for the poem from "outside" in the form of a "dictation" (Blaser 272). Instead of controlling or manipulating that material, the poet follows it step by step through the process of composition, in what he called a "serial poem." In "Imaginary Elegies" (1959), Spicer piles words onto each other as if they were objects, questioning the power of poetry to do anything more than to provide visual images, as if it was "almost blind like a camera." He moves from there to God's "big eye" and then to all of creation, the Sun, the Moon, heaven, and hell, all unexplainable because, "Most things happen in twilight," before he offers a warning about the enormous responsibility of the poet: "Unbind the dreamers. / Poet, / Be like God." That is, the poet must lead the reader to the "real" by presenting a lasting image in an act of imaginative creation, the poem itself. In verse IV, he repeats, "Time does not finish a poem"; it cannot be finished without the reader's active participation in re-creating what the poet imagined. The poem ends as the speaker transforms poetry itself into "Po-eatery," something to be consumed by the reader.
One of Spicer's most prevalent symbols is the ghost, a magical figure that brings together life and death, interior and exterior, the past and the present, and that can, as Norman M. Finkelstein says, "hint at truths the poet barely wishes to accept" (89). For example, Spicer reveals his ambivalent feeling about the past in the second of "Six Poems for Poetry Chicago" (1966): Past events are always present metaphorically, "Which evokes Eliot and then evokes suspicion. Ghosts all of them. Doers of no good." Spicer's irony is apparent by his allusion to T. S. eliot's famous essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1919) in which Eliot stresses the importance of literary tradition to the writer (see ars poeticas). Because the present is formed from the past, the past is always part of the present. However, past writers are also "ghosts," never fully present, and therefore, "doers of no good." Finally, the speaker tries to envision himself as part of that procession of time: "Rest us as corpses / We poets / Vain words," but he is overwhelmed by the "impossible dimensions" of that realization. Still any communication must come from the past, because the words have already been uttered; as Spicer says in After Lorca, "That is how we dead men write to each other," and indeed the "Lorca" to whom
Spicer writes is already a "ghost." For Spicer, things correspond rather than connect, and that allows the "real" to be communicated "across language" and "across time" (After Lorca), which is why his poetry speaks so powerfully today.
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