10 Most Influential...

From a post at Amanda Auchter's blog: "New England College's application calls for a list of the 'ten most influential poetry books you have read in relation to your creative work as a writer'" (her list follows).

Interesting how this list can differ entirely from a list of the ten books one most admires or loves. Strange beast, influence: often a poet's stated influences can't even be guessed at by a reading of her work. A book might influence me not in terms of approach, voice, line breaks, typography, etc., but simply by showing me what is possible...I guess most books I'd consider influences have done that more than anything else: freed me from some inhibition (by which I really, really, don't mean inhibition about subject matter). So here, in no weighted order, are mine (today). Not all are even personal favorites; some are ones I owned at one point and sold or gave away.

1. 77 Dream Songs, John Berryman
2. Harmonium, Wallace Stevens
3. Articulation of Sound Forms in Time, Susan Howe
4. something by James Tate (I'm thinking of certain poems from his selected; I don't know which single volumes they originally appeared in)
5. The Clerk's Tale, Spencer Reece
6. Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein
7. For Love, Robert Creeley
8. Crash's Law, Karen Volkman
9. perhaps this is a rescue fantasy, Heather Fuller
10. Pause Button, Kevin Davies



Sam of the ten thousand things said...

1. Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop
2. The Bridge, Hart Crane
3. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake
4. Turtle Island, Gary Snyder
5. Satan Says, Sharon Olds
6. The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich
7. Narrow Road to the Interior, Basho
8. The Only World, Lynda Hull
9. Dreamtigers, Jorge Luis Borges
10. Duino Elegies, Ranier Maria Rilke

I'm not sure I can be trusted with this list. Number 1 is number 1-- after that, it's all weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

V said...

What a great list, Emily! I agree with your qualification that influence isn't the same as admiration.

Mine are (in order chronological based on when I discovered them):

1. The Leaf & the Cloud by Mary Oliver
2. The Clerk's Tale by Spencer Reece
3. Voluntary Servitude by Mark Wunderlich
4. World's Tallest Disaster by Cate Marvin
5. Interior with Sudden Joy by Brenda Shaughnessy
6. Emily Dickinson
7. The Master Letters by Lucie Brock-Broido
8. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
9. Glass, Irony and God by Anne Carson
10. My Alexandria by Mark Doty

That was quite difficult. Clearly there is a bias for very contemporary poetry. What can I say? It's what I read the most of. I'm quite new at this, after all. This is only my second year with poetry, after all. : )

Pamela said...

1. The Book of Nightmares, Galway Kinnell
2. Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop
3. Selected Works, Tennyson (Go on and laugh--then read something of his aloud. No poet has more beautiful sound effects).
4. Work, for the Night is Coming, Jared Carter
5. Transformations, Anne Sexton
6. Old Testament (specifically Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Job)
7. Outside History, Eavan Boland
8. Resurrection Update, James Galvin
9. Rising and Falling , William Matthews
10. Ghost Money , Lynda Hull

Collin said...

Most of the ones I admire are my most influential:

1. Live or Die - Anne Sexton
2. Some Lamb - Stan Rice
3. The Dead and The Living - Sharon Olds
4. Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
5. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
6. Howl - Allen Ginsberg
7. Written On the Body - Jeannette Winterson
8. Horses Make A Landscape Look More Beautiful - Alice Walker
9. Morning in the Burned House - Margaret Atwood
10. Ariel - Sylvia Plath

Justin Evans said...

In no order:

1. My Town: Dave Lee

2. Flying Over Sonny Liston: Gary Short

3. So Quietly the Earth: Dave Lee

4. Leaves of Grass: Walt Whitman

5. Selected Poems: Henry Wordswoth Longfellow

6. From a Three Cornered World: Jim Mitsui

7. History of the Garden: Katharine Coles

8. Ludi jr.: William Kloefkorn

9. The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I love You: Frank Stanford

10. The ABC of Reading: Ezra Pound

My list was easy. It represents most of what I have read, ever.

Peter said...

Hmmm: books that most "influenced" me. I think of what I was reading back when I was first starting to write poems again, after medical school, in the late 80's and early 90's. These were the (contemporary, mostly) poets whom I was wanting to emulate and/or immitate and/or steal fire from:

The Country Between Us (Forche)
The Wild Iris (Gluck)
Sin (Ai)
Terms To Be Met (Bradley)
Sandover (Merril)
The Sacraments of Desire (Gregg)
Love Alone: 18 Elegies for Rog (Monette)
End of Beauty (Graham)
The World of 10,000 Things (Wright)
The Enchanted Room (Simon)

It would be a very different list now.

Jordan said...

Y'all are gonna make me reevaluate Spencer Reece.

Anne said...

You know, I've been chewing on this question in the back of my mind for a few days now (and it's funny, but I had just happened to look at the NEC application a day before you posted this, Em, and noticed the question there too). Every time I start to make a list in my head, it falls apart. There are books that influenced me to start writing. There are books that influenced me to change my voice. There are books that influence the way I write now. I don't know how to sort among all those, or how to judge which was most important. Some of the poetry I read when I first started writing is stuff I probably wouldn't really cop to these days (Brautigan, Lyn Lifshin forgodsake -- or for that matter, Mother Goose rhymes that I read as a little kid, that taught me to love word play) and yet it was part of what pushed me along and probably had some effect on where I am as a poet today. And there's the book I was reading a few days ago, that I put down in the middle and picked up my pen and paper and started scribbling away at my most recent poem -- is that more or less influential than Mother Goose?

Good question, and not as easy an answer as I'd have expected when I first started thinking about it.