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This interview is taken from PN Review 94, Volume 20 Number 2, November - December 1993.

in Conversation with Stephen Romer Clive Wilmer

'Of Comfort in Books' is a love-poem from Stephen Romer's first collection, Idols. In it, the speaker thinks of a cycle of love-poems by another poet, a writer of the French Renaissance. By the end of the poem he has become aware that his own relationship is somehow following the plot of the French cycle. He and the woman he loves are

                                   
stuck

in somebody's Amours at chanson seven.
From here to chanson twelve is hell to heaven

but our game old poet seemed to work his miracle.
Or was he lying, to finish the cycle?


This quietly ironic feeling for the way art and life, the real and the ideal, converge and diverge is typical of Romer. It makes for a poetry that surprises you with its originality while at the same time drawing heavily on tradition - on how the inescapable subjects (love and loss and separation) have been dealt with in the past.

Romer was born in 1957, studied at Cambridge and Harvard, and has lived in France since 1981. Idols was published in 1986, but I first came across his work in the early 1980s when he wrote a regular column on the French literary scene for PN Review. During the same period, he began translating contemporary French poets and produced an accomplished selection of Jacques Dupin, the most radically minimalist of the better-known figures. French poetry and the French language itself have ...


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