"Perhaps the poet is the least competent judge of the influences that have shaped him, because he is too close to his subject."
First, like most poets of North and South America − Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Neruda − a great deal must derive consciously or unconsciously from Whitman. The long, prosy lines of “On a Hill above the Allegheny” or “Our Ships Were Cleaving the Seas the Same Years” are inspired by Whitman. In another way, too, Whitman is an influence: in the subject matter of death. Death is one of his primary subjects, as it is for Pound.
Ezra Pound is another inspiration, in the range of styles and in his lyrical passages, which are among my favorites in all of literature. He is a much more difficult poet than I am; nevertheless, some of my poems are relatively hermetic and require considerable familiarity with Greek and other mythologies and with the Bible to be understood. Pound also was a true cosmopolitan, drawing, as I have, on Chinese and Japanese culture, and on other cultures (Provençal, Classical Greco-Roman, Nakhi, and so on). In that I have imitated him, or found it natural to dip into cultures around the world (such as Aztec and Eskimo).
Like anyone interested in poetry who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, haiku, via the Beat poets, has been a major influence. Although my haiku do not strictly follow the syllable count and form of Classical Japanese haiku, they nonetheless convey their spirit and Buddhist outlook on life.
Shakespeare is another great inspiration. Most of us come to him in high school and for the rest of our lives we watch his plays. In my case the poetry that most sticks in my mind is the songs of his clowns and fools. I find the lyrics mysterious and disturbing, Shakespeare at his truest and most nihilistic. My poem “The hero, dark with revenge and bitterness”, specifically refers to Jaques from As You Like It.
Behind them all lurks the King James Version of the Bible, whose beautiful and powerful style underlie not only Shakespeare but also every poet from Milton to Whitman.