What made you start writing poetry?

I started writing poems when I was really young, 11, 12. I started writing initially because I felt there were things wrong with the world, so I'd write poems about apartheid or poems about discrimination, poems about peace and I had really such strong beliefs, so I'd write belief poems; in a way poems are little moments of belief, that's what poems are. Most of my early poems were polemical in a way and they didn't give readers any chance to think for themselves - they were more telling people what to think. Also I wrote because I used to find that if I was called any racist names and I rushed home and wrote a revenge poem I found that quite helpful so poetry for me, initially at least, was a kind of a sanctuary, it was a place you could go to. I still think of the imagination as a place like that, it's a kind of a refuge; it's a place you can go to in from the cold where you can imagine all sorts of things and the imagination itself will help you in various ways get through different times. I think the imagination is an incredibly powerful tool in that way, that's why people use it in all sorts of circumstances, in times of war, or in times of need and I think the initial impulse to become a writer in the first place for most writers is something quite large, something quite big in their lives; perhaps they've had a big illness or parents died, perhaps they've felt outside the society they are living in, but there's usually some sort of need that starts you off writing in the first place.

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