& speaking of valentines & all that, it might be very good for me to write, for myself at least, some kind of account or analysis of the themes, aspects in my poetry, relating to love, gender, sexuality, & such like complexities.

So much of my poetry is "love poetry", more or less - I mean it is prompted (& structured) by some real or imagined feminine person or presence or quality. "Gendered." (the Beatrice Effect)

& I'm sure it would be possible to analyze all this as very, very, confused. Even the analysis would get confused.

If one tends to believe, as I do, that the (poetic) imagination is involved in creative cosmogony or theogony - I mean a sort of (relatively) ex nihilo world-shaping, starting everything over - one gets involved in challenging or revising traditional (often patriarchal or authoritarian) symbols or mythologies of such cosmogenesis.

& if this ambivalent impulse - I mean simultaneously to maintain & to challenge certain conceptualizations of reality & belief - gets fused with a romantic or emotional alignment of poetry & love - then feminism & cosmology & poetry (the "muse") become sort of indistinguishable...

& if, moreover, these impulses are aligned also with certain subconscious or psychological motivations (ie. childhood, Mom, the equilibrium & bouyancy of the body/ship in the womb) - a sort of Bachelardian emphasis - these trajectories are amplified even more.

The trouble with all this, I think - & with the neo-mythologizing of personal psychology (Jung, & Freud too) - is that it leaves both poetry and philosophy at a certain state of formation which, while very important - & maybe essential (especially for poets like me) - still leaves huge dimensions of discourse out of the picture.

What I'm referring to, I guess, is what you could call the "gender neutral" or universal aspects of social experience, morality, & justice. This gets complicated, because it seems to require holding two sometimes contrary aspects in balance at the same time. First of all, society as we know it, to varying degrees around the world, is certainly warped by gender inequalities and the oppression of women. But there are other, equally pervasive facets of global violence, injustice & disorder. & it seems that the path to sane and happy social life on earth involves pragmatic, common sense action - political, scientific, social - where gender equality is both insisted upon and taken for granted (so that the focus can be on the specific practical problem at hand). (This is not to suggest that gender equality and gender identity - or indistinguishability - are the same thing... although that, too, is part of the equation... All poets, I suppose, are androgynous in some way or another.)

I'm guess my cogitations are quite primitive & simplistic. But I'm thinking specifically about the sphere in which social issues become material for poetry. & what I'm thinking is that the cosmogonic-mythologic "feminism" represented in a lot of poetry - and a lot of my own poetry - can sometimes (not always) hobble its capacity to address public, civic issues & social phenomena in a certain ordinary, objective way. It's like being trapped in some Jungian, personal psychodrama; like some character in the Divina Commedia, unable to climb above a certain level & see things more clearly, & address them more impersonally.

What I'm trying to say, I think, is that there are vast regions of human activity and social action - and many dimensions of ethics and justice - wherein men & women can, and do, work (& play) together, without gender coming into it at all (except perhaps in fun). & poetry likewise should be capable of addressing these conditions & occasions in a witty, direct, impersonal & gender-neutral (or simply "gender-comic"!) manner.

All that being said, I'm sure I will continue to follow the very obscure, oblique & mysterious (& mysteriously feminine) impulses from which my poetry emerges. What would life be without sex? Vive la differance, & all that...

& I do think that the utopian or apocalyptic drive underlying religion & human history is powerfully, substantially "feminine" in ways we tend to elide or misunderstand. This is partly what aligned my own direction toward Crane & Joyce as opposed (at least on the surface) to Eliot's & Pound's seemingly more patriarchal attitudes. The happy dreams of Noah's Ark, or the spacy moon-ship of Jubilee, really are impelled, in some obscure subconscious way, by the affective womb-life & infancy of mother-&-child. Humanity - in taming & "civilizing" (& also endangering & ruining) the earth - is motivated by these profound & early impulses - the buoyancy effect, an infant equilibrium.
...I wrote this (belated) valentine to her also, a few years ago :


You would have liked it here.  The sun flares colors
clear as the sea-floor.  The Navajo
make tracks circled in clay so sharp, so
clean - bladework of feathers, aloes, arrows...
And then, the Grand Canyon resembles you -
the Colorado scribbling a planet down
through dry spectral layers to the wet
blood-red and prehistoric marrow.
For Scripture precedes history - your insight
precedes Scripture - April's alpha and omega
purl playfully from your soul-saga.
Who finds you meets a palm-tree full of light.
                          Phoenix, AZ


