Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview
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Stanley Kunitz, 1978


Living the Layers of Time

POETRY MISCELLANY: In her book, Wordsworth: Language as Counter-Spirit, Margaret Ferguson talks about the inherent link between discourse and themes in Wordsworth's arrangement of his poems. She calls the progress of his classification a "metaphoric journey through life." Could you comment on the relation of theme and language in the light of your own development from more traditional to more functional or intuitive ones?

STANLEY KUNITZ: My method of working is such that I don't predetermine the form. The form is what emerges in the actual writing, or--more accurately--"saying," since my writing develops out of a process of incantation. I am very fond of a dramatic structure, which isn't always evident on the surface, an image or episode that carries the action of the poem and gives it momentum. Once I launch into that action it more or less moves by itself because it has an end in view, an end that I can't see but which the poem does. There is another kind of poem to which I was particularly devoted in my younger days. It is a dialectical poem, in which I explore the contradictions of the self, the argument within. The poem unfolds in terms of that argument, which then proceeds to some sort of truce at the end. My meditative poems are an outgrowth of that dialectical approach.

POETRY MISCELLANY: The poems often have aphoristic endings, whether it's an aphoristic line like "The souls of numbers kiss the perfect stars" or an aphoristic event like the end of "Journal for My Daughter." The aphoristic

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