Saturday, October 21, 2006

I was thinking about influence, and the list of books that have somehow affected, either influenced or changed, the way I write, spanning all the way back to beginning, when I hardly read any poetry at all, leading up til now, when I read quite alot of it. Sure there are other books that have probably worked their way in around the edges, but these are the biggies:

Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe (1990)
A Coney Island of the Mind, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1992)
Ariel, Sylvia Plath (1993)
The Complete Poems, Emily Dickinson (1993)
Collected Poems, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1993)
The Wasteland, TS Eliot (1994/1998)
Meadowlands, Louise Gluck (1998)
An Origin Like Water, Eavan Boland (1998)
Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove (1999)
Collected Poems, Anne Sexton (2001)
Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson (2001)
And Her Soul Out of Nothing, Olena Kaytiak Davis (2001)
The Air Lost in Breathing, Simone Muench (2002)
Why Things Burn, Daphne Gottlieb (2002)
Last Lunar Baedeker, Mina Loy (2003)
Isolato, Larissa Spzorluk (2004)
Musca Domestica, Christine Hume (2004)
Given, Arielle Greenberg (2004)
Captivity Narrative, Mary Anne Samyn (2004)
The Babies, Sabrina Orah Mark
Steal Away, CD Wright

Mostly women, especially among contemporary poets, but since I'm interested in women's poetics these days, that's who I tend to read. Poe's "Annabel Lee" was probably the first poem I ever memorized, the one that made me want to write poetry. in junior year English (and you wonder where those gothic sensibilities stem from..)I was once in love with the Beats my first couple years of college (what twenty-year old isn't?). My attraction has waned over the years, but I think Ferlinghetti the best in that circle. (Ginsburg fans hate me..) Plath is an easy one. I actually first encountered Plath as icon near the end of highschool (I inadvertently picked up The Bell Jar in the school library and checked it out because it shared a title with a Bangles song and that seemed important). It took me a couple years to "get" it, to understand it. And that Sylvia, the icon, the patron saint of anxious young women writers, with the journals and letters I later read, was what made me want to be a poet. It took me a bit longer to really come to appreciate the actual work, the poems, which came in college, and even now, I read them differently than I did then. Her work is probably the only poet who I can say I have a pretty full grasp on, the work, the biography, the scholarship, the fictionalizations. She's still that patron saint somehow. Dickinson and Millay came a bit later, and for awhile, influenced what I was writing (I'd say in a bad way since as undergrad I was doing wy too many short little rhyming poems). Only later would I come to appreciate Dickinson fully (and maybe still don't).

I talked a bit about The Wasteland below, but I was also reading contemporary poets around then (whatever I could get my hands on and check out at the DePaul library.) Gluck and Boland are ones that stick out as something I was trying to emulate in those days. Thomas and Beulah was on my MA exam reading list and sort of sealed the deal. If I could do THAT through poetry, tell a story like that, I was in it for the long haul. Perhaps it was those failed novel attempts, but if I could do that in poems, which I could already do a pretty good job with, I wanted to do nothing BUT write. That was when my PHD plans, and my brief failed career as a scholar, fell by the wayside. I was already writing in full swing when I discovered the next batch of books, Sexton, Carson, Davis, which sort of formed my voice then. Probably more the Sexton and Davis in this way, Carson, again with the scope and possibilities of poetry. I first heard of Simone's book in early 2002, when we both lost the (well, got 2nd and 3rd place) the 2002 Poetry Center thing. We officially met in 2004 when I finally won the contest (she'd garnered 1st in the intervening year), but her book was already making me write differently two years before that. (The book in particular is also, incidently, linked to the worst online blind date--that wasn't even really a date really--I ever had, but that's one I'll take to my grave.)

The rest--Loy, Szporluk, Greenberg, Samyn, Hume, Mark, Wright-- are things I've discovered over the past couple of years, or since I've been in grad school, mostly things recommended to me (or in Arielle's case because I know her). And for most of them, it extends beyond one book to their whole body of work, but these were the books I hit upon first. All of them having impact in a different way, on a different aspect of my writing. I blame The Babies for my addiction to weird, dark, little prose poems of late.


kate said...
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kate said...

nice to see another gottlieb fan :)