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The Consequences Anna Ross interviews Robert Hass

January 5, 2008 Hass1-1.JPG Poet Robert Hass has a bright face. Alert, een, !resent in a roo", he #isar"s $ith a $i#e grin, fre%uent han# gestures, an# an occasional burst of high-!itche# giggling. He loo s #irectly, al"ost insistently, at $hoe&er is s!ea ing to hi", an# then $aits a beat after they'&e finishe#, as though consi#ering the full i"!lications of $hat they'&e sai#. (his in%uisiti&eness, or !erha!s ac%uisiti&eness, is belie# by a slightly #ishe&ele# a!!earance) his hair so"e$hat "usse#, his eyebro$s in nee# of a tri". *ut his ga+e contra#icts any !retense of clutter. ,hether the to!ic is conte"!orary !olitics, literacy in the 1-th century or *arry *on#s' recent foray into baseball history, Hass s!ea s $ith the ut"ost attention to #etail. .t's his un$illingness to generali+e that gi&es his !oetry authority. His first boo of !oe"s, /iel# Gui#e,$ritten #uring the A"erican engage"ent in 0ietna", $on the 1ale 2eries of 1ounger Poets A$ar# in 1-32. 2ince then, in his $or as !oet, critic, e#itor, teacher, !oet laureate, an# translator 4"ost notably of the Polish-5ithuanian 6obel-$inner 7+esla$ 8ilos+9, Hass has connecte# &iolence, ine%uality, an# in:ustice to all of hu"anity, al$ays $illing to incor!orate hi"self into the sa"e $orl# that he critici+es. (a e ;*ush's ,ar,< !ublishe# in the 8arch=A!ril 200> e#ition of A"erican Poetry Re&ie$ an# in his "ost recent boo , (i"e an# 8aterials 4?cco9) @it's a taste for !o$er (hat a"ounts to loathing for the bo#y. Perha!s it's this that !er"its !eo!le to belie&e (hat the #ea# $o"en in the rubble of *agh#a# ,ho #i# not cast a &ote for their #eaths Ar the gli"!se affor#e# the" before they #ie# Af the ra$ $hite of the s!lintere# bones .n the bo#ies of their "en or their chil#ren Are being gi&en the gift of free#o"@ Hass $on the 8acArthur ;Genius< A$ar# an# t$o 6ational *oo 7ritics 7ircle A$ar#s. An# he ser&e# as Poet 5aureate of the Bnite# 2tates fro" 1--5--3. (i"e an# 8aterials, Hass's fifth boo of !oe"s, $on the 6ational *oo A$ar# last year. CAnna Ross forGuernica Guernica) Do you ha&e a sense of ho$ the !oetry $orl# aroun# you has change# since /iel# Gui#e ca"e out in 1-3EF

Robert Hass) . #on't no$ that . ha# a sense that there $as such a thing as ;the !oetry $orl#< in the 1->0s an# early 30s. 8aybe !oets #i#, but for "e as an onloo er an# rea#er of !oetry, !oetry felt li e it $as !art of a larger literary $orl#. . "ean, e&en the !hrase ;the !oetry $orl#< reflects a sort of bal ani+ation of A"erican literary an# artistic life that has to so"e eGtent ha!!ene# since then. /iction $riters ha&e their o$n $orl#, an# !oets ha&e their o$n $orl#, an# literary criticis" has sort of !asse# o&er into cultural stu#ies in the uni&ersity, an# so on. (hey see" "ore #isconnecte# fro" each other than they #i# $hen . first began to $rite. At the sa"e ti"e, there is an eG!onential increase in the nu"bers of $riters an# of boo s being !ublishe#. (hat is, . thin it's true to say that in 1-3E . coul# rea# e&ery boo of !oe"s that $as !ublishe# in a year, an# . #i#. . belie&e, accor#ing to Poet's House, that there $ere 1,200 boo s of !oetry, inclu#ing translations, !ublishe# in this country last year, $hich "eans that if you rea# three boo s a #ay you coul#n't rea# all the !oetry that's being !ublishe#. 