September 3, 2009

young poets and greatness

"A total networker careerist can be a great or lousy poet. So can a hermit in a cave. Feeble poetic ambition probably starts before careers begin. Beginning poets aren't, I think, cynical in their stylistic choices. If anything they're too earnestly docile. Young poets probably shouldn't aim explicitly for greatness. Life is stressful enough without that kind of pressure. But when the only aim is getting an A+ in reproducing teachers' revolutions, it's unlikely to lead anywhere but mediocrity."

daisy fried (Ithaca, NY, 1967), as quoted in Ambition and Greatness, a round-table discussion with Adam Kirsch, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Jeredith Merrin. The exchange was published in 2005 by Poetry magazine.

Further reading:

Poetry and Ambition, by Donald Hall (

Breakfast Served Any Time All Day: Essays on Poetry New and Selected, by Donald Hall (Google Books)

The Great(ness) Game, by David Orr (The New York Times)

Responding to Poetry Drivel In The New York Times, by Dan Schneider (Cosmoetica)

Daisy Fried at Poetry magazine