The Book That Changed My Life

Some time back I submitted a piece to the above part of the Scottish Book Trust’s website, then I promptly forgot about it. However, idly browsing this morning I looked at the site, and my story’s in it. I talk about Donald M Allen’s The New American Poetry, and its effect on me when I bought it in 1961. People often talk about books that influenced them, but this one genuinely changed the direction and shape of my life. I wouldn’t have become a writer if I hadn’t read this book.

Here’s the link:


About sunnydunny

Poet, publisher, gardener
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8 Responses to The Book That Changed My Life

  1. Rachel Fox says:

    Can you link direct to the piece? For some reason I don't seem to be able to find it.
    Might be me being rubbish though.

  2. Colin Will says:

    I've put the link in now.

  3. Rachel Fox says:

    Thanks. I had tried searching with your name and the book's name and Allen's name but nothing came up.

  4. Jim Murdoch says:

    I cannot say that all the poetry I got to read at school missed its mark but, looking back (I was only thinking about this today), I'm disappointed that, with one exception (a student teacher tried to introduce us to Ferlinghetti), the majority of the poetry I was exposed to, other than Burns, for the first sixteen years of my life was by Englishmen. (My knowledge of the poetry of my fellow Scots is still sadly lacking.) Only once I had left school did I discover that apparently other countries had poets too. William Carlos Williams was the one who made the greatest impression on me although I remember reading some pieces by Charles Olson that impressed me and I keep meaning to try and find out which book of his they were from. All I can remember at the time was that the book was £10 and I didn't have £10.

    The reason I was thinking about this today was that I ran across a site where someone was making a list of the essential 100 American poets and I thought: So, the same happens on the other side of the pond, they restrict what their classes see to what their own nation produces. The fact is, I needed both Larkin and Williams to point me in the right direction.

  5. Colin Will says:

    Jim: You're right about national restrictions. I'm very glad that soon after I discovered the American poets I found some German ones to interest me – Celan, Enzensberger, Grass – then French, Spanish, Italian and so on. Widening my reading deepened my interest.

  6. Colin Will says:

    I meant to say, Jim, that the Olson volume you mention may be 'The Maximus Poems', which is a big book in all senses. His 'Selected Poems' is an excellent starting point though. His essay on 'projective verse' is very much worth reading, and it's in the Donald Allen book.

  7. Jim Murdoch says:

    No, they were short, straightforward poems, Colin, a bit like what Williams was producing. I've looked at the Maximus Poems and they're not it. I'll find them eventually.

  8. apprentice says:

    A good piece Colin. I share your love of Levertov, I find her clarity of thought and expression breathtaking.

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