Stephanie Bolster: In “Someone Has Stayed in Stockholm” you write : “Although you can fall into places deeper than language,/ can’t you? Yes. He has.” Obviously you have, too. What is deeper than language, for a writer? And - the key question, I think - what is insufficient about language?
Don Coles: I think that almost anything we think about closely is deeper than language. Both the world and our thoughts flow/flows outside and beyond our language capabilities. Language tries to keep p, and its success can appear huge (in art, in good writing, etc.) - huge in that is does something, it slows the flow, it stops at least small parts of that flow and allows us to watch it or wade into it, stand in it. But it fails, inevitably, in terms of the totality of any moment…
“Deeper than language,” though, means many things. It can make the so-called artist (poet, etc.) aware in every step of what he’s doing that it’s at best a simulacrum of the reality he senses, notices, fails to rival. It can on the other hand intensify his commitment, because the knowledge of that gap stimulates the desire to bridge it. And of course, finally (well, probably not “finally” - what can be “final” about this?), I haven’t even touched the other argument, which loiters hereabouts keeping its mouth shut but knowing what it knows: and which is, of course, the certainty that language can lead us beyond the speechless word and deeper than formless thought. Which seems to undercut all that I’ve been on at up above. Well, that’s the way it is. Elusive, paradoxical, colliding with itself, endless.
- from Where the Words Come From: Canadian Poets in Conversation, Ed. Tim Bowling, 2002.
This reminded me a bit of a positively ancient poem of mine which hides out in the archives of this site: "in the W.A.C. Bennett Library".