Friday, March 15, 2013

Stubborn Grew, the poem

Stubborn Grew.  Something of an odd title for a poetry book.   "Stubborn grew..." the monster?  the mountain?  May be.  The sentence from which it's taken, which first appears early on in this book-length poem, is "Hesitant, grieving, stubborn grew, the rose." (Read it online, here.)

What is the rose?  The rose is the poem; the rose is Rhode Island (it's a "local poem"); the rose is love, grounded, "incorporate" (ala Geoffrey Hill).

Stubborn Grew grew stubbornly.  I talked about it (probably too much) years ago, in this interview with Kent Johnson.  The poem grew under the pressure of rival forces.  On the one hand, the lyric/song impulse, under the aegis of Osip Mandelstam's late Voronezh poems - planted, rooted in whispering "black earth".  On the other hand, the epic/narrative/history impulse, under the searchlight of epics past (Dante, Pound, Olson, et al.).

The poem grew and grew, unexpectedly.  I remember I was thinking about Mandelstam's sets of versions and sequences, lyrics which grouped themselves in little families of affinity.  And suddenly I thought perhaps I could develop a "Providence" poem - a local/personal/history poem - out of interlinked panels and shorter poems, grouped into "chapters".  And so it took off.

I also remember I was reading in the theory of tragedy (Aristotle's Poetics, mainly) - and I wanted to somehow embody - dramatize - the theory in the poem.   For me the allegorical nexus of this particular drama was a re-enactment, a recapitulation, of the Orpheus story, by way of Orphic parallels in Native American myths (the ambivalent figure of "Bluejay").  I was attempting to "ground" my speech, my poem, in something basic...

& the poem grew some more.... became a kind of mock-epic, with a special journey to the land of the dead (through an unused railroad tunnel) - an epic voyage across an area of about 20 blocks on the East Side of Providence.

Strangely, Stubborn Grew sort of imploded too, as it grew.  Collapsed, thematically and formally, into itself.  It's like a large, crumpled piece of origami, folded back & inward on itself.  It's a Joycean language game - but it's also a confessional poem : the implosion is moral and personal.  & as with Augustine, only some graceful supernatural intervention can save the narrator from himself - which begins to happen only in the last few pages of the poem.  "Stub born grew the rose"...

And it was only after finishing this poem that I started to sense a sequel growing in my mind... & the interior rescue-journey continued, finally filling two more volumes - an unexpectedly enormous flow-flower (the whole thing now called Forth of July).

Stubborn Grew ebook @ Lulu

Stubborn Grew pbk @ Lulu