Today, I have to say that what I know I know through making poems.  Like the novelist who finds that his characters begin to have a life of their own and to demand certain experiences, I find that I can no longer go to write a poem with a neat handful of materials and express those materials according to a prior plan: the poem itself engenders new sensations, new awareness in me as it progresses.  Without for one moment turning my back on conscious choice and selection, I have been increasingly willing to let the unconscious offer its materials, to listen to more than the one voice of a single idea.  Perhaps a simple way of putting it would be to say that instead of poems about experiences I am getting poems that are experiences, that contribute to my knoweldge and my emotional life even while they reflect and assimilate it.  In my earlier poems I told you, as precisely and eloquently as I knew how, about something; in the more recent poems something is happening, something has happened to me and, if I have been a good parent to the poem, something will happen to you who read it.

 

Adrienne Rich, “Poetry and Experience: Statement at a Poetry Reading,” 1964; Adrienne Rich’s Poetry, ed. Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi and Albert Gelpi (New York: Norton, 1975), 89.

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