Another thing, there are two kinds of poet here. One kind of poet feels very little apparently, or it isn’t accessible to him. He has to hack at it. He has to build the poem, and he comes back revision after revision, working his energy up to where he has it. The other kind of poetry is doing just the opposite. He has so much anxiety inside, so he’s trying to dissolve it away, and instead of making large, hacking gestures to try to build energy into a system, he’s being easy and quiet because he knows more is going on than he can handle, and he’s trying to dissolve...
I am certainly the opposite. Mr. Ashbery is in the opposite. But these two kinds of poet will never understand each other.
PF: So you don’t do a lot of revision?
Ammons: You know, one does everything. And in my short poems, I go over them and over them testing them out. Often, I don’t change more than a word or two, but sometimes the whole poem is radically changed.
But it is true that for the last ten years in particular, I have practiced over and over, poem by poem, to try to see if I could reach the absolute crazy points where what is happening in my mind and what is happening on the page seem to be identical. That’s the thing I’m working toward. The problem is that once you get there, it no longer seems necessary to write.