I had what I gather was an unusual childhood. All the while I was growing up, both my father and mother read, wrote, and taught poetry. From birth I was steeped in poetry — I was read Milton in my crib, for example. My father insisted that my first words were, "Of Man's first disobedience..."

Rather than bunnies and doggies and moo-cows, I loved to identify the photos of the authors on the Oscar Williams anthologies, and knew Yeats and Auden by sight as some kids know sports stars. (I still can't tell one sports personality from another).

Here you can see the University of Washington's mock-Gothic Suzzallo Library out the window, and to the left, the original Edmund Meany Hall, doomed to collapse shortly thereafter in an earthquake.

I got an early exposure to my parents' tools of the trade. When my mother graduated to an electric typewriter in the 1970s, I inherited the this old Royal and wound up typing my poems on it for fifteen more years. I still have it, though it's barely usable...anyone know a typewriter repairperson? I also still have that African mask in the background.

I became accustomed to being included in their writing life. I attended their parties (Theodore Roethke was a family friend) and readings (I sat on Lawrence Ferlinghetti's lap once) and had guest appearances on the local "Northwest Poetry" TV and radio shows which my father hosted. Like I say...rather unusual.

About the caption - I was christened "Shawn" because at that time, my parents felt that no one would know how to pronounce "Sean." In fact, even years after the James Bond series was well underway and I felt the time was right to start signing my name the Olde Irish way, I still was often called "Seen." This however was preferable to being called "Sharon" (not only was "Shawn" so uncommon that no one was familiar with it anyway, but no one could read my writing).

Anyway, there was still plenty of opportunity to be a normal kid. Here's my second Christmas. Looks like I was fairly pleased with the loot. Check out the vintage telephone on the back wall!


  1. Indeed a different childhood....that typewriter must still bring memories....I have my first one, a 1962 portable Underwood that was given to me to go away to college--it still works but the ribbon is needing replaced and where to find. My 93 year old mother in law uses it today; it would be in my way and then again I'd keep it as a relic. But I enjoyed your post, the poems that you must have stored in head are countless, I expect.

  2. Quite an auspicious beginning. I would love to read some of your poetry.

    Fantastic photos. Who took them, your mother or father? Did you inherit a love of photography?


  3. Not your typical childhood, but seemingly not missing any of the joy. You seem to be having a good time in all of the photos.

  4. It is interesting how parents steep there children in their passion. It was good even if you look back and wonder how you would have turned out differently. I liked the car on the table. Your photos of old are good to see.