D: Well, I have more lately than I ever did before, and it’s been of great advantage to me. “The far orchards blazing with slant”—something like that. “The far orchards blazing with slant.”
S: I can see the light.
D: Yeah. There’s a lot you can do with that approach. I gave the Peters-Rushton seminars at the University of Virginia on Hart Crane some years back. [Telephone rings and Dickey answers.] We were talking about the language-oriented poetry versus the so-called reality poetry. As I say, beginning with Puella, I began to work more with the language side of things, and I’ve never regretted it. People say, “Oh, God, Dickey’s poetry has fallen off—the late work.” Not so, it’s just changed. If you don’t do what they expect of you, they think you are declining. It’s not so—you are growing, or at least you are changing. That’s necessary. I see so many American poets who had a little success with doing a thing a certain way early on, some of them hardly more than kids, and they are now old men, and they have never changed because they were afraid to tamper with what worked for them when they were young. Therefore, they haven’t grown; they haven’t deepened. Some of these poets who are skillful and likable, and so on, have never been anything but that. They don’t move you. They are just skillful. They are like these southern girls who move to the north, and everybody says to them, “Now my dear, whatever you do, don’t ever lose that wonderful southern accent,” with the result that in a couple of months they are talking like Amos and Andy.
S: Let me ask you a question about the ending of To the White Sea, and I want to set it up by reading just a little part of that. At the end of To the White Sea, Muldrow says—and I don’t read this as well as you do…
D: That’s all right.
S: “I was in it and part of it. I matched it all. And I will be everywhere in it from now on. You will be able to hear me, just like you’re hearing me now, everywhere in it, for the first time and the last, as soon as I close my eyes.” My question is…
D: What happens to him?
S: Well, that too, but also, can we read this possibly as symbolic of what happens to the writer over the course of his career, becoming the word itself?
D: You might. You might. Yes, you might easily do that. Or, it might be what happens to the soul. Actually, what happens to him—you’ve read the whole thing haven’t you?
D: Muldrow talks some in there, sometimes to somebody else, but mostly to himself, and he believes that…he’s lived as a hunter his whole life, since the cradle practically, as a hunter in the snow, in the whiteness and desolation, wind and cold, which he feels is his domain. And what happens to him at the end where that posse is shooting at him in that shack where he is staying and the bullets are going through him and everything—what happens—he’s always said that if you achieve the perfect camouflage, then you become where you are. You don’t have your own shape anymore; you’re just the environment that you have blended with, that this time you have blended with perfectly, so that there is nothing of you left. You have become where you are and have achieved the perfect camouflage by matching it. You have become it. You don’t just look like it, you are it. That has happened to him. He says also that the only way you can see some animals—their camouflage is so good—is by their eyes. But, if they close their eyes, that’s