Monday, December 18, 2006


JH: Now I'm even more curious about your novels! What is the difference between approving of something one has written and disapproving of something one has written? If, for instance, an author decides to write no more a particular type of poem, isn't that poem as untouchable, to the author, as a classic from centuries ago? If the poet, acting as a reader, does not identify with the poem's effect and manufacture, the poem is less of the human than previously. Wouldn't this make the poem more desirable, more worthy of preservation? What of a published body of work comprised of poems that strongly displease their poet, with favored poems consigned, unseen by another person, to the fire? It is inconceivable that this hasn't happened at least once, given the many years of the world and the many poets who have lived in it. Though this poet may have impeccable taste in poetry, and the destroyed poems would have won much and lasting praise, where does valuation enter into poetry? How could consensus enter?

AHB: you hit on some interesting points, and in fact I am thinking a bit lately of works that don't make it. when one judges one's own work, one sets it up against an ideal. ideals don't work, or don't exist, or can't be touched (whatever), so that's a tough basis to work from. it is interesting to think of works that the author did not support, not merely lost but consciously forbade being accounted. the work detaches from the author, in a way. in the exact opposite way that Allen Ginsberg = Howl. even if Howl wasn't Ginsberg's favourite poem he had to accept it as an extension of himself, because of its fame and influence. but what of the poem that seems unlike Ginsberg at all, which he maybe refutes or, worse, ignores? my novels were extensive experiments, I gave myself up, that is, quite completely to the exercise of their conception. two of them probably are worthwhile, if I could find them, and if I had the time to work on them in a final draft sort of way. where I had the most difficulty was preparing the ms to be seen. the first one did go to a publisher, and returned. in a sense, I didn't know how to present them as “me”, as important parts of my effort as a writer. this is at least partly a matter of maturity, which I decided to come by slowly, if at all. and since these novels weren't like others, they were hard to sell (I mean encapsulate). without sounding ridiculous, I throw the work to eternity. that's what we do, isn't it? what I think about my work little matter unless I actually effort so much as to destroy the work. in a letter to William Dean Howell, Twain posited a play he thought he might write, in which Tom and Huck appear as ratty old men. this is Twain's pessimistic morbidity speaking. it's a work that hadn't ought to be writ, being such a disappointment from the giddiness of the boys. and yet... just the idea...


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