Poets who remain poets, by Stephen Dunn


Young poets
Who don’t think of themselves
As apprentices
Are notorious
For resisting influences.

They’ve experienced
The first stages
Of that limiting self-consciousness
That comes with knowledge.

They don’t want anything
To stop them
From thinking
That what they’ve done
Is original.

Originality, of course,
Is what occurs when
Something new
Arises out of what’s already been done.

Poets who remain poets
Have, presumably, worked through
The terrors of influence,
And are willing to acknowledge their debts
By using them in order
To go their own way.

They’ve learned what Thomas Mann knew:
‘A writer is somebody
For whom writing is more difficult
Than it is for other people.’

Stephen Dunn, from Walking Light (P. 5)


  1. when i was a young poet i did not fit into this category. it took me 10 years before i accepted that what i wrote was of any value. i experimented with many poets’ forms, as it was the best way for me to study poetry, to directly use their forms to get inside the mechanism of them. i may still at 30 be considered a young poet, if so, maybe i do fit Dunn’s criteria, though i don’t think i would claim originality.

    Liked by 1 person

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