July 22, 2014

What We Understand

I think there's a remarkable similarity in Mary Ruefle's short passage about writing posted by Austin Kleon

“Everything has already been said and done. But, then, if this is so, why do we need more poems in the world? I once read a Jane Hirshfield interview where she said something quite wonderful. She essentially said we have to keep writing because it’s every generation’s job to put in the present vernacular poems that are called upon for rites of passage, such as poems read at weddings or funerals. I hadn’t thought of this before. Your ordinary citizen should be able to go to the library and find a poem written in the current vernacular, and the responsibility for every generation of writers is to make this possible. We must, then, rewrite everything that has ever been written in the current vernacular, which is really what the evolution of literature is all about. Nothing new gets said but the vernacular keeps changing.

and this passage about history by Jill Lepore via Vintage Anchor Books

History is hereditary only in this way: we, all of us, inherit everything, and then we choose what to cherish, what to disavow, and what do do next, which is why it’s worth trying to know where things come from.