Articles & Reviews

Two Letters to Cid Corman

By Stephen Morrissey

...I think the common ground that I share with you is Chinese and Japanese poetry and the feeling behind it. I am obviously not an authority on this poetry as you are, but I have been influenced by what I have read of their work and I intuitively feel very close to this poetry, more so than to some Western poetry. I am aware that poetry is a lifelong "discipline" (not my favourite word if used in its corrupted form of "force", but its real meaning of to learn, disciple, etc., I agree with). If I can write one good book in my lifetime then I'll be happy; and when I read Han-shan, Tu Fu or Basho, or Li Po or whoever, or Blake, I feel these people have been kissed by the gods; it is like hearing Mozart or Beethoven, the gods themselves. This one book is enough but there is also the problem of making a living. On the front cover of one of my diaries (which I began writing when I began writing poetry in 1965) I have a sentence of yours: "No one can make poetry who doesn't live it everyday." Yes, to live it and be with it everyday; I can see my whole life passing in that... (September 10, 1983)

...I find your comments regarding the content of the book (Family Album, Caitlin Press, Vancouver, 1989) quite illuminating. "It can't be that bad", you write. This is interesting because basically you are denying the experiences that went into the book. How do you know that it really wasn't that "bad" or even worse? I find that many people are quick to deny the experiences of other people. This seems to be a part of "human nature". I do discuss failure a lot. But this theme isn't my choice or invention, it came to me and demanded my attention. I would certainly like to write about other things than failure and death. But there is no choice involved, just writing. I feel that despite the "death bed" aspect of the book, my work is basically an affirmation of life, as is all of my work. Just the fact that the book was written, that it exists, is an affirmation of the creative spirit and the desire to find meaning and order in life. But all serious poets must be dealing with these issues, aren't they? (March 5, 1990)

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