The International Literary Quarterly
Contributors

Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Donald Adamson
Diran Adebayo
Nausheen Ahmad
Toheed Ahmad
Amanda Aizpuriete
Baba Akote
Elisa Albo
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Rosetta Allan
María Teresa Andruetto
Innokenty Annensky
Claudia Apablaza
Robert Appelbaum
Michael Arditti
Jenny Argante
Sandra Arnold
C.J.K. Arkell
Agnar Artúvertin
Sarah Arvio
Rosemary Ashton
Mammed Aslan
Coral Atkinson
Rose Ausländer
Shushan Avagyan
Razif Bahari
Elizabeth Baines
Jo Baker
Ismail Bala
Evgeny Baratynsky
Saule Abdrakhman-kyzy Batay
Konstantin Nikolaevich Batyushkov
William Bedford
Gillian Beer
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Ilya Bernstein
Mashey Bernstein
Christopher Betts
Sujata Bhatt
Sven Birkerts
Linda Black
Chana Bloch
Amy Bloom
Mary Blum Devor
Michael Blumenthal
Jean Boase-Beier
Jorge Luis Borges
Alison Brackenbury
Julia Brannigan
Theo Breuer
Iain Britton
Françoise Brodsky
Amy Brown
Bernard Brown
Diane Brown
Gay Buckingham
Carmen Bugan
Stephen Burt
Zarah Butcher McGunnigle
James Byrne
Kevin Cadwallander
Howard Camner
Mary Caponegro
Marisa Cappetta
Helena Cardoso
Adrian Castro
Luis Cernuda
Firat Cewerî
Pierre Chappuis
Neil Charleton
Janet Charman
Sampurna Chattarji
Amit Chaudhuri
Mèlissa Chiasson
Ronald Christ
Alex Cigale
Sally Cline
Marcelo Cohen
Lila Cona
Eugenio Conchez
Andrew Cowan
Mary Creswell
Christine Crow
Pedro Xavier Solís Cuadra
Majella Cullinane
P. Scott Cunningham
Emma Currie
Jeni Curtis
Stephen Cushman
David Dabydeen
Susan Daitch
Rubén Dario
Jean de la Fontaine
Denys Johnson Davies
Lydia Davis
Robert Davreu
David Dawnay
Jill Dawson
Rosalía de Castro
Joanne Rocky Delaplaine
Patricia Delmar
Christine De Luca
Tumusiime Kabwende Deo
Paul Scott Derrick
Josephine Dickinson
Belinda Diepenheim
Jenny Diski
Rita Dove
Arkadii Dragomoschenko
Paulette Dubé
Denise Duhamel
Jonathan Dunne
S. B. Easwaran
Jorge Edwards
David Eggleton
Mohamed El-Bisatie
Tsvetanka Elenkova
Johanna Emeney
Osama Esber
Fiona Farrell
Ernest Farrés
Elaine Feinstein
Gigi Fenster
Micah Timona Ferris
Vasil Filipov
Maria Filippakopoulou
Ruth Fogelman
Peter France
Alexandra Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Janis Freegard
Robin Fry
Alice Fulton
Ulrich Gabriel
Manana Gelashvili
Laurice Gilbert
Paul Giles
Zulfikar Ghose
Corey Ginsberg
Chrissie Gittins
Sarah Glazer
Michael Glover
George Gömöri
Giles Goodland
Martin Goodman
Roberta Gordenstein
Mina Gorji
Maria Grech Ganado
David Gregory
Philip Gross
Carla Guelfenbein
Daniel Gunn
Charles Hadfield
Haidar Haidar
Ruth Halkon
Tomás Harris
Geoffrey Hartman
Siobhan Harvey
Beatriz Hausner
John Haynes
Jennifer Hearn
Helen Heath
Geoffrey Heptonstall
Felisberto Hernández
W.N. Herbert
William Hershaw
Michael Hettich
Allen Hibbard
Hassan Hilmi
Rhisiart Hincks
Kerry Hines
Amanda Hopkinson
Adam Horovitz
David Howard
Sue Hubbard
Aamer Hussein
Fahmida Hussain
Alexander Hutchison
Sabine Huynh
Juan Kruz Igerabide Sarasola
Neil Langdon Inglis
Jouni Inkala
Ofonime Inyang
Kevin Ireland
Michael Ives
Philippe Jacottet
Robert Alan Jamieson
Rebecca Jany
Andrea Jeftanovic
Ana Jelnikar
Miroslav Jindra
Stephanie Johnson
Bret Anthony Johnston
Marion Jones
Tim Jones
Gabriel Josipovici
Pierre-Albert Jourdan
Sophie Judah
Tomoko Kanda
Maarja Kangro
Jana Kantorová-Báliková
Fawzi Karim
Kapka Kassabova
Susan Kelly-DeWitt
