Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Introduction

Academic journal article Transactions of the American Philosophical Society

Introduction

Article excerpt

I have arranged the poems in this volume chronologically, from early to more recent in my first four collections of poetry. I place them under the protection of two poetry saints: William Blake and Hart Crane. The Blake of "London" inspires my work and my life, in the calling to wander about, to be marginal, from the margins to observe, to insist that justice matters:

I wander thro' each charter'd street.

Near where the charter'd Thames does flow

And mark in every face I meet

Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

For Blake, there is no such thing as a private life or a private love immune from the larger systems in which we struggle. I agree. I hope my poems agree.

They take another direction from Hart Crane. Not justice, but sacrifice: a conviction that we shall not be spared being broken, and that out of brokenness will arise a truthful music and gifts of honesty and love: "And so it was I entered the broken world/ To trace the visionary company of love ..." ("The Broken Tower").

Blake's chartered streets, Crane's broken world, appear in many forms in my poems, and form is the key: It is the task of the poem to make new form from fractured language, fractured experience. At times I focus on the historical and the national, as in "After," a poem about Hurricane Katrina, and the long poem dedicated to Frederick Law Olmsted, "Earthworks." In "After," I mourn for my country, which 1 have seen destroying itself these last two decades:

A highway straight to the end of the world skims past a ruined mall. …

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