A Conversation with Fady Joudah and Anis Shivani

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Fady-AnisExile is a state of mind and quite necessary in the kind of critical awareness, imaginative empathy and artistic autonomy that go into a work of excellence, a “global work.” Our lists of poets we consider as “world poets,” assuming that “world poet” is indeed a meaningful category, may vary dramatically but the criteria we are likely to agree upon for such a category, are: an agile imagination, an intuitive bond with humanity, a finely tuned connection with history, and an ability to go beyond merely utilizing language— to reach for the universally unsayable and cast it in a renewed, common language, and above all: an ability to move the spirit in an authentic way.

I recently had the luxury of conversing with Fady Joudah and Anis Shivani— two writers I admire for their range and gift for innovation. Their approach to literature, as reflected in their poetry and prose, betrays traits of the contemporary “global writer” I’m interested in—traits that ultimately cast the larger literary moment in their art. In other words, the shared and conflicted global histories they address, the deftness with which they assemble disparate cultural perspectives, and the richness of their positions—political and aesthetic—illuminate the present, and in a sense, the future, of an increasing and an increasingly globalized readership.

My conversation with these authors was centered on the idea of our literary moment, mainly keeping Fady Joudah’s book Textu and Anis Shivani’s My Tranquil War in mind.

9781619320970_p0_v2_s260x420Textu, released by Copper Canyon Press as an ebook, is a collection of poems that Joudah wrote “on the phone, in three couplets, no punctuation” using character-count as meter— the character-limit (160) of a text message being a formal constraint. Joudah’s “textu,” like haiku, carries that subtle, evocatively antique quality of the miniature poem as well as a sharp sense of immediacy, a direct address (the “you” in Textu) that is modern in its singularity and “nowness.” It is a work with a panoramic feel and a unique privacy. Read as a single long poem, this collection is a modern narrative stitched together by a mystic innocence, a startling spontaneity. Playful, meditative and politically poignant by turns, each poem in this ebook has surprise and depth, making Textu both a rebellious and an ecstatic work, a welcome invention to balance the energies of our tech-filled environment with the energies of poetry.

Fady Joudah is a celebrated translator of modern Arabic poetry and has played a major role in popularizing and bringing Arabic poetry into mainstream culture. Joudah’s ties with Arabic poetry as well as his experiences as a doctor trickle into these poemsin the most organic way.

15959880Anis Shivani’s collection of poems “My Tranquil War” pushes contemporary poetry's thematic “boundary” so to speak, showing with remarkable finesse how poetry can be lavishly cerebral and yet move the spirit. He includes a rich variety of esoteric themes, forcefully so, almost as a rebellion against the contemporary sensibility that is often soft on the intellect. This book is best read as a gallery of ideas— critically weighed ideas— rather than an emotive/emotionally-centered or even lyrical work (though it definitely has elements of the lyrical). The “other culture” he belongs to (being of Pakistani descent) appears side by side with the icons of Western culture: an arrangement that echoes his prose work that incorporates a range of cultures (and histories). As a poet, Shivani’s is a compelling voice because it is extraordinarily inclusive and it insists, quite effectively, on broadening the thematic spectrum of poetry.

Shivani is a leading new voice on global literary trends and how American poetry fits into the larger concerns (aesthetic/political/historical)— concerns that are powerfully demonstrated in his own work as a critic, fiction writer and poet. Viewing from the outside in and inside out, Anis has introduced ways of looking (especially in our politically charged literary environment) at American literature in relationship to global literature at a time when abundant and abundantly compelling literature in English is being generated in the rest of the world.

So, I began by asking: What is the hunger of the moment?

In the present phase of global literature, are writers of the diaspora (especially Middle-Eastern/South Asian) finding themselves in a leading role as “interpreters” of multiple cultures?

Anis: The desperate hunger of the moment is for authentic voices—radical voices you might say—who don’t give a damn about the media and academic chatter that tries to organize all our passions and feelings and thoughts in predetermined ways. There are very few writers willing to take the leap into this abyss of unknowability.

