What Makes Literature Last?
  • Poet Karl Shapiro: 1913 - 2000

    “One of the tests of a good writer,” said the poet Karl Shapiro, “is editorial acumen, the ability to turn down your work. It’s the amateur who falls in love with his own written words and holds them sacrosanct.”

    I think that that’s essentially true.

    I think also that anyone can learn to write formulaic fiction and pristine prose, the straightjacketed poem, but the question one must always go back to is this:

    Will those polished stories and perfect poems be read fifty or one hundred years later? Will they matter?

    Or will time sink them?

    And why?

    What makes some literature timeless?

    Why is there a lot of sloppy literature that legitimately lasts?

    And what, after all, is poetry?

    “Here all theory goes lame,” said Karl Shapiro.

    But with him on this point I must respectfully demur.

    Two things determine timelessness in literature, and those two things are meaning and the authentic voice — which is to say, The What and The How.

    October 28th, 2011 | journalpulp | 2 Comments | Tags: , , , , ,

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • susielindau 10.28.2011

    I think that what makes a book timeless is if it remains relatable as well.
    Great post~
    Love the links!!

  • Thank you very much, Susie.

    The links love you.

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