Plagiarism, parody and parrotry

Alex Haley, Dark Laughter, Elizabethan sonnet, Faulkner, Harold Courlander, Hemingway, Nigel Watts, Roots, Sherwood Anderson, Teach Yourself Writing A Novel, The Torrents of Spring, the Waste Land, TS Eliot, Uncategorized
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” T.S. Eliot.
One of the things that is intriguing about what is taught in creative writing programs is how similar the advice is for would be novelists. For example, the structure of the novel can be broken down in to the following eight elements, as defined by Nigel Watts in his book Teach Yourself Writing A Novel:
1.     Stasis
2.     The Trigger
3.     The Quest
4.     The Surprise
5.     The Critical choice
6.     The Climax
7.     The Reversal
8.     The Resolution
I wonder how many people, using that structure, write novels that are, to all intents and purposes, identical to someone else’s.

What Use Is Poetry?

Dylan Thomas, e.e. cummings, Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson, English teachers, Frank O’Hara, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Robert Frost, TS Eliot, Uncategorized, William Carlos Williams
There are a surprising number of people who are still interested in poetry of one kind or another. Many people remember poems they studied in school. Robert Frost, TS Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Frank O’Hara, Langston Hughes, Edgar Allan Poe, Maya Angelou, William Carlos Williams, e.e. cummings, and Dylan Thomas are some of the poets generally studied in high school, and many, if they had a good English teacher, will remember the impact that their poems had on them.
But what role can poetry play in life? That’s a tricky question. Can we survive without ever hearing another word of poetry? Certainly. Does poetry have anything like a practical use? Well, not really. But couldn’t you say the same about music, art and literature? Yet, most people would protest if they were told they had to give them up completely. Why? Because they recognize that, despite their apparent uselessness, they are life-enhancing. They help us to make sense of the world we live in, they provide an escape from stress and pressure, and they give us pleasure on an esthetic level. It is a fact that our emotional and psychological state can, and often does, affect our actions, and to that extent the arts do have a practical application.
Good poetry can move the heart, raise the mind to a higher level, comfort the bereaved, console the dejected, strengthen the weak-willed, lighten the spirit, and even galvanize the body into action. Although it does not necessarily have a direct utilitarian purpose, poetry can still have a sizable impact indirectly.
So why don’t more people read poetry? One probable reason is that good poetry often requires work. To understand what a poem is trying to say may involve the reader in cerebral activity and perhaps some people are put off by that. In some cases, it is a legitimate criticism of poetry that it is too opaque for the man in the street to derive much benefit from reading it. There is nothing wrong with poetry needing to be worked at, but if no amount of work yields a payload of comprehension then is it worth it? Is it good poetry to begin with, if nobody but an inner circle of cognoscenti are in the know?
The appreciation of poetry also seems to be a seasonal thing. We turn to poetry at certain points in life, certain times of the year, or when hit by some emotion. Some of us even feel the need to writepoetry during those times. There is something that poetry can give that other forms of art or literature cannot. We feel, when we read good poetry, an affinity with the poet’s sentiments, pleasure at a deft turn of phrase, a sense of satisfaction at a brilliant simile or metaphor. And there is the same pleasure in writing poetry, regardless of whether it turns out to be any good or not.





So in answer to the question, what use is poetry? we can say that it’s uses are subtle, multifaceted, sometimes elliptical and usually indirect. If we did away with poetry, humanity would be all the weaker for it. If there were no more poetry, something irreplaceable would have been lost and the common mind of mankind would suffer as a result. Poetry does have a use, but in a sense we could only detect it by its absence.

Eliot’s Daily Grind

Boston, Criterion magazine, Dylan Thomas, England, Faber and Faber, Lloyds, Stephen Spender, Ted Hughes, The Wasteland, TS Eliot, Uncategorized, W.H. Auden
Every writer is different. Each has his or her own way of working, a method for getting words down on paper. Some are procrastinators, some are methodical, some write in between juggling a daytime job and caring for a family.
Thomas Stearns Eliot (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965), commonly known as T.S. Eliot, was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic, and is thought by many to have been the most influential poet of the twentieth century. He was born into a high-ranking family in Boston and after a childhood fraught with physical weakness and isolation found himself in Oxford, England, on a scholarship in 1914. He married the following year and from then on was to make England his home for the rest of his life. After a brief dalliance with schoolmastering, in 1917, he took a position at Lloyds Bank in London, working on foreign accounts. He quickly made himself indispensible to the firm and proved to be a superb businessman.
It was while he was engaged in the staid world of banking that he provided some of his most trenchant poetry, criticism, and essays of the time. He worked incredibly hard and had a strict schedule to keep every day. He needed the extra money in order to make ends meet, so after putting in a full day’s work at the office he would return home to write essays, lectures and book reviews. In his “spare” time he also founded and edited the Criterion literary magazine and produced several volumes of groundbreaking poetry.
Eventually, after a long career with Lloyds, he moved to the publishers Faber and Gwyer (later to become Faber and Faber) as poetry editor where he was responsible for seeking out hidden talent and published poets such as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Ted Hughes and Dylan Thomas.
But in his later years, even when he was rather comfortably off and did not need to worry about money he still kept to a punishing schedule. He would rise early and leave the house at 6.30 to attend mass, returned home and, after a full English breakfast, write until about noon. Then after lunch he would take a bus to his office at the publishing house (completing the infamous Times cryptic crossword on the way) and work all afternoon having meetings with other editors, reading manuscripts that had been submitted and dictating letters to his secretary. In the evenings he was often called upon to deliver lectures at various venues, so he also spent time in meticulous preparation.
Needless to say, long years of unremitting hard graft took its toll on his health, so periodically he would need to take time off work because of nervous exhaustion. It was during one of these extended breaks, first in Switzerland and then in the seaside resort of Margate on the English coast, that he composed most of The Wasteland, his poetic masterpiece that was to rock the literary world to its foundations.
Eliot was the exact opposite of the dreamy-eyed romantic who pens nature haikus and love sonnets in a flood of emotion and cant. He was a shrewd businessman, and incisive critic, a brilliant poet who articulated the spirit of the times and an inveterate workaholic.