Mimi Khalvati
Daniil Kharms
Velimir Khlebnikov
Akhmad hoji Khorazmiy
David Kinloch
John Kinsella
Yudit Kiss
Tomislav Kuzmanović
Andrea Labinger
Charles Lambert
Christopher Lane
Jan Lauwereyns
Fernando Lavandeira
Graeme Lay
Ilias Layios
Hiên-Minh Lê
Mikhail Lermontov
Miriam Levine
Suzanne Jill Levine
Micaela Lewitt
Zhimin Li
Joanne Limburg
Birgit Linder
Pippa Little
Parvin Loloi
Christopher Louvet
Helen Lowe
Ana Lucic
Aonghas MacNeacail
Kona Macphee
Kate Mahony
Sara Maitland
Channah Magori
Vasyl Makhno
Marcelo Maturana Montañez
Stephanie Mayne
Ben Mazer
Harvey Molloy
Osip Mandelstam
Alberto Manguel
Olga Markelova
Laura Marney
Geraldine Maxwell
John McAuliffe
Peter McCarey
John McCullough
Richard McKane
John MacKinven
Cilla McQueen
Edie Meidav
Ernst Meister
Lina Meruane
Jesse Millner
Deborah Moggach
Mawatle J. Mojalefa
Jonathan Morley
César Moro
Helen Mort
Laura Moser
Andrew Motion
Paola Musa
Robin Myers
André Naffis-Sahely
Vivek Narayanan
Bob Natifu
María Negroni
Hernán Neira
Barbra Nightingale
Paschalis Nikolaou
James Norcliffe
Carol Novack
Annakuly Nurmammedov
Joyce Carol Oates
Sunday Enessi Ododo
Obododimma Oha
Michael O'Leary
Antonio Diaz Oliva
Wilson Orhiunu
Maris O'Rourke
Sue Orr
Wendy O'Shea-Meddour
María Claudia Otsubo
Ruth Padel
Ron Padgett
Thalia Pandiri
Judith Dell Panny
Hom Paribag
Lawrence Patchett
Ian Patterson
Georges Perros
Pascale Petit
Aleksandar Petrov
Mario Petrucci
Geoffrey Philp
Toni Piccini
Henning Pieterse
Robert Pinsky
Mark Pirie
David Plante
Nicolás Poblete
Sara Poisson
Clare Pollard
Mori Ponsowy
Wena Poon
Orest Popovych
Jem Poster
Begonya Pozo
Pauline Prior-Pitt
Eugenia Prado Bassi
Ian Probstein
Sheenagh Pugh
Kate Pullinger
Zosimo Quibilan, Jr
Vera V. Radojević
Margaret Ranger
Tessa Ransford
Shruti Rao
Irina Ratushinskaya
Tanyo Ravicz
Richard Reeve
Sue Reidy
Joan Retallack
Laura Richardson
Harry Ricketts
Ron Riddell
Cynthia Rimsky
Loreto Riveiro Alvarez
James Robertson
Peter Robertson
Gonzalo Rojas
Dilys Rose
Gabriel Rosenstock
Jack Ross
Anthony Rudolf
Basant Rungta
Joseph Ryan
Sean Rys
Jostein Sæbøe
André Naffis Sahely
Eurig Salisbury
Fiona Sampson
Polly Samson
Priya Sarukkai Chabria
Maree Scarlett
John Schad
Michael Schmidt
L.E. Scott
Maureen Seaton
Alexis Sellas
Hadaa Sendoo
Chris Serio
Resul Shabani
Bina Shah
Yasir Shah
Daniel Shapiro
Ruth Sharman
Tina Shaw
David Shields
Ana María Shua
Christine Simon
Iain Sinclair
Katri Skala
Carole Smith
Ian C. Smith
Elizabeth Smither
John Stauffer
Jim Stewart
Susan Stewart
Jesper Svenbro
Virgil Suárez
Lars-Håkan Svensson
Sridala Swami
Rebecca Swift
George Szirtes
Chee-Lay Tan
Tugrul Tanyol
José-Flore Tappy
Alejandro Tarrab
Campbell Taylor
John Taylor
Judith Taylor
Petar Tchouhov
Miguel Teruel
John Thieme
Karen Thornber
Tim Tomlinson
Angela Topping
David Trinidad
Kola Tubosun
Nick Vagnoni
Joost Vandecasteele
Jan van Mersbergen
Latika Vasil
Yassen Vassilev
Lawrence Venuti
Lidia Vianu
Dev Virahsawmy
Anthony Vivis
Richard Von Sturmer
Răzvan Voncu
Nasos Vayenas
Mauricio Wacquez
Julie Marie Wade
Alan Wall
Marina Warner
Mia Watkins
Peter Wells
Stanley Wells
Laura Watkinson
Joe Wiinikka-Lydon
Hayden Williams
Edwin Williamson
Ronald V. Wilson
Stephen Wilson
Alison Wong
Leslie Woodard
Elzbieta Wójcik-Leese
Niel Wright
Manolis Xexakis
Xu Xi
Gao Xingjian
Sonja Yelich
Tamar Yoseloff
Augustus Young
Soltobay Zaripbekov
Karen Zelas
Alan Ziegler
Ariel Zinder

