from an interview in Rattle, Winter 2006
In my 2001 book, Given Sugar, Given Salt, there’s a line that appears in two different poems: “You work with what you are given.” And so, as an example of what I’m talking about, in the new book, After, there are some good number of poems that speak about looking out the window at the mountain. Now, it’s in the poems first as itself, Mt. Tamalpais, which is the first thing I see every morning when I wake up, if it’s light out and there’s not heavy fog. It’s also in the poems as what mountains stand for in the human psyche, and for its instruction to the psyche in what mountains teach. It’s a slope and presence by which I can investigate and question. Other things come in--in one poem, Vilnius and St. Petersburg, in another, a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins, in a third, an imaginary herd of bison. All these things are themselves and are also prism-lights of my own psyche, and perhaps of the reader’s psyche as well. I also feel that through the shared life of poems, mountains in some way can know us. They enter us, when we bring them into words, just as walking in the mountains enters our bodies and changes the strength of our legs, the capacities of our lungs. We aren’t just ourselves, once we have walked those paths--we are also our history of being changed by the mountain. This is interconnected life. Poems are one way we make ourselves more transparent to the fullness of existence.