But I wonder about the premise of your question. Is there anything resembling what we might call world literature that translates well across cultures and geographies? Or are there only mostly discrete national and regional traditions with their own inclinations and obsessions? I would tend to the latter view, and I would also point out the problem of dominance by the literary capitals. Just because certain fashionable writers catch on across cultures—Haruki Murakami would be an example—does not mean that true communication is taking place. Just because a few chosen darlings are made over into celebrities by New York and London and Paris does not mean that we have a true sampling of South Asian or Middle Eastern literature—or thought. The organization of legitimacy—what counts as literature, what gets translated, what becomes mainstream currency—is about as corrupted as it was before the onset of the recent globalization. It is true that in this age of politically passive multiculturalism a certain amount of increased awareness of the global situation is on the rise, but I very much question the genuine interest of elite tastemakers in anything approaching a radical, or even serious, questioning of the current power arrangements. There are lines writers are not meant to cross and everyone understands that; this is most true in America, where authors are limited to speaking the empirically knowable and commonsensical view rather than indulging in mysticism or utopia. In such a compromised situation, how is “interpretation” of multiple cultures possible? Interpretation of what, on behalf of whom, addressed to whom, and for what purposes?

For example, I recently critiqued a novel by Rosie Dastgir (a South Asian writer from Britain who now lives in New York); it’s called A Small Fortune and it’s about the agonies of first-generation South Asian migrants in Britain. The novel is concerned about what is a good Muslim (or immigrant in general) and what is a bad one. Like other representatives of this genre, the novel is severely constrained by the peculiar form of multiculturalism that currently reigns in Anglo-Saxon countries, a terrible bargain for increased acknowledgment of identity that comes at the price of economic rights. Poets in the metropolitan centers function in the same way. A certain kind of poetry—which falls into the genre of victim literature and is usually accorded the lofty title of poetry of witness or poetry testifying to trauma—is permitted, but when we consider the language in which it is written, the elite audience toward which it is addressed, and its aims and limitations, then we have to conclude that it is a very narcissistic exercise, with little in the way of cultural “interpretation” going on. Any number of young MFA poets are producing reams of such poetry, “testifying” to experiences of war and brutality and tyranny that they typically have no personal experience of. What gets included in mainstream globalized literature, in other words, is often predetermined by the limits of ideology.

But I’m not saying it can’t be done, or that there aren’t examples of genuine interpretation. I’m just saying it’s very difficult and you have to ignore the reigning fashions. One recent example of unmitigated success would be Rana Dasgupta’s novel Solo, which does in fact accomplish absolutely everything you’ve hinted at. But such examples are rare, because it is easier to do every other kind of writing but that.

I am looking right now at Pierre Joris’s translation of Habib Tengour (Exile is My Trade: A Habib Tengour Reader), published by Black Widow Press; this is the sort of thing that fits everything you’re positing as an ideal, it helps me move beyond my regional preoccupations, it introduces me to new worlds in new languages. Clayton Eshleman’s lifelong translation of Aimé Césaire fits the same description, and when we read Fady’s translation of Darwish or Zaqtan, or Khaled Mattawa’s translation of Adonis, we’re genuinely encountering a different sensibility than the constraints our academic/media culture force us into most of the time.

I should still note, however, that this impact of the other can be felt most weightily when the writer does not make a strategic calculation to interpret anything for others, least of all for people of different cultures; you do that and your writing is instantly subjugated to the rhythms of current fashions, which dooms it.

Shadab: Fady, Is Textu a rebellion against the notion that poetry is elitist or belongs in a realm separate from our modern “flash-communication” habits of texting and tweeting? Is it a mystic gesture, finding even the cold to the touch tech-world a place good as any other for poetry?

Fady: I think Textu is infused with a desire to reclaim language while also paying tribute to its (speakers’ or makers’) remarkable pliability and adaptability. It is tempting to inflate Textu, but I was simply at a moment where I needed to keep writing. Language was swarming within me and had no outlet in my daily life, between patients and home. So whatever hibernating and bent up language came out, it was easier for it to manifest through the ancient art of the short poem. The age of the smart phone afforded me this, you can say. But notepads or paper scraps also afforded this to other better poets: Ritsos while in jail, or Emily in her own prison. I think, ultimately, that is what Textu is about: the art of the short poem, a private affair. Yet if the language or medium of social media lends itself to the brief and the fragmentary, I was not contented with that. Developing a form, a meter through character-count, was my way of demanding more from my self, my poem, as well as enunciating or conceding that a shift in language is upon us. This is not an unheralded moment in human history or in English. It is in part why I begin Textu with an epigraph from Shakespeare’s sonnet 59. So in doing so, in developing a form through character-count, I was able to move past the short poem form, and write longer poems whose stanzas are each 160 characters long, or prose poems whose character count is an even multiple of 160. That for me is where the experiment with Textu quickly unfolded into something more than itself, so to speak.

