The afternoon before Adam Zagajewski’s reading in the Hodges Auditorium, last week, he held a Q&A session at the top of McClung Tower, on campus.  Our workshop adjourned so that we could all go.  How lucky I am, that I can sometimes sit silently and listen to a wise poet talk about poetry.  Sometimes I feel like I have the most strange existence of anyone in the world (completely misleading feeling), because poetry is—in so many ways—my life, but I know so few poets, so few people who think the way I do.  Which characteristic, in turn, is something I have in common with all of humanity.  So.

Regardless, there at the front of the room sat a bald man with kind of snaggly teeth, talking with a thick accent but a remarkable, beautiful vocabulary.  Why was I surprised?  A gracious man, interested in every question, considering them gravely, making the occasional joke.  Handling the poetry of philosophy, and the philosophies of poetry, with the gravity of a sage.

Speaking of philosophy, when someone asked him a question about philosophy that he reads/has read, he said that “poetic thinking is different from philosophical thinking.”  Philosophers, he said, establish a group of central metaphors to explain/illustrate reality, while poets are constantly searching for better metaphors.  (Point of contention for Plato.)

Isn’t this true?  I think it is?  This is perhaps why poets are allowed to mix metaphors in ways that other writers aren’t.  This is perhaps why I move among metaphors so restlessly, and even when I find myself tied up with a particularly resonant metaphor, it morphs in my mind, & writing, from year to year.

In response to a question about his revision techniques/process, he basically said he’s impatient with revision.  Hope I’m not misinterpreting.  He said that there’s a season for writing and revision, in which he is creating and recreating the poem, but after a while, he gets tired of it.  He said, “You always have this craving for a new poem.”

Someone asked him about how he first got acquanted with Milosz’s work.  He said that the Polish state had done a great job keeping Milosz (outspoken anti-Communist) out of public dialogue, so he first heard Milosz called “the greatest Polish poet” when he was 22 or 23.  Looked in the college library for Milosz’s books, and found them…but he had to get permission from the dean to go to the reading room and read them—couldn’t check them out.  He said he had to tell the dean he needed to read them for a research project he was doing.

Zagajewski: “I hate free verse that has no musicality.”

Zagajewski on the inwardness of some contemporary poetry: “Poetry should be grounded in the world,” not only in the self.

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