Part of the Academy of American Poets’ Forum 2008, a full day of panel discussions yesterday at NYU produced a series of conversations that explored the mysteries of creativity and writing from a number of angles. Some of these conversations will be soon available on the Poets.org web site. Here are a few of the bon mots I enjoyed.
Ron Padgett: The best poems make me dance in my head
Lyn Hejinian: The collision of natural place vs the built environment is a vast impasse, the big aporia. I feel a horrified, appalled grief about the built environment. I loathe concrete.
Robert Pinsky: Contemporary poetry is informed largely by translations from non-Western sources.
Susan Stewart: When we’re born, we enter the world through a door that won’t allow us to return. When we die, we leave the world through a door that won’t allow us to return.
Stewart: We turn to the Light, but it blinds us, and we must turn away.
Ron Padgett: Any line repeated many times is not the same thing. It goes through transformations.
Louise Glück: All memorable poems are difficult. But that doesn’t mean you must write a poem that is so harrowing and violently perceptive that people flee from it.
Glück: Every great poem teaches its readers how to read it.
Carl Phillips: Poets see things clearly that other people either (a) don’t see clearly, or (b) can see, but more easily turn away from.
Ellen Bryant Voight: Poetry presents difficulties of several kinds: Density, Reference, Protean form, Erasure, Derangement of senses, and Tonal complexity. Easily accessible poetry has no tonal complexity, or no tone at all.
Carl Phillips: Reading a poet’s entire body of work chronologically shows a record of a mind surprising itself, and then incorporating those surprises.
Glück: A poem begins as an urgent, felt need to bring a perception into a form.
James Longenbach: A good poem teaches the writer how to write it.
Carl Phillips: A good poem teaches its readers how to read themselves as people.
Ellen B Voight: The difficulty and discipline of Art gets us out of the igloo of the Self.
James Longenbach: when a student complains that a poem is boring, I say, “That’s fine. But it’s your fault.”
Gerald Stern: I’m disorganized today. It’s good to be disorganized. It makes you pay attention.
Frank Bidart: Poems are models of Self-making.
Sharon Olds: My early work was informed by a counter-phobic boldness.
Gary Snyder: Place is more important to our identity than race or gender. Place gives us our body. Place is possible on any scale.
Lyn Hejinian: I look for the sublime point of encounter. When unlike things encounter each other they create an extraordinary event.
Hejinian: Every idea has a terrain, and every work has a contextual landscape. Some writing is highly focused, poly-focused. It is a writing of rolling surfaces with peaks and valleys that fold into the whole.
Victor H. Cruz: The Caribbean is a form of Cubism: elements of Spanish, Taino, and African, with language and accents a jagged line that runs through the painting.
Hejinian: the best antidote to global capitalism is global imagination. Imagination is not administratable.
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For a much more thorough account of the panel presentations, see Dennis Sullivan’s post.
And Dan Wilcox offers an amusingly bitchy review of the awards ceremony.