catch and pitch
Was it Eliot, we ask, who said good poets borrow, great poets steal?
What he actually said was:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.
Which presupposes that poets borrow. Like jazz musicians borrow. Which is to say to quote and transform. Which is to say to improvise from one language into another. Which is to say to move into another pitch what has been caught. Which is to say, is it not, not only to cover but to re-cover, to do the work of elegy when the recognition of the phrase reminds us of what is past, to fold the past around so it is the future of the present, so the present is the past of the past, to loop it all, so we can, after all talk back, call-and-response, pitch-and-catch, not, after all, transparent, but bright as glass?
p.s. the following video has nothing to do with the aesthetic of this post. but its too damn precious not to post!