The most frequently asked question when I perform is "Where do you get your ideas?" My answer is a quote from Mark Twain, "My scull is my workshop", but it really goes deeper than that. As a child my Mother read poems to us. She had several of her favorites memorized and performed them rather than simply "reading" them.
When I was ten I decided that I wanted to do that to, so I started memorizing some of our family favorites. I began to write seriously in my first year at college. I've never taken a poetry or creative writing class, but have relied on what I love about my favorite poems to be my guide. In many of my poems I can show you where here I was thinking of a Robert Frost poem, here is something I got from Lewis Carrol and here I am quoting Shakespeare.
The idea of quoting Shakespeare came from a Robert Frost poem called "Out, Out - ".
"Out, Out brief candle" is a line from Macbeth as Macbeth laments that his wife died so young. The Frost poem is about a young boy who dies. The last two lines of the poem are:
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
It's a sad sentiment that all the boys hopes and dreams, and those of his parents and family for him, have come to such a sudden end. There was nothing left to do so they "turned to their affairs".
In my poem "Man Overboard" again a young boy dies. When I wrote "With caps in hands and heavy hearts each man went back to work", I was definitely thinking of that line from Frost as my characters as well "turned to their affairs".
You only understand Frost's reference if you're also a student of Shakespeare. Just from that idea I learned to tuck literary references into my poems. References and jokes you'll only get if you are a serious student of literature and poetry in particular. A little "extra credit" or "bonus" for those who read poetry.
On these pages I'll talk about poets and poetry from the aspect of the poets who have influenced me. I encourage all poets to read poetry. Study the great ones that you come to love and let them play a role in your own greatness as a poet.