"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

twenty influences on my writing

were not 20 books as such, but were collections mostly in the form of anthologies. Still, I'm going to just sputter along here instead doing any research to get the details right. 01 nursery rhymes, especially "Mary Had . . . ." which I've used as a base several times ex.: Mary had a little lamb, and Charlie had some beef. 02 In our house was a small print single book edition of Shakespeare's works. Unlike Mr. Z, I have never read all of what he (the 17th earl(?)) wrote. I tended to read certain poems and plays over and over. 03 In our house was a set of E. A. Poe's works. Never read all of those either, but I did discover that he wrote humorous stories. 04 I was 11 or 12 when I attempted to write my first poem. It was about the Milky Way because at that time I thought I wanted to be an astrophysicist. 05 In high school the desire/need to attempt to write poems grew, but that school was a Roman Catholic one outside a small and mostly conservative Fox River Valley city, and I didn't aggressively scour libraries or magazines for poems, but somehow the first poet I tried to learn from through an effort at imitation was Charles Péguy. 06 Did find out about a national high school poetry contest. Sent in my first sonnet. Got an honorable mention, as I recall, & it was published in that contest's book. Am sure I read most of the poems in that book, but the book at some point wisely disappeared. 07 Then for one year/ I studied at the physical Marquette University. While there, two books by Alan Paton influenced me, and I wrote a freedom poem for Southern Africa which was partly influenced by the drum rhythms Vachel Lindsay used. 08 During my second semester I took an English class taught by a Jesuit. My term paper was on Dante's Divine Comedy. I wrote a 9-line prologue for my paper, using a difficult rhyme scheme I think I invented. 09 Further, that teacher told us that anyone who had poems accepted by the Marquette Journal, the student magazine, would get an A for the course. So I got three of mine accepted, but I am here to tell you that a poem by another student, a student I am pretty sure was in the dorm wing I was in, is far better than any of mine. "Pride's Offering to the Gods" is its title. 10 During my shortened two years in a Jesuit Novitiate near St. Bonafacius, Minnesota, Gerard Manley Hopkins and John Keats. 11 Forgot to mention I took Latin in high school and so Arma virumque cano preceded and may have been why I chose to read Dante. 12 Then it was three years at Wisconsin State College–Oshkosh where two of my teachers were Iowa Workshop graduates. Oddly I don't remember what poets we studied, but my teachers encouraged me to seek admission to the Iowa program. 13 At Iowa circumstances kept me isolated from other student writers; but George Starbuck, who was my mentor my first year there, was the sole reason I made it through. 14 Marvin Bell was my second year mentor; but W. D. Snodgrass, and fellow students such as Phil Hey and James Tate and Michael Dennis Browne, and hill courses like the one that introduced me to Ben Jonson and highlighted my trauma-caused (due to my being too sensitive) lack of self-confidence// held sway. 15 And yes there was Lowell, Bly, Wright, Plath, and numerous anthologies; and I do not know what order all these came in; but T. S. Eliot had been and remained important to me. 16 Dylan Thomas was another early influence, and Auden and his circle, and E. A. Robinson, and Whitman, and Dickinson, and Homer and beyond. Had taken a Milton course when I was an undergrad. Even Edith Sitwell. 17 Once had the original Donald Allen anthology, and the Rothenberg anthologies, and Kelly and Leary's A Controversy of Poets, and the first edition of The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetics. I read far and wide, yet there were many I was not aware of. 18 I did have Ginsberg's Howl. I do have a selection of Lorca's poems. Tom Montag gifted me with a copy of Lorine Niedecker Collected Works. 19 Even though I have a poor rote memory, poems and lines from poems are more important to me than books of poems. Among the poems I have a special feeling for is: "The Ship of Death" by D. H. Lawrence. 20 Unlike many, I am less attracted to jazz than to classical music, and I am not into movies. Guess I'm not with it, but I'm not against it either. -- So, given that for 20+ years poets and poem-making were incidental interests, I am playing catch-up, an endeavor I know is totally futile. -- a toy ot! kh00022

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