe, shows the slight temperature
variations in a haze of radio microwaves believed to be the
remains of the fires of the Big Bang. Cosmologists said the
map would serve as the basis for studying the universe for
the rest of the decade.

"We have laid the cornerstone of a unified coherent theory
of the cosmos," said Dr. Charles L. Bennett, an astronomer
at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who
led an international team that built the satellite and
analyzed the results.
. . .

Dr. David N. Spergel, a Princeton astrophysicist and member
of the WMAP team, said: "We've answered the set of
questions that have driven the field of cosmology for the
last two decades. How many atoms in the universe? How old
is the universe?"
[end quote]

It's nice to see the cosmologists are finally catching up with my poem (see blog entry for 2/5 on the "W map"). Henry & Bluejay start their journey from the Doyle Observatory, a cute little galactic dome (built in the early 1900s, still in use) at the summit of Hope St. in Providence.

"Donshu know you zigshaggin', Henrah? Zigshaggin yo own black rizebury W" (or something like that).


Just another quick response to Jonathan. He writes:

"There is no set of cultural references presumed to be shared by all educated readers.
Eliot's notes to the Waste Land already posit the end of a common Victorian culture of
reading. Pound takes this a step further. So I don't think that Henry Gould can say that
there is a common, mainstream Eliotic tradition that we ignore at our peril."

But if I think of "tradition" specific to poetry, I don't think of the set of cultural references. I think of poetry as a characteristic, unique activity. & I think there are traits of poetry-making which are pretty timeless & global. "Poetry is avant-garde because it doesn't change much." (quoting himself) & I try as many have before me to get at that peculiar activity in some places on this blog ("metaform", "event", etc).

The healthy thing about Eliot's awareness of tradition - whether we agree or not with the specific qualities he chooses to emphasize - is that it counters the parochial, polemical mirror-world of oppositional poetics, where claims & counter-claims for value or importance are always made in the context of opposing some OTHER poet or poem or style. . .
I'm happy to see someone's reading the archives. Jonathan Mayhew writes:

"So I don't think that Henry Gould can say that there is a common, mainstream
Eliotic tradition that we ignore at our peril."

. . . but I don't think I said that, exactly. Or if I did I didn't explain myself properly (this is back in the early weeks of this blog).

Firstly it's important to distinguish between the "Eliot tradition" (which is NOT what I mean) and Eliot's notion of "tradition" (which is something like what I mean). Secondly, I did not say that poets ignore tradition at their peril. I think I said that the various oppositional streams in US poetry emerged in conscious or unconscious differentiation from the tradition (in a large expansive sense of that term). In other words, poets DON'T ignore this tradition - they play off against it.

Finally I think in various postings, esp. regarding the idea of metaform, I tried to get at the idea of poetry as immediacy, event, "nowness" - that there's a way of looking at poetry in sort of a worldwide sense as a distinctive activity, in which "tradition" is always new, always emerging "now" - this is of the essence of poetry.

I admit that this idea of a category or frame which includes US poetry is unsubstantiated & controversial. But it does also seem to me that there is also a lot of evidence that, at least in its more polemical manifestations, different styles of US poetry have emerged in very clear dialectical contrast with whatever is considered traditional or establishment or mainstream or passe style.
Here is one of the stranger segments in Grassblade Light (from a chapter called "The Lost Notebooks").


No time. The double movement of a gyroscope,
or Gneiss binoculars: the target sharpens
or the flame leaps out. Anonymous children
of Baghdad tonight - too small, too large -

all out of shape. While William holds his temples
in his hands, and makes a leaf-pile out of
windy mutterings. A graven treasure trove.
Tinder and carbon. These are examples. . .

Are they? When a stone fell from heaven
and penetrated the earth. . . and your heart
(which was a stone) became flesh. . . what craft
of Solomon was this? The word moved among men

like a Samaritan, wandering now here, now there;
and dust blew from the north, and turned round
to the south; and missiles threaded the ground
with a zigzag, morris pattern, purple. . . back to Ur.

Everywhere the holy returns to these rings of Ezekiel.
And the promulgated ordinances solidify as iron
above clay. 29 times the walls must tumble down,
and the petrified heart melt, and the scars heal:

because the temple that will not fall is Babylon,
and the heart that will not break is Nineveh.
And I saw the high walls of Constantinople,
I saw the ornate temples of the Pope, London

bowing down to Henry's iron horseshoe, Boston
measuring the earth with a poor translation -
and I saw the heart of William Blackstone
blaze in the night above those unknown children.


