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I don't know about you it is not not not your speech it's your crazy. It's just to connect up with. It seems to me this thing is to me the essential act of the imagination. Take your local EMS them and make connections of those that were going to write literally in the case of Telstar. Surely you know that whatever report here is another point that he likes he thinks that what would I have done with that and what I'm afraid but I would have done with that as I would have said gee what a great idea and I would have dropped about line 3 and I'm very glad you didn't. That way all the
elaborations No no it's not supposed to. The elaboration this this foliation of the of the imagination going on and on with the thing. But you can better and better because that really there is no essential difference between tells and putting the thing back on the top of the pumpkin and you know I'm in that battle for the day. It's a gentle too. Whether this works or not I like to think that in writing you take something anything just anything that happens along and then you enhance it. You just get you just keep it going. That's what you do. Well that's what I like to do the higher of it happens to be that you see it. Yes yes and that could be. It seems to me any trivial way. Absolutely no listen we don't have anything. You know Riggs with a fat mouth and those that he's getting like you said this is a
difference you know. Jim started by saying we are very different and I'm interested in this. I mean you enhance it in the pour like waters that you like and so on. What I feel is no enhancing of any kind. I feel that I've got to see something and I've got to let it come through. And I feel kind of passive to it. I'm a kind of fumbling instrument of these images. Now that's just the way I feel. I talk about how I feel a lot not so nothing to do with how you actually write or anything well it may have a lot to do with it. If you feel this way but I mean it's not a description you sit down and hand something and build it. I get an image and I try to see into it or let it come let it show itself to me. I think this is different. I wonder if we are going to find I'm sure that if if we grew up for this difference it will interest us and it might be that it would be of general interest. It seems to me in your poems you get you get very good ideas fast at the beginning and these you can use the they are
lasting and it bothers me a little to think that the fact. Of something I write has to come about as a result of working at it for very long that bothers me. But I must confess that that's when I just about have to do. It's a kind of a of a faith that trivial things can be made to amount to something. Let's this this hour of Schiller was something bought in connection with the war so severe that you take sort of autumn the backyard ends of the. And if there's a connection between them and our Deborah and the harbor there's this connection somehow takes place within the modern American family in the backyard camping out
and the cardinal processes of nature having a Believe me it ain't easy money that the weakness in the world when I have one here that may seem all too appropriate for the soft answers the seed that met water spoke a little mean. Great some floors were lowered in the air that this was before Jesus before Rome that other air was readying are hundreds of years to say things that rain has beat down on over broken stones and heap behind us in many slag lands acquired in the year a drop of water came and the little seeds book Sequoia is my name. Too cheap now and I'm saving information to the
end. It's strategic it's not worth it on one. Well I have I don't feel very eloquent about it I like it I like the gentleness and the tenderness of it and the in a way this is true when they win off a lot of points. I don't care what you're talking about. I care what I hear underneath your words and you know this business that Eliot said about the content always being only the ostensible content of what I get what I hear from that is this wonderful love the little this wonderful love of things that grow in a kind of gentleness and tenderness and the fact that you know what you're worried about saving informationally And and so on that's just the superstructure doesn't matter at all. Yeah there's a kind of a song you see underneath Also I thought of that this way sometimes that that the language you use you use and we all use is really two languages this is just schematic way to think about it.
It delivers messages for us and so on but all the time because of a build up of implication and illusion and something about the sound of the syllables too. There's another language struggling to become itself and in Holmes this other other language gets its chance. That's right and three quarters of the bad homes are in the quarterlies are poems written in the top language only because these people are really poets they can just imitate poetry and make it look like or to because they got that top language. But the other the under one is the only one that counts. Sometimes you get points that are written almost entirely in the under language as it were. There is no surface the surface is just crazy. But denies the possibilities of surfaces and the under language comes through. But in any good point whether it's one that you know tells a story and has a simple context. If it lives it has this under language. I think the Sequoia is my name and that's given to Poland alone but I think Sequoia has got
has got more to say than the reverend who come up in person up to 200 foot in them. We're talking about little seeds in Morton's avoided. Yeah well it makes me feel nervous that you talk about the second language though because it is such a such a little thing any basic thing. You never know. I never know what I would like to read another poem called The Star in the hills. And I have to place myself teaching in California. That's all I have to say in explanation where I did think of the star in the Heroes a star in the hills behind our house up or the grass turns brown touching the sky. Meteors have hit the World before but this was near and since TV you saw but many felt the shock.