 

President, Publisher & Founding Editor:
Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Glenna Luschei
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Vice-President: Elena Poniatowska
U. S. General Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
London Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Geraldine Maxwell
New York Editor/Senior Editor-at-Large: Meena Alexander
Washington D.C. Editor/Senior
Editor-at-Large:
Laura Moser
Argentine Editor: Yamila Musa
Deputy Editor: Allen Hibbard
Deputy Editor: Jerónimo Mohar Volkow
Deputy Editor: Bina Shah
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
General Editor: Malvina Segui
Art Editor: Lara Alcantara-Lansberg
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Shanta Acharya
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
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Stephen Booth
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Peter Brooks
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Stanley Cavell
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Theodore Zeldin

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Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Conor Bracken
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Assistant Editor: Krista Oehlke
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Assistant Editor: Naomi Schub
Assistant Editor: Stephanie Smith
Assistant Editor: Emily Snyder
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Assistant Editor: Laurence Webb
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Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz


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Interlitq has acted as a collaborating institution of Americas Society in New York, founded by David Rockefeller in 1965

 

Fiona Sampson

FEATURED INTERVIEW:
Interlitq interviews Fiona Sampson
 

 



Interlitq: Could you tell us about what you consider to be key moments or watersheds in your professional and personal development?

FS: For me what’s key is steadiness, variety, pushing myself to continue to produce a body of work of the highest quality I can possibly manage. I know that sounds disingenuous, but I really do think it’s like a sedimentary accretion. Just trying to do good work all the time. (And to be collegiate, though I care less about that now, it seems rather pointless as most people aren’t so interested in such a space... though Interliq is.) I’m probably resistant to the notion that any professional moment sums me up, therefore… they all seem like a swirl in the pattern in the carpet. But not to be the carpet itself.

Interlitq: What do you consider to be your most considerable artistic achievement to date, and why?

FS: Surviving, despite being a British woman intellectual (itself an oxymoron), and getting the chance to do some interesting work!

That aside, I believe in a body of work and in a rich, thickened definition of a writing life: one in which translation, editing, reviewing, prose, and poetry all deepen each other and are all part of the same profound curiosity about, and desire to explore, life. So I’m really glad I’m working across a range of genres and practices, and I hope to do more. I’m most proud of my most recent books: though I think all writers are, so who knows whether this is accurate. I think Coleshill (2013) and The Catch (2016, both are Penguin Random House) are my best collections so far, and I’m proud of Lyric Cousins for its synthesizing thought, of Limestone Country for its way of reading life in a landscape, and In Search of Mary Shelley for being, well, a big prose project that allows me to look closely at people and the evidence about them - and to tell a story.

Interlitq: Has your early training as a concert violinist impacted on your literary career?

