Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Wright Way

"Poetry comes, for lack of better words, from the heart (the "foul rag-and-bone-shop of the heart," as Yeats had it), and from the soul—neither a place you can put your finger on, but a place you can surely put your foot in, if you don't watch out. It is a matter of "soul making," as John Keats said. It truly is not a matter of arrangement, of performance, of presentation, or rhetorical dazzle or surprise, though all of those matters may be part of it. It is not the distractions, but the focus. It is not the undercard, but the main event. There is always an emotional half to the equation, but the other half is always craft—you have to be able to say it your way. It's the only time that two plus one makes two—language is half, technique is half, and emotion is half. An emotional value is always involved. Distortions and side events are often interesting and entertaining, but they are not the stillness and fathered attention at road's end. It's not a question of paper, or type-writers, of white space or of dark space—it's a question of what's in your life, and where you want that life to lead you. You've only got one, and you can fill it with whatever you want. You're free and American. But if it is poetry that you want, then don't look for language games, intellectual rip-offs, or rhetorical sing-alongs. It's too often been a matter of life and death to those who really cared. You've got to know, in your heart of hearts, that Keats is right, that it is about soul-making, that it does matter, and that it can make you or break you as a person. It is the main event, as I say, and ancillary to nothing. It's either Atonement or At Onement, but it is one of them."

-Charles Wright

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dunn on Defeats

Those failures of nerve, not of skill, are the worst. The tentative shot. The safe position we took in the argument. Double defeats, really; where we end up on the sorry side of the score and our character's in question. Better to be overwhelmed and have no excuses. Even when a series of defeats sends us to the bottom of ourselves, at least there's a chance we'll locate some bedrock of dignity, a place below which we won't go. Then we can begin the long climb. Maybe we'll have learned something that can be converted into victory. Or a reason to endure. There are good defeats. Yet some old unexamined undercurrent, some tendency, often will return us to the scenes of our defeats. We'll dial up that unhappy number we've dialed before. We'll bring up that subject that always results in shouts and tears. With luck, we'll catch ourselves, find a game we can sometimes win with someone who won't easily lose.

-Stephen Dunn