And you read your Emily Dickinson And I my Robert Frost And we note our place with book markers That measure what we've lost..
(Paul Simon, The Dangling Conversation)
I first starting writing poetry in 1967 and was greatly encouraged to do so by Geoffrey Earl, then English Master at Price's School, Fareham, Although I elected to study Physics and Mathematics for A-levels, I regularly visited Geoffrey at his home where we spent many long hours going through various jejune efforts on my part. Geoffrey was a Cambridge graduate who, for better or worse, had fallen under the spell of F.R. Leavis. Sadly I doubt if such an informal arrangement would be possible these days.
In September 1969, after leaving school, I joined the Gosport and Alverstoke Writers Group which met weekly at a Community Centre. Here I got to meet a number of 'amateur' poets and writers. The first edition of Hampshire Poets had just been launched. It's editor was Katherine Sparks and I got to know her well over the next few years. Very kindly she published a number of my poems over the next six or seven years. Interestingly, Katherine was a committed atheist. Her middle name was Hypatia, named after was the first pagan martyr in Alexandria persecuted by Christians (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypatia). Despite her avowed atheism, she was genuinely supportive of my later decision to become ordained.
In the summer of 1970, I took part in the first Solent Arts Festival which was the first occasion I had the opportunity to read one of my poems in public. It was a truly nerve-racking experience I seem to recall!
I'm not sure it's wise to talk about 'influences', but (taking Chaucer and Shakespeare as given) I would have to include the following English writing poets: Henry Vaughan, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Wilfrid Owen, T.S. Eliot, David Jones, Dylan Thomas, Philip Larkin, R.S. Thomas, Sylvia Plath, Thom Gunn and Maya Angelou...
Here are four poems (to some extent unfinished) written more recently.