Jean Valentine, 1980
POETRY MISCELLANY: Your poetry is unique in the way it presents itself; it seems to be based upon fragments, shifts in perspective, traces, frayings. As you say in "Twenty Days' Journey," it is a world of things "almost visible," of "The blown away footstep / in the snow." Could we begin by talking about the nature of the vision, this world, where often, it seems, "it was like touching the center and therefore losing it, emptying it of what you might have been able to hold on to" ("February 9th"). It seems a world of deferrals, discontinuities, differences, gaps.
JEAN VALENTINE: I can only respond to your first sentence here, very simply: that when I'm most attentive, these "fragments," etc., are very often what I sense and feel; they are how I "get" this time and place and the currents of my private and public life and the lives around me. To try to clarify this--not to compare--I think of, for instance, Paul Klee's painting, certain newspaper photos or documentary film scenes, or certain intricately plotted mysteries.
In "The Lives Around Me" I include the work of someone like Huub Oosterhuis (you quote next from my version of his long poem Twenty Days' Journey, made with the Dutch poet Judith Herzberg). To try a version of this poem, I had to feel very close to it. There are still mysteries in the poem for me, but I make out this much: a vision of both personal and worldwide suffering of loss and anguish, in which a personal and/or an Everyman "I"