So.. I thought maybe.. (this is in keeping with Naropa, I guess – it would be very Zen if I just went on for two hours and told you (only) what I was not going to do! – However, that might not be the absolutely best thing to do) . I had a couple of ideas.. (Oh, as I said before, I don’t think one can really teach anybody anything in a short time. So I thought, maybe, I could give you a few ideas, or suggest a few things that would at least indicate some things that I and other poets found it useful to do – that is, I can give you some advice). Advice is a real comical thing to give people, right? – One becomes a poet so that one doesn’t have to listen to anybody’s advice. Larry Rivers, the painter, and I have been great friends for many many years and when we were very young in New York we used to have these self-congratulatory conversations about why we were artists (and it made us feel real good to think about the fact that we really were artists), and the best answer that Larry gave was, one day I said, (I don’t know how many times I’d asked him) – “Larry, how come you became a painter?”, and he said , “I wanted to be sitting in my room, and when my mother knocked on the door, I wanted to be able to say,”Go away, I’m doing something important!” – And so that, in a way, in a way if one’s a poet, one doesn’t want any advice. (But if you come to this class, perhaps) –
Anyway, what was I saying? oh god oh, about reading poetry..yeah it’s a.. I don’t think it’s possible to be original unless you read a tremendous amount and are influenced by lots of people – the idea is arguable but years old but I’m quite sure it’s true. I think you have a chance to be original if you’re. .if you’re living out in the mountains somewhere, and you never come near a place like this [Naropa], and you never come near much evidence of contemporary culture. I think you really might find something original without going through the culture, but, once you’ve been here for a week, you’re finished – or, once you’ve, practically, just gone to the movies and read a few books of poetry, you..the only path for you to originality (and of course it’s a much better path) is, of course, (since there are no people like the person I describe, they don’t write poetry usually, because really what mainly inspires people to write poetry is not falling in love but other poetry), and it’s.. if you’re not influenced by other poets you’re likely to think you’re original when you’re just working on something that Wallace Stevens solved a long time before and got to do terribly well. Why not take the ultimate result of Wallace Stevens ? Why not take what Wallace Stevens can do in “Notes Towards A Supreme Fiction” or “To the One of Fictive Music” or “Sunday Morning” or “The Comedian as the Letter C” ? – Why not just start there? – I mean, nobody in science ever thinks of starting back at (Isaac) Newton. It simply doesn’t make any sense. I mean, you might as well absorb what the greatest poets have done. (It’s a little different in science because in science, it’s sort of all there and there’s new equipment – there’s a machine that’ll do it for you, like the computers there and you’re certainly not going to go back, adding two and two and all that stuff , because the computer’s already there). It’s not that way in poetry, because in order to really do what Wallace Stevens can do, you have to read him, read him hard, and probably you have to imitate him. I mean it’s probably the best way to really take into yourself what somebody else can do is to do it with your own body and your own feelings and your own mind. Stevens said in a letter to a friend – this friend wrote to him and said, “Are you reading a lot?’, and Stevens wrote back and said, “No, I haven’t had time to read, but I’ve been writing a lot of poetry and writing has always seemed to me a superior form of reading”. And it really is for us poets, it’s a great way to read. I don’t think that poets read the way other people do. I mean there are certain poets at certain times in my life, I’ve never been able to read more than two pages without running to the typewriter, because you know you can’t.. one sort of.. if there’s something exiting on a page it’s quite natural to want to try it. So that often, a very bright person, a very talented person, a person with genius for writing poetry, will not have the same kind of knowledge of a poets work as a rather mediocre academic person will, because the poet won’t be able to finish the poem!, because he’ll be writing his own, for one thing, and changing what the other poet did, and for another reason, because the poet will be finding something else in the poetry. Maybe some of you have come to Naropa because you’re not doing well in school elsewhere because you have that funny kind of mind. It’s not necessarily bad. I had a lot of trouble with literature in college because.. I mean, I finally figured it out, but I avoided a lot of courses I should have taken because what I really wanted to get from poetry was inspiration. I went to Harvard, and I remember I went to the Chairman of the English Department, and he said, ”Well you’re an English Major, you should take this course in Milton”. And I was stupid at the time I thought I wouldn’t like Milton, I said “I don’t think it’ll stimulate me“. He said, “You’re not here to be stimulated, Mr Koch, you’re here to be educated”. And, it seems to me that Naropa is a place where there’s a hope at least of a kind of education where stimulation is a part of being educated, that one needs both parts.
