the way in which a poet borrows
While we’re on the topic of theft from my last post, below are the words of T.S. Elliot on the measure of a poet:
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. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
This can be just as easily applied to any act of creation–be it gadget, painting, poem, building, vehicle or song.
The quote above is also the one everyone mis-attributes to Picasso.