The Poetry Archive This is a UK-based charity devoted to offering a library of recordings of interviews with poets and of poets reading their own works.
Poems Please Me may in the future complement The Poetry Archive (recommended) and other libraries by offering our own Poems Please Me Members’ pages, meanwhile…
Tony Watts – Paul Tobin at Magpie Bridge has an excellent interview with his fellow Somerset, UK, poet. – 31/07/2012. (Search there for Watts – or go to the date)
(Below – initial trial of a format for interviews – March 2012)
Our guest poet this month: Tony French
What first attracted you to poetry? It was probably the shelves of ancient books in my childhood home – I still have some of them – Everyman’s Library The Longer Poems of William Wordsworth. Heavy stuff! But I suppose I had to do something on cold nights. And I distinctly remember the resentment I felt when my junior school’s Head insisted we chose a poem to learn. I browsed for ages at home and didn’t come up with The Highwayman, which nearly everyone else did. For our collective lack of imagination we were all made to write that one in full as a punishment – including me, despite my very rational protests. As you see, I still rail at that!
When did you start writing poetry? And what was it about? In my late teens. It was all very earnest, political stuff. About bombs and the USA’s foreign policies. I had a few years between school and college, so I had plenty of time to be an angry young man – and read authors like Orwell and Pasternak. I had time to absorb something more about poetry and poets – I took an Eng Lit ‘A’ level by correspondence, then after a few years trained full-time as an English teacher. I taught for a couple of years, then became a regional organiser for the Liberal Party, then a couple of more years and I found myself editing The Open University’s second ever prospectus… and I took a correspondence degree while I was working in the Vice Chancellor’s office – it kept me aware of literature even if that wasn’t the focus of the degree. So quite a mix.
Response to the interview. Tim Shelborne writes: One of the main things that attracted me to poetry was that it was considered as quite obscure ‘Poofy nonsence…, not meant for the likes of us’, while all of my mates were playing football, thinking about football, or just being a football for some bigger kid in my school. Poetry took me to a place where I could stop being the football, at least for a while.
When I was 14, I read a single line of Phillip Larkin’s, ‘They fuck you up, your Mam and Dad!”, and that did it for me. If a single line from a single poem could say so much about your parents, about what they got right, and about what they got wrong, and still manage to explain the difference, in a way that said, in any event they were really just trying to do the Parent thing the best way they knew how, then it told me that poetry had the kind of immediacy, candour, and honesty that I needed.
The power of any poem is pretty much in the eye of the beholder, no matter how much you pull it apart, much as any painting is. Some poems speak to me, some don’t. That’s not about the language of the poem, it’s about my translation of it.
Tony… just keep doing what you’re doing here, sites like ours don’t need the hits, they just need the integrity. – TS