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This interview is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

in Conversation with Elaine Feinstein Michèle Roberts

Michele Roberts interviewed Elaine Feinstein on the occasion of the publication of her Selected Poems.

MICHELE ROBERTS: What kickstarted you into writing poetry?


ELAINE FEINSTEIN: Well, I wrote a good deal when I was at school and stopped when I reached university - perhaps because Cambridge was dominated by F.R. Leavis and his canon of excellence and that was intimidating. I began again when I went back there with my husband to live on a research grant with two small children. And the poems came out of journal notes. I remember particularly the excitement of trying to find the right words for a pink street light reflected in the black shine of a tree.

Sounds like a reaching out.


It was a reaching out but I suppose it was also a reaching in - I was reminding myself I still existed.

What strikes me about that first book of poems is how incredibly accomplished they are in terms of form - that you have invented a kind of free verse which is very finely stretched, it has got a music that is very taut, a tight rhythm, a drumming rhythm sometimes. I wonder if you'd had particular poets you loved reading? In some ways I could see imagism as an influence.


Imagism, and the American Objectivists like Charles Reznikoff. But I was fairly well-schooled in all the modernists, particularly Ezra Pound. When I came back to Cambridge ...


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