Poetry for Southern California


Carlye Archibeque Guest Editorial










Five Reasons to Read the Dead

By Carlye Archibeque

If youíre very brave and you want to become a poet of worth you should read as much poetry by dead people as possible. Why? So glad you asked:

One: Think youíre different? Think youíre special? So did all the now dead poets. Once you realize that you donít have one original emotion, complaint or idea it will free you up to work on your craft and put all those recycled human frailties in a pretty frame.

Two: It helps put an end to writerís block. Writerís block, for me, is the result of boredom brought on by thinking about yourself too much. Nothing lulls a muse to sleep like the sound of its masterís voice. Reading the works of poets who have passed on will replace your voice with the voice of someone who had enough going on that they continue to be published without benefit of reading on the poetry circuit.

Three:  Poets from the past give you an elegant historical frame both in a literal sense and in an emotional sense. No artists cover the passion of their times like poets. Our ability to go beyond the snapshot images of paint and print artists allows us to capture the soul of our lives and times. Reading the dead allows us a glimpse into the soul of things past which has the power to ignite our writing in the present.

Four: The biographies of the dead are full of events that mimic our lives and give examples of what it is possible to overcome; they give us good and bad examples of community living, anecdotes that make us laugh and cry and a sense of community and family that flows across the ages depending on how long the poets you choose to read have been dead.

Five: One day you will be a dead poet and others will honor you by reading your work and pondering your life. As a poet, reading the works of those who came before us is a way of honoring our fallen heroes. This is not a tradition that should only be reserved for soldiers and presidents. Artists should be remembered by those who come after them and it is, in a very large way, the responsibility of those of us who are living to raise the flag of poetry daily and salute our forefathers and mothers.