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Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

William Stafford, 1979


Emergencies of the Moment

POETRY MISCELLANY: In your essay "Some Arguments against Good Diction," you talk about the way language both distorts and enhances experience. You talk about how "the successive distortions of language have their own kind of cumulative potential, and how under certain conditions the distortions of language can reverberate into new experiences more various, more powerful, and more revealing than the experiences that set off language in the first place." Words, in a sense, create their own world -- or, as you say in an early poem, "open the world again and again." Sometimes, as in "Poet to a Novelist," syllables create "echoes realer / than originals." And in "Report to Crazy Horse," the Indians "are learning / to take aim when we talk," and their enemies "shift when words do" -- the world and its words interpenetrate. So in "Report from a Far Place," you say, "Making these word things to / step on across the world, I / could call them snowshoes." Yet there is an irony -- what you call a "hazard" in the essay -- that appears at the end of the poem. The words "burn, or don't burn, in their own / strange way, when you say them." The hazard is that you enter the labyrinths of language: "inside / each word, too, that anyone says, / another world lurks, and inside that . . ." Could we talk about the way a Poet tries to make his world, how it sometimes makes him, makes something else -- how everything, any word almost, becomes part of a story that could be true -- about the sense of being that is carried by language.

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