Maybe the answer is: pathetically modernist in tone and intent. Or, stubbornly stuck to narratives that have long ago outworn their own frames. It did all "begin" in a clearing of trees one winter afternoon in the forests of Essex, MA, mid-1980s. My friends had wandered back to the house and I stood there for a while listening and talking to the trees. That thrill of Nature's languages was too much to resist. It was also unwriteable, and therefore had to be translated. Learning evasion tactics for writing as a form of "work."
That forest (interlude from Southborough) makes more sense when understood as one of the "seasons," or "houses," that Rimbaud taught ("O saisons! O chateaux!"). Filtered as it was in between dreadful hours at "school," learning the subtleties of white supremacy and its crude discourse. Memorizing escape routes. One of which was (what else?) poetry. Autobiographical conceit. Morrisey's: "I wanna go home, I don't want to stay / Give up education as a bad mistake / Mid-week on the playing fields..."
But even those trees in that now-nearby forest had a prologue. The Asterix & Obelix and Tin Tin comic books I collected passionately throughout the 1970s (in English and in Spanish). Or, in late summer (Indian summer) of 1982 when Isabel, Ramiro and I left Mexico with our father to return to Caracas. That journey that included an interlude at the house of other Venezuelan hippies (friends of our father) at the edge of town, several nights in a Mexico City hotel, eating dinners at a pharmacy/cafeteria somewhere downstairs in what seemed to be El Centro of that vast grey/green metropolis.
Early intuition taught me to map out these various cities, each with their own distinct scale/tone. As in Baraka's: "Harlem is vicious modernism." Boston (Cambridge, Somerville, Southborough), Caracas (Chuao, Caurimare, La Trinidad, El Hatillo, Santa Paula), Colonia Tovar, Woods Hole, West Falmouth, San Miguel, Indian Rocks Beach, Largo, Clearwater, Dunedin, Tampa (North Tampa, Palma Ceia, Ybor City), Manhattan, Providence. The names piled on top of each other in lament or elegy. Which is why Basquiat's lists have always been such a comfort, or at least they've seemed familiar.
The incongruous nature of this list, as well as its speed, make it a prime candidate for postmodernity's "jump-cuts." But each of these locations only helped to construct a lament in my hands, maybe now reminiscent of Walter Benjamin's backward-looking angel. Lament for all the people and places lost. Only those that one memorizes remain. Like the prajnaparamita sutra our father occasionally recites aloud: Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. How that sounds when recited onto the jungle in San Jose de Rio Chico or amid Caracas' endless paranoias.
For me, the cities are always the best locations, no matter how dysfunctional or dangerous. They offer some sense of future travel, as opposed to the green mountain stillness of el campo or remote towns. That stillness I can never fully decipher, although I imagine I could learn to listen if necessary. That sense of movement is also what I like about reading novels. Poems seem to be like that green mountain, quite often much too slow or singular. Still, slowness is probably what we need.