Which poets did you read when you first began writing? Of those, which ones do you still enjoy revisiting?
I think Wallace Stevens was the poet who jazzed me deeply first. The vividness of his imagery translated brightly and instantaneously in my head like a animated cartoon version of a painting by Joan Miro.
As a kid, I went through a rural public education system, and we didn’t read poets unless they were at least 100 years old. At college I found out that poetry was not, like the Latin language, dead. That was big. My teacher in fresh English struck me as Oscar Wilde with a Mississippi accent. Although my grades from the course were only average, I still have my journals from that year (age 17) when I discovered poetry. I copied poems straight from the pages of the Norton anthology. Besides Stevens, on those pages are verbatim Robert Creeley, Adrienne Rich, and James Tate. Although my poems look more like Creeley’s than Rich’s on the page, I’m pretty sure that I’ve inherited something from each of them. From Rich it is something about my identity as a poet, a lesbian, and an intellectual. With Creeley it’s more about poetics, and what the poem is supposed to be.
If you feel like it, tell the story about how your relationship with poetry began.