Writing Archive

RE: Appropriation

The New York Times Magazine, October 18, 2015 (read there)

Cultural appropriation is wrong when it results in failed art. Iggy Azalea, her astonishing powers of mimicry aside, has nothing interesting to say as a musician. Cornrows, which can look stunning on black people, tend to make whites look as if they’re wearing centipedes. That goes for everyone else’s borrowing, too. I wanted to like Babymetal. I did not succeed.

But T.S. Eliot said as much long ago. 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 from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

Eliot might be fending off a Twitter social-justice mob had he said that today, but it’s still true. If you make good art, if you love good art, all cultures are yours.

[This is an edited excerpt of an article that first appeared at The Federalist.]

Word count: 192

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