The state of California owns that land and out from shore three miles and any stars that come will be roped off and viewed on weekdays 8 to 5. A guard who took the oath of loyalty and denied any police record told me this. If you don't have a police record yet you can take the oath and get a job of California should be hit by another star. I promise to be loyal to California and to guard any stars that hit it I said or any place three miles out from shore unless the star was bigger than the state in which case I'd be loyal to it. But he said no exceptions were allowed and he leaned against the state owned meteor. So put the cork tip cigarette that I looked down and traced with my foot and the first thought again said okay.
Any star. Only put in America who would say before TV. That or this. There's one thing that I just it's so idiosyncratic probably that I would hate to mention it but I got started I got to say something. The word star is such a poor decision to me. I fight hard to use it if I defy hard to hear it even when it's a video or you talk about other things. The idea of stars are kind of intangible and beautiful thing that we can be materialistic about strikes me as a kind of central cliche in the poem that bothers me. It's too easy it's a word that like Hark or something like that and said by the nice I'm a somebody talk about an American theologian and they say in the world in a way that would make you want to hate your fellow
man. On I don't feel that I live I remember clamoring around the Great stop trying to feel some kind of relationship you know APO as though it will be something like that. And if we don't we don't there's not we have so many. And I mean I feel a little guilty of using these words that are already super like star right. I take very seriously what you said. We read this when we have time for one to warble. Well I'm willing. I'll read thinking for Bercy. In the late night listening from bed I have joined the ambulance or the patrol screaming toward some drama
the kind of and the Birkie must have some day. If she isn't dead the wildest of all her father and mother cruel farming out there beyond the old stone Querrey were high school lovers parked there lurching cars Burkey learned to love in that dark school early. Her face was turned away from home toward any hard working place but still. Her soul with terrible things to do was alive. Looking out for the rescue that surely someday would have to come. Windiest nights Burkey I have thought for you and no matter how lucky I've been I've touched wood. There are things not solved in our town. Though tomorrow came there are things time passing
can never make come true. We live in an occupied country misunderstood. Justice will take us millions of intricate moves sirens will hunt down Burkey you survivors in your beds while in the night you lie so far and good. I love that movie about again willing to go on home. But not because I will forget it by the buying of them or of going out of the people lying in them walking on the back roads in the middle of the middle connected to these devolved divine of then
is this is this something that means a great deal to you because it surely would it surely must and I like the direction of what you say. Because I would like to feel that. Well in fact it is a conviction of mine that the events in our own lives are the only source for the higher thoughts we have and the highest allegiances. And it's these every day things or nothing and that's what I try to get into this and this exactly early exactly the girl in the school is in the school who has the mother of the grammar school that you went to and the little girl who who had because you had a father and mother and you had a special relation to the one little girl had to have been in the who was and then you begin to get the sense of what the human condition is like. Well you see the stuff
or you or you walk out through the through the wood of the Midwest and would have would lose a lot of it was whether in the US and only there on any Indians and then. There's this sensation of being out of there. But I have been connected to the great and most metaphysical event of human existence. This is this is this is what we're both up and rise of and I couldn't I couldn't be more than simple. This is one of the best ports to me. It goes all the way through and the sense of the intimacy of the of the man speaking your voice. But the trouble is about this for instance I felt guilty reading it because it seemed to me that the whole poem is like that last stanza you learned to leave out. See what I mean.
