Mark Strand, 1979
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-