Anyway, it’s very good to read a lot. Probably a good way to begin is to read contemporary poetry. It’s the easiest..it’s the easiest to get – There are all its famous difficulties. Delmore Schwartz, who was my teacher at Harvard said that it.. it’s about as hard to read modern poetry as it is to learn to play bridge. He said he found it more rewarding, (but then he was a poet and not a bridge-player). It.. You really can’t lose your own voice because.. what happens.. the whole stuff about your way of saying things and expressing yourself – in the first place, the “you” in your poem isn’t really you, in my opinion – It is in a way. I believe what Paul Valery said, he said, “a poem is something from someone who is not the poet, addressed to someone who is not the reader”, that is to say, you’re… you know..When I’m writing poetry, I can be in France in one line and Rome in the next and underground in a copper mine in the next, and I can be.. I can be speaking three different languages at the same time, I can be dreaming and awake. I don’t have these powers except when I’m writing. So that the.. Also, my concerns when I write poetry aren’t exactly the same as those I have when I’m not writing. During the Vietnam War for example, I was very concerned about the war and moderately active against it (even went to jail once) . I never could write a poem about it. I finally did manage to write a poem called “The Pleasures of Peace”, a long poem, but all the parts about the horrors of the war and the sufferings of the people in Vietnam.. I couldn’t keep them in the poem because they were lousy poetry, or at least they didn’t come up to my standards. And.. So the poem ended up being a poem in praise of peace, which, is about as close as I could get. And this didn’t have anything to do with, you know, the way I acted when I wasn’t writing. So it really is a different person who writes the poem, and I don’t think one can entirely choose exactly what that person is going to be like. I think it’s worth trying. I mean, I thought it was worth trying to write a very serious political poem and I’m glad I did it. My relative lack of success is.. I mean, in a certain way I like the poem, it’s alright, and that experience, but anyway, I was saying that one, one has a different voice as a poet at different . I think it’s true, and a number of poets have noticed it, you find a style, maybe you find the style when you’re twenty-five-years-old, twenty-seven-years-old, and you can say anything in it, you’re very happy, it’s what it’s like falling in love – great! – and you can write ..you can write a lot of poems. And you try writing the same poem when you’re twenty-nine, and you can’t do it. That.. that’s just.. you can’t use the same style , and there’s something about your voice that’s changed, about your person that’s changed. I mean, one would expect that somebody would change in such a sensitive place – the place in which one writes poetry. One would expect.. one would expect that to change. You certainly wouldn’t expect a poet to be like a monolith who.. I mean, imagine feeling the same way about love now that you did ten years ago? – you’d be a funny person – or even feeling the same way about sleeping, or taking a walk, or… And when you get into these very rareified things (poetry’s more rareified than experience) the.. your… the associations of words that are connected with your body, with your walking and with your sleeping, they’ll probably have changed even more. So I think one should be ready to.. for that kind of change. It’s very discouraging, I found it discouraging. I think I found, let’s see, one.. oh, I don’t know, I found about four styles that were my own, completely my own, they weren’t like anybody else really, I was perfectly happy in them, I could say anything I felt in them – and I don’t (have) any of them anymore. I mean, I had some for two years, I had some for four years. Anyway, what presumably I was talking about was how you should read a lot of poets. You can’t lose anything of yourself by being influenced by a poet, no matter how strong (he is). All you can do is learn from him [or her] how to do it. Just like by imitating the hand movements of great pianists, I presume, one could get a kind of knowledge in one’s body about, about.. which would enable one to play the piano in an original way, because the impulses that would come from one’s mind or heart or whatever to the piano would not be the same as (Arthur) Rubinstein, but your hands would at least be able to do what he could do.
