American poets tend to take Pound’s
dictum to “make it new” as a foundational principle, and as a result
many of us have a short literary memory. The poetic culture in the UK
seems far more conscious of the legacy of centuries of predecessors.
What are the pleasures and challenges of contributing your voice to
I’m not sure if poetry in the UK is so conscious of centuries of poetic
past or is so in accord to be called a “chorus.” I think that poetry
from this “legacy” is occasionally raided for inspiration to
produce a modern riff on a form or idea, so a kind of “making old new.”
In terms of real influence and agenda though the memory span is maybe
not a lot different from the one you suggest the US has.
What’s happening now in the UK poetry scene that you find particularly
exciting – or frustrating?
The London poetry scene is full of variety and experimentation
(ladders), but is also riddled with cliques, politics and in-fighting
In both of your poems, the speaker
locates a mysterious, unknowable world in the interior darknesses of
plant stems, “leaf-swill,” and other natural detritus. Are such spaces
– small and relatively contained – more interesting to you, as a poet,
than, say, the infinite reaches of the cosmos?
Yes, and in many ways confined space lends itself to poetic form.
Having said that, a “small” space or thing often refers to, or comments
on, a “large” one, and the structure of many poems (with the algebra of a
as “small” and b
as “large”) is along the lines of look at a
this way, look at a
in that way, keep looking at a
, and then, at the
end, now look at how a
in fact refers to b
. In the poems here, I’ve
tried to mash up this pattern so that the arc is less linear. The
azalea poem is a ‘voyage and return’ narrative, in which the azalea
seed unwittingly goes to space and back, and the poem’s camera travels
from “frameless dark” to wind up focusing on an “immurement” of black.
In ‘Panic’ I’ve used a ‘counterpoint’ structure inspired by Soviet film
montage, alternating a narrative set within a “contained” interior and an undefined exterior space.