20 November 2008

Under the Influence

In snowy times like these in Northeast Ohio, there's little to think about other than the influence writers have on other writers. It's not like Thanksgiving is around the corner. Nobody has immense stacks of papers to grade. Oh no. Not here.

Seriously, though, I was just running downstairs (avoiding work) to get a tea (avoiding work), and thought about how we're always searching for the influence of poets/writers on other poets/writers. As if it's any of our business. But we seem to have an enduring desire to identify and attribute. And of course there's that whole anxiety of influence to consider.

There are poets I think I should have been influenced by, but who failed to move me. There are a lot of fiction writers on my influence list. Don't tell this guy.

Are you under the (literary) influence at present? Is anyone inspiring you, or floating your boat? Curling your toes? Rocking your world? Serving as resident bee in your bonnet? Have you ever outgrown an influence, like a pair of paisley corduroy bellbottoms? Have you ever needed an intervention for being overly influenced?

8 comments:

Amy said...

Anecdote: I was an angry poet at Bread Loaf one summer and made an argument against reading too much, i.e., I could never think about using a red spider in a poem because "the red spider that is God" was already taken. My hungover teachers muttered "go read Bloom."

Penultimatina said...

I almost choked on my tea reading that... ;)

Justin Evans said...

For a long while it was Ezra Pound. For a long time it was Dave Lee. For a longer time it was Pablo Neruda. For an even longer time it was Frank Stanford.

I am hopeless. I would love to say that being under the influence is a temporary thing, but the truth is I am too easily swayed by the writers I read. I still have not found "me" within all of that which is out there. More often than not, I am simply writing my version of the poems I read from day to day.

I wouldn't call it an outright fraud, but there are times I don't think I will ever be my own poet by any stretch of the imagination.

Troy said...

If you'd asked me a week or two ago, I'd probably have given you Li-Young Lee and Gerard Manley Hopkins. And if you'd pressed me to name people who aren't poets, per se, I'd have given you Andy Hull and John Darnielle and Brett Dennen.

But Robert Wrigley's "Exxon," which appeared in the New Yorker this week, floored me. It has me thinking about metaphor and allusion in entirely different ways.

Margaret Bashaar said...

I was reading to Mihnea from Yusef Komunyakaa's new book, and once I had finished I think the third poem, he looks at me and says, completely deadpan, "Yusef Komunyakaa writes like you."

He was the first poet I felt like I "discovered" while browsing through Borders back in high school who wasn't dead yet. I suppose he's had a bit of an influence on my writing.

I was also big into T.S. Eliot for a while there. And Neruda. I read through 100 Love Sonnets so many times.

Lyle Daggett said...

I find it pretty hard to say anything about how other poets may have influenced the way I actually write -- it's pretty hard to be objective about that. It's easier to talk about which poets have affected my ideas and intentions about how I *want* to write, or my ideas about what poetry is.

Some of the poets whose work has been important to me over the years are Thomas McGrath, Sharon Doubiago, Kenneth Rexroth, Federico Garcia Lorca, Tomas Transtromer, Yosano Akiko, Tu Fu (or Du Fu), Basho, Sappho, Adrienne Rich, Robert Bly (his earlier work), Marge Piercy's early books of poems, Etheridge Knight, Miroslav Holub, Gary Snyder, Olga Broumas, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Paul Eluard, Mina Loy...

And some who are maybe less widely known: Anya Achtenberg, Gerrye Payne, Jenne Andrews, Franklin Brainard, Dale Jacobson, Roy McBride, Olga Cabral, Zoe Anglesey, Sheryl Noethe, Mira Shimabukuro...

To name a few. When people ask me which poets I like to read, the first two I usually name are Tom McGrath and Sharon Doubiago.

John Gallaher said...

Richard Hugo

I simply adored his work twenty or so years ago. I still go back to his work now and then, though it doesn't quite do what it did then, it's still a very worthwhile experience.

There's the tendency, in staying current with new books of poetry, to forget to go back to poets like Hugo. I'm always glad when I remember.

Penultimatina said...

John, I'd never read much Hugo when I started grad school. People kept talking about him. Hugo, Hugo, Hugo. The whole time I thought they were talking about Victor Hugo. Not my brightest moment by far...