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This interview is taken from PN Review 148, Volume 29 Number 2, November - December 2002.

A Conversation with Julia Blackburn Julia Forster

JULIA FORSTER: I was struck by the emotional honesty of your introduction to your father's [Thomas Blackburn's] Collected Poems. In it, you wrote about how his study was often shut off to you as a child and that, when you opened the door, there was a sense of 'urgent energy' to get the words onto the page. Could you expand more on how his energy as a writer rubbed off on you as a small child?

JULIA BLACKBURN: I think my father believed that putting something into words, particularly the most terrifying or the most threatening experiences, was the first stage of a process of transformation; it meant that you would be able to live with yourself. He had this absolute drive all his life towards capturing his emotions in writing, no matter how anguished he was at the time. I have dozens of his notebooks, some of them written while he was getting drunk, on the edge of falling asleep, or watching the dawn having stayed awake throughout the night. The words slide all over the pages, get huge and rambling or tiny and cramped and they can be almost illegible, but still he managed to keep track with his thoughts and feelings, no matter what was happening. For him the writing was the way to make sense of his own chaotic life, and to find some sort of peace of mind. He often referred to Prospero's description of Caliban, 'this thing of darkness I ...


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