That character-count replaces the accentual or syllabic can be argued as mere ploy, a re-angling of the mirror, a translation of sorts. Still, as I said, I believe a new shift in language is upon us. Soon enough character-count may become obsolete, as technology erases old limitations and opens us our storage capacity for consumption and communication. Yet, paradoxically, this probably makes character-count as the ancestral unit in this new language. A character in computer language is made of a byte, the smallest addressable unit of memory, which is made up of eight bits. This is not coincidental lexicon. Language is moving from the audible measure to the computational one. Even in translation: just look at what occurred in the Nuremberg trials, for example. Has this been the progression of poetry, from the oral to the printed (the affective to the reflective), and now from the printed to the electronic (a mixture of orality’s impulsivity and print’s exegesis)? With this in mind, Textu manages not to dehumanize or un-sing language. I also think the “u”/ “you” in Textu is important because it guards the poems from the Pavlovian impulse toward sensationalism and fleeting attention, in other words, it guards the poem (or the electronic idea of it) against its own adolescence. I’ve been asked, for example, why I haven’t made them into 140 characters instead. Tweets are more immediate and ubiquitous. The important thing is the quality of the poem, and the idea of character-count as meter, not so much where and how the poems get aired. There is no patenting here. And on that note, I’d have liked for the book to come out in print more so than in ebook alone. Or if in ebook, I’d have liked for it to take on more complex delivery devices. The irony is that not many people read poetry in the first place, let alone read it as ebook. It is not so much that poetry is or is not elitist. It is more, for me, a question of market forces that displace it, because other forms of information and entertainment function as “true partners” or better partners, and poetry is rendered a delicacy.

I do think Textu is mystical. It is so in the traditional sense of the word/world: approaching or attempting oneness or vanishing or annihilation within states of being as within language. In a way I'd also say the Textu, as a form and formalist poem, is a conversation with the conservatism that exists in language, especially regarding the other. An author who is a non-native speaker or who is deemed as such is expected to produce an English of higher quality than the so-called native speakers: if not through impeccable knowledge of the language, its history, its canon and forms, then through other means of loyalty tests. I am not saying such chauvinism does not exist in Arabic letters or other languages. French is chief among them, for example. I also agree that certain elements of “quality control” are essential to have. But let’s take this for example: I am often told “wow, you have no accent.” What does that mean? What if I do have an accent (and who doesn’t have an accent?). What really lies behind such “praise”?

Shadab: Anis, the passion that drives your poetry, of course, has to do with your personal inclinations, but also, your conscious exploration of the themes you see as absent from poetic discourse— Can this book be read as a critic's diary? In other words, do your foremost concerns have to do with your literary response to iconic works— the poetic energy purely intellectual?

Anis: I would be very disappointed if the poetic energy were primarily or only intellectual, but you’re right that the lack of shame toward intellectuality is very much a defining feature of my poetry.

Indeed, there is a problem with American poetry in that it takes anti-intellectualism as the default position, as is true of all American public presence. For example, poets and fiction writers in their public roles pretend ignorance of theory. They act as if more than forty years of post-structuralism didn’t exist. That’s another department, you know, what have we got to do with it?

I remember when I first started writing poetry, about fifteen years ago, I struggled toward finding a vocabulary that captured the whole zeitgeist, that included the turbulence in the economy and politics and culture that mostly seemed excluded from the genteel poetry of the time. Now, post-9/11 and post-Bush, there was a great impetus for poets to include more relevant subjects, but over the course of the last decade this has become utterly domesticated, so that now every collection seems to have a 9/11 or war on terror (and more recently the financial collapse) component, quite smoothly assimilated into the otherwise continuing preoccupation with domestic grief—illness or disability or discrimination. (I’m not saying that these are not subjects worthy of exploration by poetry, but I’m saying that there’s a way that poets domesticate these subjects for consumption by fellow writers in the academy, depriving these subjects of political ballast; I do have a problem with that.)

