Writers Talking on TV (1989)

Writers Talking on TV (1989)

The following notes are from two PBS TV programs hosted by journalist Bill Moyers, both from the series The Power of the Word, and another PBS interview program. 

(9/29) Featured poets: Joy Harjo, Mary TallMountain, and Garrett Hongo.

Mary was in her mid-50s when she published her first poems. She spent much of her life in revolt against attempts to take her out of her world.

Garrett says we carry culture. His grandfather told him to learn English and tell stories. His father was laconic, silent, sometimes ashamed of his Hawaiian pidgin English. Garrett says, "You need the poem to remember. You realize that you don't remember. You can return to the place or you can return to the place in the poem."

The spirit of poetry is compassion, the spirit of pity in the universe.

Joy says her writing is guided by the voice of an old Creek Indian within her, being her muse. She feels this presence. She says, "My poems are travels into other spaces. Time is not linear, no beginning or end. It's not just this world but layers of worlds, the landscape of timelessness."

Moyers says she's making a record of worlds that converge. Joy reads her poem "She Had Some Horses."

(10/9) Featured poets: Gerald Stern and Li-Young Lee.

Moyers says both of these poets believe the poet's job is to remember. Memory is the only way home. Poets are endlessly arguing with the dead. The injunction to remember occurs more than 100 times in the Old Testament while "Thou Shalt Not Kill" occurs only once.

When writing, all the writer's attention is focused on the inner voice. 

(9/89) Featured writer: Carlos Fuentes

Carlos: "My novels were born in the chasm between imagination and reality. . . . Without risk there is no art, no literature."

Mexican author Fuentes, a writer and diplomat who grew up in Washington, D.C., is the son of a diplomat. His mother forced Catholic education on him. He rebelled against the Church and bourgeois life. 

He writes about the persistence of Indian culture, a 30,000-year-old culture. Indian gods emerge from subways. Magic Realism. Rain god comes alive and drowns its art collector. He says Mexico is a magical country. Skeletons, secret herbs, mystical mix of Christian and Indian myths. His Terra Nostra is a dense Joycean apocalyptic dream. He has a fascination with the surreal. 

In Mexico, he wrote film scripts in the early 1960s with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He talks about verbal memory (the writer) vs. visual memory (the filmmaker).

Talks about the desire to prolong love beyond death. How to imagine the couple beyond death is the great theme of the erotic. Imagine stories to defeat biological fact of death. Fuentes' constants: eroticism and politics; bedroom and public square; the couple and the crowd.

For Fuentes, politics and art are inseparable. Some critics call him a romantic revolutionary who is intoxicated by insurrection. Carlos was in Havana when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba. On the chaos in France in 1968, he calls it a revolt against peace and quiet. The U.S. barred Fuentes from the USA during the 1960s. He saw the Soviet Union crush the Czech revolt in 1968 and says don't let the choice be between a banana republic and a balalaika republic [my emphasis].