2o that's a big #ifference, an# . thin the cause of that #ifference, or at least the institutional for" that it has ta en, is creati&e $riting !rogra"s. Guernica) ,hich are ubi%uitous, aren't theyF Robert Hass) ,hen . gra#uate# fro" college, $hich $as 1->E, there $ere t$oH $ell, there $as .o$a an# then you coul# get a 8asters in creati&e $riting at 2tanfor# on the $ay to a PhD. . thin that "ight ha&e been it in the $hole country. An# therefore it #i#n't occur to "e to get a #egree in creati&e $riting. ,hen . a!!lie# to 2tanfor#, . a!!lie# for gra#uate $or in the PhD !rogra", not to the creati&e $riting !rogra", "ostly because though . ha# so"e &ague a"bition of beco"ing a $riter an# . $as trying to $rite !oe"s an# essays an# stories, . #i#n't feel li e . $as far enough along to sub"it $or to so"e !lace an# ha&e it :u#ge#. Also, . $as trying to figure out ho$ to "a e a li&ing IlaughingJ, an# it #i#n't see" li e a career !ath. . #on't thin it e&en entere# "y hea# as one of the things that . "ight #o. Guernica) Do you thin that this !roliferation of !oetry, alongsi#e its se!aration fro" other literary genres, has strengthene# itF Robert Hass) ,ell, the !roliferation is goo#. (he !rofessionali+ation of !oetry, or the bal ani+ation, has co"e out of the fact that $hen you a!!ly to "ost creati&e $riting !rogra"s, you ha&e to choose your genre. An# so, at t$enty-one, so"eone $ho $ants to $rite is signing u! for t$o years of co""itting the"sel&es to $rite !oetry or fiction or nonfiction. (here are &ery fe$ !rogra"s in $hich you can cross o&er. An the one han#, the reasons "a e sense to "e. .f you're going to ta e your shot for t$o years at $riting so"ething, concentrate an# $rite so"ething, an# of course "any !eo!le $ho begin in one genre en# u! in another. *ut on the $hole, it !robably funnels !eo!le into a s!ecialty too soon. Guernica) An# stu#ents "ay not feel that they $ant to eG!eri"ent after they'&e "a#e that #ecision@es!ecially $hile co"!eting for teaching :obs. Robert Hass) 1es. Af course, as this is ha!!ening there are also a lot of $ays, es!ecially in "ore eG!eri"ental $riting, in $hich the boun#aries bet$een fiction an# nonfiction, bet$een !rose an# !oetry ha&e bro en #o$n or beco"e an area of eG!eri"entation.

Guernica) . $on#er ho$ you thin this affects the rea#ershi! of !oetry. .t see"s to "e that "ost of the !eo!le . no$ $ho rea# !oetry are also $riters of !oetry an# that it "ight not go too "uch further in ter"s of au#ience. . #on't no$ if that's a result of this schis" that you're !ointing to. Robert Hass) . #on't thin so. . thin the i"!ortant thing to say about this area is that $e #on't no$. (hat is, there's &ery little soli# research on rea#ershi!, yet !eo!le "a e !ronounce"ents about it all the ti"e. ;.f you $ere "a ing !oetry out of con&ictions@you $ere in the territory of rhetoric, an# that $asn't the territory of !oetry.< .t see"s li e e&ery ten years there's a boo that says that !oetry use# to be !o!ular, an# no$ it's not, but $e really ha&e no $ay of no$ing, in ter"s of relati&e si+e of au#ience an# other things, eGactly $ho rea#ers $ere. Ane thing $e #o no$ is that "ass literacy is a !ro#uct of the 1-th century, at least in ?nglish-s!ea ing culturesC.relan#, ?nglan#, 2cotlan#, 7ana#a, an# the B. 2. 1ou only ha# $i#es!rea# literacy an# boo s that !eo!le coul# affor# in the "i##le of the 1-th century. Di# "ore !eo!le rea# !oetry at the turn of the 20th century $hen there $ere about fifty "illion !eo!leF ,hen ?"ily Dic inson's !oe"s $ere !ublishe# in the 18-0s, they $ere a bestsellerH the first boo of her !oe"s $ent through ele&en e#itions of a !rint run of about K00. 2o the first !rint run out of *oston for a first boo of !oe"s $as K00 for a country that ha# fifty "illion !eo!le in it. 6o$ a first !rint run for a first boo is "aybe 2,000F 2o that's a fi&e-ti"e increase in the eG!ectation of rea#ershi!. Probably the au#ience is al"ost eGactly the sa"e si+e as it $as in 1-00, if you :ust too that one eGa"!le. Another !art of this is that . thin one !ercent of the !o!ulation atten#e# college $hen ,allace 2te&ens an# Robert /rost an# Gertru#e 2tein $ere at Har&ar#. 