The seat of the soul is where the inner world and the outer world meet. Where they overlap, it is in every point of the overlap. - Novalis

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jack Gilbert

From the Paris Review Interview with Jack Gilbert:

INTERVIEWER
How do you know when you’ve finished [a poem]?

GILBERT
If I’m writing well it comes to an end with an almost-audible click. When I started out I wouldn’t write a poem until I knew the first line and the last line and what it was about and what would make it a success. I was a tyrant and I was good at it. But the most important day in my career as a writer was when Linda said, Did you ever think of listening to your poems? And my poetry changed. I didn’t give up making precreated poetry, but you have to write a poem the way you ride a horse—you have to know what to do with it. You have to be in charge of a horse or it will eat all day—you’ll never get back to the barn. But if you tell the horse how to be a horse, if you force it, the horse will probably break a leg. The horse and rider have to be together. 

*** 

INTERVIEWER
You once wrote, “Poetry is a bit like cows who must be freshened if the farmer wants to keep getting milk.”
GILBERT
Yes, every seven years. 
INTERVIEWER
What do you mean by “freshened”?
 GILBERT
You have to have achieved something inside. You can’t make a poem out of something that’s not there. And it won’t be there unless you want it to be there. And if you don’t want it to be there, you’re in trouble. I’ll stop there.
INTERVIEWER
No, go on.
GILBERT
Why do so many poets settle for so little? I don’t understand why they’re not greedy for what’s inside them. The heart has the ability to experience so much—and we don’t have much time. 
INTERVIEWER
You taught in universities very rarely, only when you had to—just enough so that you could travel and write. Do you think writing poetry can be taught?
GILBERT
I can teach people how to write poetry, but I can’t teach people how to have poetry, which is more than just technique. You have to feel it—to experience it, whether in a daze or brightly. Often you don’t know what you have. I once worked on a poem for twelve years before I found it.


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