FS: Being a violinist first meant I came late to writing, after that “golden” window of opportunity we have in our twenties. Perhaps this is why I’ve never had a mentor, never been “boosted” or sponsored, but had to make my own way. I regret music as a wrong turn, in short: but your life is your life. I would like to change much about the way mine has been so far! But I hope things are getting easier, or anyway that there will be moments of ease and of opportunity in the years to come.

But the music stays in your ear and under your tongue, so to speak. And last year I published Lyric Cousins: poetry and musical form (Edinburgh University Press), which looks at the forms, like breath and chromaticism and density, that are common to both genres - very much from a maker’s perspective. It’s coming out in paperback in February, at which point it will finally become affordable.

Creatively, a musical training made me assume a number of things: that one should work in the field itself, not expect to be able to go deeply enough into an art form if it’s a hobby; that technique is the groundwork for creativity; that sound/performance/enchantment matter; that the literary profession would be a meritocracy. Only the last of these assumptions has turned out to be false.

Interlitq: Could you tell us more about your childhood and early life and how these formed you.

FS: Oh, in a thousand ways! But if I told you all about the tenor, mood and feel of each of those Wordsworthian “spots of time”, I wouldn’t have them to write about any more… I grew up partly in England and partly, during the formative years from six to twelve, in West Wales. There I went first to the village school where we had a wonderful, charismatic and poetry-loving headmaster, and then to the local comp, which was completely chaotic and quite violent as we were the first “mixed” kids to be sent into what had been the old secondary modern school. Also I went in two years younger than the rest, which was rather nice because I got spoiled and looked out for by my classmates. The Welsh-language-speaking elders of the local council kept the grammar school for their own, Welsh-speaking kids. …Then my dad got a job in Gloucestershire where there were still state grammar schools. That was a happy school, but see below…

Interlitq: I read somewhere that you had an English teacher who was quite hostile to you. Was this the case and, if so, why do you think it occurred? What were the dynamics of this relationship?

FS: How to speculate on the motivations of those who hate us? They just hate the whole way we “live and move and have our being”. She - this English teacher, who was also our form teacher, and whom we had for year after year because she had sort of half-adopted or anyway got too close to a girl in our class - was a kind of Miss Jean Brodie. She had pets and scapegoats and, well, let’s just say her boundaries were completely shot. I think things would be different today.

As for me, as usual for ages I didn’t notice: I was used to tough discipline. I just thought it was impersonal. But it wasn’t, and it’s a sadness because my life now is the legacy of that unkindness. Had she been a normal teacher, I would presumably have continued to love writing, and reading, as I had until she came along when I was about 13: I’d have gone straight to university at the usual age, made friends with a generation of writerly (instead of musical) peers, and - well, had years more to learn to be a writer. As it was, I ran away from her - and school, and writing - into music. I left school at sixteen with two A’levels.

Was there anything good about all this? It was an early lesson in the way you tend to be punished for doing something well: if you’re a girl, at least.

Interlitq: You have stated that nothing moves you as much as late Eliot. Could you elaborate on this sentiment, and tell us more about the ways in which Eliot has influenced you as a poet, especially in view of the fact that you term yourself a post-Christian poet.

FS: I’ve moved away from rereading Eliot in recent years. I don’t think I love him any the less; but I don’t like to be static in my reading/development. Also, I think I remain a modernist as a poet, but a different kind of modernist. Now, my influences are more deeply bound-in to my writing; less tessellated, more architectural. Eliot gave me permission to entertain influences in the first place by the way he displays his own in his late poetry. Now I love integration into a single speech-act; the unitary movement of a single breath, single sentence poem. That’s what I explored in The Catch and I continue to explore it.

Interlitq: As an international poet and editor, not only the former Editor of Poetry Review but also the former Editor of Orient Express, what are your current views on Brexit, and do you foresee any artistic implications arising from such a development?

FS: Brexit is a catastrophe. In the summer I devoted a double issue of Poem, the magazine I edit now, to women on Brexit; of course, it elicited some wonderful writing. British literature suffers from our typically Anglophone cultural isolationism anyway; it also suffers from sharing a language with the giant US, a literary culture which doesn’t respect our own yet is only too happy to come over and snaffle our national literary prizes. The future on our tiny overcrowded and under-resourced rock in the North Atlantic is very depressing indeed. I would desperately like to get a European passport.

