A source for the tone in the Berkeley poem posted yesterday (& much of Stubborn Grew) is Mandelstam's Complete Poetry (SUNY Press, 1973) trans. by Raffel & Burago. OM often did portrait-poems of historical figures, painters, writers, musicians & friends - somewhat similar to Robert Lowell's verbal icons, but more humorous & affectionate. He connected it to his Acmeist project of "domestic hellenism" - the idea that poetry was part of a larger human-cultural project to "surround life with utensils, with teleological warmth". With his portraits he presented historical figures (Bach, Beethoven) as part of the family.

Berkeley himself can be seen as a forerunner of sorts for the controversial contemporary physics theory known as the Anthropic Principle (which holds, roughly, that the cosmos seems designed in order to support conscious (or human) life). With his notion that existence entails perception, that the tree falling doesn't make a sound - doesn't even exist - unless someone is there to hear it, he's suggesting a purposive cosmos with consciousness at its center. Samuel Johnson mocked Berkeley's idealism ("I know the stone exists without me, because I stubbed my toe on it", or something like that), and the following era belonged to the Samual Johnsons. But 20th-century physics, starting with relativity, threw a spanner in those works.

My internet shadow-boxing with the langpos & postmodernism in the 90s was partly a critique of their critique of autobiographical, confessional, storytelling styles. The postmodern poets questioned, rejected, undermined the ontological status of the person. Words were dislocated from context and composition was disconnected from authorial motivation.

One of the consequences of doing long poems, however, can be (though it doesn't have to be) the building up of foundational layers of context & specificity. Ideally, in Stubborn Grew (& Forth of July as a whole), the interconnections are there to add a weave, a structure of more & more specificity. Thus the epic journey of "Henry" & "Bluejay" in the first half of Stubborn takes place over the space of about 10 city blocks and 300 years of history; the 2nd half takes place in the narrator's head, at a particular coffee shop table on Wickenden St., in the Fox Point neighborhood.

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