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Questions and Answers

About “Sieve”:

Our grade eight teacher—an amateur actor with a resonant voice—would stride back and forth reciting poetry. He held the class spellbound with such stirring poems as Shelley’s “Ozymandias” and Keat’s “Ode to a Nightingale”. One day, in a quieter mood, he read us Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death”. I cannot say why that poem touched me so deeply. On the long walk home from school, the lines of my first poem came to me. It was a brilliant winter afternoon with a sharp wind, but I hardly felt the cold. I walked along the the cadences of the new poem, enjoying for the first time the artist’s detached attentiveness that was to become a preoccupation and a joy.

By the time I opened the front foor to our house the poem was fully formed. I dashed up to my bedroom and wrote down the lines before they could vanish from memory.

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