Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Stanley Plumly, 1979


The Path of Saying

POETRY MISCELLANY: Hans-George Gadamer, a student of Heidegger whose work has become influential in recent years, writes, "The meaning of a text surpasses its author not occasionally, but always." That is, there is always what Keats would call a "fine excess." Gadamer calls this excess the "circle of the unexpressed" or the "infinity of the unsaid." He suggests--and here is the application to poetry--that the primary motive of a text is not to inform but to evoke. Language, Heidegger had said, can show or designate, evoke or simply enumerate, and it does so by "withholding" something fundamental, by its inability to express all, its inability to be infinite. What this withholding does is to evoke a sense of Being, a sense of what it means to be. The language of poetry, for Heidegger and Gadamer, is thus a way of presencing Being. I think that your poems work in a similar way. The poem that first comes to mind is "Peppergrass," with its focus on the nothing that is a presence, on anonymity (in one poem your father is "anonymous") as a kind of universality. The poem ends by evoking an unnameable sense of "Being" --

We were the windmills where the wind came from,
nothing, nothing you could name,
blowing the lights out, one by one.

-1-

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Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • The Path of Saying 1
  • The Sanctioned Babel 7
  • Untelling the Hour 13
  • The Domain of the Marvelous Prey 19
  • The Hallowing of the Everyday 27
  • Event: Corrective: Cure 32
  • Stepping into the Sky 39
  • Unnaming the Myths 48
  • On the Horizon of Time 53
  • Distilled from Thin Air 61
  • The Imminence of a Revelation 69
  • Renaming the Present 77
  • Lives We Keep Wanting to Know 84
  • Doubling the Difference 93
  • Questions of Will 101
  • Settling in Another Field 107
  • Living the Layers of Time 113
  • Double Vision 120
  • Emergencies of the Moment 126
  • The Languages of Illusion 132
  • The Mystery of Things That Are 140
  • Before the Beginning 146
  • On the Margins of Dreams 153
  • Unbreakable Codes 158
  • Projecting the Literal Word 164
  • Answering the Dark 172
  • Shaping Our Choices 178
  • Magic: Power 183
  • On the Periphery of Time 191
  • The Candle in the Pitcher 196
  • Selected Bibliography 206
  • Index 213
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