Brian, I've just ordered Delany's autobiography, The Motion of Light IN Water. You must be psychic. I live in the East Village of Manhattan, been here since 1987 but lived till then on West 142nd Street in Harlem long before the gentrification began in the '90's making Harlem, alas, what I call Disneyland Harlem.
When I first read Delany's name in your message below I thought I recognized it...and I did indeed, upon seeing his book list, remember his short stories some of which I read as a high school kid completely enamoured of science fiction then. Glad to be reconnected to him, those horrific teen years soothed by Delany's science fiction tales.
I identified with the aliens, the alien planets that I read about...alienated from myself and my (white) culture in the deep South of North America choking on Christian fundamentalism, bigotry of all kinds (as the gods, so go the people) , and looking for a way out. To North then I came. Harlem, to be exact. Thus began the long journey to deal with and heal the alien so recognized in sci-fi and, as I see in the online bio of Delany, and myself in terms of hetero-normative culture.
Poetry then and now was born of that Southern time and place/displacement.
Will enjoy, methinks, a return to Delany. Have you read James Baldwin's The Price of the Ticket? The first essay is an autobiographical account of Baldwin's escape from the fundamentalism of Harlem Christians to the Villages East and West of Manhattan. Marvelous prose. Great account of a great writer. He may have even known Delany. Will wait for Delany's autobiography to arrive and read with an eye toward mentions of Baldwin.
I concur regarding the numeric rating of a poem or any art of any kind. So very un- and anti- art to the very core though math itself is an art which I have been barely able to comprehend much less maneuver beyond fingers and toes and the million childish things (which in spite of the word millions remain uncounted but NOT discounted) .
I shall check out Sam R. Delany and the recommended reads.
The poem above is an edited, shorter version of the original poem on this site, Perservering of Palms. I like both poems but think that this one, salt is more effective because, back to math again, less is more in this case.
We learn as we go, toe by toe, finger by finger, counting syllables at times or, verse being sometimes free, counting on intuition, imagination and musical ear to settle the poetic equation reader by reader in non-linear leaps. Perhaps the higher math? .
Amen to Whitman and to blessed inconsistencies. Not even the gods can boast of consistencies but for remaining veritable burrs in all parts, vital and minor, in the human experience.
Curious to know if you are familiar with early work by Sam R. Delany, expressly, Heavenly Breakfast, Dhalgren, Tides of L. This poem and certain passages of his precipitate the same or similar salts - that is, are semi-contiguous. Rare piece. Doubt any say it better than you have. As elsewhen ranted, to rate a poem numerically is conceptual abomination; nevertheless, this rates a 10. To paraphrase Whitman: 'I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large and able to contain many inconsistencies... Or something like that...