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This interview is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.

In Conversation with Les Murray William Scammell

WILLIAM SCAMMELL: Joseph Brodsky said of you 'He is, quite simply the one by whom the language lives' - a version, I guess, of Auden's 'Time… worships language and forgives/Everyone by whom it lives.' Does language live by poets?


LES MURRAY: Partly, but it lives by everybody, especially those who use it richly. I've never believed that line of Joe's. It was enormous generosity on his part. I tend to take shelter from the blast of statements like that.

His death was very sad and unexpected. Did you know him very well?


Yeah, he was a lovely fellow, always warm and enthusiastic. I'm a bit cold and cautious, I suppose. I was sorry I couldn't get to read at his service. I'm going to New York in the autumn, and I'll dedicate that reading to Joseph.

Some critics have spoken of a 'superleague' of poets. I imagine that notion wouldn't find much favour with you, given your anti-metropolitan stance?


The notion probably breeds more envy than light, and I wouldn't comment on it. Good poets can come from anywhere. There was a moment there when a bunch of us were seen as coming from Northern Ireland, the Caribbean, Australia, Russia, not the usual big power centres, and people found this interesting. It would certainly be an intention of mine to help make a world in which nobody need feel relegated. My great hatred is that habit of putting people ...


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