Linda Pastan, 1979
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