MY POET'S BOOKSHELF
I was recently asked to contribute to the second volume of POET'S BOOKSHELF: CONTEMPORARY POETS ON BOOKS THAT SHAPED THEIR ART. You can see more information about this project through its first volume whose link is HERE.
Basically, I was asked to list 5-10 books, with comments, on works that were "essential" to me as a poet -- that shaped my art, as the title put it.
The first title that came to mind was:
THE UNITED STATES OF JASPER JOHNS (an absolutely brilliant art monograph) by John Yau
It means something that the first book that comes to mind is not someone else's poetry collection but an art monograph. These were followed by:
RADIANT SILHOUETTE: NEW & SELECTED WORKS 1974-1988 by John Yau
SPHERICITY, ENDOCRINOLOGY and FOUR-YEAR-OLD GIRL by Mei-mei Berssenbrugge
ARCHIPELAGO by Arthur Sze
And then I paused for a while as it was difficult to come up with a fifth author.
Obviously there are many poets whose works I love -- before I even read any of the above titles, I read and loved Odysseus Elytis, Rilke, Neruda. Then there's Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarme, Lorca, Jose Garcia Villa, Gabriela Mistral and so many many others. But in terms of works that I not only love but actually affected my own way of making poems (insofar as I can assess such influence), I'm sort of startled to see how few poets I can pinpoint. (And, undoubtedly, my initial listing of Berssenbruge's, Sze's and Yau's poetry collections was caused by my first book which I wrote as an impressionable newbie poet; the book offers an immersion in certain Asian American poets and they were ones with whose works I felt the most empathy.)
After much consideration, I'd say my fifth title might be either of
THE ANCIENT VIEW OF GREEK ART by J.J. Pollitt
some Buddhist text
PARALLEL UNIVERSE by Nicola Barker (a science text, not a novel)
a martial arts text (I believe it was Jujitsu; my yoga teacher borrowed it a long time ago but never returned it and my memory sucks)
And I'm having trouble coming up with more book titles. But if we were to widen the list to include the visual arts, then the list might be endless -- encompassing Jackson Pollock, various Abstract Expressionists, Richard Tuttle (specifically his sculptures from pencil, wall, string, nail and shadow), Picasso, the Doug Aitken video "Into the Sun", Cubism, Minimalism, Conceptual Art / Conceptualism, "The Kritios Boy", sculptures (I often say I "sculpt" versus "write" verses); theories on drawing,and so on.
On a Listserve, we're discussing multidiscilinary/multi-genre approaches. Someone opined that she'd always felt it *natural* to take such an approach...but with the advent of MFA programs where such is not the norm, it's as if the multidisciplinary POV is something different when (as I read this person's words) it actually should be considered more the norm. I'd agree -- I think that's what happens when one practices Art beyond a programmed path. It's one reason I've always considered the idea of *literary lineage* so constricting.
Hmmmm...as I think of the topic, I'm sensing a reluctance to include philosophers (though Maurice Merleau-Ponty came to mind just now in a good way).
Anyway, the above isn't my final response to the POETS BOOKSHELF's survey. It's a warm-up that makes me realize the question is not as easy as I thought it would be.