In poems I am trying to find my bearings through a world that at times feels remote and inchoate and struck blank with noise. I would like to place myself in a field of deep attention, and out of that attention come to feel and regard with more acute understanding what is there. I write to be less hopelessly myself, to sense something more expansive than where I speak from. This at least is my hope. If I could do it in language, I would cross over into a world where isolation falls away and separateness is eased, where there is no need to be numb in order to get by—and every silence is instructive, every perception part of a widening movement of voice and light and air, so that it is possible to be fully there, it is possible to feel the very shape of change.

Wallace Stevens stepped out onto the blue-gray beach he dreamed in his head. He found a way to walk there, in the presence of quieting patterns, despite the basic broken loneliness that stays with you in your dreams. Elizabeth Bishop fought off a great shapeless darkness by concentrating her attention on quartz grains and crumbs and weathered wood, the subtle perceptual folds of experience that might be backed by a light unavailable even to her eyes. Her patience and discretion held her to the world. And T.S. Eliot, despite his terror of other people, made his poems into expansive, ritual spaces, cathedrals of dusk and inwardness where he could feel grief among others and could stay, a little while, in their presence. These poets thought in their poems. They could not separate physical pain from its mental shape, or physical joy from the freedom of wandering far within an idea. In their poems they struggled always to reassemble themselves, to locate those floating invisible powers that might hold them together, hold them to a place. And they did this through language that was “unnatural,” far from ordinary speech and its hallmark directness, because they were wary of speech that simplifies our experience and so corrodes our experience. I don’t have the words. If I could, I would, as John Berger has written, “[defy] the space that separates.”