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Sunday, September 21, 2014

We are the masters of the secret (Dickey)

Flaubert says somewhere that the life of a poet is a hell of a life, it is a dog’s life, but it is the only one worth living. You suffer more. You are frustrated more by things that don’t bother other people. But you live so much more. You live so much more intensely and so much more vitally. And with so much more sense of meaning, of consequentiality, instead of nothing mattering. ...That is what is behind all the drugs and alcoholism and suicide—insanity, wars, everything—a sense of nonconsequence. A sense that nothing, nothing matters. No matter which way we turn it is the same thing. But the poet is free of that.

For the poet, everything matters, and it matters a lot. That is the realm where we work. Once you are there, you are hooked. If you are a real poet, you are hooked more deeply than any narcotics addict could possibly be on heroin. You are hooked on something life-giving instead of destructive. Something that is a process that cannot be too far from the process that created everything. God’s process.

You can say what you can of God. I don’t know what your religion might be. You can say what you want as to whether this is a chemist’s universe or a physicist’s universe or an Old Testament, New Testament God’s universe. Whatever you might want the deity to be.

Those are things that he might be. What this universe indubitably is is a poet’s universe. Nothing but a poetic kind of consciousness could have conceived of anything like this. That is where the truth of the matter lies. You are in some way in line with the creative genesis of the universe. We can’t create those trees or that water or anything that is out there. We can’t do it. But we can re-create it. We take God’s universe and make it over our way. And it is different from his. That is where our value lies. Not only for ourselves, but for the other people who read us. There is some increment there that we make possible that would not otherwise be there.

I don’t mean to sell the poet at such great length, but I do this principally because the world doesn't esteem the poet very much. They don’t understand where we are coming from. They don’t understand the use for us. They don’t understand if there is any use. They don’t really value us very much. [But] we are the masters of the secret, not they. Not they. Remember that when you write.

James Dickey


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