So when I began writing poetry in the late nineties, I was confronted by a lack of language in which to capture the realities of the moment, everything from postmodern surveillance to the globalization of the economy. What would such a language feel like? I was at a loss, and I wondered if I’d ever find the answer. Early in the 2000s, John Barr, then president of the Poetry Foundation, speculated along similar lines, that a new language for poetry needed to be discovered, a language that captured the present reality.

So in the most fundamental sense My Tranquil War is the distillation of a decade-long effort on my part to try to discover such a language. If one is an aware citizen of the early twenty-first century, how can discourse about intellectual stuff—which is the air we breathe and which penetrates our very being—not be part of the poetry? Should I talk about a family member afflicted with a fatal disease—and just that and nothing else, as though it occurred in a political and economic vacuum? The world was and is in a state of dramatic transformation, due to new technologies, new twists on old ideologies; should I ignore this in my poetry?

Your way of articulating it as a “critic’s diary” really appeals to me; I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it is a record—sort of like Andre Gide’s venture in his journals—of the most important intellectual experiences that came my way, the movies I saw, the poets and writers who most inspired me, the political and cultural events I felt were the most transcendent of that era, and how those experiences in turn shaped the poetry, so that the external and internal became fused in a kind of ongoing synthesis. If I perform poetry this way, if I adopt many voices and tones rather than insist on a grandiose unitary solipsism, then I hope I can grope my way toward the new vocabulary that was of most interest to me when I began taking poetry seriously.

I should add that in subsequent books after My Tranquil War, this struggle to find a new language has seen different transformations, yet I see a common thread to the kind of language in which I attempt synthesis. It may sometimes be more surrealistic or less so, more or less language-oriented or intertextual, but I feel that I can’t give up on finding a language stripped of irony that is merely brutal or ornamental, even as I remain aware of the many modes of irony without which a twenty-first-century intellectual cannot thrive, or even function.

In the last decade I slowly explored a whole century of the art film tradition, in a way that I’d never found it possible to do in the past. A classic is defined by its ability to have different meanings at different times, all these meanings being internally consistent and self-sustained. So if you watch a particular Fellini or Buñuel or Antonioni or Godard or Cocteau movie in the 2000s, given the technology and media trends and politics of our times, it has a whole different meaning than, say, in the seventies. I’m doing this over and over in My Tranquil War, and in my more recent poetry as well, suggesting that the past is always unmade, history is always in the process of evolving, and what’s important about that is that our sense of the future, our very possibilities for concrete imagination, are determined by how we keep reformulating our interpretations of the past. That’s the function of a classic, and that’s very much the kind of critical analysis, by way of poetic language, that I attempted to do in My Tranquil War. I enjoy doing that sort of thing a lot.

Shadab: Fady, I'm interested in your use of contrapuntal lyricism. It seems to stem from Arabic tradition and reads very refreshingly in English. Would you comment on that?

Fady: I find your observation on “contrapuntal lyricism” extremely lovely, and in many ways accurate. Yet the contrapuntal lyricism or the question-response method is a universal rhetorical tool in so many cultures. Perhaps you are right in discerning something lyrically particular in my own poetry that is infused with my early song, my first music, Arabic. But I am also a product of many complex processes. In fact your use of “contrapuntal” also brings to mind Western music, no? I do agree it is important to point out differences and diverse sources. I confess I often find myself resistant to the shadow of what I call language chauvinism. I am not suggesting this is what you mean at all. Of course all languages have their private particularities, and it’s a pleasure to share in and know them. But I find the notion of implicit competition between languages, in poetry, disturbing and unnecessary. I recall being revolted when a friend of mine once said to me that there are certain expressions of love that exist in Arabic but are impossible in English. I was similarly shocked when a major American poet who often appears oracular within the canon once spoke and said that “there is no language like the English language.” Both individuals stated the obvious, but they reached for much more than fact. They were dangerously speaking and seeking “truth.” Again, I am not saying there are no differences between languages, nor am I saying that those differences are inconsequential.

Shadab: Anis, there is a sense of idealism in your work— a frame. Your use of counterpoint has to do with balancing the argument— it seems to be a classical poet's impulse (rather than a mystic's). Would you describe your poetry as primarily an argument, linking emotion to rhetoric?

Anis: I agree completely. This is a great way of summarizing my poetry. The idealism is there, even a sense of utopianism that I think never flags despite the evident empirical brutalities, yet it functions by way of point/counterpoint, or linkage of emotion with rhetoric, both feeding on each other. This is why in the earlier question I resisted when asked to describe my poetry as primarily intellectual in energy.

