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Transom:
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 this chorus?

Canfield:
The challenge is to avoid repeating or rehashing that which went before, merely in a slightly different tone of voice. The challenge is to be reverent though not idolatrous, and yet not become so obsessed with finding something new that the legacy is ignored or dismissed for the sake of it, it’s a constant high-wire act. The pleasure is in being in constant dialogue with the past, listening to the preceding voices, whispering, talking and shouting back at them, then turning around to shout it forward. The challenge and the pleasure is in finding out where in all of this you fit in.

Transom:
What’s happening now in the UK poetry scene that you find particularly exciting – or frustrating?

Canfield:
There are a number of collaborative and conceptual projects filling the air at the moment; themed anthologies, multi-poet readings, poetic collaborations with other mediums. It feels like a really exciting time with poets of all stripes not just writing in a vacuum, but responding to each other and to numerous facets of society and culture, engaging with each other’s preoccupations and occasionally sleeping with each other. 

Transom:
Each of your poems offers an innovative take on a traditional lyric form.  Can you talk about how you came to choose the sevenling and the anagrammatic sonnet for these particular pieces?

Canfield:
I’m fascinated by form and tend to feel more comfortable writing within restrictions. The Sevenling was one of those serendipities that sometimes occur; I’d been reading about the theories of the gamblers fallacy and the illusion of control and wanted to try and tackle it when I was first introduced to the form, it seemed to have the perfect balance of appearing ordered but with chaotic and arbitrary elements within it that matched the theme. The inspiration for choosing the anagrammatic sonnet came from reading Elizabeth Bachinsky’s She Is Blond Sin and was an exercise in making the restrictions as tight as possible for myself. On the first attempt I ran out of vowels very quickly.

Transom:
You are an actor as well as a poet. Does your anagrammatic sonnet reflect something about your personal (or professional) relationship to Shakespeare’s material?

Canfield:
Actors and directors talk a lot about ‘new coining’ Shakespeare’s language, trying to make it your own, despite it having been performed and spoken by millions of people, so I suppose on some level it was an attempt to do that. I wanted to move the letters around, create something new from them, but try and keep the same intent. In Sonnet 29 I was intrigued by the idea of Shakespeare ‘Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,’ so tried to create a voice that was insecure, jealous of and competing with his contemporaries (in this case Kit Marlowe), which is a very recognisable response as a writer. As an actor, I suppose I’m also drawn to acts of ventriloquism and forcing myself to use a language and diction not naturally my own. The words are mine, yet also not mine as I was forced into finding words I would not naturally have chosen, yet somehow they could not help but to come out in my own register, which is also characteristic of the acting process.