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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"A Long Way Above the Ordinary World"

The other day, Guy Gavriel Kay cited this poem on Twitter as a measure of support for authors in the Rookie League (hmmm...am I one?), but of course, he couldn't post the poem to Twitter, because it's longer than 140 characters. I had to go look it up, and what a wonderful poem it is! It's "The First Step" by Constantine Cadafy (text via).

The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritus:
"I've been writing for two years now
and I've composed only one idyll.
It's my single completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder
of Poetry is tall, extremely tall;
and from this first step I'm standing on now
I'll never climb any higher."
Theocritus retorted: "Words like that
are improper, blasphemous.
Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you've done already is a wonderful thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.
To stand on this step
you must be in your own right
a member of the city of ideas.
And it's a hard, unusual thing
to be enrolled as a citizen of that city.
Its councils are full of Legislators
no charlatan can fool.
To have reached this point is no small achievement:
what you've done already is a wonderful thing."

It's nice to have the notion expressed in so wonderful a poem to which I can refer in the future, when I find myself engaging the dark thoughts that I'm never going to get anywhere or amount to anything as a writer, because I suspect that no matter where you are, there are times when the step you're on feels like it's only the first step....

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