Anyway, so, after that long parenthesis, the first thing I suggest to everybody when I teach writing at Columbia is that they read a lot of modern poetry and be influenced by.. I also think that one has to learn to read the poetry of the past and be influenced by that too. I mean, there are lots of people around who only read modern poetry and, I don’t know, that’slike just knowng about fashion instead of knowing about clothes. The.. There ‘s some people, there’s some modern poets, who might not tell you that you have to be able to be influenced by Dante and John Donne and Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, just as much as you’re influenced by people around now, they might just forget to tell you that, or they might not want you to be as good as they are, but, if they’re good poets, if they’re good poets, they haven’t just been influenced by contemporary poetry. Now the poetry of the past is a little harder. Probably you have to study it. It’s one of the good reasons for going to a college. I mean, I think one can really question the whole thing, like “Why go to school, if you want to write poetry?” One good reason is to learn how to read the poetry of the past and the fiction of the past. It’s a little bit of a . There are.. If you take a.. say, a poem by Shelley or Keats, I think there are two ways that you can read it, you know, sort of two extremes. You can read, well, let’s take “Ode to the West Wind” which Allen makes everybody read, which begins.. (I don’t remember much of it, I only..) – “O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being” Well, I read that one way when I was fifteen years old and I got something out of it, I got, I got a big rush-y feeling about words, I got a feeling that I could talk to nature (and it was pretty good all that, that I could say “O”, and I could use “thou”, and I could say things like .. that I could say , “O windows, opening thy breath, through which this night..”, I could do that, But I didn’t know what Shelley was talking about, and I didn’t, I didn’t really..I couldn’t really be Shelley..I didn’t.. I couldn’t feel the way he did. I could feel the way a modern person does responding to Shelley (which is pretty good, I mean, it kept me going for quite a few years, reading poetry that way), but there’s something else you get when you can really hear Hamlet saying, “To be or not to be, that is the question”. You can hear that as, “Jesus, I wonder if I should knock myself off”. because it doesn’t sound like that, See, “To be or not to be, that is the question”, Hamlet is a young guy, a successful guy, who’s a prince, a prince in a nice clean cold country and everything, everything is terrific, except, you know, your father.. (you think maybe your mother killed your father, and so you..), but ..you’re thinking, like, you’re very rich and everything, and you think, “Jesus Christ, I really think I’ve got to kill myself”, and…
But you hear “To be or not to be, that is the question..” – And what that meant to me, for years, was.. (what) that suggested to me.. there’s all this patina on it, you know that stuff you get on old jars – “Renaissance”, “Nobility of Man”, “The Compleat Man”, “Hamlet”,”Shakespeare”, “Stratford”, I never thought of anybody wanting to kill themselves when I read that line. It’s worth going to school to be able to hear Hamlet saying, “I wonder if I should kill myself” – and, it’s not easy. Because all that, all the “thee”s and “thou”s and the funny words and everything, really get in the way. I think you can be quite inspired by just reading it flat, as though it were written yesterday, and I wouldn’t say no to that at all, even..
and I.. I wouldn’t say there’s no point in reading a poem in a foreign language that you don’t understand, either. I mean you read “Jadis, si je me souviens bien…”, if you read it, ‘Jah-dees see jee me sou-vienns bee-enn”, it might maks you think about, “Janis, let’s go and visit Uncle Ben”, and that’s a fine line, you know, that’s alright, I mean, but you won’t be getting that sort of sweet dark sexy nostalgia that Rimbaud put in those words. “Once, if I remember rightly, my life was a…” – “Jadis, si je me souviens bien, ma vie était un festin où s’ouvraient tous les coeurs, où tous les vins coulaient” – my life was a party, at which all the wines were flowing” [from “Une Saison en Enfer” (“A Season in Hell”)
It’s really good to be able to read (John) Donne and (William) Shakespeare and all those people as though they were talking to you, as though they were William Carlos Williams or Allen Ginsberg, or Frank O’Hara. You really hear them in a certain way.. I.. anyway, I suggest that. I suggest also that you learn a foreign language.
