The kids nicknamed me ‘French Boy’ in England, because French is my first language.

LOWELL-PJA_4475 © Peter Adams 2013

When I was seven years old, still living in England, I recall telling an old aunt that some day I wanted to be a writer. It was my father who instilled in me a love of literature. In some ways, it backfired on him when times got tough – but it paid off in the long run.

In those early years I didn’t know anybody else who was interested in books. Mum was certainly keen to read to me, but only in French. She read me novels by M Delly. However, my father spoke of Moliére, whom he claimed was the French Shakespeare.

My school teachers had never heard of Allen Ginsberg.

In the 60s, there was a cultural split between novels and poems studied at school V songs and poems that we privately enjoyed. A wall, like a Pink Floyd Wall, stood between them. From our teachers, we learned tedious poets like Wordsworth and Keats, then we’d rush home to Bob Dylan’s poetic liner notes on his Times They Were A-Changin’ LP.

 

Around this time – and largely because of Dylan’s magnetic influence – I started writing terrible poetry. Teenage angst gets no thanks. Since then I have never stopped scribbling in my little notebook.