6o$ . thin forty !ercent of A"ericans ha&e so"e college e#ucation. (hat's an astrono"ical change. .n the beginning of the 1-th century, "aybe forty !ercent of $o"en an# fifty !ercent of "en coul# !ro#uce a signature, $hich "eant that they'# ha# at least three years of e#ucation because it $as in thir# gra#e that !eo!le starte# !en"anshi! in the 1-th century. An# of course blac !eo!le coul# get ille# if they got caught teaching the"sel&es to rea# in so"e !arts of the country. Guernica) ?&erybo#y "e"ori+e# !oetry, as $ell. Robert Hass) 1es. 5iterature, the stu#y of literature in ?nglish in the 1-th century, #i# not belong to literary stu#ies, $hich ha# to #o $ith Gree , 5atin, an# Hebre$, but instea# $ith elocution an# !ublic s!ea ing. 2o $hen !eo!le rea# literature, it $as to "e"ori+e an# to recite it. Any$ay, all of this is to say that it's terribly har# to get a han#le on, first of all, our o$n eG!erience right no$C$ho's rea#ing an# $ho's $ritingCan# secon#ly, it's &ery har# to get any in# of co"!arati&e hol# on it to say that things ha&e change#. 8y sus!icion is that once you ha&e literacy in !lace, the rea#ershi! has not change# &ery "uch. Guernica) 2o if $e can't say $ith certainty ho$ rea#ershi! an# $riting ha&e #efiniti&ely change# in the last century, or e&en in the last thirty or forty years, ho$ has your o$n $or or your o$n a!!roach to !oetry change# since you ca"e out $ith your first boo F

Robert Hass) . #on't %uite no$ the ans$er to that %uestion. 8y first boo $as !ublishe# $hen . $as thirty-t$o, so . thin it $as basically finishe# $hen . $as thirty or thirty-one. An# so then you thin , ;,ell, $hat ha&e you faile# to #oF< An# "y ans$er to "yself $as al"ost e&erything. Prose gets #i&i#e# u! into fiction an# nonfiction an# short fiction an# long fiction an# autobiogra!hical nonfiction an# so on. Poetry can #o any of those things eGce!t $ith the a##e# #efinition of intensifie# for"al !ressure. Any$ay, . felt li e . ha#n't #one &ery "uch. An# you try to #o so"ething #ifferent in the neGt boo an# then so"ething #ifferent than that. 2o, . #on't no$. . thin so"eone else $oul# be better at ans$ering the %uestion of ho$ "y $or has change#. Guernica) ,ell, .'&e been loo ing through so"e of your $or , an# one thing that . notice# is that you ha&e tac le# so-calle# !olitical issues, such as $ar an# hu"an rights abuses, in your !oetryH but you'&e also $ritten !oe"s that are &ery closely lin e# to or #ra$n fro" your !ersonal life an# history, an# .'" $on#ering if you fin# those t$o to be &ery #ifferent "o#es of $riting, if they're lin e# at all, if one infor"s the otherF Robert Hass) ,hen . began $riting !oe"s, it $as in the late >0s an# early 30s $hen the literary an# cultural at"os!here $as &ery "uch affecte# by $hat $as going on in the $orl#, $hich $as, in succession, the ci&il rights "o&e"ent, the anti$ar "o&e"ent, an# the $o"en's "o&e"ent in the >0s, 30s, an# into the early 80s. An# all of those things affecte# "e an# affecte# "y thin ing, !articularly the 0ietna" ,ar. . $oul#n't feel guilty about not $riting about *agh#a# if . #i#n't ha&e any goo# i#eas about ho$ to $rite about it.< 5i e e&eryone else, . $as at least !eri!herally in&ol&e# in the anti$ar "o&e"ent. 1ou $o e u! e&ery "orning feeling tor"ente# about $hat $as going on in 0ietna". .t see"e# to a lot of us li e a catastro!he fro" the &ery beginning, inflicting i""ense an# nee#less suffering on not only the A"erican sol#iers but on a lot of innocent !easants $ho $ere caught in a 7ol# ,ar !roGy battleCt$o "illion 0ietna"ese #ie# #uring those years, an# you $o e u! e&ery "orning no$ing that that $as going on. 2o the %uestion of ho$ an# $hether one coul# $rite !olitical !oe"s $as &ery "uch in the air, an# there $ere lots of eGa"!les out there. Allen Ginsberg, A#rienne Rich, Denise 5e&erto&, Robert *ly, Gal$ay Linnell, Robert DuncanCto thin of $riters $ho . thought of as re!resenting the ne$ !oetry then, the generation of !oets . $as rea#ing $hen . $as starting to $rite. (hey $ere $riting about $ar an# about !olitics. 