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Topic: favourite poetry books

Not the fossils

After a reading in Ottawa a year or two back, George Bowering said something worth remembering: your poetic influences can’t be charted with categories because we all make our _own_ traditions, big messy ancestries that leap from period to period, form to form, nation to nation. Charting these jumps autobiographically would mean a naming of Keats’ Odes, Ginsberg’s Howl, Wordsworth’s Prelude, Whitman’s Leaves, but it would also be like examining a fossil, even if those books might be the ones that first showed me what poems ought to be. Instead, I’ve tried to think about the books that have most often been active for me during the last few years of my writing life. Some represent a discovery of new writers; some are new books by familiar writers; and, some are die-hard standards in my poetic life, still finding their ways into empty evenings years after I first found them. Whatever the case may be, every one of the following has broadened my ideas of what a poem can do, even if one is really a collection of tiny stories, another is a translated travel anthology, and the best metaphor in another is its sketch of a double-tailed dog…