From The Afterlife of the Voice, an Interview with Peter Gizzi:
I occasionally have difficulty separating my work from the world, but I have come to see, over the course of these years, that it is a world—mine, albeit messy, magisterial, sullen, ecstatic, skeptical, limited, lyric, and in love. It’s a private, untutored, asymmetrical, and homespun experience with both style and form. For instance, the negotiations of loneliness and vulnerability are formal concerns. The need to connect the inner life with the social is a formal concern, or the invisible with the material, or the staging of private denouement within an economic political reality. None of these are new conditions of poesis, but still they exist as formal problems, as in how to address the momentary and time itself. Maybe it is simply a form of being awake to the polyphony of worlds, or words. I’d like to think that being a poet is a form of disobedience, a form of civil disobedience—perhaps because I’ve signed up to be a mystery in the face of violence.
And I feel I’ve become an ethnographer of my nervous system, that dark chemistry of the body—dark in the sense of illegible, even with all the new sciences—and the effect it has on expression and form. This might sound crazy, but in the act of locating a ground in this otherwise dark process, I came to an understanding that was, for me, revelatory—that the sensory data recorded in my poetry is both a fiction of consciousness and the physical reality of my nervous system. Hence the William James epigraph for this book, “The world contains consciousness as well as atoms and the one must be written down as just as essential as the other.”
My nervous system is populated not only by the people in my life, but also the people I’ve read all my life. These books and these voices and these sounds that have constituted my imagination. As I have said elsewhere, in many ways, my bibliography is my autobiography. Being a writer, what I have always believed is that if one doesn’t love other writers, filmmakers, painters, artists, and poets, one will never love oneself. If I don’t love them with wild abandon—which doesn’t preclude study, rigor, and critical thought—I’ll never know myself, never discover myself.