May 15, 2013, 3:06 PM
Post #10 of 12
If I could just put in a word here, don't be worried about imitation. It's one of the important ways we learn. If you've ever played a musical instrument or learned a language (and of course you've learned at least one), you know on reflection that a huge amount of imitation was a vital part of the process.
Re: [Dir3foxx] Young poet! need guidance...
[In reply to]
If I leaf through what I wrote as a young man (what wasn't mercifully lost, that is), I can pretty much identify what I was reading at the time. Bad imitation Eliot, bad imitation Crane, bad imitation cummings, bad imitation Auden, bad imitation Frost, bad imitation generalized-Beat ... I could go on and on. And on.
But I don't regret a line, even though I wouldn't want anyone to read many of those lines now; my only regret is that I didn't perpetrate a great many more of them. It was all practice, you see. It was all learning how others have done it, how language works, how a voice works in poetry. And gradually, after many years--it does take years, and much, much practice--gradually my own voice began to emerge.
I don't think of that voice as some inherent thing that I "discovered." I suppose it was in part, but for practical purposes--for the purposes of learning the craft--that was a useless way to think about it. I could not have written in my own voice when I was young, because I had to imitate, experiment, practice, write trash, imitate, practice, experiment, write trash, write more trash, experiment, imitate some more, find some other mentor and imitate yet more--I had to develop the voice that I, and I think at least some of my two or three readers, recognize as mine.
Originality is not a goal; it's an inevitable by-product if you do the work with persistence, intelligence, and dedication.