Richard Wilbur, 1979
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