Natalia Azarova: My journey to poetry was atypical. I think it would be hard to find many poets that started writing as late as I did. I can say that until age 45 I had not even attempted to write a poem, nor in my youth. Once I even refused to do an assignment on translating Shakespeare for I felt that at 14 I would not be able to do the work any justice. After an extensive battle with the teacher I convinced him that it was not a good idea to have schoolchildren, capable of writing poems of poor quality only, to translate great poets. Perhaps a certain level of perfectionism is to be blamed. For many years I was a researcher, educator, businesswoman living in a variety of countries but all this time something in the back of my mind told me that I was a poet. But to a poet it was not necessary to be writing poems. Poetry is supposed to be freedom in terms of interactions with objects and the world. And this freedom is more important even than the ease with which one uses language. In 2003 I returned to Russia to do research work and simultaneously began to be published as a poet, suddenly finding myself in the centre of Russian Poetic life. As far as poets that have had the biggest impact on my writing, I would have to say, Paul Celan.