Found at this site :

"In those years Dickinson experienced a painful and obscure personal crisis, partly of a romantic nature. The abject and pleading drafts of her second and third letters to the unidentified person she called "Master" are probably related to her many poems about a loved but distant person, usually male. There has been much speculation about the identity of this individual. One of the first candidates was George Henry Gould, the recipient in 1850 of a prose Valentine from Dickinson. Some have contended that Master was a woman, possibly Kate Scott Anthon or Susan Dickinson. Richard Sewall's 1974 biography makes the case for Samuel Bowles. All such claims have rested on a partial examination of surviving documents and collateral evidence. Since it is now believed that the earliest draft to Master predates her friendship with Bowles, he cannot have been the person. On balance, Charles Wadsworth and possibly Gould remain the most likely candidates."

Hmm. I sense the approach of Valentine's Day. From now on, I would like to be referred to as "the Poet formerly known as George".
Fine time at the Tazza reading last night. Mairead Byrne has a gift for comic, satiric poetry - a good M.C., too. This old buzzard enjawed hisself, along with all them decorous lamb-like collegiate young RISD bohos. & I got to accompany (con harmonica) MB on her heartfelt classic Irish lyric entitled "Oatmeal".

(A late evening downtown. While I was doing my hijinks, Sarah noted there were several real bohos - the solitary homeless ones, consigned to neglect - walking by the club windows. On a (rare) mild winter night.)


... then I'll be reading with Russian poet Alexander Skidan on Feb 11th, at the Brown U. Slavic Dept. Ochin interesne. Bolshoi spasiba, Tom Epstein.
Will be reading poetry tonight (briefly) at Tazza bar, in downtown Providence, with Mairead Byrne, Lisa Samuels & some RISD students. 10 pm. (Yes, I do emerge from den of hibernation now & then.) Also might be playing harmonica with guitarist Mark Milloff.


Fontegaia, on we go...


Mangered by Siena's seven hills,
intuitively the Palio braves rip round
their Campo. Mad steeds pummel down
stable-strewn bricks - an annual memorial

to virginal triumph (1260 Montaperti).
She who climbs over the things we do
on earth - august ascent up to
conceptual hyperspace (see Dante) -

becomes minatory martial emblem. Great-
Eyed Virgin
to grey-eyed Athena. Aerial
spear of light. Spine-tingling peal
above that rabid, rancorous cartwheel.

Yet beneath incense-fog and icon-shimmer
yet-more-evasive dream-reflections
stream. Strange backflow, that shuns
the rampant street (immured murmurmur).

The lion must roar, and prophets prophesy...
Grim silhouette of spiritual fright, weird lemur-
glare of recompense - O feline moon of fire
(eroded copper coin, dangling above sky-

bearded Amazon, piranha-sheathed) -
under your rigid radiance, an undercurrent
of impending leaps (obverse impediment;
sidewinder; vernal meteor). Bequeathed

now, homing dovecote-aerie, carrier-
plied past rims of warring warnings;
do-si-do-eyed whirl of cherishing
dear Wisdom, aflame in civic mirror.


more wacky wonders...


Solomon the rainbow trout navigates
upstream, humming his hymn of hums;
he ponders (as he strokes his gills) Time
(timing the moonrise over Stephen's Gate).

Upstream, at the source, where crusted
snow-gargoyles begin to crack and melt.
Where a trickle slips out of a vault
of instinctual springs - a rusty

statue's melancholy beard of copper mold.
He ponders the mercurial curve of waves;
how the odd angle of a horse's neck heaves
mighty Troy-town tumbling down - such low

ambivalent ululations in that wooden fold!
The rainbow ringlets on his spine channel
a flickering repetition. Some concealed
mass of green mountain, perhaps - retold

in parabolic slopes, shapes of mirage...
Or only a pert montagnard, maybe -
very uphillery (will she ever rest?). She
is cherishing, the thought of her - a mint

montage, magnetic magma-load - the node,
the gnomon of Siena's flyting, flights.
She is that more-than-tidal measure, night's
chalk mate - mere swimming down the road

will never glom this morose mare (she climbs
limbs of Time's rim). Solomon astrologer
caught her milking the NW Passage (near
Orion, Saskatchewan) - but only in his rhymes.