2o there's that, but also, in the *ay area $here . $as gro$ing u!, an# a"ong the *eats, there's the eGa"!le of a lot of terrible, self-righteous !olitical !oetry that #i#n't see" &ery hel!ful. 2o . guess . ca"e of age $ith t$o !re:u#ices) that one ought to try to thin about those things an# inclu#e the" in your $or if you can, an# that !olitics is not the area $here !oetry is li ely to #o $hat it #oes best. (he %uote that $e all ha# in our "in#s $as 1eats) ;Poetry is a "an arguing $ith hi"selfH rhetoric is a "an arguing $ith others.< .f you $ere "a ing !oetry out of con&ictionsCtrying to con&ince other !eo!leCyou $ere in the territory of rhetoric, an# that $asn't the territory of !oetry. . thin that's !retty s"art. . thin that it #oesn't nee# to be altogether true, but that $as "y starting !lace. Ane of the interesting things about the history of !oetry in the 1>th, 13th, an# 18th centuries is that !eo!le $ho rea# li e# getting their

infor"ation in rhy"e :ust as "uch as in !rose. (he genre that $e $oul# thin of as nonfiction often $as $ritten in &erse in for"s li e the Georgic $hen !eo!le thought that one of the tas s of !oetry $as con&eying argu"ents an# infor"ation in a !leasant $ay. Guernica) (hat soun#s li e Po!e. Robert Hass) Po!e $as actually at the tail en# of that i#ea. After Po!e, in the beginning of Ro"anticis", !eo!le #e&elo!e# the i#ea that i"agination rather than reason $as a s!ecial for" of no$le#ge an# its best eG!ression is through !oetry. (herefore, !oetry shoul# not try to #o the stuff that "ere !rose #oes) con&ey infor"ation or "a e argu"ents about i#eas. 2o the long !oe" in the 1-th century beca"e a narrati&e !oe". Af course, ho$ "any o&ertly !olitical !oe"s #o $e rea# fro" the 1>th centuryF Guernica) 6one. Robert Hass) Mero. (here are either !oe"s about seG=lo&e or Go#. Guernica) Ar both. Robert Hass) Ar both. 8ilton $as the first !erson $ho really eG!eri"ente# $ith !utting !olitics into sonnets. Any$ay, . #on't no$ ho$ rele&ant running through all of this history is, eGce!t to say that $e ha&e inherite# "iGe# feelings about the !ossibility of $riting about !olitics. 2o"eone in .relan# as e# "e ho$ "any Re!ublican !oets there $ere in the B.2., an# . thought "aybe t$o. 8aybe there are 10,000 !oets, an# "aybe there are t$o Re!ublicans a"ong the". IlaughterJ ,ell, that $oul# be another set of research. .t's all !art of that sociology. Another as!ect of this is that if you're $riting a !oe" about these things, if you, in general, co"e #o$n on the si#e of :ustice or co"e #o$n on the si#e of nature against the "achine or any of the large, si"!le-"in#e# bifurcations that $e o!erate out of, you can no$ ahea# of ti"e that you're !reaching to the con&erte#, $hich is another #ifficulty. Guernica) .t see"s to be a sort of Dic inson &s. ,hit"an argu"ent. Robert Hass) 1es, on the one han#, ?"ily Dic inson #uring the 7i&il ,ar, #uring the "ost &iolent an# tu"ultuous u!hea&alCthough it #i#n't touch her life #irectlyCin the 1-th century, $rote 1,000 of the "ost a"a+ing lyric !oe"s in the ?nglish language, an# eGce!t for a s"all ite" of i"agery here an# there, they ha&e nothing to #o $ith it. Guernica) 8ean$hile, ,hit"an $as $riting about being a fiel# nurse. Robert Hass) 1es, the other eGa"!le. ,hit"an %uit his :ob an# $ent to ,ashington to nurse the $oun#e# an# then $rote about it. Guernica) An# also $rote !oe"s eGhorting A"erican society to stan# u! an# beco"e unifie#. Robert Hass) He too A"erican society as a fact an# as a "eta!hor an# the thing at the &ery center of his &ision.

