Writers are strange in that they reverberate off one another. We are all types of whales and it is influence and drama and jealousy and love and admiration that keep our worlds going round. In this way, language becomes cyclical in motion. And it’s something I haven’t given much thought to, until taking classes here at Columbia.
Sure the beginning my undergraduate experience was a mess but growing through the years not only made me a better procrastinator, but a better academic and critic. Ok fine, I’m a terrible procrastinator on occasions like now but that’s not the point! Reading the western (white) cannon over and over again bored me to the point of returning back to biochemistry. But the class readings didn’t end there. It was only when I immersed myself in poetry that I finally “got it.” The “it” I’m referring to is community, is continuity, is inspiration through life and death.
I began this post on October 29th, the day after the Galway Kinnell’s death. Still being new to poetry, I did not know he was or how much of a contribution Kinnell made to my field of interest. Lucie Brock-Broido began crying in class. He was her teacher. She is my teacher. And in the future, I will become someone else’s teacher. It took me a minute to process my thoughts. Here I am, a month later, finishing this post, and thinking to myself how I wish I could have met him. Kinnell, a Pulitzer prize winner, a poet laureate, an observer, a lyric musician, an activist, a master. Who was he to know the handful of poets in my class living through his grand spirit and memory? Who was he to know the hundreds of other writers he would influence as well? I think as young contemporary writers, we find it hard to imagine our work being ever studied. That the written work we do for our degrees might actually pay off, for the hands of a future poet or novelist or memoirist. I know I sometimes feel that way.
I can now think of hundreds of other writers who have influenced hundreds more but to list them all would be useless. Because we know who are literary lovers are. For me, my time in poetry consists of learning more so than writing. I become distracted within details and anecdotes and places, all of which I write down and feed upon. I’ve now read Kinnell’s The Book of Nightmares, per Lucie’s suggestion, and I can call him a confidante. It doesn’t matter if he’s dead. He and Lucie and so many others, exist in my heart and that’s exactly what J.K. Rowling taught me. In the end, my own post becomes cyclical in nature as I take this time to reflect on my predecessors. I’m thankful for the writers who came before me, I’m thankful for the masters alive now from whom I can learn, and I’m thankful to have chosen a path that will happily lead me to my future. Yeah yeah, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and I sound mushy gushy. But it doesn’t matter! Happiness and community surrounds us in every way.