A Faithful Account of Where I Live: The Letters of Cid Corman and William Bronk

18 January 67

Dear Cid,

You are correct about those two nodding errors of punctuation and I am grateful for your alertness in correcting them. I never use the typewriter willingly and perhaps as a consequence do not use it well; but it should also be admitted that even in longhand I often neglect periods. No doubt Freud would know why.

I am glad to have your opposition to my poems more clearly stated in this letter though it comes at a time when I have ceased to be able to reply very adequately as I would like to do. I have less and less sense of myself as a discrete entity, and of "my position" as even expressible in words let alone defensible. Bob Hawley-as you may well know-has just reissued Duncan's early poems with a statement by Duncan about how he came to poetry and what he used it for then. [A book of resemblances : poems: 1950-1953. New Haven : H. Wenning, 1966] There is hardly a statement in that first paragraph of his account which is not opposite to what I would say of myself and my own work if I were to say it. I never had a clue to what Duncan was doing before this; though obviously we were doing different things. Likewise with this letter of yours. When you have berated me as you have been doing now for several years, I have had no clue as to why you should berate me except from spite and cruelty. So I have been hurt and bewildered and unable to reply to you. What had I done to call out that response? I didn't have any idea. And the fact that once (I had the old letters as evidence) you had found my poems to your taste made it only more puzzling. But this letter I had from you today helps me to know across what field we face each other from opposite sides. (Though as I said up the page a ways I don't know anymore if I stand anywhere.)

Belief and reason. Yes, as you say, I am clearly doomed by my very approach. You know, maybe, someone who isn't? But I'm sure you do know the old story of the inveterate gambler who was warned away from a certain game on the grounds that it was crooked and replied that he knew it was crooked but that it was the only game and town. Belief and reason, God help us, are the only game in town. Who knows better than I know, how, --so to speak-crooked they are. But this is what it is to be human. I do not understand your saying that you do not value either of them and I can't begin to cope with your saying it but it is a position which is definable as position and I can have some clue how someone in that position might think all my talk about them a dreary nonsense. Of course, of course! So that's what he means. Perhaps I should have sensed this long ago. But I didn't-any more than I sensed how Duncan could have a definable position from which he had written his poetry so diverse from mine. But be assured I don't identify with Coleridge's statement either and it seems to me also a description of some- thing that doesn't happen, at least to me.

Surely it can't surprise you or present any great obstacle that "so many words in [my] poems contradict themselves." Would it be about human experience otherwise? You aren't that na´ve. And the example you give is just a failure to understand my statement at that point which is not (other than technically) a contradiction: We must assume centrality and concentricity and speak from that position because otherwise (i.e. if we are eccentric) nothing we say matters. (I am coming closer and closer now to the idea that nothing we say (or do) matters anyway)

We cling to an idea of ourselves and an idea of the world and are reluctant to let go even when the ideas are not really tenable any longer. If you have passed so far beyond this that the exhortation "Let go" no longer represents for you any conflict then of course this poem would seem trivial and unnecessary to you as it perhaps does.

We have a concept of "real" and a concept of "time" though we may find it impossible to put anything very big in either category and expect it to stay there. But this is what it is about - this is what confronts us -- this is the face of the seam. "Others" is a concept of the same sort and so is "I" or "self." My poetry is about all of those things of which we have concepts but which we find non-existent or unapproachable, and about our experience of finding them so. It would appear that you would like me to forget about that experience - to mature out of it -as boys are exhorted to do - and go on to other things. But to me there are no other things to go on to and to pretend that there are would be the most desperate kind of evasion, the dreamiest escapism and eccentricity. But, as you suggest, this gets me nowhere. I wish you joy of your antipodes.

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