“Mickey Hess’s self-published creative nonfiction masterpiece, Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory, was recently reprinted by provocative indie press Garrett County in November 2008
In this online exclusive we ask authors to share books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired them in their writing. We see this as a place for writers to turn to for ideas that will help feed their creative process.
“One of the most important books ever to me is the glorious New Directions Collected Poems, 1912-1944 by H. D.
“What I find most inspirational are large masses of birds—any kind. Geese, blackbirds, crows, etc. I also find some birds inspirational in singles, particularly these three ducks—wood, harlequin, hooded merganser (especially!!) The surf scoter is okay too.
“Also I like wildly colored reptiles and amphibians, particularly poison ones, like poison-dart frogs. Can be: in the wild (best), in books, in zoos, even with the sadness associated with captivity. And those tanks of drapey lingerie-like jellyfish: yow!
“If I ever get stuck writing a poem, I will play some Talking Heads. That band is the poet I want to be! The album Stop Making Sense is especially meaningful to me. Although pop music might not always be clever or complicated, it is deeply honest and open. Like the band Vampire Weekend sings: ‘First the window, then it's to the wall / Lil’ Jon, he always tells the truth.’ Lately, and not only because our names look weirdly similar, I have been reading Matthew Lippman’s The New Year of Yellow again and being deeply moved and jealous.
“I hate to sound so directly instructional, but a book I’ve found immensely useful is Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide From the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
“I assemble things to maintain a place in my creative thinking, a little like stumbling around in the undergrowth of a slightly wild place.
“When my writing stagnates, I do occasionally turn to fiction for motivation or inspiration: I might read a favorite passage, say, the epilogue to A. S. Byatt’s Possession, or a random page of Bleak House. But I’m actually much more likely to read poetry—Yeats, Eliot, Auden, e.e. cummings, and Seamus Heaney are favorites—or listen to music to unstick myself. I love the baroque period—J. S.
“I find it easier to follow form to content than content to form (forgive the false dilemma), which means I depend on discovering an essential rather than an accidental relationship between the two