The Fine Line Between Influence and Absorption

Although he had a lot of good points to share, one particular passage from Ezra Pound’s essay especially stuck out to me, and that was in relation to drawing influence from other artists. “Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.”

This resonated with me as I have often noticed this problem in my own work, and it has been a constant concern for my future pieces as well. It can be difficult to pick out an overly-saturated chunk of influence in your own writing, especially if you have at the same time been immersed in the work of whomever that influence may stem from. In a sense it can be a challenge—at least for me—to completely take in the words of another artist without being too sponge-like in doing so, and thereby allowing shards of their genius to put on capes and parade as your own. It turns into an unnecessary extra step in editing my work when this problem does pop up. I’ll read through a poem I wrote a month back, and go ‘damn it, there’s way too much Bukowski [insert other artists’ names] in here,” and then have to go back and extract or change up my words enough that the accidental theft of style isn’t so prominent.

In any case, this statement by Pound did well to call up this concern of mine again. I will definitely be holding on to this thought as I move forward with my writing, both this semester and generally.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *