Tony Wolk is a writer and professor at Portland State University. He’s been riding his bike to work there since 1969. He specializes in Dante, Shakespeare, and Philip K. Dick, and his own writing follows a similarly diverse trajectory. In an interview celebrating the release of his flash fiction collection, Parables of You, publisher Dan DeWeese asked about the literary tradition he was working within. Wolk answered,
For this collection, Borges and Calvino, for sure. Other writers I love to read, everything they’ve ever published, include Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, Haruki Murakami, and Molly Gloss. Then there’s Alice Munro, Willa Cather, William Stafford, Charles Darwin, Ted Kooser, Primo Levi, Stephen Jay Gould, and John Crowley. Mustn’t forget William Shakespeare. And then there’s Dante Alighieri.
–Tony Wolk, Real Fantasy: Tony Wolk and the Parable of You
By any standard that’s a pretty wide-ranging list with some curious bedfellows! What’s the through line between, Cather, Darwin, and Kooser? Well, it’s the personal intricacies of Wolk himself.
Poet Holly Wren Spaulding asks her students to create a Personal Canon–a collection of influences, quotations, and essential sources. In a sense this is what Wolk is doing with this offhand list.
Who is a vital part of your Personal Canon? Are there strange associations that make you who you are? Spend time this week in your notebook tracing the lines of connection, the poems you can’t forget, the books you always return to.
How does this collection make its way into your poetry? If you like, share one of your poems with us to illustrate.