I. “I would meet you upon this honestly.” What are the things that really matter? Not writing, certainly. But life certainly, and human dignity, and above all, love. The writer writes from the life he lives, and writes out of love — a sense of every human being’s supreme worth.
He is not a producer of consumer goods, he is a producer of good. He creates his words. They later become our language. He creates meanings. Only the writer’s words found them. He creates human values. They may not be the values we now live. Or the values that now support our reality. Nothing is created except from love. Not anger, not hatred, not bitterness. These are poison. Love alone is the source.
The writer is the lover, a humble lover of life and the world. From humility and love is his power. He creates our humanity.
2. I will say it a second time. The poem is in English, you say, but if it is poem, it isn’t English anymore; it is rather from English. The poem creates its own language from English; it creates a new learning within the language.
There are words and words that say the same thing and so arrive nowhere, but the writer’s habit is to make words speak the things themselves always differently because the perfection of truth and humanity demands it.
Words are means — the way to meaning. But meanings are beforehand, they come before the words achieve speech. Meanings do not come from words, they come from lives lived, from love of life and the world.
The words in daily use merely drift as mass communication. They do not achieve individual meaning. Meanings are values. A value is a way of looking, a habit of mind, a virtue of feeling. Imagination is the mother of value. Values express, as wine is pressed out of grapes, man’s highest possibilities. These highest possibilities create our humanity.
3. I will say it a third time. About this time of the year I write poems. Writing has its seasons.
The poems I now write are simple poems. The simple poem is without eccentricity, without experiment. It has no pretense, either of device or stratagem. It is full of rhetoric but the rhetoric is invisible. It is full of other words — all the words that are not there. It is full of meaning, but none of the meanings that I already know.
This is now what I think the writer is. If the manner is art, then the matter is art also.
The writer writes from the life he lives: its form is how he imagines it, its content is how he lives it. If he writes about other lives, it isn’t to escape his own life but to live it anew in order that he might find it. The power of such writing is the power of his own life as lived.
What the writer produces in writing is not reality but fiction; you belong to reality but you aspire to fiction. You are led by the spirit of imagination. You are not shaping the reality that is around you, your life is always transcending it; you are shaping the imaginative possibilities that are revealed to you by your life in the reality that surrounds you.
The writer makes no judgment, but only asks forgiveness for himself because both his life and the reality that presses upon him are unequal to the spirit of imagination.
The writer is addressed to the future. He has no audience in the present because the present is where no one is; everybody’s too busy with the business of living. He stands upon no ground of contention, he creates new ground to stand on. He will not be trapped by history. He will not be shaped by reality, but rather shape its imaginative possibilities.
The writer is where no one is. Or has ever been.
6 April 1988
I find my heart growing ever more silent. It knows that I have heard its pleas; that I know full well its needs. It knows also that I cannot(will not) satisfy them.
In a fog of acknowledged futility, it quiets. It stills.