Nick Cave names his most loved poets
(Credit: Nick Cave)

From William Blake to Emily Dickinson: Nick Cave named his 15 favourite poets

While millions of people remained in a forced lockdown amid strict social distancing measures, we’ve all been handed some extra time on our hands. Now, in a bid to source new means of entertainment, it’s time to look away from the social media livestream sessions and delve into something different.

In times of need, we’ve found dipping into the Far Out archives to uncover some wise words of advice from Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave as a solid place to start. Here, we remember the moment the Australian musician and author revealed some of his most loved poets while in conversation with his fans.

Cave, who was again answering questions via his new fan led platform Red Right Hand Files, detailed his commitment to poetry and described it “part of my job as a songwriter,” before adding: “I try to read, at the very least, a half-hour of poetry a day, before I begin to do my own writing”.

Cave continued: “It jimmies open the imagination, making the mind more receptive to metaphor and abstraction and serves as a bridge from the reasoned mind to a stranger state of alertness, in case that precious idea decides to drop by.”

One of Cave’s fans, Astrid from Los Angeles, asked if the Bad Seeds frontman would be able to narrow down some of the poets that mean the most to him. “I have a few poets that, purely on a personal level, always delight and are a simple pleasure to read. There are enough surprises within their writing to keep the mind light and alive,” Cave answered.

“This is by no means a definitive list and in no particular order. I’m just sitting here at my desk looking at my bookshelf, in fact. They are poets whose company I consistently enjoy,” he added.

Here, with a wide range of differing wordsmiths, Cave detailed 15 of his most-loved poets for you to get stuck into during your period of self-isolation.

Nick Cave’s favourite poets:

  1. Stevie Smith
  2. Frederick Seidel
  3. William Blake
  4. Sherwood Anderson
  5. Rae Armantrout
  6. Langston Hughes
  7. E. E. Cummings
  8. W. B. Yeats
  9. John Berryman
  10. Sylvia Plath
  11. Thomas Hardy
  12. Philip Larkin
  13. Emily Dickinson
  14. Sharon Olds
  15. W. H. Auden

Below, read Nick Cave’s full answer to his fans:

Nick Cave's answer in full:
Dear Astrid and Katie,

I have always read a lot of poetry. It’s part of my job as a songwriter. I try to read, at the very least, a half-hour of poetry a day, before I begin to do my own writing. It jimmies open the imagination, making the mind more receptive to metaphor and abstraction and serves as a bridge from the reasoned mind to a stranger state of alertness, in case that precious idea decides to drop by.

Sometimes the reading is something of a chore and there are many “great” poets I find boring, inscrutable, long-winded and painful to read. They can be bad news for the imaginative process.

However, I have a few poets that, purely on a personal level, always delight and are a simple pleasure to read. There are enough surprises within their writing to keep the mind light and alive. This is by no means a definitive list and in no particular order. I’m just sitting here at my desk looking at my bookshelf, in fact. They are poets whose company I consistently enjoy.

Stevie Smith
Frederick Seidel
William Blake
Sherwood Anderson
Rae Armantrout
Langston Hughes
E. E. Cummings
W. B. Yeats
John Berryman
Sylvia Plath
Thomas Hardy
Philip Larkin
Emily Dickinson
Sharon Olds
W. H. Auden

Just to say, my list, in this instance, is of poets writing in the English language, for no other reason than to make the list more manageable.

Beyond this list, there are various poetry anthologies which are always an education and an immense pleasure to dive into, most notably those put together by the great Jerome Rothenberg – among them Barbaric, Vast and Wild, Shaking the Pumpkin, A Big Jewish Book, America a Prophesy and Technicians of the Sacred. (See Red Hand File #5).

Much love, Nick.

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