Adam Ash

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bookplanet: Poet asks herself two questions

1. "Do you think, as you write, about who will read your poems and how they will like them? Be honest."
No, I do not. My attention is entirely taken up by the voice in my head—a perfect tyrant, utterly without charity. And a pig for pleasure, I might add. Ordinary conditions do not obtain. Take the condition of time, for example. While I'm trying to satisfy this inside voice, time takes on that bulgy condition it has during the most critical stage of a skid, where astonishing maneuvers become possible simply because they must (or you'll crash). It is extremely occupying. When I was younger I noticed that I sweated terribly when I was writing just as though it were very hard physical labor. I liked that evidence that I was grappling with something at least as difficult as uprooting an oak.
2. "You actually mean to say that you have no concern at all for any sort of reader?"
No, I cannot say that. There is a stain in the ichor—a sense of being watched and judged, and a desire for approval. When I am writing, I feel that I have insinuated myself at the long, long desk of the gods of literature—more like a trestle table, actually—so long that the gods (who are also eating, disputing, and whatnot as well as writing) fade away in the distance according to the laws of Renaissance perspective. I am at the table of the gods and I want them to like me. There I've said it. I want the great masters to enjoy what I write. The noble dead are my readers, and if what I write might jostle them a little, if there were a tiny bit of scooting and shifting along the benches, this would be my thrill. And I would add that the noble dead cannot be pleased with imitations of themselves; they are already quite full of themselves.' More from poet Kay Ryan here.


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