Church with two hands

It so happens that when I started writing Stubborn Grew, back in 1996, I was reading a very interesting study of Aristotle's Poetics, author of which I've forgotten.  I've also forgotten the main thread of the book, except I have the vague idea he analyzed how the Poetics managed to "do what it says" - that is, the style and structure of the work reflected or embodied the abstract argument Aristotle was making.  The Poetics in this way was itself a work of poiesis.

This gave me the vague idea of turning the analysis on its head.  I would work my way into a narrative poem by "acting out" in fairly explicit fashion certain abstractions regarding "what poetry is about".  So we have Orpheus, King David the Psalmist, Shakespeare, making cameo drop-ins in somewhat cartoonish fashion - totems for the more concrete dilemmas I would be trying to excavate.

The following is one of the first sections written.  It seems to summarize the risky foolishness of writing poems.  They lead one back into dreams, into childhood - possibly solipsistic, self-enclosed, & so lost forever.  Thus the closing image, which not everyone will recognize but which was familiar to kids in my milieu in the 1950s (maybe still is) : the game of making a "church" (instead of a shadow bunny rabbit) by interlacing fingers of both hands, lifting the two index fingers (for the steeple), and then opening the hands (showing the congregation).  It must have been a Sunday School thing.

"Rational animal" : Aristotle's definition of humankind's duplex, inherently dramatic situation.

from Shakespeare's Head

It begins with the headache of a rational animal.
Sepulchred, perhaps, in a whitened rhyme
or bibliophile's musty drawers – reflective rim 
or echo chamber, some titanic scuttled shell.

And you lose the thread, and this is the thread.
Purpled, from the mordant notebook,
from the charitable extinct awk's
last corkscrew into a cup of molten mead,

like lead.  The chorus and audience withdraw.
You are alone with the sound of an evening of a swing. 
Here's the church, here's the steeple. . . here's the door.

A gate in Fox Point

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