I will never forget the day as a young teacher of English at the Therfield Comprehensive School in Surrey in the early 1970s, when the headmaster selected me to represent the school at a conference for teachers of English to meet some of the leading English poets and study British poetry somewhere up North. I was thrilled, but also intimidated, when I learned on the first day that we all had to present one original poem of our own on the last day of the conference. I suddenly feared that as someone whose mother tongue is not English, but German, and as someone who had never written a single poem, I would be laughed out of court.
I spent a whole week composing just one short stanza, working hours, often late into the night, rearranging the poetic furniture in my one-room poem. To my surprise, my very first poem was greeted not with laughter but with a long applause. From that moment onward, I felt like someone who had been scared of getting his toes wet but who now jumped into the sea at every opportunity possible.
Since then, I have written hundreds of poems wherever I lived, many of which were published, and I taught poetry in many countries with the enthusiasm of a swimmer who had won a championship. I also edited books of poetry, including one with linguistic poetry (University of Essex, 1977) for which Noam Chomsky wrote a forward.