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This article is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

Finding a Voice Patricia Beer

I was eight years old when I decided to be a poet. I can't imagine where I got the idea from. It certainly wasn't from my father and mother. They had great ambitions for me, and were supportive and proud in a way I shall always be grateful for, but their ambitions didn't take this particular form. My father thought in terms of my being a headmistress. My mother lifted her eyes to the Houses of Parliament.

Most of the impetus behind my decision to write verse came from the fear of dying, a fear that I imagine I experienced more acutely than other children, though it's impossible to be sure, as in those days we all kept very quiet about that sort of thing. I was convinced I was dying and sometimes, especially on pleasant summer evenings, when I heard my father winding up the clock downstairs, I was sick with horror at the conviction that I shouldn't be living in time much longer. We were Plymouth Brethren and therefore sure of our eternal salvation, but this certainty came nowhere near the problem. On one particular day, however, when I was nearly eight, a solution occurred to me. I tried to describe it in a poem I wrote decades later, called 'The Eyes Of The World': if I were to become famous I thought, really famous, world famous, the eyes of the world would be on me as I lay dying. It would be like the ...

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