Guernica) ,hen you tal about your eG!erience #uring the 0ietna" ,ar, in ter"s of feeling as though you shoul# $rite about it, that soun#s, of course, &ery fa"iliar to $hat "any of us feel no$ regar#ing the .ra% ,ar. 2o has your i#ea about $hether to inclu#e !olitics in your !oetry change# at allF Ar #o you still feel a little bit guilty about itF Robert Hass) 6o, . #on't thin it e&er change# &ery "uch, although .'&e thought about it "ore. Ane of the things . thought $hile . $as $riting the !oe"s in /iel# Gui#e, an# it's so"ething . guess . still feel, is that !oetry ha# in the han#s of &arious !eo!le beco"e a !lace for incon&enient no$le#ge insofar as it $as a !lace for no$le#ge at all. *ut it $as a !lace $here you coul# tal about other in#s of eG!erience than the official &ersion. ;Ane $ay to esca!e the uni&erse in $hich e&erything is a in# of "e#ia cartoon is to $rite about the !art of your life that #oesn't feel li e a cartoon, an# ho$ the cartoon co"es into it.< /or eGa"!le, nobo#y gro$ing u! in 7alifornia really stu#ie# 7alifornia history 4an# there are !robably a lot of !roble"s $ith this analogy9, but #uring the ti"e the 0ietna" ,ar $as going on, . $as rea#ing about the history of the $est in the 1-th century, $hich $as in "any $ays a lan# grab. . $as thin ing that our history #oesn't loo at our o$n &iolence, the &iolence in our o$n !ast, an# $e go out an# re!eat it so"e!lace else. Ane of the !oe"s that tries to thin about !olitics in /iel# Gui#e is a !oe" calle# ;Palo Alto, the 8arshes< that . $rote !artly because . #isco&ere# in "y rea#ing that the #aughter of the guy $ho began the 2an /rancisco rancho lan# grab, $hose fiancN $as "ur#ere# by Lit 7arter an# a cou!le of Pa$nee .n#ians in the ree#s off 2an Ouentin #uring the *ear /lag ,ar, retire# to a ranch in Re#$oo# 7ity near Palo Alto, $here . $as stu#ying. (hat ranch ha# beco"e the Do$ 7he"icals na!al" "anufacturing !lant an# the !lace fro" $hich so"e of the na!al" $as being shi!!e# through the Gol#en Gate on freighters to 0ietna". 2o, $e #on't no$ our o$n story. Guernica) (hat's frightening. Robert Hass) *ut to ans$er the original %uestion, Poun# #escribe# !oetry as original research in language, an# :ust as for"al eG!eri"ent in !oetry has to try things an# has to go too far, so #oes eG!eri"ent $ith $riting about !olitics in !oetry an# $hat the !olitics of !oetry is. Guernica) Do you feel as though $riting about !olitical sub:ects is a res!onsibilityF Robert Hass) Robert Duncan has this $on#erful #efinition of res!onsibilityH he sai#, ;.t "eans ee!ing the ability to res!on#.< . thin that "y res!onsibility to "y art is to try to get it right or to !ush the boun#aries of $hat .'" able to #o in any $ay. 2o . thin that $ere . in the "i##le of an obsession to $rite about, say, su##en oa #eath in 7alifornia or "y gran#chil#ren or ti"e an# "e"ory an# ho$ they loo $hen you get to be in your siGties, an# . thought, ;,ell, yes but !eo!le are #ying e&ery #ay in *agh#a#,< . $oul#n't feel guilty about not $riting about *agh#a# if . #i#n't ha&e any goo# i#eas about ho$ to $rite about it. *ut . fin# . #o thin about that. . fin# "yself rea#ing *recht, 8ilos+, $riters $ho trie# to !ut !olitics an# the !olitical res!onsibility of !oetry, at #ifferent ti"es of their $riting li&es, at the center of their thought.

