Larry Levis – The Widening Spell of the Leaves

All Levis’ books are essential, but this one in particular showed me how poems can be a process of thinking itself. The narrative leaps and linguistic circling of these long poems helped me understand poetry as a method of coming to perception.

Elizabeth Bishop – Collected Poems

Observation–looking clearly and closely–that’s Bishop’s strength and then the power of her revision and language to evoke the physical/natural world directly, as if there’s nothing between the page and the poet.

Terrance Hayes – Lighthead & Hip Logic

Terrance is our poet of invention. He finds new ways to say new things. He plays with language and form like no one else and in doing so showed me the path to new methods and modes of poetic expression.

Jack Gilbert – The Great Fires

Our great poet of metaphor. His are so precise that they speak (almost perfectly) those things that cannot be said. He defines love and desire and grief and loss inside the intense metaphorical clarity of his poems.

Norman Mclean – A River Runs Through It

An essential prose elegy. This novella/memoir brings loss and nature together in the truest and most perfectly written story I know.

Jeffrey Thomson’s most recent book is Half/Life: New and Selected Poems, from Alice James Books. He is professor of creative writing at University of Maine Farmington.

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