…the desires of the masses are in a wider sense more human than those of the educated classes. It is therefore not surprising that the masses of the people—whose attachment to the past is comparatively slight and who work—respond more quickly and more energetically to the urgent demands of the hour than the educated classes, and that the ethical ideals of the best among them are human ideals, not those of a segregated class. For this reason I should always be more inclined to accept, in regard to fundamental human problems, the judgment of the masses rather than the judgment of the intellectuals, which is much more certain to be warped by unconscious control of traditional ideas. I do not mean to say that the judgment of the masses would be acceptable in regard to every problem of human life, because there are many which, by their technical nature, are beyond their understanding. Nor do I believe that the details of the right solution of a problem can always be found by the masses; but I feel strongly that the problem itself, as felt by them, and the ideal that they want to see realized, is a safer guide for our conduct than the ideal of the intellectual group that stands under the ban of an historical tradition that dulls their feeling for the needs of the day.
Three poems by Kasischke published in NER are available online:
From “They Say”:
one-twelfth of our lives is wasted
standing in a line.
The sacred path of that.
As an undergrad at Middlebury, I was one of the many students who hung on Cohen’s every word in class, but I suspect I was the only one to hunt down every word he’d written — ordering back issues of Story, Glimmer Train and New England Review, smuggling them hungrily into my dorm room like the desserts I’d sneak from the dining hall.
I read his stories again and again, then swallowed them whole when, to my delight, they were released in book form, and later I taught them to my own students.
At Brian Brodeur’s excellent site How a Poem Happens, writers talk about the genesis and themes of their work. Leslie Harrison discusses “The Day Beauty Divorced Meaning,” from her Bakeless Prize winning book Displacement:
Could you talk about fact and fiction and how this poem negotiates the two?
This poem seems to work the way a lot of my poems do—as a kind of fiction masquerading as fact. Fiction dressed up as fact for the costume ball with its sequined mask and slinky dress, so it can sneak in the door and dance with all the true things poems always wants to dance with. But isn’t this what metaphor is, in a way, fiction masquerading as fact seducing truth?