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This interview is taken from PN Review 254, Volume 46 Number 6, July - August 2020.

in conversation with John McAuliffe Adam Wyeth
This interview took place by email in early March 2020, in advance of the publication of John McAuliffe’s fifth collection, The Kabul Olympics, and in advance of the pandemic which has delayed publication of this and many other books. McAuliffe has lived in Manchester since 2004, where he is Professor of Poetry at the University of Manchester, and his new book’s treatment of the city and its recent crises naturally came up, as did the sense of global pressures its title intimates. ‘The Kabul Olympics’, writes Daisy Fried in Poetry, is ‘a heartening, clarifying, beautiful book, because enormously intelligent and feeling. There are poems here about home, family, political situations, terrorist attacks, history: places where all these things converge. McAuliffe is superb at attending to the details while also managing the panoramic view’. The questions take up some of these convergences.

Can you say something about your new collection, The Kabul Olympics, and the symbolism behind the title?

The title comes from a poem in the book, an elegy for my friend Caroline Chisholm, a novelist who fell ill just as she was beginning to get her work ready for publication. Caroline’s novel was set partly in Swimming Pool Hill in Kabul, a city where she had worked.  After she died, though, it proved impossible to access her password-protected files. So,  I was thinking of Caroline’s unwritten and now inaccessible book, and her hopes for it, and also about the way that writers try anyway to imagine seemingly impossible things, ...

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