Rhetoric by itself is arid, and in the hands of the wrong crowd, it leads directly to tyranny and exploitation. Rhetoric is indeed dangerous, as the classical thinkers well understood, so the traditional solution was to impose parameters by way of scholarly authority and exclusivity. But poetry—as in all the work of Wallace Stevens, or John Ashbery in some of his earlier work, or in Berryman and Berrigan—is ideally a perfect blend of rhetoric and emotion. Stevens and Ashbery are prime examples of poets who deploy rhetoric as a mode of irony, who are not in the least didactic or given to “argument” per se; yet in a curious way their rhetoric is argumentative, very much so. And a great deal of their emotion—aside from wordplay, which itself is a form of rhetoric turned on its head—derives from rhetoric deployed in a hundred different directions. Stevens and Ashbery are highly promiscuous in that regard. I find this lack of shame very inspiring and it probably explains my own ethic. I’m not using rhetoric to make particular arguments about the current political condition or what-have-you—this would bring it down to the level of journalism—but that is all there as the substance or background of the point/counterpoint whence proceeds the dialectic from which in turn arises emotional meaning.

I think the economic and political utopian in me directs the course of the rhetoric in particular ways that at times suggest subterranean frustration or anger or even rage. And I think this rage is what gives the rhetoric life and meaning, or else it would just be clever acrobatics and I’m not interested in that. Perhaps a poem like the “Abu Ghraib Images” best captures what we’re talking about here, in how it makes a mockery of predestination, yet never losing sight of the very real atrocities, whose emotional content is matched only by our zeal to scrub the offenders—ourselves, the sum of our body politic—out of view. Perhaps you have another poem from My Tranquil War in mind that illustrates this process?

Too often today it’s only emotion—and emotion of a very constrained, privatized, anti-social kind—that defines poetry; that is terribly debilitating, and I was never interested in writing that kind of poetry. In fact, all of that emotion on hysterical display—emotion minus rhetoric—leaves me utterly cold. It elicits zero sympathy from me.

Shadab: Do you think the social media support “global literature” by providing a “language” of sorts— informing, shaping, priming readers from around the world to receive literary work?

Fady: Social media did not spring out of the void. It came out of domination centers, where power is wedded to knowledge and representation. It’s too simplified to employ the ethnic under the guise of diaspora. Of course the notion of inclusion, of openness to others is and has always been an important contributor to cultural exchange, even a sine qua non of it. Yet I fear that we confuse the postcolonial age with some independence that did not exist, we diffuse “the other” into a nomadic, exilic state that in reality is barely there, and is largely a construct of the same imperial culture. So I don’t think that social media levels the playing field anymore than I think all those who control the corporate world of high-tech are not in cahoots with the NSA, for example. In other words, you seem to hint at the progressive, political force within poetry, and to that I say, real political force is often not found in poetry. And that is a good thing. The oxymoron is that not even a natural expression of politics inherent in poetry is allowed to manifest beautifully without a paranoiac, tyrannical response from the hegemonic cultural machinery. The word “global” has already become contaminated. Global or world literature has already become a kind of predictable circus. There are two types of world literature: one that is influenced, one can even say determined, by power and political systems, and one that belongs to a freer world and inhabits the invisible-visible. There is overlap, of course between these two “universals:” the universal that power sculpts into a canon, as if a god were making man into his own inevitable image, a center that grows outward and co-opts in the name of economic plurality; and the universal that belongs to deeper, more meaningful beauty and more profound silence all over the earth.

Anis: I have mostly terribly negative feelings about social media. I feel it’s just about the most destructive thing that’s recently come along for writers. It used to be the case that for writers to distract themselves into irrelevance, into losing the power of their art, they had to perform old-fashioned drudgery like go on tours and physically attract groupies and such. Now it’s all at the touch of your keyboard. Writing is predicated on solitude, so the very idea of social media is antithetical. Also “social media” is an oxymoron; it is not really social, it is the media’s twist on what used to be sociability; it is a dominance, in fact, of solipsism masquerading as communication and understanding.

