It takes all kinds, and no one can be all things. But I have no use for it unless it has sanity: health of language and health of mind, which are intimately related. Language is not merely a means to an end—nothing is so justified—nor is it an endless means. Altho sanity allows grammatical distortion, it excludes perceptual distortion. It requires that the subject be put in the light of concrete details humanly experienced, avoiding the formless abstract. Without my poems, for example, this commentary would be insane. Poetic craft is the manifestation of selection and context. Poetry is exploratory; its mode is perception that is curious, open, creative, appreciative, unpretentious, honest, unfearing, flexible, critical, and sometimes humorous; its object is enhanced life and consciousness, and its subject is the forms of perception. Perception, not limited to the work of the five senses, is the changing interplay of the subjective and the objective, whose similarities and differences, like the poles of an incredibly multi-variable magnet in iron dust, create form. This form is organic and purposeful; it inheres in the real, survives with sanity in our experience, and may be objectified with craft in words as potential voice and meaning to affect the consciousness of the reader as a Gestalt. If this Gestalt is exploratory, awakening new and healthy human potential, then the poem may enhance consciousness or test possible ways of dealing with circumstances: tragedies, beauties, comedies.
I am an objectivist, a relativist, and a pluralist. I am Native American, but also an Anglo-Saxon, French, Russian immigrant poorly accustomed to the New World. I rely on intuition and the poetic discipline to realize events too complex for reason. I meditate by rivers and under trees, work with the muscles of my hands and back, and find my way in conversation, poetry, and the work I read. I find myself with many of us in a tradition which gives standards for achievement and suggests possibilities for growth—Pound, Williams, Zukofsky, Oppen, Olson, Creeley, Snyder, Bromige. The natures and reality of creation and creator inspire a poetry ordered by what is real to me. These poems occured during the last year in Fortuna alongside the Eel River, at friends’ apartments in San Francisco and Monterey, at my home last fall and winter in Menlo Park, and at Stanford where I am earning a Ph.D. in English and American literature. I write to describe what I am, who I know, where we live, what we do, and how we are. One’s actions assert one’s values; life and poetry are not separable. The result of sanity, enhancing life and consciousness, is to be more fully human. Human! I use the word instead of good or bad to describe the roots of our complex natures, simplicities sometimes realized in acts without pretention or effort. Humanity is what Zen practice may achieve, the realization of “just so” and “ever so.” Suzuki Roshi called this “the single-minded way,” which we should not be curious about. Our discussion is over. Let’s have a cup of tea!
13 May 1981