Poetry and Progress: What Eminem and Abe Lincoln Have in Common

That wasn’t my original title, but I’m trying out a new venue – The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog.

The website has graciously given me the opportunity to write shorter posts in a new format – above all one with an editor. Take a look. See what you think.

9 responses

  1. I’m guessing this is a good networking site for those in po biz & marketing, but for a reader, once was enough(you linked to editor’s attempts to assert her attitude into the overrated writers controversy. It’s everything lovers of language don’t want : snark, gossip and short attention span theater.
    I clicked to read your post but the visual cacophony repelled me.


    • I can appreciate that.

      The “theater” of the web site is deliberate. It will be interesting to see how the web site fairs overall. For me, it’s a chance to try a different venue.


  2. Shorter posts it may be, but so long as there’s a substance, a reader can walk away with something, and that I did. Although I was disappointed that you didn’t quote some kind of proverb on the understanding of originality as non-moderns saw it.


    • Did you have something in mind, Monty?

      Though I’ve read parts of Bond’s book, I don’t have it in front of me. His book would doubtlessly be a good source for such material.

      Here’s a good example. This was written by CPE Bach, J.S. Bach’s son, about JS Bach. It gives a good sense of what was considered “greatness” in art (since Carl Philipp was clearly interested in casting his father’s music in the best possible terms):

      If ever a composer showed polyphony in its greatest strength, it was certainly our late lamented Bach. If ever a musician employed the most hidden secrets of harmony with the most skilled artistry, it was certainly our Bach. No one ever showed so many ingenious and unusual ideas as he in elaborate pieces such as ordinarily seemed dry exercises in craftsmanship. He needed only to have heard any theme to be aware – it seemed in the same instant – of almost every intricacy that artistry could produce in the treatment of it. His melodies were strange, but always varied, rich in invention, and resembling those of no other composer. His serious temperament drew him by preference to music that was serious, elaborate, and profound; but he could also, when the occasion demanded, adjust himself, especially in playing, to a lighter and more humorous way of thought.

      What becomes apparent is CPE’s emphasis on his father’s ingenuity, richness of thought and invention as expressed through his craftsmanship and workmanship.

      “Invention”, by the way, was highly prized by the Elizabethans and was a figure of rhetoric exhaustively taught in the grammar schools of the day: How does a scholar elaborate on a subject or theme? This field of rhetoric was referred to as “Topics of Invention”. In this sense, the skill of a poet wasn’t a measure of “newness/originality”, but the wealth and richness of his invention. It’s a way of thinking about art that seems completely foreign to contemporary aesthetics – perhaps as foreign to contemporary artists as our current paradigms would be to them.

      This could have turned into a much longer post…

      But… it’s warming me up for a more thorough post on this site.


    • As I was reading, the thought of (I paraphrase, for I do not remember who or what the exact wording is) the proverb, “All originality is a form plagiarism” tossed about in me, but such a quote would not do for your article; instead, I found one by Goethe (Oh, the wonders of Google!): “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.” I think that to be a strong summary of your post.

      Hmm. “What becomes apparent is CPE’s emphasis on his father’s ingenuity, richness of thought and invention as expressed through his craftsmanship and workmanship.” This rings a lot of bells, I mean it stirs a sort of cause and effect for me. Is rich thought and invention produced by craftsman/workman-ship, or does rich thought produce, that is, form, craftsmanship? Just something I’m now pondering.

      Thorough posts are always good posts to read.


    • I would be inclined to think of invention and craftsmanship as two different abilities.

      One may be a superb craftsman but lack inventiveness – any number of poets fall in this category (just look at the Victorian poets). Likewise, one may be surpassingly inventive but lack craftsmanship. (In sports, we would say an athlete has tremendous talent but lacks discipline.) The latter is especially typical of younger artists, musicians and poets. Some acquire craftsmanship (discipline) while others disdain the importance of the same.


    • Here’s a quote you’re probably familiar with:

      “One of the surest of tests is the way in which a poet borrows. 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, from The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism – Phillip Massinger


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