Monday, July 20, 2015

The Peace of Influence: A Request for Recommendations

I don't pretend to completely understand Harold Bloom's tremendous work, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry, but to put it in crude terms, Bloom deals with the poet's catch-22:

Poets are most inspired to write by reading others' work, yet are called upon to be original, thus their muse and their purpose are ever at odds with one another.

If I read a good poem, and am inspired to write, whatever I write is going to be - even subconsciously - influenced by the poem I've read, therefore cannot be entirely original.

The whole thing assumes, of course, that originality is the ultimate goal.

And I suppose it is - an ultimate goal.  But is it a realistic goal?

Or, conversely, is it a goal instaneously realized, without even trying?

If there is no one else exactly like me on this earth, aren't all of my poems also necessarily original?

Here, I think we get into the territory of debating "original" and "fresh."  Those are two different words.  "Fresh" connotates pleasant and welcome.  "Original" can be a blurb-writer's way of masking "weird" when they're in a tough spot with a poet friend.

Anyway, I haven't been reading much poetry lately, and I miss it.

By poetry, I mean full collections - digging deep into one poet's work and staying with it, letting it enter that inner space Bloom calls "the poet in a poet" and influence me.

Sure, I read blips that come up on my radar - one-offs from a variety of poets that I come across through following a whole load of literary journals on social media.

I read Sam's poetry, of course. One day when he publishes his collection, I will devour it.

In the meantime, I need to get and start reading whole collections again.  The trouble is going to be choosing just a few from my immense wish list.

Help me.  Post your favorite collection by a single poet.

Also, I'm still trying to publish my own manuscript. I have my eye on three contests to enter this summer.  If you know of any other good ones for a first book, let me know!

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