re: "cosmic consciousness"... I want to write a memoir or something around this topic. Tend to think (erroneously, I'm sure) all poetry is idealist. I mean that it stems from a hunch or contrarian notion that the universe is permeated with mind, sentience, consciousness.

I remember walking down a dirt road in the north woods near Canadian border, one sunny day back in the 60s, brooding over a thin Penguin paperback I was reading at the time, the author & title of which I am trying desperately to remember - something about consciousnessness and the universe - riddle of mind, etc. Written by a scientist, I think... & trying to explain it to my friend Tom (who died of AIDS 20 years later).

Also remember my grandfather's older brother Paul, who died around age 20, of tuberculosis, back around 1915. Paul was something of a poet & mystic. On the family farm in Illinois he collected the latest spiritualist, Buddhist & "cosmic consciousness" pamphlets, which were circulating through the midwest in those days. He wrote Keatsian nature poems, developed a kind of private "zoo" on the farm, & kept massive journals (in heavy hardbound ruled notebooks) of increasingly wayward mystical speculation in an increasingly crabbed and illegible hand.

The adolescent speculations were also stimulated by Nabokov, whose books I was addicted to in those days. Jonathan pokes fun at my harping on the Russians : but it's something that's been with me all of my "writing" life.

(The Brodsky elegy noted below was adapted from an earlier autobiographical poem about my early Nabokov obsession. The 3rd section of the poem assimilates both a Nabokov short story and a poem Brodsky wrote based on that story. I know I've mentioned that before...)

In my mind, Russia, Petersburg, the Mandelstams, Nabokov, Brodsky, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Elena Shvarts are not - pace Jonathan - merely polemical measuring sticks I use to beat up on American poetry. They are my "cosmic doors", so to speak. They help me synthesize poetry per se with thought in general. (See Brian Boyd's studies - his book on Pale Fire in particular - for an insightful approach to Nabokov.)

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