Sunday, December 07, 2008
All I can say is what I do myself, and that is that I don’t think about theory at all. I have no theory of poetry. If something works for a particular poem, it works. I don’t scrutinize every move I make to be sure it conforms with a preconception. I don’t worry about whether language is adequate enough to signify. What else do we have? This stance has worked for me over the course of almost seventeen books, and if it ain’t broken I ain’t going to fix it. Fairly early on I ran into people who said things like, “The simile is dead. It’s a technique of the past and you shouldn’t use it.” During the Vietnam War I heard someone say that anybody who wrote a poem about a tree in those terrible days should be shot. Of course, these guys didn’t have any poems, because if you slap on enough business like that, you’ll find you’ve painted yourself into a corner you can’t get out of. It’s all over for you as a poet. I’m with X.J. Kennedy in his Ars Poetica: “The goose that laid the golden egg / Died looking up its crotch / To find out how its sphincter worked. / Would you lay well? Don’t watch.” It’s hardly a post-modern approach, I know, but it works for me.