From the second annual Poets Forum, presented by the Academy of American Poets on November 8, 2008, at New York University in New York City. On the first panel of the day, Victor Hernández Cruz, Lyn Hejinian, and Gary Snyder answered questions about "Poetry and Place" from Executive Director Tree Swenson.


I'm very interested in the absolute, radical unsettling of places that a poem can exemplify. I'm interested in maximal heterogeneity and unassimilability. I very much like what Victor [Hernández Cruz] said about feeling foreign and out of place when in place. To some degree, I feel that anyone that feels in place can only do it properly by being out of place—and keeping those two in juxtaposition.

In any case, the point or the place that I would want to point to as absolute interiority of a work of writing is what Andre Breton called the point sublime, which is the point of encounter in which unlike things encounter each other and create an extraordinary, albeit usually a very momentary place within a work—if that makes any sense. And I think you hear it in the Stein, in those copulas that she puts of:

"an elephant and a strict occasion,"

and if you linger on that juxtaposition, there is a moment in which an elephant and a strict occasion are absolutely in place together, logically. And then the logic explodes.