[Wm. Blackstone, as you may recall - Anglican scholar-hermit, first European settler in Rhode Island. The "Lost Notebooks" refer to his own books & papers, destroyed when his property was burned to the ground the day after his death (5.28. circa 1675), during King Philip's War.]
Joseph Duemer at his (scintillating) blog Reading & Writing has some comments on my war thoughts.

I share his reservations about the Bush administration's foreign & domestic policy, as put out in the strategic defense plan (transcendent military superiority from now to eternity), in the dismissive attitude toward international consensus on many global problems, & what appears to be the ancient political device of using war to clamp down on civil liberties & social justice at home.

Setting aside (if possible) the question of the morality of pre-emptive military attack, or the morality of modern war in general, it remains to be seen whether the risky game being played with Saddam will result in the strengthening & furthering of the administration's plans, or their defeat & undoing.

In any case, it seems to me that, as I mentioned before, WHETHER OR NOT there is a new battle in Iraq, the disconnect & dissonance between the worldviews of Islamic revolutionaries/religious conservatives, on the one hand, and the worldviews of the West (& the US as a special case), will continue to exacerbate conflict & confusion for at least another generation, unless some attempts to mediate that dissonance take place.

I note Joe's interest in philosophy as exhibited on his blog. & I wonder again if some kind of philosophical dialogue across cultures & disciplines could be instigated, and whether this would have any practical meaning. I'm not very knowledgeable about Islam; what strikes me about it, as an ignorant Western observer, is the way it seems to assert the authority of a transcendent divinity - but at the same time a special kind of divinity, INSTALLED at the political/legal/cultural nexus of civilization. In conservative Islam, there seems to be no separation of religion & state. The question to be put to Islam, then, is how it proposes to live at peace with the non-Muslim, the non-believer, the secular aspects of the world?

Turning to the worldview of the West (& specifically the US): one would want to ask the Bush administration in particular: what morality or authority sanctions the world military hegemony you seek? And how in turn would such a strategy be implemented without actually disturbing the peaceful co-existence of various peoples & nations?

It seems to me that PERHAPS there is an area of discussion which might provide some kind of mediating function. That sphere would be the discourse around the notion of "freedom". Freedom, democracy, or popular sovereignty might, MIGHT, be the social force which is capable of limiting the utopian/dystopian/utilitarian extremism of the US administration's dream of hegemony; it MIGHT also be the social force which provides a contemporary analogue to the "separation of church & state", which the Islamic world has not experienced in the same way the West has. So it might be interesting to pursue a cross-cultural public dialogue around the global question of freedom & human rights, as a way of clarifying basic norms. . .
. . . but then I think again. Of the dying & suffering. Of the permanent residue of pain & illness & bitterness.

Of the disconnect between the culture & mentality of the hawks, and the lessons they should have learned from the 20th century. Not only the lesson of "standing up to evildoers" : the lesson of the desolation & madness of war & militarism.

I see the logic of preventive action. But I see the greater logic of never being the aggressor. That's why the case for preventive action would have to be very strong and crystal-clear. Which is why it would be better to accept the European proposal of steadily increased inspection pressure.

I wish I could see more clearly. I see both sides, unlike many of my fellow poets, & I'm wavering.


Yes, as the Platypus of Doom, I find myself increasingly alienated from the poets who circulate in blogworld, so secure in their antiwar sentiments, so certain that they have seen through the conspiracy of Tex & Rummy et al. I want to agree with them, I want to think we are fighting the Vietnam War all over again against the American War Machine...

but then I look at all the facts I can gather & it seems to me a legitimate case can be made that the current Iraqi dictatorship does not deserve to have these mass-killer weapons, and if they are not willing to give them up, they should be removed by force. The arguments from fear are very powerful ("the Middle East is a tinderbox. . .
they will come & take revenge on us. . ." etc), but we should be moved by reason & not by fear. If Islamic extremists decided to massacre thousands of Americans because they were angry that we were taking away Saddam's WMDs - well, are we going to let them dictate the agenda? Because that is what it would amount to if we gave in to them.

The proto-fascism & extremism emanating from Islamic reactionaries must be opposed. So must the injustices of fundamentalist Israeli zealots & extremists.
So must the complacent imperialist logic which allows might rather than diplomacy to manage policy. So must the Karl Roves of the world, who think they can spin international crises into dividends for their faction & its plutocrat supporters.

I am very ambivalent about the situation. Maybe only poetry can express the ambiguities with sufficient exactitude & irony. I'm think of Marvell's ambivalence & his Horation Ode. Someone could take the descriptive satirical powers of prose & make a real poem out of this impasse, from the sands of Texas to the sands of Ur. The trouble is most of the poets are pleased to express cardboard opinions & make febrile tinny sounds. I suppose I'm one of them.
Responding to Jordan's comment today:

There's rationality, and there's self-interest. Everybody has to integrate them both. But there's something else too: fellow-feeling, altruism, self-sacrifice for the greater good.