It's the stones are they to leave out is one that happens after the poem is written. Your whole point is is it a language of straight talk. Pretty much but it's nothing is and there's nothing superfluous and there's nothing to leave out this this this is the kind of a question I'd like to put and end on home because it has something in them and they do diamonds warm again. What do you think of the possibility is so magnificent poetic metaphors and magnificent putting interpretation of experience in those perfectly ordinary language the order they'll put on it in the language. Is it possible still to us. Absolutely it's done. I don't I I don't tried to do this I'm not able to do it is not my way I see other people you know getting there. This last point. You know either this is a blog you've written the wonderful poem about Robert Frost or roll by
Robert Plant about Robert do you think he was someone who was a sublime things without seeming to raise his voice from the ordinary and yes he had that he had the idiom of the speech. There is this is the thing that I once thought of you. I think that there is so much there in Him that is not about other people ever. That is so utterly lonely and withdrawn. I don't think of him in the context of Bill Stafford But what you're talking about is real I mean this is this way to compare the diction diction diction in areas kind of the kind of experience you start from. Give us some of the poems you didn't have to be got back to but let's let's get back to I'm prepared. What is the oh boy scout and then you know I'm going to go to a poem just at whom I like but I'm going to go it right now because it's just as far as I can get from
Bill to a point called the alligator bride and I suppose that's what I mean about trying to write poems which are all in the second language and I don't know any more than you do if I were really doing writing in it. All I know is I've gotten rid of the first one pretty much the alligator bride. The clock of my days winds down the cat eats sparrows outside my window. Once she brought me a small rabbit which we devoured together under the Empire table. One of the men shrieks repossessing the gold umbrella. Now the beard on like clock turns white. My cat stares into dark corners missing her gold umbrella. She is in love with the alligator bride. The tiny flying white teeth. The bride propped on her tail in white lace stares from the holes of her eyes her
stuck open mouth laughs at the minister and people. Their new wood 14 tomatoes a dozen ears of corn six bottles of white wine a melon a cat broccoli and the alligator bride. The color of bubble gum. The consistency of petroleum jelly. Wickedness oozes from the palm of my left hand. My cat licks it. I watch the alligator bride. Big houses like shabby boulders hold themselves tight in gelatin. I am unable to daydream. The sky is a gun aimed at me. I pull the trigger. The skull of my promises leans in a black closet gapes with its good mouse for a tit to suck bird flies back and forth in my house that is covered by gelatin and the cat leaps at it
missing under the element under the Empire table. The alligator bride lies in her bridal shroud with my left hand leaks on the Chinese carpet. What do you make of that. That's such an aggressive it's a very aggressive pull. You feel like it's not a gentle and tender poem at all. Yes. Like what I've been admiring in your. It's an aggressive kind of hateful point. But that's in the world too. It's in the world of literature at least. But alligator bride in the world. Sure is. And then let me ask you don't you think this terribly violent kind of comical savage black alligator.
What what what future do we see of the US in power. Oh I can't think about that. I wrote that out of a time in my life which was like that. And I I'm not writing like that now and I hopefully don't see any future for it in my poetry because I don't like to feel like that. But I don't think this is a. Style the way it was in a prevalent prevalent thing that this is part of it just it was a it's a collection of objects and I call it a plot of sorts that acts to express through a kind of distortion to get an expressionist thing and express the distortion of the state of mind and sort of actions that I think is you know accurately that it's a kind of the savages internal decor and the hands where they got going and going.
Well with that I left him. Whose is there's that wickedness who's is there could those on the left then say I don't think any of us will move us specially wicked or when we were not especially wicked and scratch we live at our left hand and it didn't work. Will you know do I have a chance to read pull you or John or a diploma actually vote. Well I'd like to do both and I'd like to rejoin by saying I like the idea of a person's being free as Don was in this poem and I would not myself want to be inhibited about putting anything into a poem or anything I want to write. I believe in this sort of thing I was afraid my poems might seem to teen as a result of if I didn't make this kind of statement I believe in the kind of poem that you wrote even though I did identify it as aggressive. I just thought that the tone of it. That's a way to be sometimes. Do I get to read a poem too.
