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This interview is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

in Conversation with Patricia Beer Clive Wilmer

Patricia Beer has written a poem about a concert in a country church. When the interval comes, the audience pours out into the sunshine and open air:

They spread all over the churchyard. They scan
The crowd, recognize, smile and shake hands.
By each tombstone a well-dressed person stands.
It looks just like the Resurrection.


I am reminded of Stanley Spencer and the Resurrection in Cookham churchyard. Like Spencer, 'Patricia Beer depicts a familiar, everyday world that often seems on the point of settling, unaware, into attitudes of transcendence. An ironic tone of voice, however, is usually there to hold this possibility at bay.

It is significant, I think, that Patricia Beer, who grew up in a devoutly Plymouth Brethren family, never quite surrenders the everyday to the otherworldly, in spite of an evident temptation to do so. She was born in Devon in 1919 and, although she's spent several years in London and in Italy, she has felt the pull of the South-West for most of her life. She has published nine books of verse, including a severely pruned Collected Poems and her new collection, Friend of Heroclitus. She has also published a novel, an autobiography and some critical writings, which include a study of the Metaphysical poets, those masters of the ordinary and transcendent.

***

Clive Wilmer: Patricia Beer, another religious poet, John Milton, figures in a poem you wrote about your ...


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