Thursday, June 6, 2013

Two Voices


BERRYMAN: Well, being a poet is a funny kind of jazz. It doesn’t get you anything. It doesn’t get you any money, or not much, and it doesn’t get you any prestige, or not much. It’s just something you do.

INTERVIEWER: Why?

BERRYMAN: That’s a tough question. I’ll tell you a real answer, I’m taking your question seriously, This comes from Hamann, quoted by Kierkegaard. There are two voices, and the first voice says, “Write!” and the second voice says, “For whom?” I think that’s marvelous; he doesn’t question the imperative, you see that. And the first voice says, “For the dead whom thou didst love”; again the second voice doesn’t question it; instead it says, “Will they read me?” And the first voice says, “Aye, for they return as posterity.” Isn’t that good?

-- Quoted in "Henry Doesn't Have Any Bats" at the Paris Review blog; as of this writing, it has a byline for Casey N. Cep, but a bio for Catherine Lacey; one of them says, in the piece:

All work moves inevitably toward other people.