Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Infuences on your poetry/prose/scripts

I know the answer to this question changes over time, sometimes within a day, but who or what do you feel impacts your current writing style the most?

I had the pleasure of interviewing John Sweet for a journal a while back. He says music is the big inspiration for his poetry. He also has said in previous interviews that most poetry bores him, one of the main reasons he set out to create his own style. He's done a good job of it.

Other writers I know online have mentioned specific authors/poets and some are influenced by an accumulation of work they've read.

One poet who inspires me is Rebecca McClanahan. Read some of her poetry here Cortland Review. Her book, Deep Light, has me reaching for it time after time.

I also love the poetry of Sharon Olds and Anne Sexton. Add in Mark Hartenbach (most of his work is in print published by Pudding House). Many others. I've lucked out in recent chapbooks I've purchased from poets not 'well known' yet and found collections of poems that make me aspire higher. I'll never remember all of the names, so won't try to list those for fear of leaving someone good out.

Art inspires a good deal of my poetry, though no particular artist affects me more than another. It's generally a specific work of art. I don't write to describe the art, but rather the feelings that artwork brings up in me.

I realize that this is a question that's been asked thousands of times, but I've not asked it here and to the many talented people who read my blog, so I'm curious...



Lyle Daggett said...

Hi, Pris -- you started out asking about influence and then started talking about work that inspires, which to my thinking are somewhat different things.

I can't say objectively what poetry (or other writing) or music or art etc. has influenced how I actually write, i.e. the actual result. When I think about this question, I mostly think about who/what has influenced my intentions or ideas about how I want to write.

Having said that--

When people ask me who I like to read, the first to poets I usually name are Thomas McGrath and Sharon Doubiago. Their poetry has been deeply important to me for many years.

Other poets include Federico Garcia Lorca, Kenneth Rexroth, Tomas Transtromer, Yosano Akiko, Tu Fu (or Du Fu), Sappho, Basho, Miroslav Holub, Adrienne Rich, Olga Broumas, Pablo Neruda, Etheridge Knight, Nancy Morejon, Robert Bly (his earlier books of poems), Marge Piercy (her earlier books of poems), Margaret Atwood, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Joy Harjo, Gary Snyder, Paul Eluard...

...and a few other poets perhaps less widely known: Jenne Andrews, Anya Achtenberg, Gerrye Payne, Dale Jacobson, Franklin Brainard, Michael S. Harper, Siv Cedering, Claribel Alegria, Sheryl Noethe, Mira Shimabukuro...

Just to name a few; a real list would get very long. I probably fall into the category of having been influenced, as you said, by an "accumulation of work" I've read.

The one fiction writer whose work I've sometimes felt has led me closer to the sources of my own poems is John Steinbeck, some of the stories in his short story collection "The Long Valley." And, in a more general way, the writer Meridel LeSueur.

Among music: Joni Mitchell (especially her unusual melodies); Mason Williams; Mikis Theodorakis; Beethoven (especially some of the piano sonatas); Igor Stravinsky ("Rite of Spring," etc.); and all manner of folk music field recordings.

Among art: Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, some of Van Gogh, much classical art of China, Japan, Korea, east Asia generally (scrolls, woodblock prints, screens, etc.); much art of the Russian Constructivist period; and much left-wing and labor-oriented political poster art.

Photography: Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Bill Brandt, Lewis Hines, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Lee Miller; and, in a different way, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and some of the others of their crowd.

My reading of theatre is more limited. Bertolt Brecht and Lillian Hellman come to mind.

Among filmmakers: Costa-Gavras, some of Kubrick, some of Kurasawa, and various individual films here and there.

In general I've found it hard to read literary criticism, though a couple of exceptions are the essays of Robert Bly and of Kenneth Rexroth, also of Denise Levertov (especially her essays on lines, line breaks, stanza breaks, etc.).

And four others: "Illusion and Reality" by Christopher Caudwell (British Marxist literary critic), published in the 1930's; "The Moon and the Virgin" by Nor Hall (exploration of the psychological sources of poetry, by a Jungian therapist living near St. Paul, Minnesota); "A Little Course in Dreams" by Robert Bosnak (Dutch Jungian therapist living, at the time of the book, in the Boston area); and, in general, the art criticism of John Berger.

Sorry if I've hogged the comment box. Your post really got me started. :)

Pris said...

You didn't hog the box at all. I found it very interesting to see some of the many names of people whose work has influenced you. That list is so different for each of us, with some overlap.

You may be right that inspire and influence have different meanings. For me, they work the same way, in that a work that inspires is the same one that influences my writing. A friend sent a link last evening to a huge complilation of Jack Spicer's work: My Vocabulary Did This To Me, reviewed at and with linkes to some of the poems in it to the side. I'd read some Jack Spicer off and on, liked him, but had no 'leap of the heart' so to speak. The poems in that link did that to me. He made me aspire to even better and those are the poets I put on my list of those who influence.

Lorna Dee does write beautifully, doesn't she?

Oh, I decided to google inspire and influence. Among a series of definitions in Webster for inspire, I got:

1 a: to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration b: to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on ...was particularly inspired by the Romanticists

for influence I got:

authority , prestige , weight , credit mean power exerted over the minds or behavior of others. influence may apply to a force exercised and received consciously or unconsciously

Collin Kelley said...

Sexton, Olds, Stan Rice, Margaret Atwood, Alice Walker -- those are my touchstone poets.

Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Peter Gabriel, Bjork, Vanessa Daou and Laurie Anderson are my musical inspirations.

The films of Wim Wenders, Kieslowski, Sally Potter, Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut are my cinema inspirations.

Pamela said...

Keats, Kinnell, Berryman, Bishop, Boland, Doty, Tennyson

Beethoven, Beatles, Dylan, Patti Smith, Stevie Wonder, Al Green, REM.

Henry James, James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, Isak Dineson, Angela Carter, Nathanael West.

I'm too ignorant of cinema to have a bevy of favorites, but I'm very fond of the Italian realists and Billy Wilder.