- & heading back to the jungle?


The Giantess lay on her side in Mayan shade,
beside the Moon River, that flowed and flowed,
immense and sensual, across the road
one evening. Inconceivably begot, not made.

There my taut and waterloggy coracle
turns back upon itself (a-bob like putty
on a potter's carousel). Her knotty
Egyptian-acacia ribs were barn-like,

barnacled with wayward fables; her bow
a figurehead rigged like a palanquin
to the nether shore, with a green
spring bough. There were no vowels

stored in bulkhead, hold or hull - it was
a primitive scene (lumped in my granary).
And on the Last Day, so it will be,
each orbiting heart: tinder and resinous.

And drawing to a close is drawing near.
Spun round a faery mizzen, seesawed
sea-salts paddling acorn-caps raveled
a crowing cupola, on Homer's shore -

frost-veterans of bardic doom saw lightfall
filter through that complex tent, a whisper
lapping slow against each tender pier (their
uniondom pealed like a Russian bell).

These iris blades on spokes will find
your own heart also, giant sleeper.
Out of your own tiered granary, dear
Guadalupe (Teotihuacan host-figurine).
Fontegaia rollin' on...


To catch the dark meaning of the shuttling threads
woven out of old, old, senex Yule (a snowman
in July, Henry) - the unraveling plan
of surrender to yon alien love-craft... Medusa

heads upstream (Moon River, wider than a mile).
One plangent string drawn taut, one note
drawn out so, sostenuto... little mote-a-float,
small purple coracle (a circular bark, congealed

of thread, compiled from bark) sails through
the mottled shift of memories, the flaking
Madonna imagery (that photo taken by
the pool - those charcoal eyes, collecting you)

until the war-cries of a mortal struggle
(Battle of Lost Mountain) interweave
as overtones - the town conceives
itself as free at last - living model

of a byzantine mosaic curvature (Prince
Charming tenders her the toy Troy-town
surrounded by fleet morris-dancers, bound
in labyrinthine knots of amaranth footprints).

With sun and moon beneath her feet, haloed
by the Milky Way
- so the hungry painter
(out of his ribcage-shell) depicted her:
fluttering Jonah, sister-sailor, swallowed

up in submarine design (breathing
Leviathan) - a levitation, inevitable
leavetaking - straddling her sable (midnight)
bridled Pegasus. The Queen of Everything.
continuing Fontegaia chapter 3...


Over the panorama of Good Government
a brooding glow of midnight blue - so dark
against that airy chamber's Tuscan glare
(nocturnal cadence under Judgement seat).

In a corner of the couch, her head sloped
on her hand, in diaphanous soft silver smock,
sweet Pax, detached from civic rolling stock,
moons into the distance (a painted antelope

toward real mountains). Shielded
by gentle heart, wise temperament
and nothing more. Feminine bent
posture, leaning there; unfolded

field of meadow flowers, arcadian ark;
figure of the will, transfigured in a well
of all things well. Not sundered from the skirl
of shrill desire, no - lightened by the footwork

of a deeper bass. That ring of nubile girls
dancing in the street, demure, careless...
that Appalachian moonshine, effortless
play (ukelele-dobro-mandolin)... whirls

you (collage of giggling collisions, jig
of visions) shaken to the roots
of every angling pine. Somehow in cahoots
with an aerial arc-welder in T formation (Zig?

Little Brown Jug). His banner under me
was sealed
(toward Paradise); the plow
left off, her feathered steed sails Now (her
Soo Line siren - high horn silvery - Away).


Bright gibbous moon in the sky tonight. Started Fontegaia, part 3.


A pool of cold forest water. Dark
and clear. Remote slight muttering.
A rocking of breeze-waves (sinking,
rising). Underneath an arc

of pines. Beneath your eyelids.
Where images flicker, a fluttering
surf-susurrus (still moon-mooring).
A resin-resonance of prickly caryatids;

a pining. Moon of admonition
for rusted memories. Disfigured shield
harrowed by rain. Here testaments repeal
as shed leaves, unbound, tossed adrift -

when your absence sets a stream in motion
(veinous pressure bent against the bow).
This is where Siena circles now -
moat-silvered cloister, cryptic ocean,

subterranean corona (Diana's brow).
So, in the water, one's reflected frown
turns inside out. Hoofbeat, wing-flown,
up, down. Slow tidal undertow.

