The Italian philosopher Vico had this theory that time moves more in a spiral than it does in a line. He believes that’s why we repeat ourselves, including our tragedies, and that if we are more faithful to this movement, we can move away from the epicenter through distance and time, but we have to confront it every time. I’ve been thinking about trauma—how it’s repetitive, and how we recreate it, and how memory is fashioned by creation. Every time we remember, we create new neurons, which is why memory is so unreliable. I thought, “Well if the Greek root for ‘poet’ is ‘creator,’ then to remember is to create, and, therefore, to remember is to be a poet.” I thought it was so neat. Everyone’s a poet, as long as they remember.
∆ Ocean Vuong, What’s your mood when you write?
A poem, to my mind, creates visible or auditory forms for something that is invisible, which is the feeling, or the emotion, or the metaphysical content of a moment. Now it may also include action, but its attack is what I call the ‘vertical’ attack, and this may be a little bit clearer if you will contrast it to what I would call the ‘horizontal’ attack of a drama, which is concerned with the development from situation to situation, whereas a poem is concerned with the development, let’s say, within a very small situation from feeling to feeling.