I grew up in a household where we communicated and expressed ourselves through anger (love too, sometimes) and by doing it loudly. Growing up in a family where shouting at each other was the norm forced me to explore other ways to express myself.
My seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Isaacs, turned me onto poetry and within a year I was writing it, badly. By sixteen, I’d gotten a poem published in the high school literary magazine. By seventeen, I was the editor of that magazine. At Brooklyn College I worked as an assistant editor on the literary magazine and took poetry writing classes with David Lehman.
At that time, both Allen Ginsberg and John Ashbery were visiting faculty and David Lehman sometimes combined our classes with theirs for readings and discussions. It was pretty heady stuff. Although I kept writing and publishing poetry, I didn’t think I was good enough at it to make a career of it.
Years later, after leaving Brooklyn College for an exciting career in the air freight business—yeah, right—I took an evening class back at BC in Detective Fiction. I was smitten. I heard the poetry in the language of Chandler and Hammett, listened to the meter behind their words, and thought that I wanted to try my hand at it. The truth is, I knew I could do it. I realized, at last, that all those poetry writing classes and the classes I’d taken in Renaissance, Romantic, Victorian, and modern poetry had been more than fascinating wastes of my time.
Fans and reviewers have often called my prose poetic. In May of 2009, NPR’s Maureen Corrigan called me a hard-boiled poet. For me, there can be no higher praise. Yet, in the end, I just love to write. I even used to enjoy writing business letters. David Lehman used to tell a story about WH Auden in which Auden says writing isn’t about being deep, but about loving to play with words. That pretty much sums it up for me; I love to play with words.