How did you first engage with poetry?
My first engagement with poetry was with Shakespeare, but not in school. I must have seen my first Shakespeare play before I could read anything, much less Shakespeare. I know I’d seen a few live productions by the time that my parents took me to see the Kenneth Branagh’s film of Henry V, which I think was when I was in first grade. I loved it so much, I made them take me back five times. O for a Muse of Fire! There’s such excellent poetry in that play.
And actually, I was performing in Shakespearean plays before Shakespeare was part of my grade-school curriculum, too, before it could get stodgy and desk-bound. And years before I read other kinds of poetry. I remember roundly hating Percy Shelley when we read his poetry in seventh grade, which, with great dramatic irony, I would end up loving so much as a young adult that I wrote my college thesis on both Shelley and Keats. But I think that this very nearly lifelong sense of poetry as a thing to be spoken, as part of a three-dimensional, red-blooded conversation, is incredibly important to me. And that it can be full, and musical, and muscular. The very most important thing about either poetry or prose, to me, is that the action of the language fits the action that’s being described, rather than one style blanketing the detached and the passionate, the complex and the simple, alike. That’s what Shakespeare does, and I think it set a pattern for me desiring that out of language.