Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Heather McHugh, 1981


Doubling the Difference

POETRY MISCELLANY: The notion of difference seems crucial for you, at least in A World of Difference. It is curious, too, that "difference" has become a vogue word in contemporary thought to signify a philosophical idea that marks both self-division and self-definition -- a separation from the self and from others opposed to, say, a naive transcendentalism or a desire for identity. I think, for example, of "The Impressionist," which plays off likeness and distinction, where a simple act "makes all / the difference." I think also of the emphasis on discrete moments in a poem like "When the Future Is Black," where, you say, "we make / a world of difference." Or we could refer to a poem like "Brightness," where specifics cannot be summed up. Could we begin by talking about this idea?

HEATHER MCHUGH: My first and Francophiliac instinct is to pose the question as a choice between opposites: viva la differénce, or plus ça change plus c'est la même chose. But I mistrust binomial constructions; I suspect my two minds of making the world in their own image and my two hands of grasping only what can be weighed on one or on the other. So I generally find myself working to imagine opposites resolvable; and it's become an academic commonplace to suggest it -- that mind is body, and vice versa. I remind myself, black and white have something in common (both are absolute). So, perhaps, yes and no are reconcilable. It's this maybeist in me that wants to vote cest la même chose. This position has the ring of experience's

-93-

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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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