Isn't rationality, or enlightened self-interest, the ability to work beneficially for others as well as ourselves?

The past few weeks I've really begun to question my own capacity to think rationally, because I find myself tempted to take stands on the Iraq crisis which amaze me, which I can't believe I believe in, which I don't completely believe. That is, I'm tempted to argue FOR war (and marshall those arguments on my blog). Why?

1. For the hell of it. For the curiosity of it. Because Saddam has it coming.
2. Because all the poets seem to be marching lockstep, of one mind. I have a reflexive need to differ (learned in the Poetry Wars). I question some of the self-righteousness of those who are always ready to impugn the motives of the ones they disagree with (ie. perhaps it's not just "oil profiteering by Bush & Co.").
3. Because over the years, without even being aware of it, I've become complacent or conformist - I simply don't want to believe what's happening to my government & my country, I close my eyes.
4. Because I can't completely discount the arguments for attacking Saddam either. In the post-9/11 world, I can entertain serious justifications for a pre-emptive strike, if the claims being made about Saddam's aims & capabilities are really true.
5. Because I'm having a failure of imagination : failing to consider the real alternatives to attack; failing to reckon the carnage & suffering war will bring; being naive about the mentality of those promoting this war.

I'm having difficulty with this. . .


I am still struggling to understand what is happening with the Iraq crisis, & how to respond; I haven't come to conclusions yet. But I want to speculate & think out loud a little here tonight, in Providence, where 8 inches of snow fell this afternoon, & my wife & I shoveled the sidewalk around the Church of the Redeemer (across the street).

I'm beginning to think that perhaps what we are witnessing in government councils & at the U.N. is not the working of international relations, but something approaching, perhaps reaching, their breakdown. & I can't simply assign blame - like some of the self-righteous moralists on the left & in the peace movement do; like some of the self-righteous moralists among the fundamentalist Islamists do; like some of the self-righteous moralists in the Bush Administration & its supporters do.

Perhaps it is a breakdown impelled in part by the failure of incommensurate discourses - ways of thinking - to connect, to communicate. & perhaps one of the causes of this failure to communicate is an inability to articulate. & perhaps one of the root causes of this failure to articulate is that the parties on both sides have unacknowledged mixed motives, which result in uncontrollable mixed messages.

What are these mixed motives? On both sides - on the side of Western, secular democracy & its enforcing power, the US - as well as on the side of conservative, fundamentalist Islam, its allies, supporters, & soldiers - there is a blending of the ideal & the real. The ideal, for both, is characterized in different languages & different constellations of value, which rarely connect; the real, for both, includes a basic struggle for power, domination, prestige, victory - a rivalry, an agon between the two. Thus the US insists it is the world's peacemaker, applying "overwhelming force" to police & protect the civilized world; yet this overwhelming force is also, inevitably, convenient for the achievement of more narrow, selfish interests; and just as inevitably, the idealistic claims of the US are suspected of hypocrisy by the rest of the world. Thus the Islamic fundamentalist claims access to transcendent, absolute, divine value : which absolutism happens, conveniently, to be his most powerful weapon - because it allows him everything in the way of strategies & tactics against the infidel - there are no limits to the carnage he can inflict, there are no limits to his fantasies of the Caliphate & its dominion, because his faith is the ultimate weapon - the ultimate sanction for his will to power. On the side of the secular world of nations, the undertone is realpolitik; on the side of the religious world of Islamic fundamentalism, the overtone is - realpolitik. Yet the language of their ideals - a global Caliphate ruled by Islamic law on the one hand, a global association of free happy co-operating nations on the other - these languages are utterly different.

Is there a solution to this dilemma - which is pressing us all toward the breakdown of international relations & violence on a massive scale? I think that somehow, some of us must step back - step to one side - engage both sides from a position of analysis & mediation. Rather than instantly politicizing & aggravating the situation further by strident ideological condemnations, perhaps we need to try to analyze dispassionately - treat both sides as, in a sense, SICK rather than EVIL. We need to engage the parties as patients rather than allies or enemies. (I admit this sounds like a fantasy as well!)

Whether or not the US goes to war against Iraq, this dilemma of conflicting & incommensurate discourses & goals will remain. Police action & military force alone will never uproot Islamic fundamentalism; nor will American global military supremacy bring about the freedom & equality it claims as its ideals. By the same token, terrorism will never achieve the global Caliphate, nor will the ideals of Islamic law & tradition justify the massacre of infidels & the denial of freedom.

