Tuesday, January 6, 2009
An odd thing happened to me one day in New York. Marcia and I were staying with an old friend of ours and we'd gone out the night before. Stephen Dunn had had dinner with us and come over briefly for a drink. It was great to see him—he's an old, old friend—we'd talked and drunk a lot of scotch during the night. The next day I got up; and it was a beautiful day in New York; I went around the corner to get bagels to bring back for breakfast, and I had this sudden idea of myself being able to say something that was terribly frank and honest and uncompromising and which might, in fact, be poetry. I was thinking that it was poetry and that it was what I really wanted to do, to say something terribly unequivocal. Not a literal or pedestrian honesty but an honesty of the imagination. And I've thought a lot about that moment—it disappeared, it evaporated almost immediately after coming back in and having coffee and bagels and cream cheese and all that and talking about nothing, talking about the New York Times, talking about this and that, listening to whoever was on the radio. But I'll never forget that moment: it was an avenue into something, and it made me understand what I really wished to do in my poetry. In my life. I understand the kind of power I've always wanted to have in poetry.