So when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn’t be read in school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs a tough language – and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers – a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.
JW: I really think, well… Let’s not call this “sexism.” Let’s call it an “asymmetrical judgment” between men and women. If Henry Miller writes “Tropic of Cancer” and calls the hero “Henry Miller,” he’s still allowed to say these are novels, and none of the guys question it. Because a man is allowed to be bigger. A woman isn’t. She can only possibly talk about herself.
BNR: Meanwhile, Anaïs Nin is just writing “journals.”
JW: Journals, right, journals! If I want to use myself as a fictional character, why can’t I? Over the years, it’s been one of the most frustrating things. If you call yourself “Jeanette” in the novel, then it’s all about you. And I’m thinking, No. This is a person I’ve invented. Why shouldn’t I? That’s what I mean by an asymmetrical judgment because Paul Auster, Henry Miller, Milan Kundera, any of those writers who quote themselves directly, Philip Roth, for God’s sake! We all say, “That’s so great! That’s so interesting!” But if you do that as a woman, it becomes confessional and autobiographical.