What might bring peace to these warring rivals is a mediating discourse which sets limits to the absolutism underlying both sides - the doctrinaire tendencies which act as a counterweight to the hidden & unacknowledged contradictions - the hypocrisies of ideologies, driven as they are by their claims both to absolute, ideal value on the one hand, & to secular power, efficacy & hegemony, on the other. This is perhaps the essence of absolutism: to claim to join ideal & real, heaven & earth - to the distinct advantage of the claimant.

This would have to be a discourse - a dialogue, a conversation - about the nature of the Good. For Americans, it would have to consider how it would be possible to achieve a world community of nations without domination, hegemony, empire, self-interested power, realpolitik, inequality, injustice, fear, & militarism. This is a very necessary conversation, because it is clear that the means & methods given priority by the current Administration - ie., overwhelming military might - are insufficient & often counter-productive to achieving this goal. For Islamists, it would have to consider how one justifies a theology & theogony which allows for absolutism, authoritarianism, rigid theocratic legalism, and the massacre of "infidels". How are these practices in any way a reflection of a divine nature or reality? Isn't a theology - or ideology - which justifies such practices merely the flimsy disguise of a ruthless hunger for power & prestige - perhaps even an envy of the power & prestige flaunted by the representative infidel nation?

What then is the Good, and how in this imperfect mortal world are we to aim for it? This is the conversation which free people need to undertake, in order to drown out the rabid absolutisms, the will to power, the disregard for human life, the narrow realpolitic of power & self-interest - all those behaviors which are all too often displayed by secular nations & religious collectives alike. By using such a term as "the Good" I don't mean to allude to any particular philosophical method or tradition; I am simply speculating, at this point, that such a term or something like it might serve as a focus for the examination I have outlined. I am thinking about an international conversation, across the borders of nations & faiths. I don't think it begins with those who are quick to condemn either the Bush administration for seeking to create peace & security through military & political dominion, or, on the other hand, those who are quick to discount the discourse of religious tradition, which seeks to restore some sense of wholeness, dignity & self-determination to a region & a culture. (This is in no way meant as a justification of authoritarian fundamentalism, terrorism, or aggressive, militaristic realpolitik; nor is it an attempt to equate, morally or in any other way, the main antagonists. It is an attempt to emphasize the incommensurability of their language & goals, and the necessity to address that disjunction with means other than force, violence & war. Nor are these speculations an attempt to pass implicit judgement on the immediate details of the crisis at hand, which, as I said at the beginning of this, I don't feel at this point I am capable of doing.)
Then again, am I just being gulled due to an inability to accept the truth about this country? Are the longtime hawks like Perle, Rumsfeld & Cheney EVER to be believed? Are war, violence & killing going to improve anything? Are the underlying motives of the US (control of the oil & the region) using the war on terror as a smokescreen?

There are aggressive networks of terror fanatics who are actively preparing to attack the US again. There is evidence of Iraqi collaboration with those networks, along with evidence of Saddam's obsession with WMDs. But starting a huge new "battle" in this war will have huge consequences in turn. Before I am completely won over to the hawkish view I will have to find an answer to the questions above.

I guess the answers are easy for all those marching poets for peace out there. They always seem to know right away who the bad guys are.
Over at Equanimity, Jordan provides a link to a book by John Mearscheimer, Can Saddam Hussein be Contained?. The link includes a lengthy abstract.

It's a reasonable argument, but Mearscheimer downplays a few things:

1. there probably are operational ties between Saddam & some of the international terrorist networks. The assassination of diplomat Foley in Jordan has been directly linked to a high-up al Qaeda operative based in Iraq.
2. the impact of the "success" of the 9/11 strikes, as an incitement for further action by the international terror networks. This has serious implications in gauging the danger posed by Saddam's activities.
3. the current existence of a major WMD production program in Iraq. Mearscheimer tries to portray Saddam as a logical actor in world politics, which in my view is pretty untenable, given the obsessions & policy priorities of this extremely brutal Stalinist-type regime. This is why the UN limits on those activities & priorities were imposed in the first place.

Mearscheimer tries to make the argument that containment rather than preventive action can work with Saddam. But containment was precisely the policy instated by the UN after the Gulf War. Colin Powell made a pretty forceful argument at the UN that containment is NOT working.

