Today I come across this, saved years ago, from a Paris Review Interview with John Ashbery:
I have always been averse to talking about myself, and so I don’t write about my life the way the confessional poets do. I don’t want to bore people with experiences of mine that are simply versions of what everybody goes through. For me, poetry starts after that point. I write with experiences in mind, but I don’t write about them, I write out of them.
I feel like there’s so much here. First, when he says, “I don’t want to bore people with experiences of mine that are simply versions of what everybody goes through.” Is that humble arrogance, or arrogant humility, or what? And whatever it is, what then are we to do with the six-tenths of every other writing class in existence, that celebrates the personal as universal?
Then, when he says, “For me, poetry starts after that point. I write with experiences in mind, but I don’t write about them, I write out of them.”
I think of a line from that essay by Robert Hass, on Rilke: He wanted to write poems, he said, “not about feelings, but about things he had felt.”
I think of how, in reading that, you have to remember that this was Rilke. And so, very likely, the emphasis was on the word things. Very likely, the word things was not a carelessly redundant synonym for feelings, the way a bad pop song might describe one's feelings as the things one feels... Rilke meant Things. Die Dinge. He meant the panther, the palm, the buddha and the rain.
I think of this too: The idea that you don’t revise a poem. You till it.
And the more I research the word till—with all its other meanings, as in ‘a box, drawer, or tray in a receptacle (such as a cabinet or chest) used especially for valuables;’ with its etymological roots in ‘aiming’ and ‘striving;’ and with its geological meaning too, as a kind of ‘glacial drift;’—the more I love this happenstance...
The idea that a poem is not a rendering of experience or feeling. It is a tilling.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[domenica 10 marzo 2019 ore 13:11:00] [¶]