Or I come from Oregon and I'll read my party the rain. He loves upturned faces lives everybody applauds tennis courts pavements its fingers ache and march through the forest numbering limbs animals. Boy Scouts. It recognizes every face the blind the criminal beggar a millionaire despairing child minister cloaked it finds all the dead by their stones or mountains or their deeper listening for the help of such rain. A census that cares as much as any party neutral in politics it proposes your health governor at the Capitol licks every stone likes the shape of our state. Let wind and high snow this year legislate its own mystery. Our lower
winter rain feathers in over miles of trees to explore a cove cellophane layer server whether it be leaves what it touches and goes on persuading one thing at a time. There are clear honest guy and a long session governor who knows the end. That to me the poem that sort of goes past my ear right now and I hear a voice in addressing it but I don't feel able to say anything about it. What are some what then if you don't mind. Is this more so than the voice of the small Me courses
and Kansas are in and Governor Riggins California who who who says not emphatically but with a certain emphasis on the on the residue small the voice of God and the you know want and myself I felt that probably this poem is too mild and easy a poem to end with our little Convention on. No no we don't without there set with that fat man says but Pat Manson. And then all I think I think again if you don't mind my science are that the carnivores that are that's array of them Moustapha poem The enigmatic kind of crazy intimate is the thing that's been I'm able to determine the political is not the statistical force but the smell
in the small hours whether whether we're the last or scaling the ceiling they ought to be what ought to be a voice that is raised up like this that are not not the question but the essential but it's strange that you would say this because I thought of the remark as I came here tonight with you too that I am on a program with two poets who are acknowledged legislators of the world to Donald with his criticism and his anthologies. James Dickey and I hear you say that I'm some kind of a little small voice from up with this lady like there's no substitute for this is the wonderful obscurity of simplicity you know. A lot of my favorite poems it was that you can see through like glass and it's glass. You know isn't colorful and it isn't beautiful why I want to point it is like this. Does it resonate so alone and so
much I love that obscurity and when I like your poems best I like this just in the sense that they puzzle me. How do they do it. How do they carry so much our cognitive thought on the sellers and in their land and ask him about the rise of the nonsupport and said governments allowed all kinds of things to be said in public what he was afraid of was the small hours of the drunken drunken poet in the back room of the tavern. Saying that pinning down the couplet satiric a couple that might be remember that men that are not very much believe in the. Saying the essential are the slums of Berlin the time of the 11. Again it doesn't matter how small of a lot of ads there is a certain thing about their
sensuality which will be caught by the other person. This is what we call all of this is the second voice coming under whatever the service that was the second language. As Bill said when they close and Commons as we shouldn't be we shouldn't try to be too ambitious. It seems to me one of the dangers of getting together like this and talking about what we do. That may sound makers sound too ambitious and that could divert you from what you ought to be doing as a writer. Again it's right and there's also the danger that you might be ill all that maters again. Yes this is this is this is more or less what I think we are obligated to leave up in the right. We All right. We all write poems that we can write. And when after we've written them then we intend them. And after we intend them then we think about them and we decide what we've
done. Other people help to decide for us. Then we can build out of this a kind of theory and it can look to other people and even to ourselves that we're writing out of a theory but I don't think anybody is any good. You get a very last wealth there is poems whatever their name being on. We we've had this even in a kind of a moment of time with the American poets and warn them stop and let us leave it at that and say thank you but I'm not an. American poet Donald Hall to William Stafford along with James Dickey consulted in poetry at the Library of Congress. I've been heard reading and discussing their work. The program was recorded for national educational radio under the auspices of the Gertrude Clark whittle poetry and literature upon the
library. This is the national educational radio network.
Library of Congress lectures
Hall, Stafford, and Dickey, part two
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National Association of Educational Broadcasters
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the second of two parts, features poets Donald Hall and William Stafford; and Library of Congress consultant in poetry James Dickey.
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A series of lectures given at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
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Producer: Library of Congress
Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Speaker: Dickey, James
Speaker: Hall, Donald, 1928-
Speaker: Stafford, William, 1914-1993
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.2-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:27
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Chicago: “Library of Congress lectures; Hall, Stafford, and Dickey, part two,” 1967-11-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 20, 2024,
MLA: “Library of Congress lectures; Hall, Stafford, and Dickey, part two.” 1967-11-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 20, 2024. <>.
APA: Library of Congress lectures; Hall, Stafford, and Dickey, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from