The Fifth World

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Nearly all of the poems in this collection were written within a period of three months, consecutively, one a day. I deliberately set myself the task of writing a poem a day for as long as I could sustain the effort and keep my creative energy flowing. I had before in my writing career brief periods of intense creativity where I wrote poems every day; for example, when I was finishing my sonnet sequence, Mediterranean Sonnets, I wrote fourteen sonnets in as many days. These are memorable creative episodes because they don’t come often and the poems deriving from such an intense focused activity are always unified and consistent in a qualitative manner, by form and technique, metrics, and poetic pulsion. The imagination grasps things with unusual claritas. These sessions are always pleasurable because—as Seamus Heaney once said to me after he himself had experienced such a period of creativity and productivity—they bolster a bit the poet’s belief in his own genius. Not that genius should be measured by the bucketful, but there is a certain confirmed value in sustained performance.

Many poets, of course, have achieved similar and greater feats of poetic muscularity, in the modern era Rilke for one, in writing Sonnets to Orpheus (February 2 – 5, 1922, at Chateau de Muzot in Switzerland), and William Carlos Williams, who wrote something every day for a year for Kora in Hell: Improvisations (1917- September 1918; published in 1920), and this while he was working every day as a pediatrician and general physician in his “other” profession. Williams vowed not to change a word as written; of course this did not happen, as his critical faculties prevailed, as have mine in this collection. I am myself pleased and surprised by how many of these poems stand as first written.

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