Meteor, Influences, Ambiance

By C.M. Mayo

My book Meteor, which won the Gival Press Poetry Award, will be out in early 2019. I’m working on a brief Q & A about it, and this got me to noodling. One of the standard questions for any poet, any writer, is about their influences. I wrote many of these poems an eon ago; indeed, some are more than 20 years old. The most recent poem in the collection is from 2010. (Why did it take so long to publish? That would be another blog post. Suffice to say, I didn’t make much effort; I was more focused on writing an epic novel and a book about a book and the Mexican Revolution.)

Back when, I would have said that my main influences as a poet were, in alphabetical order, Raymond Carver, Harry Smith, Stevie Smith, Wallace Stevens, and W. B. Yeats. But I think that now, from this distant perspective of 2018, that in writing these poems I was perhaps equally influenced by James Howard Kunstler’s razor-sharp nonfiction, in particular, his The Geography of Nowhere, and by certain musicians prominent in the ’70 and ’80s– not only by their lyrics, but the physical ambiance they create, the trickster, shapeshifting way they pull down the astral by sound, rhythm, the masks of archetypes. In English, we lack vocabulary for this.

Two examples:

Laurie Anderson, “O Superman”:

The Talking Heads, “Once in a Lifetime”:

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