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This interview is taken from PN Review 264, Volume 48 Number 4, March - April 2022.

Carl Phillips in conversation Ian Pople

IP: Why and how did you start writing? And how long did it take you to trust both your imagination and your own voice? Also, a supplemental question: I know your mother was English; did she retain her accent, and if so, might those cadences have affected your voice, spoken or written?

CP: I always wrote, as a child growing up, for pleasure. I kept diaries, I created a family newspaper where I wrote all the articles and did the cartoons, and then distributed copies to my parents and sisters; and I wrote poetry throughout high school and college. I should mention that my mother wrote poems, usually occasional poems – she’d write a poem for my birthday, or a Christmas poem, that sort of thing. So I grew up with poetry seeming a perfectly normal thing to be interested in… After college, I didn’t write for maybe seven years, had no desire to do so. I had also gotten married to a woman, and had no clear idea that I was in fact a gay man – I wouldn’t have married, had I known that. But at some point in the marriage I began to understand the reality, and it was a point of crisis – I didn’t want to hurt my wife, I couldn’t make sense of my feelings, I didn’t want to be unfaithful. I suddenly began writing again. I believe now that the poetry saved me, maybe literally.

As for trusting imagination and my own voice… I guess it hasn’t ever occurred to me not to trust my imagination. And I don’t know, to this day, if I really know what is ...

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