Alan Fox: Many poets have talked about music or jazz as being akin to poetry. It seems to me in terms of expressing emotion, maybe it’s easier in music, or painting, than it is in words.
Molly Peacock: Well, music is perhaps the most purely emotional art in that it doesn’t have to “articulate” anything. And painting creates the image. And those are two arts that I feel are tucked inside poetry. When we talk about the vision of the poet, we can liken that to painting, and that’s where we get ideas of word-painting. The music of the poem is—well, there are two musics in the poem: there’s the music of the line, which I think of as like a baseline—if we’re still in the jazz mode—so there’s that baseline going; and then there’s the music of the sentence, quite separate, it’s prose music. People who only pay attention to the music of the sentence get accused of writing chopped-up prose, but there is a distinct sentence music that unfolds over the lines. Those rhythms—the base-line rhythm beneath each line as well as the rhythm of the sentence wrapping around the lines—combine to create deep emotional states. And sometimes, as poets, we’re not even aware of what those emotional states really are. And the imagery—when we talk about the vision of a poet, I think actually we’re talking about a poet’s imagery. When we say, “Wallace Stevens’ vision” or “William Carlos Williams’ vision” or “Elizabeth Bishop’s vision” or “Sonia Sanchez’s vision,” I think we’re largely talking about what they envision in their imagery.
- Molly Peacock, in conversation with Alan Fox of Rattle. You can read a longer excerpt (and hear the original conversation) here.