a poet has maybe five or six poems to write


Ronald Christ: I have often wondered how you go about arranging works in those collections. Obviously the principle is not chronological. Is it similarity of theme? 

Jorge Luis Borges: No, not chronology; but sometimes I find out that I've written the same parable or story twice over, or that two different stories carry the same meaning, and so I try to put them alongside each other. That's the only principle. Because, for example, once it happened to me to write a poem, a not too good poem, and then to rewrite it many years afterwards. After the poem was written, some of my friends told me, Well, that's the same poem you published some five years ago. And I said, Well, so it is! But I hadn't the faintest notion that it was. After all, I think that a poet has maybe five or six poems to write and not more than that. He's trying his hand at rewriting them from different angles and perhaps with different plots and in different ages and different characters, but the poems are essentially and innerly the same.

- Jorge Luis Borges, from his Paris Review interview. You can read the whole thing here.

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