figures of the zodiac, I look
at my old body
and I know that all my youthful
cover me, clothe me with age's
cobwebbed skin, my belly swollen as if
I were illicitly pregnant,
and the sight of my own nakedness strips me
of any goddess qualities I might
ever have possessed."
And so, in "Showering Behind the Zodiac's Curtain," a kind of resolution, a kind of cinematic denouement, a washing away of youthful and not-so-youthful follies.
I've been trying here to get into the thorny question of how a poet develops. I've taken a few leaps-of-faith and leaps in the dark, and I'm hoping you can set me straight. I hope you can talk about process now--how you write, what inspires you, how you've managed to maintain a vital 50-year career as a poet. What do you recommend to your students, to youthful mariners just embarking on this, sometimes perilous, voyage? How does one keep a steady keel?
DW : Thinking about the quotations you've selected and the importance that I have always placed on self-criticism, I need to offer the word: balance.
A fellow undergraduate at Berkeley ('56-'60) once bemusedly said to me, talking about that great uncertainty, being a young poet, "Diane, I don't understand how you can believe in yourself so completely." I've remembered this over the years, because I recognized the truth of his statement, the minute he uttered it. I do believe in myself, I have since childhood, and though I constantly question myself, try to look at my failures honestly, try to be a stronger, better person, at root I believe in myself. Being born poor and from an uneducated family, I learned early that if things went wrong, no one would fix them. I had to say to myself, "How can I fix this, what did I do wrong? If I did nothing wrong, it doesn't matter; I still have to be the one who finds a solution."
Self-belief=Self-questioning. If they are in balance, you can progress with some success in your personal life.
Poems have many functions, but one of them is problem-solving. My process is to take some material, which generates a question and that interests me, and try to transform it. You ask what inspires me? Books, movies, food, gambling; female objects of beauty such as butterflies, jewels, flowers, shoes; male objects of beauty such as motorcycles, carpentry & tools; hands; feet; mouths; the Garden Myth; the Orpheus Myth; gold and silver; sun and moon! Things inspire me, though beauty as an idea also can fill me with something to say.