1960-1968: My work as a writer began at Yale, where I served as a reader for Al Shavzin's and Don Mull’s Penny Poems. In those years I wrote a fair amount of derivative verse. (My friends at Yale poo-pooed my style as “bastard metaphysical”.) My early poems were self-consciously “literary”, with little genuine feeling—typical of a ‘50s graduate student sucking up the New Criticism. Only when I began teaching at Buffalo and fell under the pied-piper spell of John Logan did I begin to write in earnest. Here are Six Early Poems that I'm keeping.
1968-1975: I think I at last found a voice of my own in three series originally entitled Departures, Nocturnes and Serenades. Some of them eventually formed part of my first chapbook, All the Weight of the Still Midnight (Buffalo: Outriders, 1972; 2nd ed. 2013). I was by then experimenting with syllabic meters and a little later with elegiac long lines, as well as free verse. All three sequences came out of the misery of divorce and (more positively) the precarious excitement of starting life afresh. However, my approach was never confessional and the language of these poems is dreamlike and symbolical; their emotional climate owes something to Georg Trakl, whom I was translating at the time.
1975-1980: Most of this period was spent in a very happy relationship with Pat Gill, my companion and eventual fiancée. My work turned in two quite divergent directions: a cultivation of, on one hand, the sonnet and other traditional forms (most importantly in the series eventually published as Pat Sonnets), and, on the other hand, of free-verse experiments in a rather wise-cracking and even druggy mode (brought together in a sequence entitled Digging the Difference). I worked in both manners simultaneously and remember characterizing myself, during a summer poetry festival reading, as a “schizophrenic poet.” My then-audience included John Frederick Nims (who liked the sonnets) and Anselm Hollo (who liked the experiments). An abridged version of Pat Sonnets was published in 2000 by Street Press. Publication of the full version is in preparation.
1980-1995: For about a decade after a major romantic breakup, I continued in both a formal and a free verse vein. My ambitious sonnet sequence, The Unholy Weeks, full of nightmare images with hints of nuclear apocalypse, was conceived as a vast sonnet cycle, but somewhere along the line I lost my nerve and the work remains a fragment. During this time I also wrote many miscellaneous poems. I assembled them in two volumes, Rude Courtesies and Double Negatives. Neither ever seemed shapely enough to pass muster for publication (though a number of individual poems worked pretty well). I had better luck with another cycle, in an experimental vein, entitled You Who. I am still fairly pleased with this volume. Portions from it have appeared in journals, but I have so far been unable publish it as a book.
Since 1995: With my energies increasingly claimed by my translation projects, poetry began to take a back seat. The only sequence that I kept going (it eventually grew to hundreds of haiku-like shorties) was No Cartoons. A version of this was published as an Outriders book in June 2011. Since then, a broadside entitled Three Poems was issued as the National Poetry Month broadside by the University at Buffalo Poetry Collection. I have no new large poetry project, butI have kept on producing occasional Poems in Progress.