KK: I don’t think it is.
KK: “Spectaculo” in Italian is… – what?
KK: Occhiali – that’s it –Occhiali – yeah, that’s the eye, and it’s sort of.. it sort of gives you this nice free space feeling about language, (that) you really realize, in a good way, that words aren’t the same as things, (they’re) sort of floating around and you would sort of attach them to things, and it was really inspiring to me. Even in the first stages of my learning French, I remember when I learned the word… Also, if you learn a lot about what the words mean it’s very interesting – I remember when I first said the word in French , “apartement”, which is the word for apartment, I never knew where that word came from and, as soon as it was separated by that little “a-“, it’s a way to live to keep people apart – apartement – there’s this part, and then there’s this part of you apart. I was also very astonished also by “désastre”, which is the French word for disaster – “astre”, means planets and “dé” means from – disaster is something that’s – boom! lightning strikes you. It’s.. It’s also nice just…It gives one a nice feeling for the sound of words. And it also..it’s terrific because it enables you to do translation. And translations are one of the best things in the world to do when you’re feeling uninspired, when you’re feeling dry, and you feel you can’t say anything, or you’re stuck on some subject, translations are really good because you realize, when you’re doing translations, that.. that what poetry’s all about is language (and this is what sculpture’s all about – it’s stone and clay, and music is all about sound).
I mean, you can make meaning with language, but you gotta.. it’s language. And translation always reminds one of that and it’s something one can do when one is not particularly inspired. One gets very involved in it.
Another nice thing about translation is, you know how you’re influenced and inspired by the poems that you’ve written yourself, how, like, some line that you’ve written in another poem will come back in another form, or in the same form, and you’ll feel really inspired and use it in a better way? – Well, see, if you translate a poem by Rimbaud or Baudelaire or Pasternak, or anybody, if you work hard on it, it becomes one of your poems, as far as your unconscious is concerned, and it, it becomes part of what you’ve done, it becomes part of what’s liable to happen when you write so it’s a really dramatic deep way of being influenced is to translate.
I needed.. I needed something.. I mean, John and Frank reached.. were worth.. , I mean, they were worth more than a hundred thousand readers each. You just.. One needs,one needs people to make the world of writing poetry real for you, and to keep you going.
I don’t think it’s good to be the only poet in the little town, where everybody admires you and thinks you’re great because you’re a poet, and lets you get drunk, and you give radio programs, and you write for the newspaper, and you get to make out with everybody. It doesn’t do your poetry any good. You may get a happy life but it’s not good for your poetry because there’s no competition. Competition’s really good. I recommend places where there are a lot of good poets. New York’s an awful place to live, but it’s a great place to be a poet. It used to be anyway. I presume it still is. I still lived there – but I think I’m already formed.. It’s annoying, in order to be a good poet but I really do recommend it
But in the class I take, they do that – Because everbody’s doing it, you don’t risk any humiliation, the teacher doesn’t expect a masterpiece, so you can try things you wouldn’t normally do. So.. I imagine you can find some pretty good writing teachers around here at various times. Different writing teachers are good for different people. I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend your life in a writing workshop… there are people who get a heavy dependence. I think it’s alright to try a couple, but I’d suggest taking a year off after you have a good one, you know. It would be terrific.. It’s wonderful, if you can find a good teacher of literature, if you could find somebody who could teach Romantic Poetry so that it’s really alive and it’s connected to things you care about, you’re so lucky. But even, even if you find somebody who just respects the literature but isn’t quite as alive as you are, it’s alright. At least you’ll get to read the work and you won’t be forced into a lot of bad ideas. I think that, as a poet.. being a poet has a certain… one learns but one has to defend onself a little bit against academic types, and.. I’ll talk about that a little bit.