While I'm still trying to figure out where I stand in this tumultuous situation, to my great surprise I seem to be finding myself swayed, if not yet completely convinced, by the hawks' arguments. The big question mark - aside from the almost guaranteed attacks from al Qaeda which will follow any attack on Iraq - aside from the impact of a war on civilians - is how the Middle East & the Islamic world as a whole will respond to an American invasion. Bush's whole strategy in the war on terrorism seems to be, that the best defense is a good offense. But does this apply across the board, in all situations?
More sidelights on the "W" theme, for anyone still following these obscure trails: from Grassblade Light, a chapter titled "Of W.B." (referring to William Blackstone, the Anglican pioneer-hermit who set up a library/orchard ("Study Hill") in Cumberland, north of Providence; credited with producing the first American apple (the Yellow Sweeting). [once again some spacing between words is lost in this format, unfortunately]


A downy W
star ached over
the lakeside beehive-
city buried in melody

where flighty
figures and green
clover-lovers ran
to the puppet-play:

here comes Federico
the toreador weighted
down with sword and
finery here comes Gago

the Golden Calf bell-
withered vain swung
on a chain of long
green Jealousy and now

the bull strikes Federico
on his head! He falls
the strings are broken
a slow tear wells

in Boca Reina's eye
ay me
ay me
woe am I

she falls cries See!
as the whole bee-
town lifts the bier
of solid air into the sea



Fallen pollen
yellow me this
mellow day must
to your mini-donjon

in the prairie my
Stephen's Gate Ist
ein bully byzbyz nest!

halloos St. Giddy-

up doubleyoudoubleyou
galloping into his leafy
micro-chasm take me too
far down above and up below

my dove
my sistrum
my harp-hum
of struck piano-

voluminous black hills of
Sheba milky w-veined gold
- a mass of canonical rolled
skyland red cardinal suet hove-

ring within a tiny Armenian X-
cathedra chrysalis above Turkish
trucker's gardens of Magda-Kurdish
Yahweh-wayout zebra-flipped King lex-

acorns. Inside a Blackstone.
Where was Abraham most-urlieste-
mourning-doveliest lovecake-teste-
calculate-continous-crow Jack Robinson.

Here is a post by Anselm Berrigan, sent to the Buffalo Poetics List. In putting this on my blog, I in no way mean to suggest that Anselm Berrigan agrees with MY position on Iraq (which I haven't completely figured out yet). Only that I found his post interesting.

Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 17:10:17 EST
Reply-To: UB Poetics discussion group
Sender: UB Poetics discussion group
From: Anslem Berrigan
Subject: Re: war
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

Is it not important to point out that we are already at war? I believe we are
meant to take the War on Terrorism as literal fact, since the government
does, and certainly the soldiers in Afghanistan have no choice but to do so.
Invading Iraq would be an expansion of the current war, though it requires,
ostensibly, a new resolution from the UN. The protests against invading Iraq
are often publicly spoken of without the context of the War on Terrorism
being applied, and anyone who is willing to protest this expansion is, for
the most part, well aware that war is already upon us. In this vein, the
movement to oppose invading Iraq is not merely crying "war bad, peace good",
but attempting to exert public will (consciousness) upon the way the ongoing
war is being framed. The President believes his cause to be a moral one, and
the opposition to invading Iraq largely believes that pre-emptive invasion an
extremely immoral action. Of course, anyone might disagree with this,
particularly those who do not wish to see any of this described in moral
terms. But that's the tag and collar Bush has on the situation, and what he's
crushing his opposition with.


Here is another, in the same vein, from near the end of Forth of July (unfortunately the formatting at this blog doesn't seem to allow for the extra spacing between some words, which is in the original):


The crane bone flute of Omegal
Two-One-Zero in the zero zone of
Cassiopeia drifted off
the ink path (Andean, original

and vernal victory for the rusted
oarsmen-thieves out of Kiev
composting filtered hive-
head of scythe-grass-thundered

crust of prairie) a black-white
ms. up Nile and down a Pappy
Rus man lost at (nightmare) sea
a-mingling trans-plutonian planet

with a Sophie light fallen
Julian year's allowable error
into wheat your collimator
of quasi-uniform time meridian

transit dark-muttering and
eruptive star with secular stability
a photometric standard Mira Ceti
early type Trapezium guide star end-

running now a high velocity shooting
star P Cygni growing orange from Umbriel
meniscus transit's photographic zenith well
or true noon Triton tropopause a nautical ping-

twilight out of Blackstone comes
a retrograde vernier worm-wheeling line
wing a mourning J Septimanian Venusian
fluted steep sleep to deep life-forms (foaming

Then again the outline of the W is also Henry/Bluejay/Orpheus re-tracing of the track of the W-man (Eurydice, Beatrice, Julie, July, "J"). Will, Williams (Roger; Lincoln Penii-Penelope). Into the river-water, into the Womb (see the Mississippian "nekuia" into the Gulf, in July).


