JH: Poetry may be what is omitted from some unknown whole. Aside from Twain's autobiography, have there been any other writings that have had an influence on your own? Influence seems to be a matter of sympathy, identification, recognition. Could one pick a text at random and assign oneself influence? Does sympathy inspire the specifics of inspiration? If someone were influenced sympathetically by Moby-Dick, for instance, that person may write a text devoid of whales and the sea, whereas someone who picked Moby-Dick at random might be sure to include whales and the sea.
AHB: I’m not sure why but it has been difficult to reply to your questions, as evidenced by my slow response time. It seems like certain writings elicit a sequence of response. I think of The Maximus Poems, which seemed impermeable but at the same time, a map driven for me. I think one can and people do pick a text randomly and assign influence. In such a case, the writer has a necessity, inchoate or undefined, that needs a resolving effort. The text then becomes the field of concern, because it already as authority. I agree quite with the observation of your last sentence. The sympathic influence creates inventive pathways. Random entrance to the work, like by a literature class, would respond to the obvious salients.