Interlitq: You have stated that, as is the case with many writers, you have needed an “elsewhere” and that for some years you found this “elsewhere” in your partner’s illness. Could you tell us more about this artistic period or do you find it hard to talk about? I am especially drawn to ask you this question in view of the years you spent working in healthcare.

FS: The elsewhere wasn’t his illness: it was his culture. He was (and is) from the South Balkans: cultures which are both similar to and hugely removed from most British cultures, including the hyphenated ones. Because it was an impossible relationship – because his illness, and also his professional reputation, kept him in his country of origin - it was both incredibly vivid and yet also dreamlike. It was nothing like my long years of work in healthcare: those were about being a tabula rasa, the privilege of assisting at bad places in peoples’ lives. Whereas my relationship was all about me (and him): visceral, felt, identity moulding.

I’d like to point out that after a dozen years I “chose life” and am now happily married to an Australian, though he, like my ex, is a fiction writer!

Interlitq: In a previous interview, you stated that “the poetry world can be so disgusting and frankly abusive”. Can you elaborate on this sentiment.

FS: Not without giving examples!

Interlitq: As Editor of Poetry Review, you were preceded by Muriel Spark. How do you consider Muriel Spark as writer and woman?

FS: I think she was well-named! Sparky in both the intellectual sense and in the sense of having evident personal charisma and courage. For me she’s a real role model and, again, a writer with a whole body of work, much of which has become canonical (as in my own passing reference to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, just for example). I think that Spark was very badly treated by the Poetry Society and by other male amateur poetasters she tangled with… and that their impulses, their arrogance, their assumptions that a woman writer is always “a woman of no importance” – that the phrase is a tautology - are still absolutely familiar today. Even though we no longer wear Fifties fashion, little else has changed. Also, I think that not only does talent get resented, but that the worst resenters are the untalented. A good male (or female) writer doesn’t need to waste time trying to undermine some passing woman – he has his (she has her) own work to get on with…

Interlitq: You have written a book on Shelley. What were the factors that drew you to Shelley rather than to, say, another romantic poet such as Keats, Coleridge or Wordsworth.

FS: The Faber Poet to Poet edition of Percy Bysshe Shelley, which is in fact an edition plus introduction rather than a whole book written by me, was a commission. I tried very hard to duck towards a poet I was more enthusiastic about, but they were adamant. And in fact I loved trying to find a readable Shelley, a version of Shelley as a poet (not as an object of academic study, or an historical cultural artifact) for today.

Interlitq: Could you tell us more about your forthcoming biography In Search of Mary Shelley : the girl who wrote Frankenstein to be published by Profile in 2018. How did this artistic endeavour come about?

FS: My psychological biography of Mary Shelley was also a commission, and arose from having done that poetry edition. I was absolutely delighted to stretch myself and find these new ways to write and close read the evidence of a life… and I admire Mary hugely as a result. I think she’s a very sympathetic character but also that she’s a real person, someone nuanced and inconsistent as we all are. I’d love to have met her… Profile are publishing the book on January 18th 2018; Frankenstein was published 200 years ago on January 1st 1818.

Interlitq: What are your artistic objectives for the rest of this decade?

FS: I’d like to write more about place – and particularly about the Balkans, as well as more biography and other literary non-fiction. I hope my poetry continues to develop and grow. I’d love to write a libretto.

Interlitq: How do you think posterity will remember you?

FS: I don’t know, because I hope I’m not yet halfway through my writing life – remember, apart from anything else, what a late starter I was… Even if I only make three score and ten I’ll have time to do as much again and more… and I want to live longer than that!

Interlitq: Could you tell us more about the time you spent in Wales. How strongly do you identify yourself with Wales and Welshness? Do you rate Dylan Thomas highly?

FS: I’m not Welsh but I have a longing for and a protectiveness towards Wales, and a continuing strong interest in Welsh arts culture. When I returned to Wales straight after finishing at Oxford, I set up an annual international poetry festival in Aberystwyth. Because the poetic traditions in Wales are long and deep-seated. I’ve talked about this elsewhere so won’t repeat myself.

It’s unfashionable to rate Dylan Thomas in British poetry right now but - ever the unfashionable - I owe my love of poetry to him. When I was in that village school in Wales, and when I was only six years old, our wonderful headmaster read us the beginning of Under Milk Wood in school assembly. It was way over our heads. I understood nothing - except that I thought it was amazing. Soon after that I started writing my own little poems in school. And apart from my teens when that English teacher knocked it out of me for about a decade, I just didn’t stop.