Most people I know, I mean, not people that I associate with..but I travel a lot.. because I did this thing – teaching kids to write poetry and..(I) meet a lot of teachers and all kinds of people who never read poetry. Most people in the United States, as far as I know, either dislike, or are indifferent to it, or a lot even hate poetry. And the reason they do is.. and these are people, notstupid people , they are people who wouldn’t think their life was worth..really worthwhile unless they went to concerts sometimes, unless they went to good movies, unless they went to the opera if it came to town, unless they traveled, you know, and went to Europe, unless they saw good paintings, but you talk to them about poetry and they say, ”Oh poetry? I don’t know what to say, I don’t know, I don’t get it, I guess.” And you look at them, and it’s like somebody says, “Yeah, I don’t know, I see a lot of things, I hear a lot of things, I see a lot of things, even my nose smells a lot of things…”. You’re missing a lot – And it’s very hard to convince them.
And here’s where they don’t like it. I think it’s fairly simple – The way most people that I know were taught poetry in high school and in college is briefly, this – a poem is something created by a very clever sadist, who hides a lot of.. who hides a symbol in a lot of onamatopoeia and alliteration and all that stuff. So.. The point of reading a poem is – you pick up a poem and you’re supposed to find what it really means. So somebody said, “I’m going to take a walk today” – Is it Christ? – You know, it can’t be just a guy taking a walk! – and….so, you’ve got to find what it really means, so a poem, it doesn’t mean what’s there.
(I mean, the whole idea of what language means in general is too much to.. go into today – lets assume it means something, but, at least, let’s assume if the guy says “I’m going to take a walk, it doesn’t mean “Oh, God”, alright, otherwise that psychosis is going to take over completely. Alright, so, you look at the poem and you say, (you’re a kid, you’re in high school), you say, “Yeah, the poet says he’s going to take a walk”, (and) the teacher says, (No), really read that line, come on – stupid!” – And so you read it and you read it, and jesus! – and even if you think..even if you find the secret meaning, you won’t know it as well as the teacher. That’s why teachers.. it’s part of the teaching industry to teach this way because you really know something, you know. It got to be very important when all the money was going for science so we could get ahead of the Russians. I had an English teacher say “Well, what am I doing?” – But if he knows the symbolism that nobody else does then they need you. It’s really hard to do worthwhile work if you’re an English teacher.
And even the poor teacher, though, can’t know it as well as the poet who must be pictured as someone insane sitting in a tower, chuckling over a poem that nobody will ever enjoy or understand. Now, since you’ve all written poems, you know that that’s not the way poets feel, and you should never let anybody tell you that, it’s utterly stupid. I don’t know how this industry got started. It’s like then.. I mean.. (thinking about McDonalds, and stuff) I mean, you know, you can’t tell what’s going to really catch on. But that something like that should catch on in the intellectual world is very strange. But I would say that ninety-nine percent of professors, probably, probably teach poetry wrong. They’re probably… they’ve probably been too influenced by this.. (not ninety-nine percent, that’s silly because I don’t know enough of them, I hate to jump to generalize (especially for the tape-recorder) but an awful lot of teachers that I’ve known and listened to make that mistake of thinking). So this means that when people graduate from school they pick up a book of poems as an unpleasant experience, it’s kind of humiliating. You pick up a poem and say. “Oh gosh, I’m probably not getting it” and you feel humiliated. Well, you’re making, I don’t know, you’re making twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars a year, your kids love you, you’re an attractive man or woman, and you’re.. you know, you go to the movies, and you like to smoke and drink and… why should you be humiliated? – why should you pick up one of these awful pills, and.. So you don’t read poetry. And that’s what happens to almost everybody. Like being invited to a party when you don’t have any nice clothes. “Can’t really understand the poem”. So everybody hates poetry. So, one does what one can, you know, to do something about that. I mean, I wrote a couple of books about how to teach poetry to little kids and stuff [Wishes, Lies and Dreams & Rose, Where Did You Get That Red?] – (it’s done a little bit of good).
