Part 3 - Influences

The Origin of the Guiding Questions

These are the guiding questions of my critical thesis on the close reading of poetry for developing a personal poetic aesthetic:

*What moves me when I read a poem?
*What excites me?
*Conversely, what do I want to avoid doing?
*What turns me off?
*What bores me?
*And, most importantly, what kinds of poems do I want to write?
*What kind of poet am I?

How did I come up with these question? First, I would like to share the following poems or excerpts of poems.


Here is the significance of the these poems and poets: they are all teachers of mine from the last four years. With such a range, it is no surprise that I have come to generate these guiding questions for my thesis.

Annie Finch wrote the first poem, an excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Scotland. Though she has never been my faculty mentor for the semester or a workshop leader, she is the director of the graduate program I am in and she has taught seminars that I've been to. She is very interested about blank verse, the intricacies of a poem and the many level on which it works. Form, substance, content -- all of it.

Richard Hoffman wrote “Stories.” He was the faculty member I worked with in my second semester. I chose to work with him because he also writes creative non-fiction and I was interested in dabbling in that. Turns out that creative non-fiction doesn't make me very happy-- sitting down to write it, that is -- so I moved back to concentrate on poetry. However, Richard Hoffman's poetic aesthetic is very different from my teachers of the past (see below). One of the things I remember most from his comments to me is “I want to know, where's the poet?” He felt I was hiding with or in my elusive writing.

Ray Gonzalez wrote “Grandfathers.” He was my mentor first semester. I think I can best sum up my impression of his poetic aesthetic from what he said in a workshop “the reader isn't allowed into the poem without specificity.” He said this in a workshop I had with him. He did not say this is about my work but about a fellow student's, and he followed this statement by saying a poem that's elusive on purpose should not be done.

Baron Wormser is concerned with the teaching of poetry in all places - schools, communities, prisons, every day life situations. He is also a poet passionate about the world and our role in it and he conveys that in his poems. He is my teacher this semester.

The last poems is from Jennifer Moxley, an English professor at University of Maine. I think I can best give her poetic aesthetic by quoting from the preface of her book Imagination Verses:
Our states, whether social or organic, are composed of effect that are both chosen (verses) and not (Imagination). When we hope for a future different from the present we uncover the injustice of our imagination...Being time-based beings, we cannot escape compromise, concealing history with each new life...Poetry is the frustration of such limits. As an art form, it is a bridge of half measures on the way to the possible, drawn from the viewpoint, time frame and landscape of a single life.


With teachers who are so diverse in their philosophy or aesthetic or however you would like to name it, I'm left wondering: what do I think? Who do I believe? Who do I respond to most, artistically speaking? That is how I came to bridging the topic of the close reading of poetry with the idea of what my personal poetic aesthetic is, to help me begin to determine the answers to these questions.