Guernica) Ho$ #i# $or ing $ith 8ilos+ affect this i#ea or this a!!roachF Robert Hass) ,ell, it "a#e "e thin about it in t$o $ays. Ane is that he belonge# to a generation of ?uro!ean $riters $ho thought that !olitical res!onsibility $as !art of the #eal. He $asn't ha!!y about it. He ha# a sort of ironic attitu#e to$ar# his $on#erful !assage in his ;(reatise on Poetry< $hen he's in A"erica after ,,.. an# thin ing, ;Go#, . coul# stay here an# beco"e an A"erican !oetH . coul# beco"e a !e#agogue of !ears IlaughterJ an# ha&e nothing but the sub:ects of seG an# #eath to $rite about, an# . $oul#n't ha&e to $rite about history an# the nature of e&il an# the nature of &iolence an# $hat's in the hu"an heart.< . thin in one $ay it's an ironic ta e on 2te&ens as an inheritor of the tra#ition of 0alNry an# of gran# high sy"bolist !oetryCthat you can ai" for !erfection if you stay a$ay fro" the har# sub:ects. *ut if you're going to #o $hat 8ilos+ #oes, you can't ai" for !erfectionH your $or is going to be "essy an# o!inionate#. . re"e"ber on one occasion he'# $ritten a !oe" about the 2erbs in Loso&o or about the ?uro!eans not res!on#ing to $hat $as going on in *osnia, an# it $as a bit of a rant. (he 6e$ 1or (i"es $ante# to !ublish it on their o!-e# !age, an# $e $ere $or ing on it, an# he sort of turne# to "eC. $as :ust trying to be hel!ful an# not co""enting on itCan# he sai#, ;2o $hat #o you thin of this !oe"F< An# . hesitate# for a secon# to thin $hat . $as going to say, an# he sai#, ;AL, $ell . no$ it's not a &ery goo# !oe", but so"eti"es you ha&e to be less asha"e# about $riting a ba# !oe" than you $oul# be about being silent.< Guernica) He really felt that he ha# to $rite about !olitics, felt it as a res!onsibilityF Robert Hass) ,ell, he felt that it "attere# to s!ea u!. Guernica) 1our !oe" ;*ush's ,ar< #eals $ith !olitics but also has a &ery !ersonal a!!eal. .t starts $ith the $riting of the !oe", an# then you bring in the beautiful i"age of $aiting for the train $ith the cherry blosso"s, an# then you go into all of the historical an# conte"!orary i"agery of $ar. .t see"s as though !erha!s that "el#ing of the !ersonal an# the !olitical coul# be an ans$er to ho$ to $rite about these things. Robert Hass) 8aybe. Another !roble" about $riting about !olitics in the ;age of globali+ation< is that so "uch of the &iolence in the for" of $ar an# also in the for"s of institutional &iolence Cs$eatsho!s, chil# labor, &icti"i+ation of !eo!le econo"icallyCha!!ens else$here an# out of sight. An# $hen $e #o no$ about it an# nee# to $itness it, it's al$ays "e#iate# by i"ages of one in# or another, so you're in# of stuc trying to $rite about $hat it's li e trying to be you li&ing your life thin ing about an# eG!eriencing this stuff in that $ay. (hat is, one $ay to esca!e the uni&erse in $hich e&erything is a in# of "e#ia cartoon is to $rite about the !art of your life that #oesn't feel li e a cartoon, an# ho$ the cartoon co"es into it. Guernica) 2o are !oets, as 2helley asserte#, the unac no$le#ge# legislators of their ti"eF Robert Hass) 6oP IlaughterJ 2helley is $rong about that. An# . #on't thin he'# gi&en "uch thought at all to legislating. . thin that $hat art can #o is refresh our sense of :ustice, $a e us u! to $hat $e'&e ta en for grante# in the !olitical real", as in the other real"s. /or instance, hai u