Perceive, Phoebe, how it branches free
(your tributary once, now sole initiative).
Follow down (dawn-star, inceptive
dreamer) time's wide-opening seraph

when she sets off in her flighty car
(a nation at heart) - a Frisbee
, or Hula-Loop - her teetery
peripeteia, perilous - your Mayan mare.


Bachelard, the charming psychologist of daydreams & poetry. An advocate for states of mind that, in their wishful vagueness & wayward useless dislocations, are not highly valued in vigilant hard-working caffeinated America. But he's great at evoking the nexus of reverie/imagination/creativity... eloquent (in spite of the fact that he quotes, as examples, some pretty 2nd-rate & saccharine bits of poems).

Most of Forth of July was written in a kind of productive trance. Sometimes I talk about it in the poem (this part from early in Stubborn Grew)...

Home again from London, I lay near Lucky;
a man on the sofa, nearly lucky, I lay.
A man of clay, eyes open, looking out at the sky.
As though the blurred porch window held the key.

Blue arch of sky, a flurry of pussy willows.
Out of the man of clay the heart goes out
through the eyes – a circular route,
elliptical, eccentric. Whatever nobody knows

sounds, unspeakable. Toward the willows;
toward the bent branches shading a long river,
somewhere (ingrained in the interior).
A dream of the clay man, motionless, comatose.

An image in the glass, or ghostly hum
draws breath from lakes of immobile eyes.
A statue, stirring Proven├žal sighs
from old books (Francesca's boredom), or

immobile blue-brown blur captured in a porch
windowpane. A supine, motionless man of clay.
And something quivers in his chest – today,
eternity – a key, scrambling in the latch

or Bluejay, whistling, rehearsing in the tree...
icon filling the frame for a troubled moment
like lost summer wind, crossing cement
with deep soil... infant memoir of infinity.

Closed eyes and speechlessness.
A clipper, sailing over seas of grain.
Bluejay's fiery Chippewater – a milk train
way. Eyes closed, and speechless.


The child doesn't want to be left out in the cold, dismissed. One wants to join the round of ordinary goodness & warmth. One wants to be part of the family of happy endings, the comedy in which everybody pretty much gracefully "muddles through" somehow... Tolstoy's opening sentence in Anna Karenina - "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - ie. one wants to find oneself in the unwritten circle of the first group, the world of foolish-wise & bumbling grown children...

- old poem from Way Stations -

The wind for France
blusters and laughs.
Green hills, gathered
and chaste, gleam
over the humped sediment.

And bowmen will carry the day.
Silence an awkward garment
among the clear circles,
at the lighted feast
of modesty and honor.

Only, in the mild air,
to say goodby. Or there,
in grandmother's book,
Rapunzel, glancing down
from her strange tower.

Or stars over the sea.
Or tongues of fire.
A hearth-blaze. Fold
my hands, light the
four corners of the bed.


Gaston Bachelard (Poetics of Reverie) : "From poetic reverie, inspired by some great spectacle of the world, to childhood reverie, there is a commerce of grandeur. And that is why childhood is at the origin of the greatest landscapes. Our childhood solitudes have given us the primitive immensities."

(Something of this in the vast & rivery-bulbous dream-bridgedom of Forth of July).

The Bachelardian child (hidden unchanging solitary cosmic dreamer) is analogous to the perennial "order" of Melchizedek (mysterious King of Salem, who comes out to greet Abraham with bread & wine as he enters the Promised Land) in the Epistle to the Hebrews. ("For unless ye turn & become as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.")

The order of milk & honey (mel). (see Melville's Moby Dick for a whole arcane & ribald symbology along these lines)
Fontegaia. A fountain in Siena. Poetry, a sort of welling-up, a swelling. In Mandelstam's term (from biology?) a "salience". You have to provide a little space (of silence) around that salience in order to hear it properly. Poetry is the nipple on the breast of the mother-tongue (got that?). The Milky Way.

