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« Robert Giroux Gone at 94 | Main | Letter to Harwood and Lehman from Livingston, III »

September 07, 2008


Bruce, I haven't read 'My Life' and have immediately added it to my list of books to buy.

Thank you.

I think My Life is certainly a fine contestant for most influential, and is definitely in the top 5, but when all's said and done I'd have to go with Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror--the Ashberian approach has cut a pretty broad swath across poetry, influencing not just digressive postmodernists, but also Neo-Formalists, the non-pigeonholed, and the general public.

my life is not, I would argue, influential poetry so much as oft taught for formal reasons poetryfictionmemoir

self portrait is not influential in the same way, mostly because "the poetry of John Ashbery" is more influential than that particular book -- what about Three Poems or Tennis Court Oath

unfortunately, I think something like the dead and the living, or the country between us, has broader influence

and my votes: Coney Island of the Mind, by Lawrence Frelinghetti, or Riprap, by Gary Snyder

While I'm an admirer of Hejinian, I have to say that my vote for most influential goes to Elizabeth Bishop's Collected.

Oh I do LOVE Hejinian! For me Cummings 1X1, Ferlinghetti's Coney Island of the Mind, and Ashbery's Three Poems have been my first and steady love affairs.

I immediately thought of A Coney Island of the Mind, but then saw that we're supposed to choose a living poet. (I learned in library school in 1993 that Coney Island was the best-selling poetry book of all-time -- I bet that's still true.) But for most influential, I'm going to say Billy Collins, maybe The Art of Drowning? I'd like to say Margaret Atwood or Nikki Giovanni, but those are simply poets I love, not necessarily the most influential.

i second self-portrait. i clicked over here to nominate it. i see ashbery all over the american poetry i most enjoy, which is to say i think he's (mostly) a good influence. the high profile of triple-crowned self-portrait, as well as its congenial and playful, yet guarded tone, makes it one of his most generous (in terms of positive influence) books. tennis court oaths is also influential, but it has encouraged a less coherent, less engaging poetry from its disciples. [side note: anyone who enjoys self-portrait will probably also like houseboat days, which is at least as terrific as the former.]

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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