...perhaps you would argue that, since you want to be a contemporary poet, you do not want to be too much under the influence of what is old, attaching to the term the idea that old is old hat -- out-of-date. You imagine you should surround yourself with the modern only. It is an error. The truly contemporary creative force is something that is built out of the past, but with a difference.
Most of what calls itself contemporary is built, whether it knows it or not, out of a desire to be liked. It is created in imitation of what already exists and is already admired. There is, in other words, nothing new about it. To be contemporary is to rise through the stack of the past, like the fire through the mountain. Only a heat so deeply and intelligently born can carry a new idea into the air. (pp. 11-12)
We imitate and it drains us of something; we imitate and we are filled. Is there something in the time delay of imitation where we imitate something from another period, another context, even another language -- something in its apparent dead-aliveness, its mountain strata -- that sends us upwards, as Oliver has it?