how did you first engage with poetry?
the old velvet volumes of mother goose rhymes and fairy tales, which took up half a book shelf in the den, and then the tiny little best loved poems that i think used to be in every house, even if there wasn’t a single other book of real literature. it’s heartening and ironic to think that in every family, the greatest poems were at hand, often right by the bible, for whenever they were needed. the first poems i remember are hot cross buns, and the walrus and the carpenter. but i think even at five or six i was obsessed with every kind of book. there were five kids, and we all acquired it to some degree. even though we didn’t have money. my mother would never throw away a good book, and we spent every weekend with her at the library, carrying home stacks of books, mostly for her, which she devoured. one of her biggest shames was when she would get her card suspended, and we’d have to go to the main library and pay overdue and lost fees.
i had already decided what i meant to do with my life when i was eight.
i was twelve when i bought my first books. my class was taken on a field trip to a strip mall around the corner where a book liquidation mart had popped up. we each took five dollars. i got last year’s best american poetry, david wagoner, kenneth patchen, and stevie smith, and some trash novel, all for a dollar each. i still have them all, except the last one. at that point, though, i already had a lot of favorite poets, only these ones were really mine.