Interlitq: Is there a European culture that you especially identify with and, if so, does this attachment find expression in your work? Could you tell us more here about your work as a literary translator.

FS: For me literary translation is all about literary curiosity. It’s about close reading, and about finding how someone else “does it”, and - in co-translation - it's a most intimate form of dialogue. I love doing it. Non-Indo-European languages are more of a cultural “coup” in terms of big picture conceptual leaps, and I’ve loved working with Chinese poets including and through the wonderful Yang Lian, for example. I also love being translated from and into languages of all kinds of which I know nothing - Estonian, Hebrew, Chinese, Albanian - and entering the “whispering gallery” of work in languages I don’t know but in which I can find things I do: Slav languages, Romance languages. I am inordinately proud of my own books in translation, and I love the way my original poems haunt them.

At the moment I’m involved in a poet to poet trio (with language advisor) translation research project. Poettrio is an AHRC funded project with Newcastle University and Roehampton University. We’re working with Dutch and British poets; we’re also exploring the richness of contemporary translation theory and (alternative) practice. W.N. Herbert, Francis Jones and I are co-writing a full-length study; but I hope you’ll catch sight of the project in papers and publications before then too.

I do love Europe, not because I’m Euro-centric (I don’t think it’s better) but because, again, I love incremental, relational experience and knowledge. Europe adheres to my daily life, in a way… also, I try to be honest about what I know. I don't think going on holiday somewhere counts as knowing that place, really. Limestone Country (Little Toller), which I published in the summer, is about landscape and geology, and is a kind of love letter to limestone places I know well and one, Jerusalem, that I don’t… I’m fascinated by maps, buildings, the natural world, and by how people act upon and are acted upon by the places they settle. The book is about this, as well as about the particular places I love and know (a French hamlet, the Slovenian karst…).

Interlitq: What advice would you give to aspiring poets?

FS: Read beyond this year’s fashion: read above all contemporary and near-contemporary poets, but read writers from all over the world and from every generation.

Interlitq: How highly do you rate confessional poets such as Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton? Do you consider yourself, to any extent, to be a confessional poet?

FS: I love the work of all three, but I also and equally love - to try for binary oppositions - early Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, and Louise Glück among so many others. Confessionalism was a very important moment for all of us, I think, even those of us not yet writing poetry or even alive: but I neither think it’s the only way nor that it’s entirely the wrong way. My The Distance Between Us (2005) is a verse novel but it’s also pretty confessional in parts: my most confessional book, I’d guess. But I write about big and bad things that have happened to me in almost every book (The Catch is the exception to this), and critics and readers never notice. So I guess I’m identified as non-Confessional or even anti-Confessional, which gives me a deal of privacy to write the poems I want, without irrelevant self-consciousness!

Interlitq: You invoke Sappho in your collection The Catch. Do you consider yourself to have been influenced by her?

FS: Not especially. She’s too remote technically and culturally to be an influence I think, though I love reading her in the many translations that exist. Anne Carson’s are some of the best of course.

Interlitq: Do you feel at home in the world of academe or do you perceive there to be any kind of clash between the academic and artistic worlds?

FS: I feel at home doing academic work in the academy. My PhD is in applied philosophies of language after late Heidegger and late Wittgenstein and I took it at Radboud University in the Nederlands under the supervision of the late great Graham Locke, who also supervised Étienne Balibar at roughly the same time and in the same place. It’s an irony that, now I’m earning my living as the Professor of Poetry and the Director of the Poetry Centre at the University of Roehampton, I do much less theoretical and scholarly writing and reading than ever before. I think the academy’s not always quite such a comfortable home at the moment for creative work, and that’s because of ways the two disciplines, academic and creative, have tried to find to co-habit. I went to music college myself, and found the rigour and the collegiate “learning environment” far exceeded even that at Oxford, where I went at the grand old age of 25. So I’m very comfortable with the teaching of the craft of an art-form in formal tertiary education. What’s a problem is I think is theoreticisation avant la lettre which sort of constipates the creative work itself: as it constipates whole departments when they’re filled with non-writers who nevertheless teach “creative writing”. I’m uncomfortable with the kind of approach these departments teach: it seems to me to be anti-writing, to want to take apart the primacy of the text.

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