My Business is Circumference

Poets on Influence and Mastery

Stephen Berg (editor)


$ 26.95

Format Trade Paper
Pages 294
Size 6" x 9"
ISBN 978-0-9664913-9-5
Publication Date September 2001
Tags Poetry
Preview Book

Twenty-eight distinguished contemporary American poets provide a multifaceted view of the creative process. Each poet has contributed a poem and chosen several poems by other poets that have influenced it. In an essay, each poet then describes how those influences have led to a sense of poetic mastery.

The Contributors:

  • A.R. Ammons
  • L.S. Asekoff
  • Stephanie Brown
  • Hayden Carruth
  • Gillian Conoley
  • Amy Gerstler
  • Judith Hall
  • Hunt Hawkins
  • Jane Hirshfield
  • Claudia Keelan
  • Yusef Komunyakaa
  • Lisa Lewis
  • Dana Levin
  • Laurence Lieberman
  • Thomas Lux
  • Jane Mead
  • Jack Myers
  • Donald Revell
  • Len Roberts
  • Michael Ryan
  • Ira Sadoff
  • Hugh Seidman
  • Jennifer Snyder Gerald Stern
  • Lucien Stryk
  • Karen Volkman
  • Ted Weiss
  • Joe Wenderoth

"Anyone interested in how language calls to language, and heart to heart, will find these pages irresistible." —The Philadelphia Inquirer

"In this quirky, resonant, and necessary book, generously edited by Stephen Berg, a wide range of American poets at all stages of their writing lives offer their poems and choose their precursors, meditating with great humility and insight on the dual mysteries of influence and mastery, on the reading that fosters writing, on the shimmering nobility of poetry itself." —Edward Hirsch, Author of How to Read a Poem

"[A]n intimate and diverse look at the interactive processes of reading and writing: at its best, a compelling revelation of the ways in which the lifeblood of the poetic tradition seeps into the veins of the maker and is remade by this process in as much as it molds it." —Rain Taxi

"My Business is Circumference will intrigue apprentice poets, teachers, and readers fascinated by writers creatively exploring their own material and philosophical foundations." —Foreword Magazine

"The collection's abundance should last you several seasons at the very least." —The Jewish Exponent

"The poems selected are a delight. Placed with the work of the moderns they are sometimes a surprise. The juxtaposition invites the reader to puzzle out what the connection is between the two. It is a veritable Rorschach text touching on subtle and sometimes mysterious associations. The poets are generous in their description of their creative processes and revisit their first contact with the poems that inspired them, go on to share with us what touched them, what techniques influenced them and what they struggled with...With the encouragement of the editor, the poets in this book have generously offered to us their insight and art. For this they deserve a place of honor on our book shelves." —Small Press Review

"Not all invitational anthologies succeed in their missions, but poet Berg's inspired idea to ask American poets to choose several poems that influenced their work, write a short essay about their response to the poems, and contribute new poems of their own proved to be remarkably fecund. Poets are passionate readers of poetry, after all, and most poems are part of a grand, centuries-old conversation about the confusion, misery, bliss, and wonder of being. Jane Hirshfield, a superb poet and an interpreter and translator of poetry, writes elegantly about 'pebble-poems,' poems that are 'small, a little intractable, lithic in their singleness of perception.' Water is the element that connects Yusef Komunyakaa to poems by Robert Hayden and Elizabeth Bishop, and Hayden Carruth writes that he's 'been influenced by at least ten thousand poems written by at least one thousand poets,' then offers by way of examples works by Shakespeare, Pope, Dickinson, and Frost. Other radiant contributors to Berg's invigorating roundtable include A. R. Ammons, Thomas Lux, Jane Mead, Gerald Stern, and Karen Volkman." —Booklist

"The younger poets male and female steal the show here; while many skirt the topic of mastery with respect to their own work, they are passionate about their influences, which range from Sei Shonagon to Walt Whitman to Sharon Olds." —Library Journal


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