Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Donald Hall, 1979


On the Periphery of Time

POETRY MISCELLANY: This past spring I read a book titled The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes, which suggests that consciousness is not necessary for human thought, that consciousness, in fact, is a relatively recent development in human history. According to him, early minds listened to auditory hallucinations that originated in one side of the brain, a bicameral brain half conscious, half unconscious, or preconscious. The wonderful thing about all this is that Jaynes has shown a genuine source for poetry outside the conscious mind; he's given us a "scientific" means of accounting for inspiration, the voice of the muse--or what you call the "vatic voice." What we have to do, you say in an essay, is let that voice sing or speak to us. We have to listen. It's like some lost potential, isn't it? A loss that's made us less than human?

DONALD HALL: To me the act of writing the poem is an enormous and almost unequaled collaboration of conscious and unconscious processes. The vatic voice is for listening: to stories, songs, puns, all sorts of things inside yourself; the tendency of the world, for a couple of thousand years, probably longer, has been to suppress. Various things that I have read about the development of consciousness have suggested that planning--the kind of planning necessary for agriculture--required development of consciousness. But a complete person must use both consciousness and unconsciousness.

-191-

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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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