Social media, in short, is bullshit in every way that matters, bellicose and confrontational toward genuine writing, or even genuine feeling and understanding. It’s a false feel-good ambiance that can be very destructive, though it feeds young and raw and immature egos, because it makes it look like everyone’s accomplishing something when in fact most people aren’t accomplishing anything by participating in social media.

How can a technology so pernicious be helpful to writing, let alone assist such lofty goals as supporting global literature or providing a language for writers and readers across the world? That’s not exactly the kind of thing Zuckerberg had in mind. You can argue that once the technology is there, you can shape it and mold it toward your own idealistic purposes, but every technology imposes a particular format. This particular iteration of the internet, in the hands of global media conglomerates, is definitely imposing an architecture and an aura that is destructive of writing and communication.

I think any writing that has meaning is done in the utmost solitude and is meant or intended for no one in particular and doesn’t give a damn about social media or social anything. It’s this utterly selfish way of doing things that leads to writing that outlasts the moment and reaches across all sorts of divides. And it has its own way of finding its readers, one has to believe in this organic way of writing eventually reaching its ideal readers, though there are of course entrepreneurs and visionaries involved in the birthing and transmission. I do have the Habib Tengour reader in my hands, right, at this particular moment in time, and how did that happen?

I probably would have given you a more optimistic reading of the internet’s potential some years ago; you might have read some of my more positive musings on the ways the internet could help give birth to a truly global literature. I’m far more pessimistic now on this whole issue. I think we need to get down to the basics again and not get swayed by the temptations of illusory celebrity and readership.

Shadab: Fady, I find in the compactness of the textu a natural space for mystique (such as in the haiku) but you manage much more than that. Mystique is powerful, yet it can carry a sense of aloofness, whereas you accommodate an intimate tone. Another seemingly contradictory feature is the balancing of thematic heft with playfulness— all within this brief form. One feels, for instance, the anguish of coping with suffering and mortality but one also observes, periodically, through tone, the fact of the human body the way a doctor sees it: merely as a mechanism. What is your take on the textu form affording space for these seemingly contradictory elements that come together with such grace?

Fady: I think your double-edged question points to a particular reading of Textu as a long poem. One can say that it is its own epic form. In that sense it manages the oscillations of intimacy through length, governed by form. In other words, it is the formlessness within form that enables the poems to achieve the mystical, the intimate, the tragicomic. And the narrative element here is mostly a reflection of the narrative as the spoken-written, the audible-mute. Text or Tweet or “Status” language bears the ghost of something spoken, something heard when in fact that language, if at all an utterance, is only written, soundless. Our language today is largely the evolution of old-fashioned telephone conversations. It is the language of the written-into phone, not the spoken-into phone. Textu, as an epic, or a sequence poem that incorporates multiple diction shifts and tonal modalities, between the lyric, narrative and essay, is the record of becoming self or the record of the self inside its many becomings. Or perhaps Textu is the reading of “closed caption” while watching TV, when the volume is not clear because of too much background noise, or like watching an undubbed foreign film where reading the dialogue adds another dimension to the concept of the movement-image. It is a schizophrenic act of resistance, wherein what is aberrant comes from external, not internal sources.

Shadab: Finally, what might it mean to be a “world poet”?

Anis: One way to answer is that a world poet recognizes that he or she functions in a world rather than just his or her own corner of the world. He or she is aware of history and geography and technology, and the diversities of human culture across time and space. He or she is a sociologist, an anthropologist, an art historian, a connoisseur of music and painting, a person forever learning and putting the learning in the poetry, refusing to resort to pat emotions and resolutions. Lorca is a world poet, as is Mandelstam, as is Franz Wright today, and you could include Fady’s writing in the same overall tendency. It comes from advancing the art in tangible ways while performing endless acts of obeisance toward your forebears, the founders of the tradition.

A world poet is someone who has most honestly confronted his or her humanity and this renders him or her accessible to people everywhere who see that he or she has cut through the bullshit and given us another vocabulary to see ourselves the way we truly are, not how we like to think of ourselves. The way our cats see us, in our fully human dimensions, warts and all, without the filters and deceits and branding and celebrity and self-consciousness.

But I don’t really know. I can hardly find the poetic language to keep up with the most basic human emotions—mortality above all—and I hope that if I derive my inspiration from those who I think are world poets, and if I don’t shortchange myself and settle for the easy and familiar, then something good may happen. A world poet makes it easy for you to steal from him or her without making you feel ashamed.

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