There are..there are other reasons why people look for deep meanings in poetry, and that’s because.. I mean it’s perfectly natural to do it. It’s just, you have to control the process. I mean, you can’t teach poetry so that all that’s there is the deep meaning. I mean graduate students come to me at Columbia (University) some time, they want me to be.. to help them work on their dissertation, “What are you writing about?” – “The deep meaning of Joseph Conrad” – “No”. I say “no”, they say, “why not?”, I say “Because the deep meaning of Joseph Conrad is the same as the deep meaning of every other writer who lived. There are about five deep meanings which I will now tell you – Life is not worth living, Life seems not worth living but is worth living after all..” You know. There are very few deep meanings. I said, “Why don’t you, why don’t you read some of Conrad’s Letters and read a couple of his novels and think about the difference between his epistolary style and his novel-writing style. I’d love to know about that.It’s very interesting the difference between the way people write letters and write novels. “That’s not deep enough” – Uh – uh – anyway…It’s quite natural – I’m getting a bit off the subject . The reason it’s natural to find deep meanings in poetry and the reason this whole critical and professorial mistake started, I think, is this – The almost.. The intention of almost all language is either to just keep life moving along on a jolly way (instead of, like, rubbing and touching and stuff) – “How you doing?” -” I’m great” – “Terrific, that’s great” – “That’s a lie, you son of a bitch”, I mean that just all, that’s, you know, pushing and touching . Then, an awful lot of it is given information – “How do you get to the ladies room?” – “You go down the hall, turn to the left.” Paul Valery said the function of prose is to perish. [ “The essence of prose ois to perish – to be dissolved and replaced by the image it denotes’] That is, you find out how to go to the ladies room, you don’t go through life with the words ringing in your head, “down the hall, turn to the left”. Poetry, poetry is different, because it.. the words would be said, arranged, in a certain way, so that they would stay in your head, and the meaning would not be so precise. Poetry’s a very strange kind of communication. It’s a very strange way of using language, which looks like the regular way of.. [Koch starts reading from the local newspaper] – “Fairview Barton Financial put on an eleventh hour rally Saturday night to score a narrow six to five victory over Colorado Springs Michelle… (hey, the school’s have long names here!) ..victory over Colorado Springs, Michelle Realty, at Scott Carpenter Park”. Now the intention of that is to give information. And poetry looks like that. But it’s not quite like that. It’s sort of like “Fairview put on..” let’s see.. “Fairview put on an eleventh hour Saturday night dress to score a narrow Colorado Springs to Scott’s Reality’ – You know, you could have.. It’s a..it deliberately distorts the ordinary use of language so that it invites dreaming, instead of… opens up, it opens up a fissure, like an earthquake, opens up something, so that all of this rich material one’s not conscious of (except in dream and sometime under the influence of certain stupefying things, sometimes in moments of great passion), one is usually not aware of all of these things that one has seen and forgotten. Like at this moment, (I’m not talking about Freud’s idea of the subconscious as painful things that are repressed). But, at this moment, some part of me, for some time, has been looking at the (green) of what seems to be a car and what seems to be a plastic box with slats out there. In back of it is a breast-like green mountain (part) and there are Venetian blinds which remind me of newsprint and I’m aware of about twenty-five of your faces in this room. I’ve had random thoughts about all of you. All of this will be gone now, unless one of you becomes my friend, or unless I go live on that mountain, or buy that car, you know, but that’s.. this is happening constantly. And all of this stuff is there somewhere. And one is in possession of a tremendous amount of information, of sensation, and it’s like all the keys on the piano. If you have all of these things to compare things to, like all these connections, degrees of consciousness and all different kinds of things, you’re mch more likely to be able to write something powerful and beautiful and new. And poetry sort of deliberately