Last week, C.K. Williams gave the annual Poetry Society lecture in London where he quoted Goethe who said (this is paraphrased — Williams said the words quickly, and I scribbled down what I could): “The poet’s trance is the most eloquent armour in his armoury.”
I have been thinking about the poet’s trance — that room we enter (or room that enters us) in the middle of, or just before, writing a poem: a necessary space fusing silence and music, detachment and emotion, calm and energy. It’s a room of stirring clarity and peaceful vitality. The Goethe quote is not unlike Wordsworth’s “Poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity.”
It’s a state that poets wait for, long for. We fear it will not come.