My first hero, as a teenager, was James Connolly. I remember discovering that he was a feminist, and that was an eye-opener, coming from a man of such poverty.
When I was a teenager, just about the only thing I could do right was play music. In my graduating class, I was certainly not voted ‘Most Literary Boy.’ I can assure you I was not voted ‘Mostly Likely to Succeed.’ I was voted ‘Most Musical Boy.’ And the music led to the poetry.
In the early 1940s, as a young teenager, I was utterly appalled by the racist and jingoist hysteria of the anti-Japanese propaganda. The Germans were evil, but treated with some respect: They were, after all, blond Aryan types, just like our imaginary self-image. Japanese were mere vermin, to be crushed like ants.
The doctor said, ‘He can’t last a week.’ And I did. And they said, ‘There’s no way this kid’s going to last a month.’ And I did. And so they said, ‘Two years. He’s not going to make it.’ Two years. ‘Five years. He can’t do that.’ I lived to be five years. ‘He’s never going to hit double digits.’ And here I am, a new teenager.