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This interview is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

in Conversation with John Heath-Stubbs Clive Wilmer

John Heath-Stubbs has been called a learned poet. I suspect that this annoys him. Certainly his work is full of recondite knowledge, but it does not smell of the lamp. On the contrary, he is among the most entertaining poets we have among us, profound and disturbing at times but also extremely funny. As is sometimes the case with learned poets - Milton is the obvius paradigm - he is unconsciously a teacher, and we learn from him in the most painless of ways.

He has something else in common with Milton. For the past 30 years or so, he has been effectively blind. Inescapably, memory has played a major role in his later development - in two ways. First, the poems quite plainly draw on remembered knowledge. And secondly, they have taken on something of the character of ancient poetry, composed as they are for the voice more than the page.

His first book was published in 1942. Over the nearly 50 years since then, he has published extensively as poet, critic, anthologist and translator. Among his most important books are the epic poem Artorius (1972) and, published for his 70th birthday in 1988, a massive Collected Poems. (A new book, Sweetapple Earth, has just been published.)

* * *

Clive Wilmer: Has the fact that you went totally blind in the 1970's affected the development of your poetry since then?

John Heath-Stubbs: Well, I think it gave ...


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