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This interview is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

In Conversation with Clive Wilmer Kevin Jackson

KEVIN JACKSON: Your Selected Poems includes a number of new pieces, one of which is also ancient - a version of Psalm 137, 'By the Rivers of Babylon' - a lamentation about exile by 'a man in love with the past/ of his own country /lost to him now, elsewhere'. This seems to chime with a great deal of your earlier work; am I right in thinking that the exiled man is as much you as the psalmist?

CLIVE WILMER: Yes. When I wrote that poem I had been reading through the Psalms, and something in that Psalm in particular suddenly connected with my own experience, and with two contemporary preoccupations. One was the whole atmosphere of Thatcherite Britain, the commercial philosophy, the philistinism and so on, and the other was a more personal thing I was feeling at the time, which was to do with the way, in modern life, if you create art you are in some degree dependent on the media, and that there is a kind of antipathy between art and the media - at its gentlest, let's say, a failure of understanding between the two. And that feeling of depending on what you don't belong to was very strong, and the two things together brought up what is a recurrent part of my experience, which is of feeling exiled, of feeling somehow that I don't quite belong in the present.

Well, I'd noticed that the word 'exile' crops up at ...


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