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 think there must be something akin to the internet’s rule 43 when it
comes to new ideas in poetics – if you can think of it, it’s already
been done. So new isn’t enough.
What’s happening now in the UK poetry scene that you find particularly
exciting – or frustrating?
The urge to editorialise the present results in commentators stating,
in consecutive weeks, both that poetry is stone dead and flourishing in
full health. I suppose I should be grateful for even the glibbest press
attentions, but I suspect UK poetry’s just struggling along as it ever
has – and that will do. Good and bad poetry is produced, and published.
The same could be said of the 1910s, the 1810s and so on. What I see,
as a poet in the UK, is an extremely impressive array of poetries, and
of projects and initiatives to maintain them. All of that’s great of
course, but the main thing is there’s a lot of great writing going on –
which is exciting.
Your poem, “The Animal in Motion,” contains the fascinating line, “the
moment is neither imperial nor metrical, neither ends nor begins.”
Eadweard Muybridge, the figure your poem contemplates, was an English
photographer who created some of the earliest motion-picture
projections. It does seem like the galloping horses are held captive in
his still frames. In your opinion, do poems have the same trouble
preserving their identities through time as embodied creatures do? Is
the poem more like a “captive animal,” or, perhaps, like a photograph?
[Feel free to reject both options!]
Poems are nebulous bastards, they are like most things. They are also
as evasive as this answer feels it necessary to be. Tate Britain had
one of their obscenely excellent exhibitions on Muybridge in 2010. I
was fascinated by Muybridge’s life and work, making many notes in the
assumption that I would then write a Muybridge poem. It didn’t happen
for several years. I was interested in the black margins, the spaces
between the frames. It seemed to be there that time existed, or was
created – there is the forward movement, the moment of change … and
it’s nothing. “Motion-picture” rather neatly encapsulates it, as only
an oxymoron can – motion made up of a sequence of still-frames. See
also, static words and the white around them. I was also fascinated by
the fact Muybridge killed someone.