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This interview is taken from PN Review 182, Volume 34 Number 6, July - August 2008.

In Conversation with Jeffrey Wainwright Helen Tookey

Jeffrey Wainwright was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1944. He was educated at the University of Leeds and has taught in the University of Wales, in New York, and at the Manchester Metropolitan University. He is the author of Heart's Desire (1978), Selected Poems (1985), The Red-Headed Pupil (1994) and Out of the Air (1999), all published by Carcanet. His latest book is Clarity or Death! (Carcanet, 2008).

HELEN TOOKEY: Can I start with a very general question about what you're up to in your writing? Running through your work, it seems to me, is a deep concern with the question of what poetry can do. In your essay on Paradise Lost (The Reader, issue 24, winter 2006) you're discussing why Milton wrote the poem and why we might still read it:

Ours may be, as the philosopher Jerry Fodor has said, 'a world that isn 't for anything, a world that is just there', and the story of Adam and Eve, Satan, temptation and the loss of Eden but a detail of human culture. But behind it, as with all our stories and beliefs, is the question Mary Midgley poses: 'What is the underlying structure of human nature which culture is designed to complete and express?' To pursue the particular story of Milton's Paradise Lost is ...


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