The poet Gabriel Gudding emailed me about my book Stubborn Grew, & I replied with some info on its design. I emailed back to say that the story formed a "W": a sort of double W, in that while following the protagonists (Henry & Bluejay) on a geographical zigzag W across a hillside in Providence (mapping a W), the structural or numerical design formed a textual "W" : that is, the center of Book 2 (the asterisk on p. 137) forms the apex of the center of a narrative-numerical W (zigzagging from optimism/pessimism, happy/sad, etc. - the "nadir" of the 1st descending (tragic, pessimistic) stroke of the W on p. 133, written on 4/4/98 (anniversary of MLK assassination: "44" Chinese number of death) - from which nadir it begins to ascent toward the apex (p, 137) & then descend again. . .

But what is this "W"? Is it a burning Bush? (see section 5 on p. 49, written in Feb. 1998). I wrote to Gabriel about how the narrative follows "Henry's" search for a lost black CAT (Pushkin) kidnapped on Halloween, into a CATabasis (journey to the Underworld) with Blue J. The "W" is many things: for example, it's the reflection in moonlight of a heavenly "M" inscribed on the landscape (Dante's M of the eagle of Justice, Mandelstam's M). Combine an M & a W and you get a pair of cat's eyes. A "W" is also the outline of a CATamaran (combining 2 V's: Venus, Virgo: becoming a constellation: Cassiopeia, with its Ethiopian (Pushkinian, Bluejayan, MLK) themes.
& Cassiopeia/Ethiopia/Blue J/MLK-Melchior leads back to the Ark of the Covenant, or the ship-shape of a CATamaran.

The "W" inscribed on the landscape in Stubborn casts a shadow in the structure of the larger poem. That is, see pp. 137, the center of Bk 2 of Stubborn: the last words are: "Thy will." This unfinished sentence is only completed in the 3rd book of sequels (July), in a symmetrical mirror-image at the center of its 1st section, the last words of which are: "Be done." These nodes form the nadirs of the larger "W" design of the entire poem. The exact numerical center is found at the center of Book 2 (Grassblade Light), in a single isolated line (referring to a star).

These mappings are summarized in Book 4, the shorter "coda" to the entire poem ("Blackstone's Day-Book", found in the vols. Island Road & The Rose). They circle around many motifs, including MLK, Ethiopia, the Ark, the ship. . . Melville's American-prophetic underside. Here is a sample of what I'm getting at (from Blackstone's Day-Book, toward the very end of the long poem):


We are coming to the end of Henry
Navigator's long voyage, Elena -
circling around an elephant ear (Abul
Abaz, or Barnum's Jumbo) - see

how everything grows simpler,
more harsh, more true. Still
the well is always there (and will
be) - like the man standing here

beside it in the dark courtyard
(strange blooming out-of-season
almond branch). A stone,
a star, a well. A cup of water

from a rainbarrel (or Tartar
wine). A circling dragon-boat
or scrap of origami writ
folded to float so lightly. . . there.

You fold Andromeda into a W,
a mountain range back into M.
You cup them in your palm
to make a diamond, or double-

diamond - cat's eyes, Pushkinian.
Delicate Blue Morpho wings
woven with microscopic strings
of quipu thread (gentian-

gentle, violet and red). A knit
crossroad, then - red, white -
streams into Cassiopeia's
mother-night (at last).


The focus on the catamaran-ark is a focus on Jubilee (Bluejay-inversion), or the coming of justice & redemption & the kingdom of heaven. The angelic reality requires a vessel of some kind (shelter or modus operandi, womb or Grail). I realize this sounds a bit wacky & obscure.


I read many of the poetry blogs every day, some of which are listed to the left.

The trip in fall 2000 to Tuscany with Sarah, Beth & Caroline (from Norwich CT), & Arnold (from Amersfoort). I was walking around in Florence, in the district with all the plaques commemorating Dante's early life - was across the street from the little church (at that time enveloped in construction) where for the 1st time he beheld Beatrice. Suddenly a young woman in a white bridal dress came around the corner, walking toward a young man, followed by a small crowd - they embraced in front of the church doors - a wedding in progress.

Vita Nuova. I have posted many an old poem on hgpoetics: here is a recent poem (written today, actually). Part of a woik in pwogwess titled Time Flowers: an effort to tie together unfinished strands in the long poem Forth of July. Some background might help here. Last Saturday morning I went to the Met to see the big exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci sketches. I left about 12:15; learned that evening that Elena Shvarts (see previous blog entries) had come to see the same show around noon (see her poem "Leonardo" in her Paradise (publ. by Bloodaxe Press). Anyway, the phrase "there (in Tuscany)" is an echo of Mandelstam's Voronezh poem, the last stanza of which (trans. by James Greene):

I'm ready to wander where I shall have more sky.
But that bright longing cannot release me now
From the still-young hills of Voronezh
To the bright, all-human ones of Tuscany.

