What poets changed the way you thought about writing?
There are two Japanese poets from the seventeenth century I hugely learned from - Nishiyama Soin, and Ihara Saikaku. It’s the free associative leaps of logic, the almost joyous way they place images side by side, sometimes in ways that are really funny.
There’s a beautiful book called Birds Through a Ceiling of Alabaster that translates poets of Abbasid-period Iraq. Everyone in there is amazing but especially Abu al-'Ala' al-Ma'arri, a pessimist freethinker and early vegan, almost existentialist in his outlook. He’s a poet of the mind moving, and so I think of him alongside the contemporary poets I probably learned from most, W.S. Merwin and Dionne Brand.
I value the alliterative and punning lessons imparted by the typically anonymous poets of Old English verse, especially for me the riddles, but also the exilic laments – “The Seafarer,” “The Wanderer,” “Wulf and Eadwacer.” I value the Pearl Poet for the same reason.
Of the Metaphysical poets, Herbert more than anybody else, and especially “Prayer I.” I urge everyone to stop reading this interview and Google it now. Now that’s what I call parataxis.
I cherish Gerard Manley Hopkins hugely, both for the obvious sonic reasons and for his integrity and care. Emily Dickinson for her brilliance and her lineation and her always-perfect choice of words.
Dylan Thomas, H.D., Pablo Neruda, and Nicanor Parra round out the crew.