the imprint of the unsayable

For some poets, I think, the poem starts with an image; but I usually don't feel I've got the image until I hear the music. Anyway, I'm a music junky - and sometimes what I find most musically satisfying turns out to be in emotional bad taste: "dim lands of peace," etc. I'm instinctively drawn to the idea that poetry is memorable speech. But in - rightly, I think - depriving ourselves of certain rhetorical stances, what we are able to make is more like memorable image or memorable though. (That last not in some abstract sense, buit in a sense fully compatible with William Carlos Williams's dictum). So, the upshot is that I'm much less confident I could actually say what poetry is. But also, partly as a result of a lot of experience editing other people's work, I find I don't really care anymore. What's important, and moving, is the imprint of the unsayable on what is said - and there's enormous range in the ways the unsayable manifests itself.

- Jan Zwicky, from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.

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