Answer: Partly, of course, from my own experience -- like my father’s death when I was just sixteen or having lived both in New York City and in the countryside of Vermont whose landscape provided me with a multitude of images. And partly from my own imagination, the source of which I do not really comprehend, but for which I give thanks.
Question:What for you is the main relationship between the meaning of words and the sound of words?
Answer: For me a poem must always be a musical composition as well as a philosophical mediation or a portrait of a character or the description of a landscape or just the evocation of a mood. For me, if a poem is not musically expressive, it is not employing the full lyrical resources of language.
Question: What would you say are the overriding themes or concerns that have informed your writing poetry for over half a century?
Answer: I’d say the themes of family intimacy -- parents and children and marriage -- and the related theme of friendship. I would add to that the enjoyment of nature within the poignant and excruciating awareness of the ephemerality of everything we hold precious. I believe that music and laughter (from parody to puns) are the main powers that enhance our lives and help us to endure. I believe that laughter can express a groan-up attitude toward adversity.
Question: Many of your poems are in narrative form; they tell stories and have plots. What is it about the dramatic monologue in particular that interests you?
Answer: My early poetry through WAKING TO MY NAME, was based mainly on personal experience, even though I took delight in embellishing my literal autobiographical history for what I considered to be the needs of the poem itself -- the truth of how a poem feels to the reader. Later on, with FACES IN A SINGLE TREE, I started to write dramatic monologues that were spoken by people other than myself, people with different sensibilities than my own and different emotional issues to be confronted. It was exhilarating to enhance my own life by inhabiting the lives of invented characters.
Question: Other main sources of wonder and speculation in much of your later poetry are grounded in scientific issues such as Big Bang theory and Darwinian evolution. What has made these concepts so personal and urgent to you?