Ether, I am old. Not ancient, not on my death bed, but old. Too old, more specifically, to continually fashion myself after the manner and modes of my mentors and betters. As I lay in bed last night editing a recent poem in my head (my most frequent and, unfortunately, most ineffectual sort of editing), it occurred to me that it was not J. H. Scott's voice warning about this cliche or his mental pen scratching out that hokey rhyme--it was the voice and pen of my mentors and betters. My little Obi Wan Kenobis speaking to me from your very own Nothingworld, dear Ether. And this was no isolated incident. I realized how pervasive are the voices of these Others in my editing process and, more discomfiting to me, how ultimately persuasive those voices are. I tossed, I turned, I got up to pee. Eventually, my own voice squeaked through, "You're getting too old for this."
Because at some point we have to let ourselves be ourselves. Authenticity. Actors on our own authority. Authorship. Not only good writing but so much of good living derives from the quality of our distinctions--even if it means we are doomed (no such thing but it I love the sound of that word) to being "inferior" or "marginal" in relation to the Others.
Can I evade the influence of my predecessors? No. On some level, no matter how I might protest, I will never even be able to shake the shadow of Shakespeare. How much less so my immediate influences? My thesis director to whom I owe the largest share of my development as a poet, my favorite contemporary poet, Andrew Hudgins, whose deft lines are at once flowing and formal, those of my peers I admire and envy? No, all of these and the many to come can not be avoided and should not be ignored. We are what we eat and we eat all the time--gobble what seems most delectable and too often glut on what we could really have done without--we require the nourishment of our surroundings for our sustenance as creative, authentic individuals.
That poem I was working on--well, it kinda sucked. To finish it, I decided, would be a waste of time. It just didn't jive with . . . wait . . . with what? On second thought, no . . . it's a mighty fine poem. Oh yes, it jove and it jives. With my mentors and betters? Not really. With me? Yeah, with me. I took a chance, stepped out of my mold, and proceeded in good faith. And it still kinda sucks. But I like it. And besides, I'm far too old to change it now.