Ever wonder what Robert Frost read on the road? Or how about where Neruda found inspiration for his heart-wrenchingly sexy stuff? Love e.e. cummings’ poetry? Well, whose did HE love? Poets often do a darned good job making it seem like their signature voices popped out of nowhere – utterly original, unique, unprecedented! Critic Harold Bloom famously called this the “anxiety of influence,” a fancy phrase for “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” It points out the fact that all authors are influenced by what they’ve read, but many are anxious not to show they owe to much to that reading.
Luckily though, many of our most popular poets have been very open about their go-to writers, naming favourites and major influences in interviews, memoirs, and critical works. I’ve picked just three names for nine of the 20th century’s most popular poets – three writers that each poet read, learned from, and maybe even liked – though there are of course more!