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
American poetry of the last hundred years strikes me as being at least
equally influenced by those centuries of predecessors, and Pound was
certainly conscious of the legacy and didn’t see it as something to be
ignored. He believed we admired Shakespeare above Chaucer because we’d
been seduced by the glamour (excuse my u) of theatre. I do want my
poetry to have a theatrical element and to be populated by characters
with different voices so perhaps that’s a way in which I feel linked to
that aspect of the past.
What’s happening now in the UK poetry scene that you find particularly
exciting – or frustrating?
What’s frustrating in the UK poetry scene is that too much of the
poetry that’s admired is like the equivalent of nice watercolours.
What’s exciting is that I think that might be starting to change.
We admire the incredible playfulness of
your poems, the way the speaker is able to don “huge human clothes” to
play the part of “a cocky prince.” Is your ideal poetic speaker a kind
of shapeshifter who can inhabit divergent lexicons?
A poet once asked me why I don’t write about myself. I thought that was
a bizarre question because I regard everything I write as being about
me. It’s just that I might dress up as a dog or a prince or a hydrofoil
or a stone before I embark on a poem. I do like populating what I write
with characters and voices with which I can confront different concerns
of mine, or rather characters and voices with which I can confront the
same few concerns from different angles. I can sidle up to myself and
catch myself with my guard down if I’m dressed up as a puppet (or