JA: When I go to Breadloaf, I like to go to the poetry lectures. I am much more interested in what the poets have to say. They are the ones at the cutting edge where language meets the ineffable, the silence. Seamus Heaney gave a reading a few years back at Middlebury and he said poetry is about [she opens her mouth as if to say something]. He just stood there, his mouth hanging open, as if dumbfounded, like he couldn't find the words.
JA: His point, I think, was that poetry tries to put into words what can't be put into words! That is what poets do. I think of them as the hot lava pushing out. They are the scouts, traveling out into the unknown where language has not gone before. They are doing interesting things with language, thinking about ways of using syntax. They talk about line breaks, about the breath as opposed to the visual cutting off of language. Storytellers, we're the settlers, we come in later, we need schools and a post office and homes and day care centers—but I am more interested in poets. I learn more from them. I don't know why.
02 June 2006
Álvarez on poetry
From Robert Birnbaum's chat with Julia Álvarez: