Marvin Bell, 1980
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