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Two books helped me define myself as a writer, or rather, helped me decide what kind of writer I would be. The first was the Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I read it when I was a freshman in high school. By then, I had already begun to wrestle with questions of good and evil which I encountered in the novel and would later work with again and again in my poems. Perhaps because I had been raised Catholic, it made the novel more resonant for me, for I firmly believed in the existence of evil, as firmly as I believed in the existence of goodness and its power to transform, although at the end of the book, I had begun to realize that goodness alone is not always enough and that indeed, sometimes we are not transformed by suffering, but are destroyed by it.
The second book was Body Rags, poems by Galway Kinnell who made a profound impression on me. For weeks after reading Galway, I carried Body Rags around as if it were holy script, as if it were a sacred guide to the writing life. I remember feeling as if I had some amulet against the unpoetic mundane world I inhabited in my everyday life. I thought if a book could make such a difference, perhaps one day, if I persevered and was lucky enough to write one, I too could be an inspiration to someone and that feeling encouraged me to keep writing.
The other book I read around the same time, was The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima - I was reading a lot of Japanese fiction at the time.
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