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This interview is taken from PN Review 95, Volume 20 Number 3, January - February 1994.

in Conversation with P.J. Kavanagh Clive Wilmer

I tend to think of P.J. Kavanagh as first and foremost a 'nature poet', very much in the tradition of Edward Thomas and Ivor Gurney. Neither Thomas nor Gurney were 'modernists', but both of them 'modernized': they loosened the old metres, favoured conversational diction and sought to capture in words the exact texture and particularity of the things they so closely observed. Kavanagh has followed them in all these ways, and paid homage to both of them in two fine poems. He also edited the historic Collected Poems of Ivor Gurney which for many of us, in 1982, re-adjusted our perspectives on modern poetry in England.

This is not to say that Kavanagh is stuck in a pre-war world of rural nostalgia, though there is plenty of evidence in his poems that he prefers the country to the city. It is rather that the vanishing countryside becomes for him a kind of vantage point from which to view our changing world, as well as the more general questions of human love and suffering that are always with us.

Born in 1931, Kavanagh has been a teacher overseas, a broadcaster and an actor, as well as what he now is, a professional writer, with six novels, two memoirs, some anthologies and a book of journalism to his credit. But the central focus of his work remains his poetry: seven books of it, now gathered together as Collected Poems (1992).

There's a very large autobiographical ...

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