Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview
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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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