On Writers Influences

I was reading this in a book given to me by my writing professor years ago, and the quote reminded me of him:

“Writers have almost always witnessed about their reliance on models.  Writers read each other, and imitate, and blend, and react to traditions in literature.  Teachers — and the most imposing and successful of teachers — trace with their students the residues of earlier writers in the acheivements of later ones.  The subtlety and reach and eloquence in these weavings and recognitions must impress those of us who learn in the tradition.  We have all experienced the search and discovery, the classifying and evaluating in terms of influences.”

William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl

Many of my favorite writers have been introduced to me by my writing professor: Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, and Eudora Welty to name a few.  And the list of writers that we didn’t read in class is much longer.  I am still to this day reading through his list of recommendations (hence Writing the Australian Crawl).  I’m still surprised how many I find that I love, even though I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  In so many ways these writers have influenced my own writing, but not without the initiation of my writing professor.  It is he who not only influenced my writing, but also my life as writing and life should go hand in hand.  For writers influence not only your craft, but in turn, your life.  It is words change lives; no matter if you read or write them.


Nevermore…Poe's 200th

“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore…”

Besides it being Martin Luther King day and the day before Obama takes office, it is the 200th birthday of Edgar Allan Poe.  Besides his famous poem “The Raven” (which I felt the opening lines to be appropriate for today as many do not read the dusty volumes of Poe on their own), his short stories as most know are incredible and my favorite.

Below is a link to the New York Times slideshow of images of both Poe and his writings.

Edgar Allan Poe at 200

Mercies: Collected Poems

All Hallows Eve

by Sheldon Vanauken

Tonight, while weighing wild winged hope with fears

Of loss, again the girl’s voice crying gay

And sweet — O playmate of lost pagan years! —

Comes ringing in the glory of the May.

O singing beauty! singing though there nears

The moment of all finding and all loss:

Together in our laughter and our tears,

Wind-driven to the centre where ways cross.

Rose garden in blue night, where souls embraced

In holy silence, timeless ecstasy:

Truth grew between us, final beauty laced

The stars, and awed we knew eternity.

A secret sharing passed from eye to eye:

In death the singing beauty does not die.

I read a copy of Sheldon Vanauken’s “Mercies: Collected Poems” today.  While his poetry is touching, it is limited to those who know his story (which can be read in “A Severe Mercy” by himself).  His poems echo of his love with his wife, nicknamed “Davy”.  His poetry is tinged with melancholy tones, even those written when he and Davy first met and fell in love; obviously he was influenced greatly by the English poets, Byron and Coleridge (amongst others of that era).  My favorite poem, but again only due to having previously read “Severe Mercy”:


Bright with God’s spirit

Awed at that beauty

— You who are near it —

Unafraid at that footstep

Now that you hear it

Reckless in pity

Eager in loving

— High in the City —

Wearing in beauty

Holy simplicity.



This morning I was woken up when a tree decided to fall upon my house. Thankfully no one was hurt, but I kept thinking today of Joyce Kilmer’s poem, Trees:

    • THINK that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as a tree.
      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
      A tree that may in Summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.
      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

Poems memorized during childhood have a funny way of haunting us as we grew older.  Even if one threatened me bodily harm, I’m still grateful for trees.

Quote of the Day

“In the peaceful seclusion of the monasteries a small part of literature of the ancients has survived the wreck of the classical world.” H.L. Pinner

When you think about the amount of books that were created in the ancient worlds (and nothing compared to this day and age), and how little survived, it is amazing.

“For every sheet of parchment or papyrus which has been preserved to the present day, it is safe to say that thousands of such sheets have been destroyed for ever. The ravages of time, the excesses of military conquest, the bigotry of religious zealots, the fury of fire and flood, and the carelessness of the ignorant and unthinking have all taken their toll, and what is left is but a fragment of the records once written in ages past.” D.C. McMurtrie

Though yesterday at our library we found a book named Lucille by Owen Meredith, who apparently wrote very bad poetry and yet his book survived (or nearly, all the cotton from the padded binding was falling out) at least 125 years.