Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Richard Wilbur, 1979


The Mystery of Things That Are

POETRY MISCELLANY: In your poem "A Summer Morning," you have two characters, a gardener and a cook, who view a great house and by their relation to it end up "Possessing what the owners can but own." In "The Undead," the vampires can "prey on life forever" but "not possess it." And your Aspen in "The Aspen and the Stream" desires to "drink creation whole." These and other poems seem to set up a metaphor system that distinguishes ownership as a passive and possession as an active, more imaginative mode of relation to the world. I was wondering how extensive this metaphor is and if it relates to a general conception of poetry.

RICHARD WILBUR: I think you are seeing something that I have not really noticed before. I guess that I do think in my poems about possessing the world or being possessed by it. My poor mind reader, in the poem by that title, is being possessed by the world. His mind, as the original of the poem said, is like a common latrine, and his real dream is an escape from consciousness. I have one other speaker in my poems who dreams of an escape from consciousness, and that is the Stream in my poem "The Aspen and the Stream" to which you referred. He achieves a true self when he blocks awareness out. The Aspen that you mentioned has a contrary way of being itself, and that involves an embrace of as much of the world as he can embrace in his own way. Now, I think one job poetry has to do today is to combat the neutrality of so much of our environment. Poetry can let us know more, specifically, about the world that surrounds us. The poet can

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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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