(I still prefer the David McDuff versions, but these are pretty good. M's Voronezh ('raven-knife") a mirror image of Ojibwa midwest)

Now you have to refer back to blog of a couple days ago where I talked about the humanizing of reality through the microcosm (the Whitman-world, the Proust-world) and you have to understand that the impulse of the following section of Time Flowers (from a chapter called "At the Sign of Shakespeare's Head") was that I was pondering this idea of the Person humanizing with human warmth & idiosyncrasy the wholeness of reality - epitomized by Leonardo's immaculate, obsessive, open-minded SKETCHING, observation, handiwork.

I was also remembering Elena's comments at dinner about her "mapping" poem (The Cardinal Points) & the shock of the Challenger crash, & quoting Maria Brodsky's quoting of Inferno xxvi, and Montale's repeated motif of the LP record of time & reality (see Arrowsmith notes to translation of Storm & Other Things on this) & the notion of angelic time as a continuous eternal re-enactment or re-viving in a different dimension, & Anastasios' comment about the isometric relation between Nacogdoches & Tigris/Euphrates. . .


II - At the Sign of Shakespeare's Head


to E.S.

Left-handed Leonardo improvises,
a palimpsest of ink-scratches and quotes,
unfinished sketches. From those notes
(from lean-bent angel-Byzant faces)

virgin hills triangulate in flesh
inimitable features, there (in Tuscany).
From incommensurate to harmony
(estranged will and strangled wish,

ugly mug and evanescence)
eye and hand combine - unite;
so we imagine a distant star might
blossom like a planet's orbit (Venus) -

so we might hear a planet whisper,
or a dear star (empalmed in your ear).


All we needed, already seeded in Eden:
consider, foolish counselors - what then?

The tarada Columbia flares overhead,
seven burning souls (who left their mark
shaped like a tiger or a ewe) embark
to ineffable nether time (veiled, mangered) -

slight white scratch in the long LP
over the delta of the Nacogdoches,
microgroove in a nest of destinies,
children of immersions, buoyancy

not born for brutality, but virtue,
not fear, but trust and fortitude
a bright star-seed (both goal and goad)
near farm in angel-time (come true).


further notes: "a planet's orbit": see bird's eye view of orbit of Venus in Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles, by James Ferguson (1799). the track of Venus' orbit looks like a flower blossom. "Tarada" is a kind of long canoe formerly used by the so-called "Swamp Arabs" at the delta of Tigris & Euphrates. "Foolish counselors": cf. the judgement on Ulysses (Inferno xxvi). Unable to do the accent grave over estranged & empalmed. Last line of 1st section should be read as "or a DEAR STAR" (affects rhythm). cf. again for the meaning of this poem Elena Shvarts' comment about her poem & the "only direction left" (up): in relation to the notion of angelic time as an actual time-warp in which angels reconstitute, recapitulate, resurrect, & relive human time, in some kind of continuum we don't yet understand. Fare forward, voyagers. "poetry is news".
Strong statement on poetry & politics by Eliot Weinberger in talk at Poetry Project in NY, forwarded by Kent Johnson to Poetryetc. list on February 3 (see February poetryetc archive under posting titled "Poetry is News"). Not sure his either/or argument about the last 30 years (which goes something like: either you have direct political speech & political engagement or you have pseudo-engagement & obscure wind-baggage over academicized issues of race/class/gender(basically a right-wing argument itself); and we've had the latter, while the Right has been dismantling rights & justice) - not sure either/or is that simple, but it's certainly a challenging polemic to those on the left. (Is it also sour grapes over the criticism of his anthology of 20th-cent poetry as too exclusively white & male?) But his comments about 3 typical approaches that poets have taken to political engagement are interesting & maybe useful.

As I see it, poetry can have a very substantial political character, while remaining poetic language (see for example the pervasive & deep political context of Montale's poetry of the 30s & 40s - often damned by ideological Italian critics as politically neutral or irrelevant); yet at the same time poetic language is just about as far from "political speech" as you can get, and the 2 should not be confused. . . but with poetry there are always the stunning exceptions. . .yes. "poetry is news".
Just for the sake of contrast, here are 2 very early HG poems.


If there is something blue
between a cloud and a painting
the full sense of a silent moment
appears suddenly like rain.
It goes over the land
it sings a tune you learned too
standing on the wet porch.
Little clowns in yellow raincoats
the laugh of a hidden yard
a girl in blue goes by
the big world raining
beyond the porch
in those yellow raincoats,
the things you always forget
because morning is full of birds.


"Build a wall of wisdom
for my fair daughter,
build an ark of gopherwood
upon the shimmering water.

"Fair as April sunlight
upon a dappled field,
she is my only pure delight,
wherein my heart is healed.