Latta, right, I just realized. Milk-Man. (see photo at the end of today's post there)

MLK Day coming (or Melchizedek)


Reading Malcolm Woodland, Wallace Stevens and the Apocalyptic Mode. Reminded once again how closely Stevens listened to other poets (from Isaiah to Whitman to...), re-fashioning their terms & phrasing to meet the pressure of his own time & his own concerns & idiom (see especially comments on relation between Stevens' "Martial Cadenza" and Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd"). Every case is different, every situation is particular.

This, it seems to me, is the real thing, the real work & tradition of poetry, in every era...
I keep deleting boring entries from previous day. The fact is I'm kind of burnt out right now, distracted.

Maybe when I get some energy & focus back (I hope) I can think & write more about these things that have preoccupied me for years...

such as the theory of poetry as a kind of message that rounds on itself, complete in itself (a form of beauty) : and as such, a representation of one way of understanding nature as a whole - reality, experience, the cosmos... life itself considered (envisioned) under the sign of the beautiful. This rhyme or identity (or tautology) joining the image (the work of art) and the thing itself (reality).

& that the epic mode in poetry aims actually to include (somehow) all of time, history, & social experience within this category of the beautiful (a severe beauty, perhaps) - erasing the (Heideggerian) distinction between "earth" and "world" noted in previous post.

& that my "quatrain" experiment (Forth of July) & other poems tend to circle around this natural-historical "ring-structure" in a thematic way... the shamanic spinning sufi-ghost-dance gyroscope of time & reality celebrated in Grassblade Light & other places... trying to see into the "brow of reality" where everything spins around & begins again...

(here's an example of what I mean, from Fontegaia...)


John Latta's remark, yesterday, on Nature according to Nabokov - sly, shy, complex, suffused with intelligibility and intelligence - so as to underscore humanity's tragicomic bumbling -

here's a picture of things which seems, at first glance anyway, quite different from Heideggerian-poetic "earth" (according to Kirsch). In Nabokov, the poetic word, in itself, is not endowed with world-shaping magic, mana; rather, Nature as a whole is unspeakably marvelous, and the poet observes and follows after (like Dante, the self-professed "scribe" of Love).

Similar, & different, I guess. In both, there's an alliance with things of the earth, & a humility & self-limitation involved in rendering them; but it seems in Nabokov there is no necessity to sign up with the army of philosophical poet-mystagogues, or treat the Word as some kind of substitute religion or science.


Re-reading Adam Kirsch's essay : it seems too neat, too simplified, to speak of "poets of world" and "poets of earth", though the temptation is strong to seek these kinds of resolutions. Van Gogh's peasant shoes, in the context of Heidegger, make me think not so much of humble, a-historical simplicity, but of the discarded mountains of shoes etc. - remnants of the Holocaust (& then of Philip Guston's forlorn & comic footwear). History and nature are mingled together. Heaney, Simic, & other poets like them may make the effort to distance themselves from grand historical/imperial narratives - very understandable after the 20th century, as Kirsch explains - but doesn't this come at the cost of reducing poetry to a minor art? According to Kirsch, Heidegger sets the terms for the metaphysical/spiritual poetry of our time; but Heidegger's mysticism seems to require the building of a wall between metaphysics and history. All philosophy, I suppose, tries to transume the chaotic flow of history within its ordering categories (even if these are post-structural anti-categories); but I think there are forms of both secular-pragmatic philosophy, and types of religious faith (ie. both Judaism & Christianity), which would not admit to a separation between time, history and metaphysics.

Stevens' (& perhaps Guston's) "noble rider" - the "nobility" of the imagination - doesn't renounce or seek to avoid the violent reality of history; it pushes back against it.

(Meanwhile, I've put in a library request for the Heidegger piece, so I can see the original.)
Thoughtful - & pleasingly brief - essay in current Poetry magazine by Adam Kirsch. Attempts to characterize distinctive aspect of contemporary poetry by way of an essay by Heidegger ("The Origin of the Work of Art").

Have to think about this for a while. Kirsch suggests that contemporary (or postmodern) poetry has distanced itself from modernist totalizing (& sometimes totalitarian) social ambition, & focused instead on a more humble (& passive) rendering of the things of the earth itself.

If true, then perhaps contemporary poetry has (temporarily?) renounced the "epic" layer of poetry altogether.


