I read widely and I think that’s really important both for my own enjoyment of poetry and for my development as a poet. Just recently, I’ve been reading Sean Hewitt’s Tongues of Fire and Kim Addonizio’s Wild Nights and studying how they move backwards and forwards in time in longer poems. Whenever I read a new collection, I always copy out poems that I love – I suppose it’s a way of keeping those poems close to me but also, in a more nerdy way, seeing how they’ve worked line breaks for example, and finding out how the poems feel as I type them out. I love learning like this.
I’m currently reading Peter Redgrove’s The Moon Disposes. I’m a huge Redgrove fan, he’s not so well known but he’s a big influence on me. Peter Redgrove’s my go to poet when I find my writing’s feeling a bit flat or uneventful. He always shakes things up! I studied Redgrove when I was researching a PhD and have read most of his collections, he’s published 22 or so. I’ve still got a few to go. As part of the PhD, I also read everything I could find by Sharon Olds, Pascale Petit and Robin Robertson. Sharon Olds’ Satan Says is the best first collection I’ve ever read. It’s so bloody gutsy. I’m just about to review her latest collection, Arias. I’m looking forward to that.
I read a lot of North American poetry, possibly more than UK poetry. I’m not quite sure why that is but many US poets are influences, or write in a way that I admire. As well as Sharon Olds and Kim Addonizio, I’d include Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Yusef Komunyakaa, Philip Levine, Danez Smith, Ocean Vuong, Ilya Kaminksy and Chase Twichell, as well as Elizabeth Bishop, Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost. Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the Night’ is a poem I’ve never grown bored of. I’ve found it particularly meaningful at the moment.
I had the chance to visit Japan recently and have been reading a lot of Japanese poetry. I’m about to review work by Hiromi Ito, a poet I really admire. I also really enjoy Shuntaro Tanikawa and Toshiko Hirata, as well as ancient Japanese poetry – Issa is a big favourite. There’s so many brilliant Japanese poets, sadly I can only read Japanese poets in translation – but Modern Poetry in Translation has just brought out a special Japanese issue, so I’m getting stuck into that and hope to discover more contemporary Japanese poets.
Other poets who I love include, in no particular order: Tomas Transtromer, Pablo Neruda, Antjie Krog, Penelope Shuttle, Judy Brown, Deryn Rees-Jones, Jane Yeh, Jay Bernard, Fiona Benson, Rebecca Elson, Robert Herrick and Zeina Hashem Beck. Zeina Hashem Beck’s Louder Than Hearts is incredible for her writing on war and love, and her use of form.
I’ve written this off of the top of my head, to give it some spontaneity. I know as soon as I’ve pressed ‘send’, I’ll be saying why didn’t I include this poet, that poet, why did I forget her? The truth is, like most of us, there’s so many poets I’ve still to discover. I didn’t start reading poetry until I was 30. I’m enjoying catching up.