I had a sense as Stubborn Grew was approaching that it would be somehow "Orphic". Orpheus is a sort of touchstone for poets, obviously. He stands in the background of all those epic "descents" into the Underworld - Homer, Virgil, Dante, Joyce... & Jesus too (who spent "three days in the depths of the earth"). He dies singing, in order to come back again.
This was not my first long poem. I'd written 3-4 previously. I knew some of my own patterns. There was the psychic obsession with my cousin Juliet, who committed suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge in 1971. I wanted to bring her back from the dead. There was the sense, too, that to create poetry is a healing process for the poet - through descending/ascending I would be renewing my own life too, as I was, bumbling through the library into middle age, dealing with great personal mistakes. & there was the idea that "redeeming" American poets from this specific violence - suicide - was part of my job too. To counter the death-urge, the inexorable tide-pull for Berryman, Hart Crane, Weldon Kees... Finally there was the notion that all these personal motifs might feed into a larger "resurrection" plot - the silly idea that poetry has some role to play in setting the whole nation on a slightly different, maybe better path...
Then, too, in that regard, I was learning about Bluejay, one of the figures in Northwest Coast Native American stories... he had his own orphic journeys to relate.
But I wanted Stubborn Grew to bind together these different planes - ordinary & wonderful, reality & "dream song", plain old Hen and Berryman's "Henry", Divine Providence & funky "Prov-town". These contrasts were always going to clash & struggle in the poem. "Henry" the Orphic maestro, dream-rescuer of Juliet, was also Henry the Providence guy - the one who's marriage came apart (a marriage to a poet's daughter). These contrasts needed to be in the poem.
Anyway, I saw these things coming. There is the Dream & there is the tragicomic aspect (more on Aristotle's Poetics later). Here's how the poem begins. You can hear a little echo of Olson's Maximus - signaling the ambition & the focus ahead. So... "- I'll show you the dusty photo, torn anew."
Time flowers on the lips of whispered clay.
A spring breeze flows through the branches on the terrace.
The city below flutters and flaps, roars
and drones like a resurrected bumblebee.
Recorded organ music at noon from the cathedral
drifts over the motors. From the ornamental spine
of the ridge, domineering the town, I'm marking time –
soon have to head back to my monkey stall.
A detached head floats down the Hebrus River
like those Carrier robins, skimming out of electricity.
Out of moving mud, out of sliding riverside. See
the kingfisher flicker now – dive like an arrow –
rise again, lips, out of, oh, out of the occasional, view!
Clay, ribs, mud, marble, puddingstone.
My park bench careens down the local Rhine
– I'll show you the dusty photo, torn anew.
Henry, Juliet, & Cara, circa 1968