to an old friend who asked why I post so much world literature on my blog

Recently an old friend of mine from my NYC days in the 1970s who found me through a Google search a while back and who is a facebook friend and an occasional reader of this blog asked me in an email why I post so much literature, especially poetry, of other writers from other countries/centuries even. He knew me as a fledgling novelist and so was even surprised at my own poetry but could understand that. He just didn’t see why, even though he liked some of it, I posted all those other poets/writers. I answered the email, after giving my reply some thought, and then thought there might be other people out there, especially facebook friends from my past who remember me in a different light: teacher, administrator, bookstore owner, boy scout leader, actor, shoe store manager, warehouse supervisor, madman who liked to perform tricks with beer bottles at parties, pinball junkie, etcetcetc.

Of course some people who knew me in those various guises know of my longstanding love of Asian literature, especially the Chinese, my obsession with Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, love of coffee and some other beverages not necessarily good for me, addiction to Sabrett &/or Nathan’s hotdogs, and a tendency to dance up or down staircases when no one is looking, but don’t necessarily get why I post so many poems especially from what is called these days “world literature”.

So okay. I’m going to say this now and hope it clears it all up for anyone from my past who is still trying to adjust their perspective of me.

I read. A lot. Always have. Literature mostly, and quite a bit of history, but for different reasons. History to understand events because history teaches us lessons about the consequences of events but does not normally teach us about the people, the average, “common” if you will, people who lived during the times those events took place. Oh, we get descriptions of leaders and we see governments, whether they be those of empires or nations or tribes, but we don’t often see the pawns who get played by those leaders in those events. We must look elsewhere for that.

And art is where we look. Whether it is to literature—fiction/poetry/stories/tales—or music or the visual arts, including theatre and now film, it is there we get to see how people personally felt about what was going on around them, how they lived day to day, what they thought about, their passions, disappointments, sufferings, joys. Those were all, are still, being expressed through art in whatever form it takes. And the beauty of immersing oneself in the art is we not only find an outlet for our own thoughts and feelings but we can see and understand that we are all basically alike, that what we experience today has been experienced by others for thousands of years and in every corner of the world regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, eye color and shoe size. It is through art that we can comprehend that we are all in this together and so it can erase those misconceptions we have of “the other” because we all have misconceptions of some “other”. And once we understand there is no “other”, then maybe peace will reign because we will reject those leaders who try to separate us using fear as their weapon and embrace each other instead.

That is why I post literature from other countries/other time periods. Why I hope that by doing so the misconceptions people in the West have of people in the East and Middle East will vanish, like a fog finally clearing. That is my hope and I only wish more was available in translation because I know we Americans are so poorly educated in foreign languages, and which is why I value those who translate so much. Because they are the ones who act, whether they are aware of it or not, as ambassadors of good will for their countries, their cultures. And good will is something we need so desperately these days to combat the ignorance and biases that keep us apart.

Hope you read this, old friend. Hope this clears it up.

47 thoughts on “to an old friend who asked why I post so much world literature on my blog

  1. I love reading your posts of translations, and it does exactly as you wish – connects me to the shared elements of the human experience, outside of time and place. It’s also a joy to read your work 🙂

  2. I never really wondered why you posted what you did… have just thought of it as a rare find. We certainly share influences (and by the sounds of it, perhaps a few antics) and I appreciate your perspective. Thanks for this.

  3. Great post! And I love that you post poetry that truly speaks to the soul. It’s interesting because I think that old friends may sometimes not realize that a person is allowed to have multiple interests and can’t always be contained in one category. I have had difficulty with this in my own blogging experiences.

  4. As a lover of succinct Chinese poetry, you sure took a long time to say what you said in a few short lines somewhere towards the end. “once we understand there is no “other”, then maybe peace will reign because we will reject those leaders who try to separate us using fear as their weapon and embrace each other instead.” You summed it up beautifully. Thanks. I might use that line myself one day. With permission.

  5. There is so much to choose from, for reading, both in libraries and on the internet, that all we can do is dip in here and there. So I especially appreciate the opportunity to read poetry I would not otherwise find, and even more to find poetry that appeals so much to me. After years of reading non literary works for my own work, then relaxation reading outside that job with very heavy pressures, I came to read and enjoy poetry very late on. So thank you very much. Glenys

  6. Well said. When time came for me to choose my focus en route to a BA in History, I choose the British Empire, not because it was anymore fascinating to me than other possible focuses, but because the professor who taught most of the courses on the British Empire preferred to use literature as a means to understand a people in a certain place and time. “A Dry White Season” will give one insights and connections into South Africa and Apartheid that cannot be gleaned from just knowing the major players and events of that time.

  7. Very nice answer, Professor… indeed is very important for everyone to open their minds a little bit and let “world literature” educate them a little bit… for my part I just know the next time I choose to watch Al Bundy at the shoe store (Married…with Children), I will have a big smile thinking of you as his manager….lol… keep up the postings, and thanks I certainly have learned a lot…

  8. Reading other poets and writers is essential for anyone serioiusly interested in writing, especially poems, given the difficulty. On a more practical note, once you put your own stuff in your blog, it’s considered previously published. So, posting work of others would be as instructive, and more so in my case.

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