Over the last few weeks, one of the LinkedIn poetry groups has been discussing "which poet has had the most influence on you." After the first 23 days, 128 people had responded and most couldn’t keep it to just one poet who inspired them.
When I noticed that the majority of the influences were dead, (and many long dead at that), I decided to categorize all the responses. Here’s what I found:
- 128 people responded in 23 days (the poll is still ongoing but I had to cut it off somewhere).
- 201 dead poets were elected as influences.
- 50 poets were living or had died only within the last year.
- 3 people admitted they didn’t even read poetry.
- 4 people (including myself) elected songwriters. The first person elected Alicia Keys and was roundly criticized for it. Not seeing this censure in time , I came along and made a case for Joni Mitchell (three of her early albums taught my appreciation of similes) and Sting (he taught me extended metaphors on his Dream of the Blue Turtles album, although "King of Pain" has some awesome similes, too), and one person later voted for Bob Dylan.
- 4 people elected children’s poets: two elected Dr. Suess, one elected A.A. Milne and 1 elected Shel Silverstein. To be honest, I should have mentioned Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, too. I was indeed influenced by the meter and word-inventions of Dr. Seuss and Silverstein’s “A Boy Named Sue” which I pilfered from my father’s Johnny Cash collection. The song made an indelibly subconscious impression on me for many years and my appreciation for internal rhyme and alliteration.
If I’m being totally honest, I’d have to list Sonny Bono's influence in Cher songs as well. Thousands of listening hours later, some of that shit had to have seeped in!