Monday, June 22, 2009

Place, Part 2

I refer you to John Talbot's poem Horace, Odes I .9 Vides ut alta stet found at which I hope you visit daily. Talbot's poem gives us another measure of place, one which I think we too often are not conscious of; that is, our own places in the lineage of poetry. Our poems, our poetry, our writing does not come out of nowhere but rather exists as part of the history of poetry.

Some of us learned about and read a lot of poetry in junior high school, high school and college. Some of us continued during our careers whether or not as part of our vocations. All that history we were exposed to conspires to influence how we think about poetry and what we think makes a good poem. In Talbot's case we are told quite plainly that his poem has something to do with Horace's odes. Research will tell us that many poets (including Frost) were influenced by these odes. Hence our own poems are somehow so influenced.

If you research Horace's odes online, particularly the one referenced in Talbot's poem, you will find a selection of translations from the Latin and these are very interesting in helping us understand not only Horace's poem but Talbot's as well. Although not quite as intentionally our own poems are replete with referents as influential as in Talbot's excellent poem. It is an interesting and fruitful exercise to take a poem I've written and ponder every influence I can think of for each line, theme, thought, etc. Once begun the influences come in chunks and from sources that were far, far from my consciousness as I wrote. I also find that this awareness causes me to more consciously insert things from my poetic lineage into what I am writing .

This is another interesting and important sense of place-- our place in the line of poets; and it give us a humbling sense of gravity about our own writings and tells us that we ought not fail to give our own writing its due.

So long for now.

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