Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Marvin Bell, 1980


Distilled from Thin Air

POETRY MISCELLANY: In one of his notebook entries, Theodore Roethke exclaims: "Make the language take really desperate leaps." I'd like to put some of your own lines next to that. In "Self-Made Man," you talk about "a mixture of alphabets, unrolling and unfolding / from all directions." In "To No One in Particular" you say, "I speak to you in one tongue, / but every moment that ever mattered to me / occurred in another language." More recently, in "The Canal at Rye," you say, "The natural end and extension / of language / is nonsense." These citations simply codify a tendency in your poetry toward leaps, ellipses, shifts, fragments of scenes and stories that make up the grammar and syntax of your poetics. Earlier, the language moved by more intense, local effects like puns, and lately the movement is more a stream of larger elements as in, say, "Birds Who Nest in the Garage." Though the irrational elements, the leaps, are still present, there is a greater self-assurance in the newer poems. In "The Hedgeapple," for instance, the fragmented narrative, the attitudes toward the woman, the discussion of the tree, the sense of self-realization come together in a more expansive way than you could have achieved earlier in the more close-fisted language of the first four volumes.

MARVIN BELL: That is a good question for me at this time because my language is undergoing a change, as you suggest. I did teach myself to write mostly by abandoning myself to the language, seeing what it wanted to say

-61-

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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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