See Mairead Byrne's post of Jan. 3rd, & click on the Artaud line, for a funny video of her trials & tribulations in my place of work (the Rockefeller Library).

What is it with these people? What is it with me? Que pasa? Gabriel writes epic poem while in his car driving to see his daughter, here, in Rhode Island. Mairead makes videos of herself & daughter breaking into my library. I write poem inspired by graffiti on sidewalk near my home, drawn (unbeknownst to me) by their daughter - & send it (all unknowing) to Gabriel...

What's going on, Clio? Is Poetry trying to prison-break the Library???
I guess I could put that state seal on the cover of The Grassblade Light. The middle volume of Forth of July (& actually the poem as a whole) is suffused with many images, stories & gestures of the poet-plowman persona turning to listen to the Native American "ghost-dancer".

& the formal, numerical center of Grassblade Light (as I've noted before) is the following line :

Love is our North Star high up above
HG Poetics turned 5 years old last Wednesday. He's learned to read the Dick & Jane books all by himself! What a good boy am he.


Turned a corner last night; back on track with Fontegaia poem. Maybe I was aligned somehow with the fresh air coming out of Iowa (where my maternal grandmother grew up, in West Branch).

When I start making obscure design calculations based on parts & line-counts etc., I know something is crystallizing.

Fontegaia is really the culmination of all my quatrain-hoboing of the last 10 yrs. Nobody knows about it yet. Look out, Poetryland!


Some constructive metaphors are also rambling into place. I don't want to explain too much at this point, though...

(The seal of the State of Minnesota shows a farmer at his plow watching a Sioux warrior riding by on his horse. I'm finding a way to think about the georgic plow of poetry and the Odyssean Trojan Pegasus of the muses and the ship of state and the Palio of Siena and the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse and Mandelstam's "Egyptian bark of the dead" and the ribs of the lungs around the heart.)

(I see MN will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of its statehood this year. "The Star of the North.")


The georgic plow of verses has something to do with the georgic labor, in an Iron Age, of serving the common good, the commonwealth : since rising (by way of Aristotelian "virtue") beyond pure selfishness and egotism, toward the equity and fairness of justice - justice, which is an absolute necessity for global survival - requires labor and sacrifice. Perhaps even more, it requires tolerance and mercy (always difficult for the doctrinaire and self-righteous) - since we all come up short when it comes to loving our neighbor as ourself (the foundation of equity).


Rather tumultuous (weddings, passings) holiday season over now. Reading some books on Wallace Stevens' poetry (The Wallace Stevens Case, by Thos. Grey - on Stevens & the law; and another study of Stevens and "apocalypse" - can't think of author at the moment). Curious about apocalypses, after finishing section of Fontegaia (& the horsemen) not too long ago. Apocalypse means "unveiling". Trying to get myself together toward writing again, not always easy. Also distracted by potboilers (funny old spy novel by Len Deighton my brother-in-law recommended. Remember The Ipcress File, with Michael Caine? It's not that one. Enjoy Deighton's sense of humor.) Boredom & annoyance with just about every snippet of poetry or poetry-reviewing or po-biz reporting I come across : not a good sign. Deep boredom; maybe accidia itself. Or just irritability. This is one reason I need to find a way to write again, that works, somehow. Trying to get my mind around it, in lackadaisical fashion. Good thing nobody's paying me to do this.


Hpypa Wne EraY !

My resolution : to try some new things in writing. That's why I went & bought an old manual typewriter.


A poem or an artwork "disintegrates" (Whitman's term for a precipitate) from the stream of time, interest, discourse, chores, etc. It falls, it drops from the sky... because it's complete, it's finished. It has wholeness, roundedness.

"Negative capability" has something to do with the poet's self-transference or absorption into the poem's complete little universe. Unwilled, unforced - a sort of love-manifest. Wholeness and inimitability - the poem radiates the intensity of this total self-transference. (Nobody mistakes Shakespeare for Jonson, or Herbert for Donne, for (obvious) example, or Marianne Moore for anybody else, & so on.)

Look for the density, the specific gravity, of the poet's entire emotional-intellectual participation in the birth of the poem.

This transfer - this back-&-forth - an image of the wholehearted self-giving (non-self-seeking) exchange which is love or charity. Reality as gift.