Posted on June 29, 2015
This conversation between Czesław Miłosz and Robert Faggen, part of a collaboration between 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center and The Paris Review, was recorded live at 92Y on October 4, 1993. We are able to share the recording thanks to a generous gift in memory of Christopher Lightfoot Walker, longtime friend of the Poetry Center and The Paris Review. Here is an excerpt from the full interview that ran in The Paris Review as The Art of Poetry No. 70 in the winter of 1994.
Do you feel, as Eliot did, that poetry is an escape from personality?
This has been a constant problem for me. Literature is born out of a desire to be truthful—not to hide anything and not to present oneself as somebody else. Yet when you write there are certain obligations, what I call laws of form. You cannot tell everything. Of course, it’s true that people talk too much and without restraint. But poetry imposes certain restraints. Nevertheless, there is always the feeling that you didn’t unveil yourself enough. A book is finished and appears and I feel, Well, next time I will unveil myself. And when the next book appears, I have the same feeling. And then your life ends, and that’s it.
There are confessions in a number of your poems. Do you feel that confession leads to anything?
I don’t know. I have never been psychoanalyzed. I am very skeptical as far as psychiatry is concerned. My dream is to be on a couch and to tell everything, but I wouldn’t be able to, probably, and besides it wouldn’t lead anywhere.