Good poetry/writing is thievery

6 06 2009

The arts courses I took as an undergraduate in the late 90s all but killed any interest I had in literature and poetry. I am now slowly but surely experiencing a revival of sorts, what with the BBC broadcasting gems like this biopic.

Arena brings an unprecedented insight into the mysterious life of one of 20th century’s greatest poets, and re-examines his extraordinary work and its startling immediacy in the world today. Thomas Stearns Eliot materialises as banker, critic, playwright, children’s writer, church-warden, publisher, husband and poet.

My favorite extract from Eliot’s body of work is this bit on – pardon my French – re-entextualization:

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. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

T.S. Eliot. The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. 1922.

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