Acts of Mind: Conversations with Contemporary Poets

By Richard Jackson | Go to book overview

Linda Pastan, 1979


Unbreakable Codes

POETRY MISCELLANY: In her essay "Against Interpretation," Susan Sontag writes against a mimetic or referential approach to art, "against interpretation that strives to find some hidden meaning." What she's against is the way most critics have tried to explicate a poem at the expense of the sense of a poem's energy: "Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, comfortable." What she would strive for, she says, is "transparence"--experiencing the luminousness of the thing itself, of things being what they are. Finally, she says, instead of overintellectualized theories, we need an "erotics of art." Who would you perceive as your ideal critic, assuming that critics are needed for some readers at least?

LINDA PASTAN: I do believe that in teaching, particularly in high school and college, it's necessary to interpret the poem, to learn how to read, and I think a good poem can survive that. A student can analyze it, then he can come back to it and try to read it as if for the first time and actually get much more out of it. Though you can never duplicate the pure reaction of a first reading, I don't think a good poem ever really loses its energy and freshness for having been analyzed. The remembered pleasure of the first, more pure, response will make the student want to go back into the poem again, this time for a richer yield--fuller than that afforded by the impact of

-158-

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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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