Would like to follow up some of the comments of last few days.

In Stubborn Grew, and the 3 books of The Rose (all of which make up Forth of July), I tried to make such a frame. Part of that totalizing epic impulse. & not something I learned from Northrop Frye or other scholars, some abstract idea of genre - but an impulse going back to the Shakespeare thing, a need to articulate experience in a holistic way.

(My apologies to those of you for whom I may be sort of repeating myself, again.)

I wanted to "finish", to my own satisfaction, what seems like the unfinished business of the "long poem" in America.

In effect, this poem takes a very long psychic-poetic trip. The poet, the "speaker", wavers between autobiography, and history, and "pure" poetry, and parody, and lyric singing, and romance, and symbolic narratives, and documentary, and collage...

however, whatever the literary-emblematic, symbolic, political-historical ramifications of it all, the sum toto, when I reflect on it now, seems like self-portraiture. This may be due, largely, to the emphasis on memory (reverie) as the basic source of inspiration, the instigator.

I tried in several ways to "generalize" the poem's subjectivity. But this is a very problematic and paradoxical region of art-making. In some ways the subjectivity of the creative artist is exactly what the artist is about - the substance of art's message. The very ability to "muse" & write is dependent on the personal & private to a great extent.

I'm reading another (short) book by Giuseppe Mazzotta - Cosmopoiesis - on aspects of "world-making" in Renaissance literature. He writes in the intro about the traditional distinctions between Medieval and Renaissance : the former is theological, the latter is humanist; the former is vita contemplativa, the latter is vita activa.

I feel sort of on the cusp of this divide (as I guess everyone is, really). The poet-as-poet experiences originality - world-making, life-made-anew - in a very concrete way. But the fragile symbiosis of subjective & objective, person & world, is hard (if even possible at all) to "fix".

Reality is mysteriously in flux, in process - a theologian (on a good day) might describe this as an aspect of the divine gift of human freedom, power, & self-determination. Artists understand this - experience this - as the sudden coalescence of their imaginative projects.

In my "posthumous" creative life of the last 5 years or so, I seem to be struggling to find a mode of expression which is more objective, less autobiographical, less caught up with my interior psychodrama.

Or at least find a way to make that personal experience more informed by the objective present.

Forth of July is full of obscure symbolic structures & meanings. The 3rd volume, July, tried to go in two directions at once : to break out of the nostalgic-memorial element of the previous volume (Grassblade Light), and at the same time to create a more autonomous artistic structure (ie. Forth of July issues in, seeks its own telos, in July.)

I started writing it on July 15th - traditionally, "St. Henry's Day" - the day in 1199 when the Crusaders formally invested the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. I aimed to end it between March 15th - the Ides of March - and April 14th - around Easter/Lincoln's assassination/Vallejo's death.

There were a lot of ideas circling around in my head about these symbolic dates. The notion of "Henry going to Jerusalem", for one (a reference to Henry the IV's ironic speech to Prince Hal in the "Jerusalem Chamber" in Shakespeare's H. IV).

There was the Judaic-Christian concept of "Jubilee", which is a kind of messianic/utopian hopeful idea about world justice & peace. In order to symbolize this element I played a lot of word games - reversing the "shell" of an armored (military) Julius Caesar - world political power - through the "coming-forth" of Juliet, or the ark of Jubilee.

Thus the Christian sacrifice evoked by the sepulchre - & resurrection-hope - is linked in the poem (& to America) via Lincoln/Vallejo.

It all sounds very schematic, but it was shaped through a kind of whacky (psychic) journey to New Orleans - through American history - up & down the Mississippi, via Crane, Melville, Whitman, Twain... (& the mysterious Bluejay - who returns after his disappearance at the end of Stubborn Grew.)

The octagonal shape of Frederick II's Castel del Monte (discussed a few days ago) was modelled (some have argued) on the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, which Frederick may have encountered in the course of negotiating the (peaceful - & very short-lived) return of Jerusalem to Western control. The octagon is also symbolic of the renewal of the world (the "eighth day" of creation).

Anyway, happy Ides of March.

No comments: