Donald Finkel, 1978
POETRY MISCELLANY: Many of your poems deal with the problem of beginning. Edward Said, in his book Beginnings, identifies two types -- really two sides of the same coin. He calls a transitive beginning one that foresees a continuity that flows from it and is the product of the mind's desire to think everything through from the start. He calls an intransitive beginning one that challenges continuities, that may be disruptive, and that seems arbitrary and whimsical. I think this is a useful distinction for beginning to talk about your poems. In "Angels and Fools," you write about beginning as the choosing of a direction, a transitive beginning -- "Before the beginning, / there was no direction." And in Answer Back, you ask the question -- well into the book -- "How to begin what cannot be ended"? It seems to me, though, that more poems begin intransitively. In "The Drunken Subway," you say, "How many ways into / the poem tracks / left tracks right." And "A Few Pointers" begins, "Above All, the road must not be too carefully chosen." In what sense is a poem the carrying out of an intention, and in what sense is it a playful beginning, a plunge to see what happens? How are these two beginnings related for you?
DONALD FINKEL: I seem to remember a very early poem that begins, "Let me find my way. . . ." Yes, I'm very conscious of the problem of beginnings. Obviously, there's no simple answer. In a way, you can begin to talk about any subject, any area of experience, at any point, and find your way through