David Winters: Let’s discuss the ideas behind your teaching. I’m especially interested in your thoughts on literary originality. In the past you’ve suggested that every human being possesses, at some buried level, a unique relation to the grammar of their native language – what you’ve sometimes called an ‘Ur-language’.
Gordon Lish: Yes. In the old days, I called it a khora. An innate melody that some psychoanalysts would claim issues out of the melody of our name, or whatever affectionate name we might be given by our parents. Early in life, we have established within us a certain brief musical jotting. This is what is elaborated if we spread ourselves out into acts of writing. It can be seen in the writing of others, but I believe that it can also be consciously elicited. In order to do so, you must understand that you’re safest when you’re at your most honest – which I would be quick to justify my own scribbling as being. In my writing, I’m psychopathically engaged with the phonemic; the smallest spicule of the construct is a concern to me. At the same time, I try to give way to a speech which has its origin somewhere well beyond my understanding. It is as if something interior is determined to speak. (more…)