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This interview is taken from PN Review 170, Volume 32 Number 6, July - August 2006.

Carol Rumens in Conversation Alice Entwistle

The author of fourteen full collections, two anthologies, a novel and two plays, Carol Rumens most recent publication, the compendious Poems 1968-2004 (Bloodaxe) appeared in 2005. This interview was held, initially, during the Ledbury Festival in July 2004. It was completed by email.

ALICE ENTWISTLE: In 'Selves to Recover' you say: 'the first function of the role-model is to instil self-confidence - the second, to provide supportive criticism'. Do you feel that it is possible (or worthwhile) to make a distinction between the 'role-model' and the 'influence'?

CAROL RUMENS: Yes, of course. I think I was using the term 'role-model' in a very specialised sense, implying a live relationship with a mentor. I find it a slightly suspect term, belonging to the same lexicon as 'learning outcome', probably. And I think there is no clear agreed meaning. But for me, the term implies someone showing you how to act, rather than how to write. So, for instance, a poetic role-model might be someone whose life illustrates ways of earning a living or raising children while writing. The 'influence' is a much broader concept, but also could be much narrower. You could be influenced solely by someone's use of metre. Literary influence is a huge subject. A role-model inevitably has influence, but an influence is not inevitably a role-model. However, the two can overlap.

Can you give me some idea of the names which instilled self-confidence and those which provided that supportive criticism?

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