"Let the harp sing gladly,
let my voice be heard;
warrior kings of olden time
once hearkened to the word.

"Come out upon the meadow,
come, taste my only joy;
but do not touch my singing bird
or both of us shall die."

Walls wept for the tune;
a woman slept in the grave;
the sea cast up the gopherwood
upon a returning wave.
Jonathan, Kasey & Mike have been talking about meter & rhythm. Recommend an interesting study:

The Strict Metrical Tradition, by David Keppel-Jones. The author attributes the amazing success of iambic pentameter to just a few technical innovations: basically, by maintaining a strict syllable count (with the exception of feminine endings & elided syllables), and combining that with 3 "radical variations" (as opposed to the simple substitution of a weak for a strong syllable (pyrrhic) or the substitution of a strong for a weak (spondee)) - these being, first, the inversion of an iambic foot (/~ instead of ~/) - but used in specific, controlled places in the line - and the 2nd and 3rd what he terms the "minor ionic" & the "second epitrite" respectively. These two are measured in sections of 4 syllables: ~~// (minor ionic) and /~// (2nd epitrite) - and are also located in specific places on the line (usually at the beginnings of lines). Most of the book is taken up in explaining the rhythmic implications of these innovations & a detailed historical survey running from Spenser & Sidney to the Victorians.

One of the general lessons to be drawn from this kind of study is the symbiosis between "strict order" & "radical variation" - the variations are effective because we are, necessarily due to the meter, attuned to very slight stress emphases.


On Saturday, thanks to Tom Epstein, I was able to get a ticket for the 2nd night of Russian poetry at Alice Tully, in the Rose reading room (a beautiful auditorium at night - 2 walls of windows, low lighting on stage, high ceilings - you felt like you were in a planetarium or outside).

Had dinner at Poona on 72nd St beforehand with Tom & Elena Shvarts. Telling them about the lecture on Russian "underground" poetry of 70s-90s given earlier in the day by Mikhaill Iampolski. Very clear well-organized presentation; he talked about the Petersburg poets, the Moscow poets; the "keepers of the (high culture poetry) flame" and the egalitarian, anti-tradition, anti-"art" postmodernist conceptualists, the "idiot school" of poetry. Very interesting, & he confessed his bias toward the latter end of the spectrum.

Told Elena what he had said about her reading Fri. night (which I missed) & her poem "Cardinal Points", where she maps out the cosmos on/through her body. She said (all in Russian, Tom patiently translating) that she had a new understanding of that poem while she read it Friday. Said something about how in this life we are destined to be torn to pieces in the "4 directions" leaving only one direction of access, straight up...
which was strange, since none of us at the point had heard about the Challenger crash - we went from dinner to the reading, & Joseph Brodsky's widow (Maria Brodsky) opened the program with a brief eulogy - quoted some apropos lines from Dante (Inferno XXVI l. 112):

Brothers, I said, o you who having crossed
a hundred thousand dangers, reach the west,
to this brief waking-time that still is left
unto your senses, you must not deny
experience of that which lies beyond
the sun, and of the world that is unpeopled.
Consider well the seed that gave you birth:
you were not made to live your lives as brutes
but to be followers of worth and knowledge.

During the reading they played recordings of Pasternak, mandelstam & Tsvetaeva (? or a reader) reciting. Never heard Mandelstam's voice before. Like a brave piping little bird - sort of a comic-brave intonation - Chaplinesque, it seemed! But similar to Pasternak in that the grid of meter & rhyme like a cage for this really wild musical recitation - inherent in the language but so different from the flat intonation of American poets - more like old recordings I've heard of Pound & yeats, but more varied pitch.

The quality of the poems - I mean the three old recordings - you understand M's notion that poetry is a visceral healing force - what Whitman must have sounded like sometimes. Hard to explain : it's the voice of poetry HUMANIZING reality - through shared/transcended suffering & happiness - turning it into song & art. The notion that a person personalizes reality - a Proust-world, a Whitman-world, an Akhmatova-world - & this personal cosmos comes through in the voice - but as it becomes Everyperson, universal - not one or the other but both.

This universalizing of the poetry image or statement must have a name - Aristotle I guess thought it was what differentiated poetry from history - the universal in the particular. But it's not an abstract thing - it's the universal through the personal human voice achieving a particular poetic statment like a victory against inimical forces. & people understand it immediately, share it as an experience known. It is an EVENT, not chit-chat; it is selfless experience, or an emptying, not "motivated". Dante's notion that poetry is renunciation.

The distance necessary to evoke/imagine/invent/be inspired this kind of special speech. Silence & inwardness.

Talking & thinking are not the same. Poetry & club talk are 2 different things. It was good to go to Russia for an evening.