Franciscan on St. Henry's Day

Today, July 15th, used to be a Catholic saint's day - St. Henry's Day (the celebration was moved to July 13th in the 1960s). On this date in 1999 I started the final volume of the long poem Forth of July (titled July). On this date in 1099, Geoffrey Bouillon & the Crusaders entered the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (after conquering the city with a bloody massacre).

I've been reading an interesting book by Mary Alexandra West, titled The cross that Dante bears : pilgrimage, crusade, and the cruciform church in the Divine Comedy (Univ. Press of Florida, 2005). All about how Dante "maps" his poem onto the medieval cartographical orientation of the world with Jerusalem in the center (with the East at the top of the map). She also focuses on the militant, "crusading" dimensions of Dante's poem.

These themes are not lacking in Forth of July. It was done consciously, in an indirect, imagistic fashion. "Henry", in that final book, goes on a pilgrimage of his own - but into the interior of America, & into the "spiritual interior" of the poetic word. He goes on a crusade of his own - but it's a march of puns - centered on July, Julius, Yule, Julie, Juliet, Jubilee, JL, and "jewel-eye"... which delivers a sort of Franciscan overturning of political force & violence ("Julius Caesar") by the spiritual power of the Word, or the Holy Spirit of wisdom ("jewel-eye"). The poem (July) progresses thus from St. Henry's Day, with all its crusader/Jerusalem connotations, to the Ides of March (8 months later - Caesar's downfall) and the Ides of April (Good Friday, Easter, death of Abraham Lincoln).*

I think the U.S. poetry world has been slow to pick up on the "major music" available to them in this & other poems of mine. But I'm pretty confident that day will come. I was looking over Forth of July again last night, under the instigation of some political commentary over at the Digital Emunction blog. My poetry may be complicated & evasive in some ways, but it's not autotelic, not hermetically-sealed-off from the world, & not meant to be. But it's meant to be poetry, not prose or commentary - & I serve a jealous Muse, who previously cohabited with Hart Crane & Osip Mandelstam, among others.

*for more on the Franciscan connection of all this with Joachim of Fiore, see here (especially the post on 4.3.07).

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