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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?

Davies:
I think that British poets are not immune from Pound’s fret-inducing mantra – myself included. But yes I am aware of legacy. The Exeter book of Anglo-Saxon riddles is a current source – though it’s interesting to note that the translations I am reading in A Feast of Creatures are by a North American scholar and poet – Craig Williamson. I have to say that not many of my ‘predecessors’ are British. But I am discovering traditions from my own culture and there are also those I am yet to access. Some of Britain’s oldest and most developed living poetic forms are in the Welsh language – Cynhanedd is the most famous of these. Although it is my mother’s tongue, I have not yet learnt (or re-learnt) enough of the language to be able to enter it (translations can only capture so much of its intensely harmonic patterning). So these poems are a beautiful musical mystery to me. One day, perhaps.

There is, perhaps, a British fixation on legacy and I find that poets, readers and literary scenes here are often too inward looking. (Maybe because we are a culture used to exporting, colonizing). This is a shame; the contemporary scenes of ‘other’ languages or communities are some of the most exciting ‘new’ you can discover and bring into English language poetry.

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

Davies:
That already-mentioned parochialism that comes from an internally-focused culture. Macro-positioning by the hegemonic gatekeepers who seem blind to diversity or strangeness in new poetries. And on the other hand, micro-positioning: the negativism and bickering that comes out of the reaction to this blindness.

But the excitement is so much more than this. Works previously partially hidden or buried by print-culture are now out there to be discovered in the digital age. Of course the internet is also the home of most feverish micro-positioning too! But there are so many innovative new projects and innovations happening right now, it’s very enjoyable.

Transom:
In “History of our bookishness,” your speaker says: “I was given a stipend of blood.” The word “stipend” strikes us as both generous and restrictive when applied to the concept of heritage. Likewise, in “a man you might like,” a quantity of “ribbons make a net,” and in “Three Places,” strange foals are born within “regions of taxidermy.” Can you tell us what lies behind your impulse to articulate images of measurement and containment? Are the boundaries in your poems permeable?

Davies:
I suppose I am interested in how boundaries are made and broken. I actually work for an organisation called Literature Across Frontiers, so it is manifested in my professional as well as creative life. Language, however full of rules and however censored or seized by dominant cultures, is sublimely permeable. The pleasure or ‘waking up’ that comes in finding poetry operating at and passing through boundaries is my motivation in reading, writing and promoting poetry.

In these poems you’ve found three different instances of this impulse. The “stipend of blood” does indeed refer to the gift of heritage and how gifts are also restrictions. The women’s names are my mothers’ mothers and like me they were lucky enough to come from a culture that regarded education highly. They studied to degree level and beyond. Unlike me they were limited with what they could do with their learning.  Though educated they were still women of limited means. So the gift was restricted. But their education did eventually give me a great deal. Catherine Glyn Davies – my grandmother – studied at Oxford and the Sorbonne in the 1940s but was discouraged to continue. She had to wait until she’d raised four children and supported the academic career of her husband before she could go back and complete her Ph.D. in her 60s.

In “Three Places,” borders contain three distinct spaces. South Eastern Turkey is the first region and South Wales is the third. The region of taxidermy is actually a distinct time as well as place – a frozen or at least inaccessible time – that of the Germany in the (very mysterious) Merseberg Incantations.

Perhaps pessimistically I sometimes think of relationships themselves as a measured restricted space. There are boundaries to abide by. Boundaries you may wish to break. There is some pleasure in ribbons, and containment or safety in a net. And desire itself can be a restriction of course.