A number of students recently asked me to put together a list of books I believed to be crucial reading for the contemporary poet. The idea was to list the books that would provide a novice poet with a 'cultural context' for his/her work. It seemed an easy enough task to begin with - now, however, it seems impossible to be in anyway exhaustive. As a consequence it is best to state at the outset that this list - which will be added to as I go along - is personal and in no way definitive (there is simply too much for us to read these days!). The list below is more concerned with texts I read after leaving University in the late 1990s - avant gardist and left field texts thus dominate. I hope to augment this list with a second list of the 'classics', i.e. books that had an influence on me in the early 1990s -the age-old texts that all creative artists and creative thinkers are forced to engage with at some level (whether consciously, or more often these days unconsciously). I'm also planning a list of seminal texts by Australian and New Zealand poets (for those interested in the poetry of these two countries).
Ian's Prediction: If you take the time to read large numbers of the texts listed below they will RADICALLY alter the way you approach poetry/creative writing ...
Poetry Anthologies, Books About Poetic Technique and Books About 'Poetics'
* Poems for the Millennium, Volumes 1, 2 & 3, edited by Rothenberg and Joris.
* Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry From the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal & Ravi Shankar.
* Networked Language: Culture and History in Australian Poetry, Philip Mead.
* The Shapes of our Singing: A Contemporary Guide to Verse Forms and Metres From Around the World, by Robin Skelton.
* The White Goddess, by Robert Graves.
* The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris.
* Twentieth Century Russian Poetry, Introduced by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.
* The Poetics of Indeterminancy: Rimbaud to Cage, Perloff.
* Technicians of the Sacred, edited by Jerome Rothenberg.
* Epic Traditions of Africa, Stephen Belcher.
* Manifestos of Surrealism, Andre Breton.
* Futurist Manifestos, edited by Umbro Apollonio.
* Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, edited by Carolyn Forche.
* American Poets in the 21st Century: The New Poetics, edited by Claudia Rankine & Lisa Sewell.
* A Poetics, by Charles Bernstein.
* The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy, Charles Bernstein.
* Oulipo: A Primer of Potential Literature, by Warren F. Motte. Jr.
* The L=a=n=g=u=a=g=e Book, edited by Bruce Andrews and Charles Bernstein.
* What is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, Adrienne Rich.
* Civil Disobediences: Poetics and Politics in Action, Waldman & Birman.
* Vow to Poetry: Essays, Interviews & Manifestos, Anne Waldman.
* The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry, edited by John Kinsella.
* Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americans, edited by Jerome Rothenberg.
* New Music: An Anthology of Contemporary Australian Poetry, edited by John Leonard.
* Modern Welsh Poetry: 20th-Century Welsh-Language Poetry in Translation, edited by Elfyn & Rowlands.
* Iraeli Poetry: A Contemporary Anthology, Bargad & Chyet.
* Modern Greek Poetry, translated and selected by Kimon Friar.
* Harvill Book of Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, Michael Schmidt.
* Essential New Zealand Poems, selected by Edmond & Sewell.
* The Honey Gatherers: A Book of Love Poems, edited by Maura Dooley.
* An Anthology of Vietnamese Poems: 11th to 20th centuries, edited and trans. by Huynh Sanh Thong.
* Contrary Rhetoric: Lectures on Landscape and Language, by John Kinsella, edited by Glen Philips and Andrew Taylor.
* The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, edited by Alan Kaufman.
Some Innovative Poets
* Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works, Jackson Maclow
* The Grindstone of Rapport: A Clayton Eshleman Reader (Selected Poetry, Prose, and Translation by Clayton Eshleman.
* Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the Construction of the Underworld, by Clayton Eshleman.
* Pablo Neruda: Selected Poems, edited by Nathaniel Tarn.
* Paris Spleen, by Baudelaire.
* The Flowers of Evil, by Baudelaire.
* H.D. Collected Poems (1912-1944), Hilda Doolittle, edited by Martz.
