In the poem “Rereading Frost” by Linda Pastan, she confronts a problem that many poets probably confront at some point. Is there anything left to write about or has everything been written?
Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?
This is not a problem only for poets. All writers, inventors, scientists, painters, filmmakers, and other creators are faced with this problem. Is there anything new and original to create?
Of course, the answer is that there are always new things. The world changes. We change.
But the more poetry you read, the more likely you are to realize that a lot of topics have been covered already. The real problem might be that you may feel that someone else has already written a better poem than you could ever write.
Billy Collins’ poem “The Trouble with Poetry” addresses this issue too.
the trouble with poetry is
that it encourages the writing of more poetry,
more guppies crowding the fish tank,
more baby rabbits
hopping out of their mothers into the dewy grass.
And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,
and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.
We hope you won’t close your notebook (or laptop) and sit back and stop writing. Collins didn’t stop. In fact, he continues:
But mostly poetry fills me
with the urge to write poetry,
to sit in the dark and wait for a little flame
to appear at the tip of my pencil.
And along with that, the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
Like Pastan, we read and reread poems and poets and we are inspired to write our own. Our poem may complement the original or go against it. It might update the topic of the poem. William Shakespeare writes about love and you do a 21st-century update on his approach.
Like Collins, we might steal a bit from the other poet – a line, a title, an image, the idea for the poem itself.
In Pastan’s poem, she has more of a mixed response to rereading Frost’s poem.
And I decide not to stop trying,
at least not for a while, though in truth
I’d rather just sit here reading
how someone else has been acquainted
with the night already, and perfectly.
For this month’s prompt, we ask you to reread and rewrite – a poem that begins in response to rereading some favorite poem. It might be one you know you can’t do any better. It might be one that you can rewrite in a new way. Let the reader in on the poem or poet that inspired you.