As far as the literature that's inspired me, I would say The Great Gatsby, maybe just because it led me towards more classics and began my affair with Mr. F. Scott. Dubliners, for excellence in shorter work. East of Eden--I would like to someday be smart enough to write such an all-encompassing work, and Bleak House would also fall into this category. My poetry inspiration is a lot of Bukowski, but I read and imitate whatever I find.
I don't come from a English Major background, and in some ways I regret this and in others I think that it's great. I went through high school as one of the proto-political smart alecks that everyone hates, and followed my dreams through college, majoring in Political Science with an aim to perhaps go to law school or become a teacher. Neither happened. I don't know when I fell for literature completely, but I know some milestones. I have always been a reader, but one turning point for me was enrolling in an American Lit. class at the community college I attended. I never made it to class, and dropped it when I found out that it was at a location very out of the way. I had already bought the books, however, and the list included Johnny Got His Gun, Gatsby, and The Grapes of Wrath. I worked as a weekend janitor at the time, and used my spare minutes to rip into these books. I found Dubliners in a box in my basement that hadn't been opened since my family had last moved, and enjoyed it greatly, even if I've not had the patience to actually finish any of his other works. Around this time, I explored Hesse a bit, read A Farewell to Arms and was fairly unimpressed, but never considered myself into literature necessarily, possibly even at the time prefering long-form nonfiction. I got into Bukowski as well, but through the Modest Mouse song, and into his prose, and it was a couple of years before I began reading his poetry. By chance I found Henry James's Washington Square at a Salvation Army, and fell in love with the storytelling style. From then on, I made it a point to search racks of used books at thrift stores, sorting through miles of romance to get to the good stuff. I found Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories, which, along with a memory of Anthony's failed attempts in The Beautiful and Damned, piqued my interest in shorter fiction, especially "Bashan and I" or "A Man and His Dog" (the two are different translations), and I've been becoming slightly more prolific as I have forced myself to.