* The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams (Vol. 1 - 1909-1939), edited by Litz & Macgowan.
* George Oppen: Selected Poems, edited by Robert Creely.
* Peripheral Light: Selected and New Poems, by John Kinsella.
* Paterson, by Wiliam Carlos Williams.
* The Complete Poetry, Cesar Vallejo, edited and trans. by Clayton Eshleman.
* Gertrude Stein: Selections, edited by Joan Retallack.
* Federico Garcia Lorca: Selected Poems, edited by Christopher Maurer.
* Arthur Rimbaud: Collected Poems (Penguin Classics), edited by Oliver Bernard.
Culture, History and Society
* Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire.
* Early Postmodernism: Foundational Essays, edited by Paul A. Bove.
* Challenging Oppression, Bob Mullaly.
* The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era, by Micheline Ishay.
* Wild Politics, by Susan Hawthorne.
* A Derrida Reader: Between the Blinds, edited by Peggy Kamuf.
* Jean Baudrillard: Selected Writings, edited Mark Poster.
* The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow.
* Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, by Guattari and Deleuze.
* A Roland Barthes Reader, edited by Susan Sontag.
* Jacques Lacan Ecrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan.
* Culture and Society 1780-1950,by Raymond Williams.
* Feminist Thought: A Comprehensive Introduction, by Rosemarie Tong.
* Language and Silence, by George Steiner.
* Postmodernism: A Reader, edited by Thomas Docherty.
* Modernism 1890-1930, edited by Malcom Bradbury and James McFarlane.
* Feminism/Postmodernism, edited by Linda J. Nicholson.
* Postmodernism: A Reader, edited by Patricia Waugh.
* The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram.
* The Theory of Communicative Action, by Jurgen Habermas.
* Postmodernist Fiction, Brian McHale
* Postmodern Literature, Ian Gregson.
* Literary Theory: An Introduction, by Terry Eagleton.
* The Collected Works of Carl Jung (17 Volumes), by Carl Jung.
* Beyond the Brain, Stanislav Grof.
* Realms of the Human Unconscious, Stanislav Grof.
* The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Wilhelm Reich.
* Prisoners of Pain, Arthur Janov
* Imprints: The Lifelong Consequences of the Birth Trauma, Arthur Janov.
* Erich Neumann, The Great Mother.
* Escape from Freedom, Erich Fromm.
* The Sane Society, Erich Fromm.
* Person-Centred Therapy Today: New Frontiers in Theory and Practice, Dave Mearns and Brian Thorne.
Books on Myths and Symbols
*Reverse Symbolism Dictionary, compiled by Steven Olderr.
*The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols, by Chevalier and Gheerbrant (trans. Buchanan-Brown.
* The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker.
*A Dictionary of Literary Symbols, by Michael Ferber.
*A Dictionary of Symbols, by Tom Chetwynd.
* The Complete Dictionary of Symbols: In Myth, Art and Literature, edited by Jack Tresidder.
* Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, James MacKillop
* Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion, edited by Price and Kearns.
* The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom, Caitlin & John Matthews.
* Religion and the Decline of Magic, Keith Thomas.
* The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe, by Flint.
* Magic in the Middle Ages, Richard Kieckhefer.
* The Song of Taliesin, John Matthews.
* Oxford Book of Buddhism.
* Oxford Book of Islam.
* Oxford Book of Arthurian Literature and Legend.
* The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image, Baring and Cashford.
* The Elixir and the Stone, Baigent and Leigh.
* The Masks of God (Four Volumes) & The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell.
* Dionysus: Myth and Cult, by Walter F. Otto.
* Hermes, by Karl Kerenyi.
* Alchemical Active Imagination, von Franz.
* Patrick Harpur, The Philosopher's Secret Fire.
Interesting Books on Creative Writing Generally
* The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing, by Hazel Smith.
* A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Creative Writing, by Jack Hodgins