Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview
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Michael S. Harper, 1978

Magic: Power: Activation: Transformation

POETRY MISCELLANY: With respect to many of your poems, perhaps all of them, it can be said that you are an interpreter of the past, a historical poet. I mean this the way Gadamer does when he says that the "interpreter" is always an interpreter of history in the sense that he must account for his own present as an extension, however modified, of a past. That is, one cannot simply uncover what was, but must "fuse his own horizons," his own present, with that past. I think of this in connection with the notion of "modality" that appears so often in your work. For example, in "Corrected Review" you say, "Our mode is our jam session / of tradition, / past in this present moment / articulated."

MICHAEL HARPER: I think I am a lyrical poet, but being a lyrical poet becomes absorbed in the difficulties of what it means to be historically responsible, and to become historically responsible means to open yourself up to options not immediately available. There is a historical perspective that you can bring to add perspective.

I think it will be useful to focus on the idea of modality. Though the idea can have a musical reference, it really comes from a spiritual context. It has cosmological references. The primary forces of men are life forces. Modality is always about relationships. It is also about energy, true only unto itself, which means that a mode is perceived in a noncomparative context. The Cartesian analogical way of looking at the world will not do for modality. A


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Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets


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