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On becoming a poet

When I was a very young child, maybe four or five, I wrote a song called “The Mac the Monkey Show.” Growing up with a mother who spent years attending British Music Hall events obviously influenced my sensibilities at an early age!

In school, I was drawn to the Victorian poets, especially Matthew Arnold, and to Emily Dickinson and—perhaps most of all—Edna St. Vincent Millay. But I didn’t write another poem until I was 30. I don’t think it was that bad a poem, either. But that was the only poem I wrote for decades.

I always enjoyed writing essays, and later in life, I not only took my essay-writing more seriously, I also began to write—and publish—creative nonfiction. For several  years, I wrote political/social issues essays and creative nonfiction about a wide number of subjects.

Then, all of a sudden, I decided to try my hand at writing short fiction. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I did it anyway. When my very first short story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, I was …

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