All the same, I'd like to highlight the following part of the interview with
Denise Levertov at
Does your emphasis on a metaphysical dimension in poetry distinguish
your work from that of William Carlos Williams?
There is more of such a dimension in his poetry than many readers and
critics have noticed. They get stuck on that damned red wheelbarrow
and those stupid plums and they never look any further.
In the essay "Some Affinities of Content," you spoke about how you
responded to the goal of Northwest poets to submerge themselves in
something larger than individual ego, in their case, nature. Do you try
the same approach in your poetry?
I hope I do. I'm certainly very tired of the me, me, me kind of poem,
the Sharon Olds "Find the dirt and dig it up" poem, which has influenced
people to find gruesome episodes in their life, whether they actually
happened or not. Back when Robert Lowell and Anne Sexton were the
models for neophytes, you had to have spent some time in a mental
hospital to qualify as a poet. Now you have to have been abused. I know
perfectly well that lots of people really have been abused, but it's
unfortunate to use the fact of abuse as the passport to being a poet.
I'm certainly tired of that kind of egotism.
Does this desire to submerge the ego involve a kind of spiritual quest,
whether explicitly religious or not?
I think that's true, don't you? It's in the air. When I started writing explicitly
Christian poems, I thought I'd lose part of my readership. But I haven't actually.
I think interest in religion is a counterforce to the insane, rationalist optimism
that surrounds the development of all this new technology. This optimism is
a twentieth-century repeat of attitudes in the nineteenth century, when they
thought that steam, electricity, and telephones were going to make for some
kind of utopia. There's a lot of dependence on technology today, and a willful
ignorance that it's messing up resources, may end up destroying life on this
planet, and then we'll have to start over without it. Our ethical development
does not match our technological development. This sense of spiritual
hunger is something of a counterforce or unconscious reaction to all that
technological euphoria.
Did your understanding of poetic inspiration help to imagine what it would be
like to have religious faith?
That's one way of putting it. When you're really caught up in writing a poem,
it can be a form of prayer. I'm not very good at praying, but what I experience
when I'm writing a poem is close to prayer. I feel it in different degrees and
not with every poem. But in certain ways writing is a form of prayer.

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