Emulation, Originality, and the Writing Tradition

“A writer is a reader moved to emulation”

–Saul Bellow

I have been preparing notes for my upcoming talk on “Emulation, Originality, And The Writing Tradition” at the Ojai Center For The Arts. There is no better place than London to have spent time thinking about the English literary tradition. In this talk I intend to use concrete examples from my own relationship to the writing life, including poems and anecdotes, to show how emulation–as defined by a desire to imitate and transcend the spirit and tactical successes of works one admires–can actually enhance originality.

So many poets are concerned about losing their voice, and so many poets and non-poets hold the misbelief that art can exist in a vacuum–or that inspiration strikes best in a sealed cave, cut off from tradition. My hope is to inspire the audience into participating in the continuity of literary tradition through reading widely and responding genuinely to our rich heritage of literary arts.