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This article is taken from PN Review 105, Volume 22 Number 1, September - October 1995.

Beginnings Nicole Krauss

I began writing poems at fourteen, with all the usual melodrama and forged passion that teenage poems deserve. By the next year.

I was frequenting the poetry section of the bookshop more than any other, and, unbeknown to me, I'd begun to learn this odd and ancient craft. I'm sure I read all the wrong things; lacking a mentor, I followed my nose, and rarely did it lead me to anything pre-1950. I didn't worry myself much about prosody, as everyone else (especially in America, where I grew up) was busy writing free verse; metre and rhyme seemed tools of an old man's trade. It wasn't until I bumped headlong into one of those old poets (and 1 think he would like that description) that I realized how much I had to learn.

Now I am twenty and still a young poet by all accounts: I cannot yet claim the leisure of retrospect or speak with serious authority about formative years. I only know for certain that, had it not been for two poets, my ideas about poetry would have assumed a very different shape. When I met Joseph Brodsky two years ago, poetry ceased to be simply a form of graceful and emotive expression and became crucial, demanding a constantly acute cognition, a hawk's vision, and an unyielding attention to form - not just every word but every syllable, every vowel and consonant. Put simply, if I was going to attempt poetry, I had ...

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