Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus
  • Influence -- a Personal Example (with thanks to the public library)


    For the longest time I have wanted to read a specific poem from which, to date, I have only been able to read a few verses. The first two verses of the poem are included in a book I have about meter. Though I have searched online, I have not been able to find the poem reproduced in its entirety anywhere.

    I am super excited to report that yesterday I had occasion to re-visit an institution from which I have been estranged for decades: the public library. I obtained a library card and borrowed three books. The books are, of course, from the poetry section, and one of them is a collection which includes the poem I have wanted to read. The collection is called Touch (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago/Faber and Faber Limited, London, 1967) by Thom Gunn , and the poem I have been looking for is called "Pierce Street." 

    My latest publication here at Poetry Magnum Opus is an aubade called "Vintages." It begins Brown sunlight creeps through slats around/edges and tans her naked shoulder ...  I am considering the possibility that I was influenced, subconsciously, by the first lines of "Pierce Street" where Gunn writes,  ... Long threads of sunlight slant/Past curtains, blind, and slat ... " I would not deny or try to hide being influenced by someone from anyone. To the contrary, I have wanted to share "Pierce Street" in PMO's A Poem I Read Today forum for several years, and now that I have the complete poem available to me, I can even use it as an example to expound upon this matter of influence. 

    For the sake of example, take the words and image in the lines cited above from Gunn's "Pierce Street" and compare/contrast them with the requisite words and image in tonyv's "Vintages." Both are talking about window dressings, about daylight making its way into a room. There are two words in common: "sunlight" and "slat(s)."  But I will posit that that is where the similarities end. "Vintages" is an aubade, whereas "Pierce Street" is something else. 

    I found it uncanny that in a part of "Pierce Street" which I had not read when I wrote "Vintages," Gunn wrote, Out of night now the flesh-tint starts to dawn. When composing "Vintages" I searched for a while for a word or expression to convey "flesh-tint" and settled on "tans her naked shoulder." I wonder had I read all of "Pierce Street" before I wrote "Vintages" would I have subconsciously pilfered "flesh-tint"? Probably not. I considered "tints" on my own and chose "tans."

    I am drawn to the works of poets from several eras, one of which includes Edgar Bowers and Thom Gunn. Both were students of Stanford University's Yvor Winters. It is their writing, their style which attracts me. To some degree it is the subject matter of their poems, but mostly it is their use of contemporary language in metrical verse. From other schools I admire Larkin and the loveliness of Tuckerman. I have other sources of inspiration from fine art to music, but theirs is the writing to which I aspire.

    Wikipedia has an interesting, though I suspect elementary, article on plagiarism. There is even a section on "self-plagiarism" which could be an issue if one has assigned the rights to his own work to someone else. So far, I have only showcased my work here at Poetry Magnum Opus, not elsewhere. That said, I will rip off my own work as much as I please and with impunity.

    Now, you all have your own recognizable styles. Who are your influences and to what degree do you emulate them? Disclose. Don't hold back.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    I have thought about this same subject often.   I write a phrase and it looks familiar to me, as if maybe I read this somewhere written by someone else.  I have never deliberately used someone else phrase or ideas but I think we are a sum of everything we experience and read.  How do we separate what we have ingested from our original thoughts.   And repeating my own phrases in different poems, I'm sure I've done that many times because I write about the same things.  And favorite words are another repetition.  


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Judi, I didn't see your reply to this article (or the other one) till now. I think part of the problem is that the comments to the "Front Page" articles don't cross post with the replies to the duplicate articles in this forum. For example, if I post a comment on the Front Page version of this article it won't duplicate here in this version of the article and vice versa. I'll have to look into whether there is a way to make it work like that, but I don't think there is.

    On 4/28/2018 at 2:01 AM, Tinker said:

    ... I have never deliberately used someone else phrase or ideas but I think we are a sum of everything we experience and read.  How do we separate what we have ingested from our original thoughts ...

    I remember hearing somewhere that there are are only a certain amount of narratives in existence -- it's some small amount like seven or ten -- and that any story or drama written will fit into one of those top tier narratives. So, if that's true, we certainly will end up telling the same stories over and over albeit in slightly different ways.

    On 4/28/2018 at 2:01 AM, Tinker said:

    ... And favorite words are another repetition ...

    I agree. Across my works, I repeat certain words that I'm inclined to treat as my own to the extent that I should ©️ them! :o:rolleyes:

    Tony :laugh:

    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    ? Yes, I know.   "prink" is an antiquated word meaning decorate and honestly I don't recall reading the word in any thing I've read.  And yet early on in my writing I was looking for a word for a poem using my Thesaurus and found it.  I've used it in at least 3 poems I can think of right off the top of my head.  It is such a perfect word, the sound, the texture, the single syllable seem to show "decorate" so more clearly than "decorate".


    Link to comment
    Share on other sites

    Join the conversation

    You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.