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Nursing & Writing Roundtable: Part III

Who influences your writing?

Cortney: If I had to name my poetry “mother” and “father,” I would say Anne Sexton, for her bold metaphors and ability to risk, and Wallace Stevens for his strange, interior landscapes and his craft. Those writers were my earliest guides, ones I rely upon even today. Other writers of course have influenced me in various ways, sometimes in ways I can’t readily identify. I am grateful to Gregory Orr, who champions the personal lyric narrative; for the way Stanley Kunitz mined the key images of his life; for the way Sharon Olds ignored the dominant male poetry world of her youth to write not their poems, but what she called “what I wrote.” I am thankful for her advice to me to always try in my writing not to simply approach the edge, but “to go over it.” I admire Rafael Campo’s use of form to contain wildly passionate themes, and I read Louise Glück in awe of her ability to portray complex emotion in spare and beautiful language. Like any writer or avid reader, my list of influences could go on for pages. I’m grateful to my many teachers: Sharon Olds, Carolyn Forchè, Yehuda Amichai, Thomas Lux, and Galway Kinnell.

Stacy: My favorite poet, hands down, is Charles Simic. I don’t have an MFA and was too intimidated to take creative writing classes in college, so my poetry education has been largely self-imposed. Some year ago, I bought an anthology of contemporary American poetry. Simic’s poem “We were so poor” from “The World Doesn’t End” was in its pages. It consumed me. I scrambled to find more of his work and my sense of admiration for this great poet exploded. My own style of writing took a drastic turn as a result. Other poets I deeply admire include Carl Adamshick, Elana Bell, Sasha West, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Louise Glück, though when I read Glück I feel less like a poet and more like a toddler wielding a crayon by comparison. Her writing is otherworldly.

Paula: Good song lyrics stay with me. Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon come to mind.

And other poets and writers, of course. I’ve had the good fortune to study with Betsy Sholl, Robin Behn, Nancy Eimers, Thomas Lux and Mark Doty. I like to think that they all inform my writing today.

Other influences include Wisconsin writers Susan Firer, David Graham, Kate Sontag, Pam Gemin, Ron Rindo, Stephen Powers, and Abby Frucht, who’ve been supportive of my development as a writer.

Is there anything else you want to respond to?

Cortney: You asked for a paragraph or two for each question, and I have given you a raft of words. I’d like to end by saying that in spite of the changes in literature and caregiving, there is no profession that I would choose over nursing. Being a nurse is a gift to others and to self; having the opportunity to write about the interaction of nurses and patients is a blessing.

Stacy: I would only like to add my sincerest gratitude for being included in this discussion group. I am truly honored!

Paula: I think I’ve carried on long enough.