Interviewer: How does a poem come to you? Is it something that is given, that comes from outside?
Bonnefoy: Nothing has ever been given to me. I do not know a situation in which a poem has been dictated by an “inspiration,” that it has been preceded by the feeling or the thought it’s going to express. What is usual for me is the desire to find myself once again within a specifically poetic idiom. For this to happen it is necessary that words come to my mind free from the conceptual network that is present and active in ordinary speech. […] At the same time these word associations, which are the beginning of poetic labor, must not be gratuitous, unrelated to personal reality. I have to expect them from my unconscious speech, which luckily appears as soon as one summons it by putting pen to paper, bringing verbal fragments that are at once enigmatic and rich with my past, my unknown present, and my future. So I jot down these sentences. I listen to them. I see them making signs to each other, and thanks to them I begin to understand needs, memories, fantasies which are within me. This is the beginning of the poem…. Often the title comes at the end, like a retroactive statement.
Bonnefoy on the Beginning of the Poem
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