Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Mark Strand, 1979


Untelling the Hour

POETRY MISCELLANY: In "Notes on the Craft of Poetry" ( Antaeus), you mention that poems seem to have a tautological existence: "A poem is itself and is the act by which it is born; it is self-referential and is not necessarily preceded by any known order." This, you say, provides what Stevens calls a motive for metaphor--"Perhaps the poem is ultimately a metaphor for something unknown, its working out a means of recovery. It may be that the relation of the absent origin is what is necessary for the continued life of the poem as inexhaustible artifact." In fact, the man in your poem "Inside the Story" faces the impossibility of achieving an absent origin in a dream. He cannot fully remember the experience, and toward the end, "He stood in the absence of what he had known / and waited, and when he woke / the room was empty."

MARK STRAND: I think when I talk about the absent origin I mean the mystery that is entailed in the making of anything and that is preserved even after the thing is made. I believe that we never know what the source of a poem is ultimately. Part of a good poem is the discovery of this, and that moment of discovery is a moment of loss. We discover that we can never really go back, as the writer can never get back to the original story in "The Untelling." To a certain extent, the act of writing is itself a metaphor for the way we relate to the hidden sources of our own lives. A truly exciting poem has something evasive or mysterious at the core, and it succeeds in suggest-

-13-

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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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