Those obscure liminal charismatic experiences, when I was around 19, probably helped protect me from the literature industry. One of the things Harry Howe said at the time has stuck with me : "It's because you're a poet, and you can't deal with it yet."

The years when I gave up trying to write, & went into community organizing. I have a master's degree in that. One of the signal aspects of my poetry is that it came out of a slow return to writing, by way of Russian poetry. Everything written after 1975 - and that means everything except one college chapbook & a few scattered college & high school poems - stems ultimately from Mandelstam. Even my interest in Crane, which led to my interest in long poems.

(Oddly, though, there was Nabokov, even before then. In my high school lit mag (Talisman) for 1969 or '70, there's a little prose sequence which is a primitive pastiche of Nabokov. In one scene, some school friends jokingly re-enact scenes from War & Peace in the snow in a Minnesota park. So those Russkies were always lurking nearby.)

Now, thanks to changes in communications technology, I have my little literary niche here, even if no one publishes me other than myself. I'm privileged. I have my day job in a well-stocked Ivy League library on the East Coast.

Which has its costs, too. Now, when I go around scrappy old Providence, I'm seeing scenery from my youth - those affects & experiences of a rougher world, slowly thinned-out by the routine of a campus sinecure.

That kind of (political) dissonance could be the motor for a whole cycle of epic poems. I mean the distance between the old me & the young, between the campus & the town, between this street & that street, between the known & the unknown. So Ulysses measures the distance between Joyce & his father, between Dedalus & Bloom.

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