The Contemporaneity of the Past
"The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity." - T.S. Eliot in “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”
This excerpt from Eliot's famous essay expresses the belief that good writing engages all of the writing that comes before it, and that good writers understand the lineage of literary ideas and movements. Through knowledge of the past, a writer does a better job of expressing ideas of the present.
Read more at Suite101: Poets on Poetry http://www.suite101.com/content/poets-on-poetry-a355273#ixzz1GZ8rOxD6