It turns out carpe diem doesn’t quite mean seize the day:
But here’s the thing. Horace didn’t say that. “Carpe diem” doesn’t mean seize the day–it means something gentler and more sensible. “Carpe diem” means pluck the day. Carpe, pluck. Seize the day would be “cape diem,” if my school Latin serves. No R. Very different piece of advice.
What Horace had in mind was that you should gently pull on the day’s stem, as if it were, say, a wildflower or an olive, holding it with all the practiced care of your thumb and the side of your finger, which knows how to not crush easily crushed things–so that the day’s stalk or stem undergoes increasing tension and draws to a thinness, and a tightness, and then snaps softly away at its weakest point, perhaps leaking a little milky sap, and the flower, or the fruit, is released in your hand. Pluck the cranberry or blueberry of the day tenderly free without damaging it, is what Horace meant– pick the day, harvest the day, reap the day, mow the day, forage the day. Don’t freaking grab the day in your fist like a burger at a fairground and take a big chomping bite out of it. That’s not the kind of man that Horace was. (127)
Should we consider a moratorium on creative production, to give everyone time to catch up on their reading?
It’s hard to hold it all in your head. All the different possible ways that you can enjoy life. Or not enjoy life. And all the things that are going on. The different rug patterns. The different car designs. The different radio shows that are coming and going. The new ads. The new crop of famous people.
And then there is, of course, always, and inevitably, this spume of poetry that’s just blowing out of the sulfurous flue-holes of the earth. Just masses of poetry. It’s unstoppable, it’s uncorkable. There’s no way to make it end.
If we could just–just stop. For one year. If everybody could stop publishing their poems. No more. Stop it. Just–everyone. Every poet. Just stop.
But of course that’s totally unfair to the poets who are just starting out. This may be their “wunderjahr.” This may be the year that they really find their voice. And I’m telling them to stop? No, that wouldn’t do.
But wouldn’t it be great? To have a moment to regroup and understand? Everybody would ask, Okie dokie, what new poems am I going to read today? Sorry: none. There are no new poems. And so you’re thrown back onto what’s already there, and you look at what’s on your shelves, that you bought maybe eight years ago and you think, Have I really looked at this book? This book might have something to it. And it’s there, it’s been waiting and waiting. Without any demonstration or clamor. No squeaky wheel. It’s just been waiting.
If everybody was silent for a year–if we could just stop this endless forward stumbling progress–wouldn’t we all be better people? I think probably so. I think that the lack of poetry, the absence of poetry, the yearning to have something new, would be the best thing that could happen to our art. No poems for a solid year. Maybe two. (19-20)
On the one hand, you’ve got to read good stuff in order to write good stuff. But on the other hand, you’ve got to write good stuff.