is an art that see"s #e#icate# to "a ing !eo!le !ay attention to the !reciousness an# !articularity of e&ery "o"ent of eGistence. . thin that !oetry can #o that. (he !roble" $ith #escribing !oets as legislators is that at that le&el of !oliticsC!olitics as !olitical in&entionC !oets ha&e no s!ecial s ills an# are not a!t to. .t's clear that there has to be so"e !lay bet$een the &itality of in&ention in econo"ic life an# so"e regulation of it, an# in so"e $ays the great i#eological $ars of the 20th century that cost so "any li&es ha# to #o $ith $hether to ha&e "anage# econo"ies #irecte# by go&ern"ent or econo"ies #irecte# by the free "o&e"ent of ca!ital, $hich is only !artially sub:ect to go&ern"ent regulation. 2o, #o !oets ha&e any insight into $hat's the right ratioF . #oubt it, but . thin that they can be a$a e to $hat the en#s are. ,here !olitics is concerne#, . thin !oets ha&e to be !rag"atists, !hiloso!hical !rag"atists, in the sense that ,illia" Ja"es, . thin , sai# about !rinci!les) ;.f you as "e if . ha&e this or that !rinci!le, tell "e $hat its conse%uences are, an# then .'ll tell you $hether . ha&e that !rinci!le or not.< . thin that !oets can say, ;,hat $e $ant is for e&erybo#y on earth to $a e u! free fro" fear an# $ith access to "e#icine an# clean $ater an# e#ucation.< *ut . #on't thin !oets ha&e any s!ecial insight on ho$ to get there. An# the 20th century is a !retty goo# recor# of that because so "any of the great !oets $ere 2talinists) 0alle:o, 6eru#a, ?luar#, Aragon, etc. (hey $rote their o#es to 5enin an# 2talin. (hey glorifie# so"e of the "ost &iolent an# grotes%ue #ictatorshi!s of the 20th century. An# a lot of the ones $ho $ere not 2talinists $ere fascists or fascist sy"!athi+ers. 2o $hen it ca"e to $hat $as the right $ay to get there, the !oets $ere $rong "ore often than not, $hich "a es the !oets $ho :ust #i#n't tal about !olitics, li e ,allace 2te&ens, or the !oets $ho $ere in# of anarchic #e"ocrats li e 5a$rence or ,illia"s loo really goo#. Guernica) An# their $or stoo# u!. Robert Hass) 1es, although there's a goo# #eal in Poun#'s an# ?liot's !oetry that stoo# u! e&en though their !olitics $ere #e!lorable. Ar Poun#'s &ery #e!lorable, ?liot's in# of #e!lorable. Guernica) . fin# Poun# #ifficult to teach because . al$ays feel as though . ha&e to inclu#e the ca&eat that he $as a &irulent anti-2e"ite an# fascist sy"!athi+er. Robert Hass) 1es. *ut on the other han#, . thin that one has to try. Another thing that 8ilos+ says at the beginning of the ;(reatise on Poetry< is that he ha# beco"e asha"e# of !oetry because it $as as if in his ti"e all the great contests $ere fought in !rose an# !oetry $as the !lace of !ri&ate feeling. His o$n !lace as a !oet an# a re!orter on his o$n !ri&ate feelings, his ar#ors an# re&ulsions an# fears an# longingsCit see"e# to hi" a bit in#ecent. He sai# one stan+a of $ell-$ritten &erse ought to bear "ore $eight than a $hole shelf-loa# of !rose. Guernica) (here's a goal. Robert Hass) Ane of the things . felt li e $ith ;*ush's ,ar< is that it $asn't so "uch the argu"ent of $ea!ons of "ass #estruction that "a#e "e feel so cra+y about the $arCe&en though . ne$, an# al"ost anybo#y . ne$ also ne$, that there $eren't any $ea!ons of "ass #estructionCbut that he $as able to stan# u! in !ublic an# say that he, !ersonally, ha# "a#e the #ecision to liberate the .ra%i !eo!le. (hat "eant he "a#e the #ecision to getClet's say he ha#

conser&ati&e esti"ates at that ti"eC10,000 to 100,000 innocent .ra%i ci&ilians ille# in or#er to liberate the nation of .ra% an# bring the" #e"ocracy. 5et's say that the Pentagon tol# hi" that they thought that they coul# bring this thing off $ith only 10,000 ci&ilian casualties. At least, he ought to ha&e ha# to line the" all u! on the ,hite House la$n an# shoot 10,000 !eo!le an# say, ;1ou #i#n't get to &ote on this, but the rest of .ra% is going to get to be free, an# . thin this is the greater goo#.< .t :ust "a#e "e cra+y, that argu"ent, an# . #i#n't see anybo#y contesting it. 8aybe the left #i#n't bother to contest it because it $as so outrageous, but . :ust $ante# to say so"e!lace in !lain ?nglish that those !eo!le #i#n't get to &ote on their #eaths.

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