sort of distorts language so that these other associations can appear, so that one can dream, so that one can see in a more powerful way than one ordinarily does. Therefore, since poetry is so rare, hence almost all of what we read is not poetry but it’s this other intention – it’s quite natural if you read a poem and the poet says, “The tree against the window afternoon” (which is not in ordinary prose, but is understandable enough) – it.. that properly makes one think of more trees, more windows, more afternoons, and more weather, more light, than the statement would be, “ I found it of interest to regard the tree through the window in the afternoon”, which makes it just the experience of the person who’s talking and doesn’t give you any chance to associate with it. But, so, since poetry is so odd, in being not information-giving, not direct in that way, it’s quite natural to want to find all kind of deep meanings in it because one is going around with all these deep meanings that (could) define the text. I may generalize, and say, we don’t know why we’re alive, we don’t know anything about death, we don’t understand beauty, we don’t understand love, we don’t understand passion. We understand almost nothing. And yet we care passionately about all these things that not only do we not understand but which modern philosophy has shown us are not real questions. That doesn’t matter to people emotionally at all. We go around with this great mystery. As Walt Whitman said, “I and this mystery, here we we stand”, and the mystery is always looking for a text, it’s looking for a.. it’s looking for a statue it’s looking for a painting, it’s looking for some music, it’s looking for a poem, it’s looking for some words, so that it can say, “that’s me, that’s it, that’s the answer, that’s it! ” And I think that is particularly true when one is in one’s late teens and twenties, that one is… the mystery is almost overwhelming, because it hasn’t been.. it hasn’t been used much. It hasn’t been used much in one’s life yet, it’s just.. and so it’s very very natural for people in college of that age to look for all kinds of mysteries in poetry. I think it doesn’t do you any good to read all poemsas of they were all the same poem that defined the same mystery in “Corinna’s going a-Maying” as you’d find in “The Waste Land”. I mean, then you might as well just read one poem all the time. In any case, that was a good parenthesis but it was something I wanted to say – Resist your professors a little, and read poetry, get with what’s good and.. you don’t have to get mad at them if they say, you know, that it really means something else, just read it for yourself.
So people say brilliant things, if you make them believe that’s true. Some guy said, “I like the way this poet, is so.. sounds so convinced that what he’s saying is important”. That’s one of the great things about Yeats. Has there ever been anybody who read a poet (solely) for the content of his poetry? What is all this stuff about meaning? I think, the meaning, it’s important to know the meaning, finally, sure it is, but that’s nor why anybody reads Yeats – his ideas are ridiculous! – I mean, do you believe. like the poem I read was “The Rose of the World”, again, a beautiful poem – “Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream “ – “Who dreamed that beauty passes like a dream / For those red lips with all their mournful pride,/Mournful that no new wonder may betide/Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam/And Usna’s children died.” – “Usna’s children” are.. who’s that guy who’s in love with Deirdre, that Conchobar killed, Naoise– its spelt N-I-S-I [sic] – somebody in Celtic mythology. Anyway, obviously, you don’t read that (for)… you’re not interested in that poem because you really want to believe that there was a Spirit of Beauty in the form of a Woman who stood beside God’s throne at the Creation. I mean, what an idea! – except (it’s) interesting. (nice), the idea that there’s a huge white pig in the sky that makes all the clouds, but I mean… Anyway ,but..one of the reason you read Yeats is because he sounds like what he say is really so damned important, it’s that wonderful sense of urgency. It’s why I like to look at some of Picasso’s pantings, or like to listen to certain composers, I mean, it’s a …terrific, it was a brilliant comment. I said, “that’s great”. And eventually we went around with everyone just saying what they liked, and eventually we understood the poem. That’s a good way to do it.