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This interview is taken from PN Review 260, Volume 47 Number 6, July - August 2021.

On Charlotte Mew: interview with Julia Copus

Rebecca Watts & Julia Copus
Rebecca Watts
Rebecca Watts talks to Julia Copus, whose biography This Rare Spirit:
A Life of Charlotte Mew
was released by Faber in April. Copus is also the editor of Charlotte Mew: Selected Poetry and Prose (Faber, 2019).


WATTS: I’d like to start with first encounters, because one of the things that perplexes me about Mew is how limited her reception has been over the past century. It was only a few years ago that I found her poem ‘The Trees Are Down’, somewhere near the beginning of an anthology of ‘modern verse’ I’d borrowed from the library, and was blown away by its freshness – that unique quality Mew has of channelling emotion and complex moral convictions into rhythms that are both speech-like and intensely musical. And I remember thinking: why haven’t I heard of this poet before? But then struggling to find other examples of her work.


COPUS: For a long time, I was only vaguely aware of Charlotte Mew as a name in poetry. We certainly never came across her work in school, for instance. Then in 2005, Deryn Rees-Jones brought out an anthology called Modern Women Poets. It covered a century of women’s poetry in English, and as Mew was born exactly one hundred years before me, it happened that I was one of the last poets in that book and she was the first. The title of her opening poem there – actually her most famous poem, ‘The Farmer’s Bride’ – gives the impression of something well-mannered and ...


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