For the World is Hollow...
In the salty darkness
Something horrid and familiar
Fading in spasms
Numb security, fading
I'm fading away
Wrapped in guilt
Drowning in dreams
11 June 1983
The title of this poem comes from an episode of Star Trek, the eight episode in the third season, ‘For the World is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky’. In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise rush to stop an asteroid from colliding with a Federation world, but discover the asteroid is actually an inhabited generation ship. The title sounds like it might be a quote—Shakespeare perhaps?—but if it is I can’t find it.
I don’t credit the quote and this brings up an interesting issue, one of plagiarism. Oddly I don’t recall ever writing about this emotive topic before. There have been news reports recently about an author who’s facing a prison sentence for “plagiarising” Borges; he took Borges’s short story ‘The Aleph’ and “remixed” it to make a new literary work. Is this plagiarism? It’s a sticky one but the simple fact is there’s nothing new under the sun. Unless you’re going to do a Joyce and invent your own words everything you say has been said by someone. Where do you draw the line? Here’s a sentence from my new novel:
There are so many gauntlets to run, ferrymen to pay, narrow gates to squeeze through and briar patches to negotiate.
We have an idiom based on an old-fashioned military practice, a nod to Greek mythology (or a Chris de Burgh song if you prefer), a biblical quote (Matthew 7:14) and a reference to ‘Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby’. There’s not an original thought in the whole sentence. What right do I have to use it? My logic is simple: like Pablo Katchadjian I want you to make the connections. I’m deliberately standing on the shoulders of giants. Authors have been doing this for years and there’s no one more guilty of it than Beckett. His books and plays are full of what gamers would call “Easter eggs” and it’s a delight to find these. Of course most people don’t find Beckett’s because they’re so damn obscure but they are there.
There’s an interesting article here about Star Trek and Shakespeare including a list of all the episode titles based on his plays. It’s a long list. I’m also not the only poet to find inspiration in that Star Trek episode. There’s another poem here.